Lloyd McClendon has said we'd know what kind of team the Mariners have after 50 games, and they're playing their 50th game today at Safeco Field.
As you know, they're 24-25 after dropping the last two games of a four-game series to the worst team in baseball. Houston is 5-5 against the Mariners and 14-27 against everyone else. The Astros have four of their nine road wins at Safeco Field.
That leads me to think the Mariners aren't very good. The eight-game losing streak they had in April makes me feel the same way. The Mariners had an eight-game losing streak last year, too, and it ended in the 50th game.
They were 20-29 at this point in 2013 so you have to say they're four games better in this "supposedly" different season.
I go back and forth depending on the outcome of their latest game. If they win, I can make a case for them being a playoff contender. If they lose, I can make a case for them being the same old Mariners.
That's the way it played out over the weekend. After they beat the Astros in the first two games, I thought: "Hmm, not bad, glimmers of hope." After they lost the last two games, I thought: "Man, how could Brandon Maurer be so good and so bad in the same game, and how can Hisashi Iwakuma lose to the Astros?"
Hisashi Iwakuma has been stellar since recovering from a torn finger tendon on his throwing hand, but he suffered his first loss by surrendering four runs on two homers to the lowly Astros on Sunday. (AP)
So what are they? Good? Fairly decent? Mediocre? Worse than that? After 50 games, we're supposed to know, and I still feel as lost as ever.
There's a big part of me that's optimistic – when James Paxton returns, I'm guessing next week, think of a rotation with Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton, Roenis Elias and Chris Young. And if you really want to drift onto Fantasy Island, think of a rotation with Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Elias and Taijuan Walker once he returns.
With those starters, the Mariners can win a lot of low-scoring games. They can also do a lot of damage in the playoffs. And the bullpen should be even better with starters consistently pitching into the seventh inning – Elias and perhaps Walker being the exception to that.
With Felix and Iwakuma, I like to think the Mariners have two losing-streak stoppers. But the Groz reminded me: "They had those guys last year," and the Mariners still finished 71-91.
What's different? Robinson Cano and James Jones are different. The rest of the lineup? Not so much. Sunday's 4-1 loss at Safeco Field was like hundreds of games we've seen before – four hits from the good guys, 11 hit from the bad guys. Three up and three down seemingly all day long.
McClendon criticized his players for a change. He rarely does that, and I thought the timing was strange. He basically said that Dallas Keuchel of the Astros was an average pitcher who had average stuff on Sunday.
I would argue that Keuchel is not an average pitcher with average stuff, seeing that his ERA is 2.55 and he's 6-2. But I like that McClendon got feisty – maybe not hat-tossing feisty, but feisty enough.
Think about what he'd be saying if he'd seen these kinds of games like we have for the past however many seasons with so many of the same guys in the batters' box night after night, year after year. Sometimes I want to scream when I see Dustin Ackley at the plate again, even though I know he's an improved hitter this year. But still, if I owned Ackley stock, I'm selling it because I don't think he'll keep it up.
To be honest, I have those same feelings with Justin Smoak and, to a lesser degree, Michael Saunders. They're based on a history of watching them flail and flounder and never thinking they're going to be what they were touted to be.
I'd rather nod my head than shake it when I watch the Mariners, but thus far, they haven't shown enough to make you think that things have truly changed.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for Seattlepi.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.