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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 11, 2008 10:08 PM

Great to be back

Posted by Geoff Baker

Mucho thanks to Jose Romero for filling in the past 12 days while I was in Hawaii. This isn't the easiest gig for someone walking in fresh and I think he did a fantastic job. Got to say, I missed doing this every day. But that's all about to change.

Many of you have written in for my take on some issues, most notably, Ichiro and Erik Bedard.

The Ichiro thing is easy. Don't want to know. Don't care that he's 0-for-21 in games that matter about as much as those Laval Little League contests I once participated in back in Quebec in the 1970s.

Casual fans might be concerned by this mini spring slump and that's OK. But I know you click in here for something more than the casual fan take. And the last I checked, Ichiro hit .351 and won an AL Silver Slugger Award in games that mattered last season. In the last seven years of games that mattered, he's amassed 1,592 hits. That's the most ever done over any seven-year span. No, Ichiro hasn't forgotten how to hit overnight. This slump means absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. Talk to me if he starts the real season 0-for-30 or something.

Until then, just remember, spring training means almost nothing. It's a glorified marketing exercise designed mostly to loosen up the arms of pitchers. If the hitters were warming up in batting cages, you wouldn't care. The hitters don't care, trust me. Most of them don't start thinking about caring until the final two weeks or 10 days of the spring. So please, don't give it another thought. As Bedard might say: "Next question."

OK, speaking about Bedard...

I have yet to be there for any of his post-game sessions with reporters, so all I know is what I've heard second hand. Here's what I have to say about it:

If Bedard doesn't want to talk about his personal life, that's his business. I don't care. He's entitled to keep his private life private if that's what he wants. He's not entitled to tell people who they can call and who they can't if they want to seek information on his private life. That's fair game. He can suggest it, but has no way of enforcing anything. His friends and family are all free human beings (same in Canada as in the United States) and can hang up the phone any time.

But Bedard is free to not talk about his personal business. Why shouldn't he be? He's a private person and doesn't want to be an "out there" celebrity. His business, his potential endorsement losses, his life.

As a reporter, I don't need every player on a team to talk to me. If all 25 were to stop at once, it could be a challenge. But that never happens. Most ballplayers are talkative types and will speak to almost every reporter who approaches them.

I once went two years with Carlos Delgado refusing to talk to me for some obscure reason or another. Happened between 1999 and 2001, when he was at the top of his game. He eventually stopped talking to our baseball columnist and secondary beat writer as well. But if you're any good at this job, you learn to work around it. Even one night, when he hit three home runs in Texas, I wrote my game story in a way that nobody seemed to realize I hadn't quoted him.

By 2001, everyone realized the no-talk thing was getting somewhat funny, especially after I wrote a feature-length story on Delgado from Puerto Rico, quoting, among others, his Dad. "Nice story,'' Delgado told me the next day, the first words he'd sent my way in two years.

Later that season, in May, Delgado, me and our columnist (Richard Griffin), met in a Starbucks at the Westin Hotel in downtown Chicago to air out our differences. One hour later, we were all talking again. Funny thing is though, we'd gotten so used to not interviewing Delgado that Griffin and I quoted him only a handful of times the rest of that year. If I hadn't mentioned the no-talk thing in a blog item a few years later, no fans would have even realized we'd gone two years without talking. And Delgado was the star of that team.

By 2004, though, Delgado was talking to us more and more. I got one of the better baseball stories of my career from him when he told me why he was refusing to stand for the playing of God Bless America at games. And towards the end of his career in Toronto, when management was pushing him out, he knew he'd find an objective ear talking to either Griffin or me.

The point of the story? Some guys talk, some don't. Some just have to get to know you. Others never will.

Bottom line? If I could survive an MVP candidate like Delgado not talking to me at all, I can survive just about anyone on the Mariners trying to do the same.

So far, from what I can tell, Bedard is talking after games. And he should. Despite what some of you have suggested, I do believe it is Bedard's responsibility to stand up and talk after he pitches. Yes, I did say responsibility. If he only wants to talk about the game, then fine. As I said, that's his right as a human being.

But not talking, period, or being rude about it? Unacceptable. And juvenile, too, when you think about it. I'm glad he appears not to be going that route.

