Morning notes: The Mariner menace looms

Morning notes: The Mariner menace looms
An ethical egoist who believes in the virtue of selfishness, and A.J. Pierzynski // Scott Strazzante, Tribune Photo

The White Sox were swept by the Royals, and responded by sweeping the Yankees.  With that, my general avoidance of individual game previews is validated.  The Sox are more likely to beat good teams than they are to beat bad teams, and more likely to beat bad pitchers than they are to beat good pitchers.  There are some particular matchup issues to explore from there on out, but after that it's mostly just intense amounts of variance.

This weekend, the Seattle Mariners come to town.  The Mariners have won their last eight games, they've been 25-13 since the All-Star Break.  That's fearsome.  They're also 4-21 agains the White Sox since 2010; that's a lot more cuddly.  Which element is most relevant for a preview of a small set of games?

Well, what's made the Mariners so much better?  Part of it is Felix Hernandez, who has been wanted for murder since the All-Star break (1.41 ERA in eight starts)--he won't be pitching this weekend.  Part of it is the Mariners finally realizing they should play John Jaso instead of Miguel Olivo.  Jaso is an offense-first catcher with OBP skills, Olivo makes A.J. Pierzynski look nimble and hits like Danny Richar, so John doesn't even have to continue to hit his post-All-Star break .329/.476/.566 to be a huge upgrade.

The other big sources of improvement are a streak of Jason Vargas avoiding home runs and Eric Thames hitting for average despite striking out 30% of the time.  Jaso's a very nice player, and but it'll take more than him to make the Mariners scary, or particularly amenable to playing in U.S. Cellular Field.  The day of an .840 winning percentage against them may not last, though.

Attendance

The attendance has become a new hot-button issue since the White Sox failed to crack 30,000 during the entire Yankees series.

Piggybacking on ideas already introduced by Tom FornelliJim Margalus, and Brett Ballantini, the causes can be reduced to...

  • It's a small fan base
  • The White Sox are hardly setting up a buyer's market with their prices for the Yankees, and other premier series
  • The combination of the 2011 season and rebuilding-lite off-season killed the pre-season ticket buzz

The first point should be reiterated whenever surprise is registered that the White Sox are failing to break the top upper half of MLB attendance rankings when they never really have drawn at such a rate.  The second point should be reiterated for any underwhelming returns for premier-priced games, and remember that if the White Sox were really driven into a deep crisis by the former (attendance), the reaction would be in the latter (prices).
The type of person who runs their business at a deficit is not the type who comes to own a baseball franchise in the first place, and even such a person would know that framing a failure to sell their product as 'a result of the consumer being cheap', is getting the whole 'supply and demand' thing reversed.
Pre-season restraint revisited
With the last month and change of a fitful playoff race awaiting, Mark Gonzales called upon Paul Konerko to reconsider his comments from SoxFest that the season could be a success without a playoff berth.  Gonzales found an ally in Jake Peavy for the cause that the proximity to a division title and the difficult contract situations of multiple veterans might have changed things.
But Konerko's not budging.

"I just said if we didn't make it, there was a lot of stuff that could happen to deem it a successful year, and I still feel that. Of course, you want to do more. That's not backing off of what I said. I thought that then. I think it now."

And good on Paulie.  Not making the playoffs doesn't undo this season's purging of clubhouse discord, a renewed focus on intangibles like outfield relays, infield practice, and controlling the running game that previously only received lip service, and the resuscitation of players previously thought to be sunk costs.  That stuff has as much to do with 2013 being a success as making the playoffs in 2012 does.
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