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June 16, 2013 at 11:42 am ET
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The Kids Can Play…

The Mariners season went from bad to redonkulous mid-week when Tom Wilhelmsen absolutely gagged a lead to Houston (and Eric Wedge was petrified to do anything about it until it was too late), leading to a big loss and the temporary removal of Wilhelmsen from the most over-rated, over-hyped and ill-used position in sports.

Maybe that means Wedge will use his best reliever in situations that call for his best reliever now.

That game overshadowed the big league debut of one Mr. Mike Zunino, an actual real life catching prospect. He’s not a Jesus Montero bat with a glove that squats down behind the plate catcher – he’s a for real catcher with for real offensive and defensive skills.

Naturally, some mediots around baseball we’re like “WHY?” as if you could go a full season on Sucre-time, Kelly Shoppach and Brandon Bantz without becoming even more pathetic than you already are.

Yeah, he’s 22, but he can play and with the way the M’s season is going, he may as well play up in Seattle. I’m sure Wedge and his coaching staff can mentor him, right? They ARE professional coaches, right?

To help him out, the M’s cast off Shoppach Friday (who was only signed to be a mentor when Montero was the catcher – so, um….) and added Henry “I Caught Pud Galvin” Blanco to the roster. Of course, Blanco hit a grand slam on Saturday so, you know.

So Zunino’s up, and it looks like it’s for good. Meanwhile, Nick Franklin is officially freed and is scalding the ball everywhere. That puts less pressure on Dustin Ackley to return, and frankly, when he does he should be a utility guy (much to the chagrin of a young Luddite sportswriter in training wheels who just lurrrrves slappy second basemen with limited secondary skills, I guess…).

Ackley may be a competent major league hitter someday (his 2011 should be looked at with a jaundiced eye as an aberration – look it up young sports mediots in training) but not until he gets his shinola together.(Ackley is hitting well in Tacoma, so maybe he’s getting it back together. Still, Franklin > Ackley by a margin of many integers…)

Zunino also may force the M’s to deal with their heinous roster construction. While the mediots are crying “INJURIES!” as the main bugaboo, I cry “BAD TALENT MANGEMENT!” Really, Franklin Gutierrez’s injury is why you’re struggling? Not the fact that Michael Saunders is hitting about 12 and you’re giving too many at bats, willingly, to Endy Chavez?

Justin Smoak is hurt, but he’s basically Broderick Perkins until he gets his home run swing back, if he had one already. (Note to junior league mediots, do park and league adjustments when looking at the comparisons, thanks and good day.) But he’s still got…something. And when he gets healthy, and Ackley is confident enough to return, then the pieces may be in place for an honest-to-god major league roster. Here’s how:

At cather, you have Zunino and Blanco (or Sucre, or whoever, you know, does it matter? Zunino + backup).

In the infield, you have Seager, Ryan, Franklin and Smoak, with Truinfel around for depth.

In the OF, you need to choose. You gotta live with either Morse or Bay in the OF, and I’d choose Morse and stick him in LF. You can have Saunders and Gutierrez because they at least can play the positions. Bay can be a benchie along with Endy (for defense).

At DH, Morales.

Ibanez? You can foist him to a contender now. He’s done his job for you.

This is where Ackley comes in – let him flit around everywhere. If his bat his back, then yes, he can play, but he can’t take away time from Nick Franklin and unless Saunders is irrevocably broken, then Saunders should play a lot of time. Gutierrez is a stop gap but so is half the team anyway. So Ackley plays the OF, plays the IF, and hopefully does more than being a Rob Wilfong player in a Joe Morgan world.

A real rain needs to come and wash through Safeco, but this will get them through the year without clown shows in the OF.

Yeah, that’s a 14-man position player roster. Wait, 14? Let me count:

Zunino, Blanco, Smoak, Franklin, Ryan, Seager, Truinfel, Morse, Gutierrez, Saunders, Bay, Chavez, Ackley, Morales

Of course that means one thing. The 12-man staff MUST go. But you knew that.

Don’t thank me, Seattle. Just let the kids play and you’ll be fine.


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