Look, I know not all the questions he's getting asked are the greatest ones. But hey, not all of the answers I've gotten from ballplayers over the years have been MENSA quality either.

I've interviewed two Canadian Prime Ministers (Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark), served drinks to a third (Paul Martin) as a young bartender in Montreal before he ran for office, and queried an American vice-presidential candidate (Jack Kemp) in-person as well. I've lunched with author W.P. Kinsella (whose book was turned into the Field of Dreams movie), as well as an escaped killer from Lorton Penitentiary outside Washington, D.C. in the mid-1990s (before the U.S. Marshall Service caught up to him). Talked to a gunman on the phone from jail just 48 hours after he'd killed a bunch of people at a university, chased a fraud artist out of Canada, then went down to Mexico and got him chased out of there. Had lunch another time with a Hells Angels lawyer and one of the gang's top associates -- a loan shark and killer -- who later threatened my life in a private office with no witnesses around after I'd suggested in print that he was behind the shooting of one of my top confidential sources. The same thug later got himself shot to death in a restaurant hit (I had nothing to do with it).

Those were all very interesting people in one way or another, some good, some horrible. But more interesting than a lot of the players I've had to talk to for my job. If we're going to start judging folks based on intelligence, or critiquing the brainworthiness of their questions, we can go that route, but I wouldn't advise it.

Plenty of the media folks doing the daily clubhouse questioning were, in fact, once at the top of their classes in school. Some are tops in their field, locally, regionally and nationally. Many have far more life experience than a ballplayer in his 20s, who's yet to taste real failure, or the collapse of childood dreams, or had to get up and go to work after a wrecked marriage, or during a midlife crisis. Some have, but most haven't.

Hey, you asked what I really think.

Some of the worst questions asked in these post-game scrums can be from television or radio reporters. But a lot of those folks don't get to cover teams on a daily basis. They may not be as well-versed in the finer details of baseball as some beat writers or columnists for newspapers are. So what? Where is it written that every broadcast outlet HAS to assign someone to cover a baseball team every day? At the expense of who? A high school basketball club? A group of parents at the local schoolboard?

Media outlets don't owe anything to pro sports teams, especially a guarantee of exclusive coverage. You take what you can get. Some leagues, like the NFL, seem to have forgotten this as they try to go it alone, making as if they really won't need any media coverage in the long-term. Maybe they'll be successful, maybe not. The NBA used to think it was bulletproof, but these things tend to run in cycles.

Baseball certainly needs any good press it can get. It wasn't too long ago that MLB was turning a blind eye to steroids use because it was so desperate to regain fan interest after the 1994 strike.

So, yes, it would behoove Bedard and any other ballplayer to answer questions about their performance for a couple of minutes after games. Most of them do, to their credit. From a personal standpoint, it's about accountability. I don't have much time for reporters or columnists who carve up a team one day, then aren't in the clubhouse to answer for it the next. Neither do the players.

But accountability works both ways. Even if reporters ask some dumb questions. Even if it's a beat writer asking dumb ones. It happens. Hey, if we all have to sit through watching Jeff Weaver pitch when he isn't at the top of his game, why shouldn't a player have to put up with a reporter who's a little off on his or hers? Is that three minutes of time out of a player's life really that crucial? Of course not.

Teammates also tend not to appreciate guys who duck post-game questions and leave it to others to do their answering for them. It's just not professional. Not as a ballplayer, or as a teammate.

As a professional, I try to help out anyone who asks for assistance. I've averaged an interview a day this spring on radio, television, with various blog sites and others as this blog gains popularity. The radio interviews can go on for a half-hour at a time. There are days when I simply don't have the time. Days when I'd rather get out of the park a half-hour early, or just close my eyes and sleep. But I try to put this aside and accomodate. I know this blog has fans in places like Spokane and when the local station there calls me up, I jump on it as soon as I can. I know their listeners appreciate it. You get what you give in this world.

Being a Canadian, I am conscious that there are none of us writing baseball for other U.S. newspapers and that some folks might be scrutinizing a little more closely. I try to set an example for other, aspiring Canadian writers. The last thing I want is anyone to be criticizing the "lazy" Canadian or the "rude" Canadian.

