Mariners Show More Youth Than Promise With Late Mistakes
For the Seattle Mariners, there’s a catch in being proclaimed one of baseball’s most promising young teams.
It’s the young part.
One minute, it seems, the Mariners are knocking down outfield walls. The next, their manager is climbing one.
It went kind of like that Monday in the Angels’ 7-6 win over Seattle at Anaheim Stadium.
The Mariners have this 23-year-old kid, Danny Tartabull, who can flat knock the pine-tar out of a ball.
Rumor is, they’re still trying to find some of the 43 home runs he hit last year in Triple-A ball at Calgary.
In the second inning Monday, Tartabull wound up, took a deep breath and swatted a Jim Slaton fastball halfway up the green tarp in the center-field bleachers.
The tarp serves as background to hitters and best estimates were that Tartabull saw the ball just fine. It was a tape-measure, two-run shot, about 450 feet.
But Tartabull also is a rookie second baseman, as we found out in the eighth inning with the Mariners leading, 6-5.
With Ruppert Jones on first and no one out, Gary Pettis hit a grounder to Tartabull, who wanted to tag Jones and throw to first for the double play.
But when Jones stopped in the basepath, Tartabull couldn’t tag him. He instead threw to first and allowed Jones to slide safely into second.
As the story so often goes, Bobby Grich then stepped up and doubled to left-center, driving home Jones.
There were other young mistakes too, like the ninth-inning error by Mariner shortstop Spike Owen that preceded Darrell Miller’s game-winning hit.
But it was Tartabull’s error that really irked Seattle Manager Chuck Cottier.
“The mistakes we made were by young players,” Cottier said. “And when you make those mistakes in close games, you’re not going to win. Physical mistakes are one thing, but mental ones will really hurt you.”
When Cottier later went to the mound to make a pitching change, he reminded Tartabull that in that situation, you always get the lead runner.
“I told him what he should do,” Cottier said. “Hopefully, he’ll never make that kind of mistake again. I told him to relax and not feel like the whole world’s on his shoulders.”
The only thing on Tartabull’s shoulder afterward was an ice pack, placed there to soothe a sore throwing arm.
“I was going for the double play,” he said of the play. “If that happens in the first inning, that’s exactly the way you have to do it.”
But in the eighth inning?
“Well, in that situation maybe I should have run him back to first.”
Tartabull said Jones surprised him by stopping in his tracks. Tartabull says it’s going to take him a while to learn the quirks of every runner in the American League.
“If it had been a different runner, it might have been a double play,” Tartabull said. “You have to learn about different players. I don’t know Ruppert Jones. I don’t know what kind of ballplayer he is.”
Cottier knows there are going to be more days like Monday. Sometimes, it’s the price you pay for playing youth.
In the seventh inning, the Mariners’ center fielder, Ivan Calderon, only 24, made a great diving catch on a sinking liner hit by the Angels’ Doug DeCinces.
In the eighth inning, Calderon tried the same thing on a ball hit by Brian Downing. Only this time, he didn’t catch it and the ball rolled all the way to the wall.
When Tartabull bobbled the relay throw, Downing rounded third and scored. Cottier said that Calderon probably should have played Downing’s ball on a hop.
“When you’re young and excited, you want to make the spectacular play,” Cottier said. “But sometimes you have to back off. In that situation, you can’t let it go for extra bases.”
In the off-season, the Mariners acquired veteran catcher Steve Yeager from the Dodgers with the hope that some of his experience might rub off on the younger players.
Yeager could have held a clinic after Monday’s game.
“When you make mistakes, hopefully you learn by them,” Yeager said. “These guys are smart, young and aggressive. They’ve got a great future as long as they learn from their mistakes. I don’t think you’ll see those mistakes again.”