Some modest (if unlikely) steps to remedy M's batting woes

If the batters are going to perform like comic characters, maybe management needs to try to grab the last laugh at their expense.

If the batters are going to perform like comic characters, maybe management needs to try to grab the last laugh at their expense.

Seattle Mariners followers lately have witnessed an inability to score nearly worthy of Beavis and Butt-head. Baseball historians have scrambled to find a precedent for a big-league team being limited to two runs during 44 innings, as has been the case for the M’s, losers of nine straight going into Toronto Tuesday (July 19).

“Success,” then, for the slumping club seems to be measured not by wins or even runs scored (just a pair while Texas was putting up 17 in four wins at Safeco) as it is by the occasional M’s base-runner. Sunday (July 17) the television game announcer, Dave Sims, seemed to find it praiseworthy to note as the sixth inning ended that — hey! — the M’s might be down 3-0 but the club had come up with its third hit of the day. A sixth-inning runner actually had made it all the way to second base.

When, in the eighth, the M’s posted their second run in 43 innings, Sims figured it was not just worth noting but repeating.

Clearly, the M’s need positive change. Many, no doubt, believe a proper place to start would be firing the batting coach, sometimes mistakenly referred to in Seattle as the “hitting” coach.

Yet, even with the club struggling to avoid hitting numbers of historic lows (they’re tied right now with the 50-112 ’65 New York Mets with a team batting average of .221), one wonders how scrapping batting mentor Chris Chambliss (his career average of .279 is 58 points higher than that of the current Seattle franchise) is somehow going to make the M’s start putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard (their 303 runs constitute the major-league nadir).

Maybe, as the club wanders off to lose presumably another nine in Toronto, Boston and New York, it’s as good a time as any to offer a few creative ways to get more base-runners and maybe even make the run-production less horrible, to wit:

1. Encourage batters to step into pitches. This requires finesse because you want to avoid injuries. Maybe have Chambliss spend less time at batting practices showing players how to hit (a mostly futile pursuit so far) and give more instruction about how to have a fastball brush a shirt sleeve, earning a free pass to first base.

2. If a runner ever actually does get aboard, have him make comical faces and gestures toward the mound with hopes of distracting the pitcher and causing balks (review the “Beavis and Butt-head” archive for inspiration).

3. If walks and balks don’t result in many base-runners, investigate which M’s pitchers have hit the best while in high school and college and use them as position players. Lefty pitcher Jason Vargas was the designated hitter while throwing for Long Beach State, where, during his senior year, he hit .354 with 14 doubles and five home runs. He ought to be batting clean-up for the M’s (it’s worth remembering that the Dodgers of long ago occasionally used their ace right-hander Don Drysdale as a pinch-hitter).

4. When promoting promising hitters from Tacoma, instead of bringing them up one at a time, take the Rainiers in six packs and play them. To make room, either demote current unproductive M’s or trump up phony injuries to justify placing them on the disabled list (report, say, that the player was hurt when he took a pitch in the sleeve).

5. Have Chris Chambliss try on King Felix’s Larry Bernandez disguise and use him as designated hitter. Hell, even at 62 Chambliss can’t be a worse hitter than Chone Figgins is at 33.

By the way, the longest modern-baseball scoring drought evidently was endured in 1968, when the Chicago Cubs failed to put up a run through 48 straight innings. With 67 games left this season, there’s plenty of time left for the M’s to test that dubious achievement.

Oh, and one more idea about how to get better run-production: public ridicule. At every home game when the M’s blow good chances to pick up runs, have the stadium’s broadcast system show those notorious non-scorers Beavis and Butt-head chuckling in their inimitable way.


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