I'm not perfect, but I try not to be unpleasant.

Bedard doesn't have to follow that mantra if he doesn't want to, even if he is also a Canadian -- one of few stars from that country in this sport. But he should be aware that plenty of other folks from his homeland are tracking his every move. I'm sure he is aware of it. He'd be oblivious if he wasn't. How he chooses to handle this reality is his business.

But being polite, treating others with respect, and doing the minimum when it comes to acting professional and being accountable is a must. For $7 million a year, it isn't asking much. We all have bad days, or boring days and we all have to suck it up.

From the reports I got out of Tucson yesterday, that's exactly what Bedard was doing. If that's all he does the rest of the season, I'm fine with it. I don't need it to do my job. But it's the right thing for him to do. And yeah, the most important thing is for him to win on the mound. If he can do that, without causing a weekly distraction the minute he steps off it, Mariners fans and Bedard's teammates will be more than pleased.






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Posted by stinkfeetmcgee

11:46 PM, Mar 11, 2008

WORD....welcome back Geoff.
Thanks for the excellent work Jose!

Posted by DrLo

11:57 PM, Mar 11, 2008

Geoff, welcome back. In previous thread (which suddenly went silent; are there technical problems?) I asked if anyone is working on anything new in hitting this spring. Comments, when you can get to it, would be appreciated.

I totally agree that any given player, for all kinds of reasons, should cooperate with the press and at very least be civil and courteous. Bedard seems to be doing that. My thinking is that I kind of like the way he is doing it, at least to some extent, on his own terms in establishing some parameters.

Posted by Pete

11:57 PM, Mar 11, 2008

Welcome back Geoff!

But boy was that a long-winded and mildly melodramatic entry.

Ha!

Also, Felix is my king.

Posted by James from Walla Walla

12:18 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff,

Welcome Back! How was Hawaii??
As a fan you would like to see the Mariner's top
pitcher and the Mariner's top position player playing well in ST. My enthusiasm has been tempered by the poor play of Ichio & Bedard! Also, players like Ibanez BA .190, Sexson BA .227, Beltre BA .231, Bloomquist BA .238, & Lopez BA .222 really put a damper on my optimism. Johjima, Betancourt, and Wilkerson are the only starters batting over .300+ The players who have not made the team seem to be the ones playing real well, so far. In other words the top of the Mariners batting order are NOT looking good at all
this ST. When Oakland A's with no name players out hit and out score us, what is up?

I am becoming concerned with the Mariner offense!
Anyone else have these same concerns??

Posted by Maui Mariner

12:49 AM, Mar 12, 2008

I agree with Pete Geoff, quite the verbose post. You really came back full of it and let it out.
So my neck of the woods must have really recharged your batteries.
Where did you go? And did you enjoy your time here?
Great to have you back.

Posted by zusu

1:11 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff, welcome back- verbose, longwinded, some say, but I enjoyed your treatise on the Q & A. You should get dissertation credit for that very well articulated piece!

And James from WW- as Geoff said, just relax about ST- except for the rookies, the pitchers & players are NOT concerned about their performances at this point in ST. Is this completely new to you? How about Sexson- he got a HR today? See there’s always hope!

Posted by k0o56

2:07 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Hey Maui, Mariner fan in Wailuku here. Ha, good to see local fans.

Posted by tomscuba

4:49 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Welcome back Scoop.

Posted by weebs

8:26 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Hey Geoff, where did you go in Hawaii? I'm going there on my honeymoon in 2 months.

Posted by CG

8:31 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff - reading your blog is like taking a stiff drink: sometimes hard to swallow, sometimes makes you wanna puke ... but always satisfying and leaving you wanting more. You have fans in Minneapolis.

Posted by scottM

8:35 AM, Mar 12, 2008

"Welcome back Scoop."

Senator Henry M. Jackson is reincarnated as a Canadian baseball reporter?
Hmmm.

Nice post GEOFF, and welcome back, but this doesn't lower our expectations that you will use your Canuckness to every advantage in getting Sir Erikkkkkk to open up! Will there be a full length feature on Bedard by you anytime soon?

