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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 12, 2008 9:13 AM

Bonds ain't coming

Posted by Geoff Baker

bigisland08 052.jpg

What are these outfielders doing with coach Eddie Rodriguez? Laughing at all those rumors that Barry Bonds is about to join them in Seattle.

One more time, for posterity. Bonds isn't coming to the M's. One of you wrote in, saying this post on the Fox Sports website was actually a rumor that the M's were about to land Bonds. Truth is, an item like that doesn't even merit rumor status. It's a guy in Rochester speculating that Bonds could help the M's. Well, yeah, he could. Could also kill their playoff hopes if he brings his circus to town. I'll stick to that paper for my Orangemen news and little else.

There's no shortage of blogs and websites speculating that Bonds would be a fit for the Mariners. Here's one from last week by Dugout Daily, listing Seattle as one of only three teams that might consider him worth the headache.

It's the beginning part of that post, where the author -- a guy named Justin Wright -- describes the headache, that made me even post this. Because the headache factor is the most important part of any Bonds equation. Not his OPS, his OBP, his walk rate or his home runs per at-bat. As the author mentions, the M's have shown they are serious by trading for Erik Bedard. Why risk undoing that by bringing in a baseball pariah like Bonds?

Oh yeah, because the M's can't hit. Right. Heard that one before. If I'm the Mariners, I'll worry about that one if the team isn't hitting by May. The M's had an OPS+ of 104 last season. If they maintain that this year, they contend for the post-season.

I believe they have a shot at maintaining it if three things happen:

-- A healthy Richie Sexson produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Vidro produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Lopez manages not to completely fall apart in the second half

Oh yeah, also if the Seattle catchers block some balls in the dirt. Threw that one in to justify the photo below.

bigisland08 040.jpg

Maybe we'll even get some surprises, like Brad Wilkerson matching Jose Guillen's OPS from last year, while managing 500 ABs. But I'm not banking on that. I am banking on Ichiro logging 200 hits and scoring 100 runs. Book it.

It's on the mound where this team's season will be won or lost.

And the thing is, as was mentioned last night, spring training numbers are useless indicators to try to go by in the predictions game. That's especially true with this M's squad.

Here's why. For those of you out there with doubts the M's can contend -- and let's face it, there are substantial reasons to have doubts -- those tend to be longer term concerns, rather than short ones. There are questions about the durability of Wilkerson. Questions about whether Raul Ibanez can get through an entire healthy season. Questions about whether Vidro can produce his numbers over a full season. About whether Lopez will fall apart in the second half.

Those are not questions that are going to disappear with a strong spring by any of those players.

Wilkerson can tear the cover off the ball this spring. But unless he's still doing it as an everyday player come mid-August, the concerns about his durability will still be there. Get my point?

Same with Lopez. I couldn't care less how sharp and focused he looks in March. He looked pretty good last April and May. It was in June that his mind went on vacation the way I did last week on the Big Island of Hawaii (to answer another of your questions. Had a great time, thanks).

As for Erik Bedard and his spring numbers, once again, all meaningless.

Check out Bedard's record from last season. When the games actually began to count, in April, he was awful. Opponents hit .291 off him and saddled him with a 6.09 ERA for the month. But even with that slow start, Bedard was still a Cy Young Award frontrunner come late August. So, with this guy, you know that even a one-month Mulligan to start the year isn't fatal. Who cares what he does in spring training?

I don't. He doesn't. His coaches don't.

I covered Roger Clemens when he won a Cy Young Award in 1998 and then Roy Halladay when he did the same in 2003 after lousy opening months. Bedard hasn't even had an opening day yet. Let's wait until the games matter before hitting the panic button. Please.

By the same token, no champagne corks on Felix Hernandez just yet, no matter what he did yesterday. Remember how last season began for him, then how it ended sort of anti-climactically. Again, with him, it's the long term season outlook and not the short term results that will be most important.

Here are the lineups for this afternoon's game. Arthur Rhodes is pitching. No, I don't care how many guys he strikes out or gives up home runs to. Rhodes won't be pitching for this team until May. He won't be handling the eighth inning until long after that, if at all. If this team's fortunes depend on Rhodes, the M's are in serious trouble.

By the way, catcher Kenji Johjima (below) apparently agrees with everything I've just said.

bigisland08 042.jpg

Brewers vs. Mariners

March 12, 2008

Milwaukee Brewers (9-5):

30 Craig Counsell 2B
22 Tony Gwynn CF
28 Prince Fielder 1B
8 Ryan Braun LF
14 Gabe Gross DH
7 J.J. Hardy SS
20 Laynce Nix RF
21 Abraham Nunez 3B
18 Jason Kendall C

12 Carlos Villanueva RHP

Other pitchers:
39 Chris Capuano LHP
57 Mitch Stetter LHP

Seattle Mariners (5-8):

5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
3 Jose Vidro DH
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
44 Richie Sexson 1B
50 Wladimir Belantien CF
2 Kenji Johjima C
4 Jose Lopez 2B
12 Mike Morse RF
25 Charlton Jimerson LF

52 Carlos Silva RHP

Other Pitchers:

33 Chris Reitsma RHP
38 Jon Huber RHP
49 Jake Woods LHP
53 Arthur Rhodes LHP
54 Sean Green RHP
57 Mark Lowe RHP
59 Eric O'Flaherty LHP

OK, and now an 11 a.m. update...the Brewers have changed their lineup. Here it is.

30 Craig Counsell 2B

22 Tony Gwynn CF

7 J.J. Hardy SS

28 Prince Fielder 1B

14 Gabe Gross LF

27 Joe Dillon DH

20 Laynce Nix RF

21 Abraham Nunez 3B

18 Jason Kendall C




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