I was able to watch all 105 of James Paxton’s pitches in yesterday’s whitewash of the Boston Red Sox. Throwing fastball after fastball the visitors could not hit locate or hit squarely, the big southpaw left the game after eight innings, with the win firmly in hand 3-0. Nothing flashy-five hits allowed, two strikeouts and two walks allowed, and a team of bewildered Bosox.
Yet, as Paxton left the mound for the last time in the game, against a backdrop of Fernando Rodney throwing in the bullpen, with a save situation on the the line, all I could think of was “Oh my god!! Three runs aren’t enough!!” Sure enough, Kyle Seager heard my telepathic message and hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth. No save situation, Rodney sat down, and Carson Smith came in to close out the the last inning on 15 pitches.
I am tired of the Fernando Rodney Hire Wire Act and Traveling Circus. It’s official. Make no mistake, I like the man, find him funny and charming, and clearly he is bonded to his manager and teammates. But I find nothing funny or charming about his 5.65 ERA, his 4.90 FIP, or his 1.605 WHIP. A pitcher cannot allow that many base runners in tight games and believe it will turn out well. We’re talking 15 hits and 8 walks in 14.1 innings pitched. Recipe for disaster.
Rodney has allowed runs in five of his 15 appearances, including three of his last four.
The only pitcher who ever made me feel the same was Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997. You remember him. Desperate for a bullpen leader, the M’s sent premier catching prospect Jason Varitek and young pitcher Derek Lowe to Boston for Slocumb after one too many Norm Charlton and Bobby Ayala fiascoes. Perhaps the worst trade in Mariner history (though the jury is out on Michael Pineda for, ulp, Jesus Montero.) You might remember the ’97 M’s team. 264 homers as a team, set the major league record. They scored 924 runs. But the bullpen was a whole bunch of terrifying. The M’s were able to load up on runs, ride their decent starters and hold on for the last three innings. Slocumb became your esteemed closer with his 4.13 ERA, 3.74 FIP and 1.447 WHIP. No lead was safe.
The ’97 Mariners had larger systemic issues compared to this year’s crew. Ayala and Slocumb were the best of a horrendous crew. The 2015 Mariners are much better, though not as good as last year’s superb bullpen staff. There is nothing as demoralizing to fans or teams as watching the man chosen to lead the bullpen late in tight games melt away to nothing like Frosty the Snowman on a June day. If Rodney continues to struggle, the M’s should look at others, like Tom Wilhelmsen, who has closer experience, or even young Mr. Smith who seems to have closer stuff and instincts, that can lead the bullpen by example while Rodney fixes himself