Posted by David

8:36 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Hi Geoff, I just read on foxsports.com's mlb rumors section that the M's are interested in Barry Bonds. Any truth to it?

Posted by scottM

8:37 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Welcome back Scoop.

Senator Henry M. Jackson is reincarnated as a Canadian baseball reporter?
Hmmm.

Nice post GEOFF, and welcome back, but this doesn't lower our expectations that you will use your Canuckness to every advantage in getting Sir Erikkkkkk to open up! Will there be a full length feature on Bedard by you anytime soon?

Posted by David

8:38 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Hi Geoff, I just read on foxsports.com's mlb rumors section that the M's are interested in Barry Bonds. Any truth to it?

Posted by scottM

8:40 AM, Mar 12, 2008

this blog is acting weird with how things post right now.

Posted by BandwagonJumper

8:48 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff, nice to see you’re back, hope you had a good vacation.

I don’t have any problem with reporters asking poor questions. I just have problems with reporters trying to create controversy when there isn’t any there by baiting the interviewee to say what the reporter wants to hear, because they’re trying to create a story that will sell papers or boost ratings. It’s not objective reporting which should be for the opinion pages or editorials rather than the meat/reporting part of the media. I haven’t really seen any of that so far in spring training. Bedard is handling the media just fine to my thinking.

Posted by OlyOle

8:49 AM, Mar 12, 2008

checking 2007 final spring stats and boy, they really did seem to predict regular season performance.

Tied for most spring home runs with 5 and led the league in slugging percentage: Sammy Sosa.

Your top four Cactus League ERA leaders from 2007: Loe, Bootcheck, Greinke, and (ahem) Jarrod Washburn.

It's ridiculous that we take Spring Stats to mean anything. For stars, we throw them out, for guys like Mike Morse, it can win him a job.

Posted by blah

9:34 AM, Mar 12, 2008

welcome back Geoff thanks for the resume...I I I I I I I I I

Posted by AKMarinersFan

9:37 AM, Mar 12, 2008

OlyOle - You are right we should throw the stars performance out. So that explains Ichiro...uh oh...there's our problem....we don't have any others.

At the end of May, when the team is naar the bottom in most offensive statitical categories again(with the exception of the empty BA that is), there are going to be a lot of surprised folks. Mariner fans work on your rationaization skills....Mac, Bill, Chuck, and Howard are available if you need help.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

9:38 AM, Mar 12, 2008

OlyOle - You are right we should throw the stars performance out. So that explains Ichiro...uh oh...there's our problem....we don't have any others.

At the end of May, when the team is naar the bottom in most offensive statitical categories again(with the exception of the empty BA that is), there are going to be a lot of surprised folks. Mariner fans work on your rationaization skills....Mac, Bill, Chuck, and Howard are available if you need help.

Posted by Get Griffey

9:39 AM, Mar 12, 2008

OlyOle-
Ditto!
For guys on the bubble it is a time to win jobs, for players with jobs it’s just time to warm-up and practice.

Posted by Merrill

9:44 AM, Mar 12, 2008

OK, Geoff, as one of the ones yelling "stupid questions" a lot during that thread after Bedard's first start, I humbly apologize. You convinced me that I was wrong to do that. I do agree with Bandwagon Jumper that his scenario sometimes happens, or that things get weighted with meaning they weren't, um, meant to have.

But, I stand corrected. Thanks for making me rethink/think. And thanks for a great post. And welcome back! I hope you had a great time.

And, congratulations, weebs!

And, for those complaining about wordiness, hmmmm. I think you know the answer to that. But I'll say it anyway: Just read the shorter posts. Or read the first few paragraphs and the last few. It's silly to complain about something you're not compelled to do.

I, for one, Geoff, really appreciate the detail and the stories.

Not everyone likes to read. My Dad, my brother, for instance. But they're still smarter than me in a lot of ways.

Posted by Bryan

9:48 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Thanks Geoff. I hope people back off of Bedard and his Q and A with the media. Who cares? His performance is all that matters. We really need him to pitch well this year and take some pressure off Felix and the rest of the rotation

Two questions for you:

1) How is Sexson's performance thus far? I saw he is hitting 220 something. But, is he laying off bad balls?

