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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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June 20, 2008 9:21 AM

Mariners: Don't Call It a Death Watch

Posted by Rod Mar

Sometimes sports photography is more than telling the story of one particular game.

Sure, it's important to have a photo of the play or player of the game, or something that otherwise illustrates what happened.

But fans are interested in more than just the game -- their primary interest is their team, so remembering I'm documenting a team's season is also important.

With the Mariners' ship figuratively sinking all season, anyone who follows sports knows that jobs are usually on the line.

After Seattle got swept by the lowly Washington Nationals at home last weekend, I was pretty confident that changes had to be made within the franchise. If they didn't make a change, they risked sending a message to their upset fans that the status quo was thought of as "good enough".

Twenty games or so under .500 is hardly good enough for a team projected by most to contend for the A.L. West title.

So, as the beat writers and columnists do their jobs and speculate in words what those changes might be, my job is to be aware of the possibilities and to be prepared visually to tell those same stories.

Keeping that in mind, I've spent much of the last homestand not only photographing the games, but also many of the personnel who's jobs might be in danger as the season continues to slip away.

As any baseball fan knows, the manager's job is usually near the top of the list.

So each day I've gone to the ballpark, I've made sure to make photographs of Mariner manager John McLaren. Now, according to nearly all accounts I've read, McLaren is a good man who's trying to lead a terrible team.

Baseball usually doesn't care if a manager's a good man, it just wants to know if he's winning.

I've shot McLaren staring at his scorecard, McLaren sitting on the bench, McLaren conferring with his pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. I've also captured him talking, yawning, yelling, grimacing and even smiling (albeit grimly).

Along with that I've cataloged each of his assistant coaches, knowing from my time in sports that an assistant is often named interim manager when the original manager is fired.

Last week the team fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland, then followed that up by relieving general manager Bill Bavasi of his duties. At that point, you could have roasted marshmallows on McLaren's customary seat at the head of the Mariners' bench.

Prior to Monday's game against the Florida Marlins, I spotted McLaren and assistant coaches Sam Perlozzo and Eddie Rodriguez standing outside of the dugout for the national anthem. Bench coach Jim Riggleman joined them, but stood off to the side by a step. I thought that was interesting because it was as if Riggleman didn't want to be part of that line.

Of course, I'm speculating. I'm sure McLaren and Riggleman are friends and they have the shared history of trying to manage this group of underperforming players.

Still, the composition tells a story, and when McLaren was fired yesterday, Riggleman was announced as the interim manager.

When I learned the news of McLaren's firing on my day off yesterday, I remembered the photo and transmitted it to the paper from home.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/320th sec.,f3.2)

Who else is on the deathwatch list of possibly soon-to-be ex-Mariners?

Let's just say I've spent a lot of time making photos of "sluggers" Richie Sexson (last extra-base hit one month ago) and Jose Vidro (hitting .177 in June), as well as pitchers Erik Bedard ("ace" of the staff who gets tired after 99 pitches in just his 12th appearance of the season), Carlos Silva ($48 million contract) and Jarrod Washburn ($15 million left).

And Ichiro? Rumored as possible trade bait. Got lots of pictures of him, too.

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