2) Any word on how Adam Jones is performing. Just morbid curiousity.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Posted by Merrill

9:49 AM, Mar 12, 2008

blah, please don't read my crap. it could infect you. then you'd be crappy blah. nobody wants that.

blah blah blah...

Posted by Chuck

10:05 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Welcome back Geoff:
Thanks for the dissertation on why ball players should interview following a game. But as you should know, spring training is usually so boring, Ichiro going 0-fer the training session is about the only news of interest. If the rookies hit, it doesn't matter, cause they will be beat out by established players. If regulars don't hit, its "hey, wait till the bell rings." If the pitchers hit too many bats its just, "He was just working on his arm strength." On a more serious note, I recall when we were going after Delgado and wound up with Sexon. How I wish you were interviewing Delgado in Seattle the last couple years. And on a more serious note, I really resent athletes and front office guys referring to players who have been around a few years as "having gone through the war." While I've never played major league baseball, I have been in three wars, and I find it difficult comparing sports to actual combat. Just an "old vets" opinion. If you haven't read the blog since your return, be ready for a lot of negative stuff--its in the air. go M's!

Posted by scrapiron

10:23 AM, Mar 12, 2008

For those players trying to win a spot, spring training means something.

To Dickey, Ho-Ram and RRS, every inning pitched means something.

To Morse, Jimerson, Balentien and Reed every at bat or fly ball means something.

To everyone else, unfortunately the team has announced they all have a spot, so they can relax and "work on things". In some cases, this can be beneficial, as a pitcher can work on a new pitch, or a batter can work on a new stance. Hopefully Ichiro is tinkering with his timing and this means nothing. Often times though, players get lackadadical and don't get themselves as prepared for the opening of the season. Lack of job security is a great motivator.

Remember they signed Cairo to "push" Lopez. Then it was announced that both had all but guaranteed a spot on the roster. Pressure off.

Posted by scrapiron

10:24 AM, Mar 12, 2008

For those players trying to win a spot, spring training means something.

To Dickey, Ho-Ram and RRS, every inning pitched means something.

To Morse, Jimerson, Balentien and Reed every at bat or fly ball means something.

To everyone else, unfortunately the team has announced they all have a spot, so they can relax and "work on things". In some cases, this can be beneficial, as a pitcher can work on a new pitch, or a batter can work on a new stance. Hopefully Ichiro is tinkering with his timing and this means nothing. Often times though, players get lackadadical and don't get themselves as prepared for the opening of the season. Lack of job security is a great motivator.

Remember they signed Cairo to "push" Lopez. Then it was announced that both had all but guaranteed a spot on the roster. Pressure off.

Posted by Orlandu

10:26 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Welcome back Geoff. Did you enjoy your vacation?

Posted by Mike

10:36 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Regarding Jones, I heard on the radio this morning that he's hitting .470, has misplayed a couple of balls and made some great plays. They also said Sherrill was likely going to be the closer and that Tillman was very impressive.

Posted by Mike

10:37 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Regarding Jones, I heard on the radio this morning that he's hitting .470, has misplayed a couple of balls and made some great plays. They also said Sherrill was likely going to be the closer and that Tillman was very impressive.

Posted by Get Griffey

10:44 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Chuck
I’ll probably be blasted by someone for this but her I go.

I think that the “wars” quote was something Mac used (along with “vet”) in an interview once, talking about the broken down pitchers the FO got for him. It was the only thing nice he could say as the pitchers record did not justify getting him. The continued use of the “wars” reference on this blog is a continuation of the bashing people gave him and a way they now make fun of him.

To my knowledge he only used it once or twice last year, and only the posters on this blog have kept it alive.

I have previously expressed my opinion that on this blog there has been too many who use “vet” like an insult, but I was shouted down.

PS. there is defiantly plenty of hostility on the blog lately, but some are rational people.

Posted by Mike in Meadowbrook

7:23 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff,

My Ontarian wife and I have been reading your blog since June, don't change a thing. Only so much you can get from Niehaus, the beer vendor, and the box score. Missed the Meet and Greet in February (wifey = 9 months pregnant), but we'll catch you next time.

If there needs to be M's baseball with my comment - why not do a Morse/Wilkerson platoon in RF

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