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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 22, 2008 4:35 PM

M's drop 8-5 yawner

Posted by Geoff Baker

minor 019.jpg

A shot above of Adrian Beltre, trudging off the field with other Mariners following an 8-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in front of 11,029 at Peoria Stadium. Most of the action in this game took place the first inning, when the Mariners jumped ahead 4-2. After that, it was a long, slow afternoon for Seattle pitching. The hitting slowed down a huge bunch as well and there were the requisite baserunning and fielding mistakes.

Manager John McLaren summed it up perfectly afterwards.

"I don't care about when spring training ends,'' McLaren said. "I do care about how we play the game and I don't like what I've seen lately.''

Well put. Not much more to say. Hear the rest of it right here if you don't want to take my word for it. But really, it's very straightforward. Spring training statistics don't mean all that much. But playing the game well? Playing it the right way? That certainly does matter when the regular season is eight days away from beginning. Right now, the M's are not playing the game right. Haven't for a few days. And yes, unlike Ichiro's 0-for-21, or Erik Bedard's seven homers allowed in 18 innings, not playing the game the right way is a reason for concern.

minor 017.jpg

Getting the proper reads on fly balls, so the trail runner doesn't pass you on the bases? That's playing the game right. Tracking down pop flies so that your pitcher doesn't have to give up runs in trying to notch extra outs? That's playing the game right. Getting ahead of hitters if you're a pitcher? That helps. Even a rather routine looking rundown play nearly got botched in the late innings when Beltre failed to tag the runner and Miguel Cairo had to finally run him down.

Anyhow, we won't go into it all again. Teams do tend to lag this time of spring. And yes, the M's are tired of playing meaningless games. But it's not that easy to flip the proverbial switch once the season starts. Not when it comes to playing the game right. McLaren has the look of a worried man. He's got some legitimate concerns about his offense and, to a lesser extent, his bullpen. The last thing he needs is to worry that his players have forgotten the fundamentals. This team has a lackadaisical look to it at the moment. Look for that to change in coming days.

On the positive side, Chris Reitsma had one of his better outings of the spring, giving up a run over two innings of work. Arthur Rhodes allowed a double, but also struck out a pair in his outing. Reitsma looks to have a shot at the opening day roster. Mike Morse had the bat going today, collecting three more hits and two RBI. Morse is now hitting .542 for the spring. If his defense winds up costing him a job, there are going to be some ticked off M's fans out there. The downside? Jake Woods allowing four consecutive singles to start his outing and turning a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 disadvantage.

"I'm a little disappointed in the pitching today,'' McLaren said.

minor 022.jpg

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Posted by Ed Schrob

5:03 PM, Mar 22, 2008

That final quote? I have a feeling it's not the last time you'll hear that from Mac this year.

Posted by Toe Tag

5:14 PM, Mar 22, 2008

What is it that Arthur Rhodes scratches in the dirt of the back of the mound, everytime he starts an appearance?

Posted by CMH

5:23 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Saw the game last night between LAA & Texas. Saw the game today between the M's & Texas. The M's look sloppy. Tomorrow's game with LAA will show a lot - regardless of the so-called meaningless S/T games. Right now, the Mariners do not look ready for the season!!

Posted by Scanman

5:41 PM, Mar 22, 2008

The photos above say it all. Just look at the body language of the players, it screams LOSER loud and clear. There is no hustle, no leadership and losing is ok as long as those paychecks keep coming in. These guy's aren't even dirty. Oh well, another 85 win season, so what, these are nice people, good solid citizens. Don't worry, the M's will hype them up and you'll buy into it and once again they will be Hall of Famers, every one of them

Posted by AKMarinersFan

5:43 PM, Mar 22, 2008

" If his defense winds up costing him a job, there are going to be some ticked off M's fans out there. "

Geoff - Do you really believe that? How can you make that statement and still support Vidro. Seems a little hyprocritcal to me.

If Morse isn't in the starting lineup (let alone making the team) its because this team is not committed to winning.

Posted by Wathingclosely

5:53 PM, Mar 22, 2008

"If his defense winds up costing him a job, there are going to be some ticked off M's fans out there."

You bet and you, Geoff, are devolving. We don't need an apologist for lose-making Mariner management decisions you seem to think are coming.

Morse makes the team or the Mariners are a joke.Lousy defense? Think Manny Ramirez.

Posted by Bobby Ayala

6:27 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Wow, lots of negativity.. I have my doubts about the bullpen, as well as the offense. I also agree the Mariners look flat and are not playing like a team that wants to win.

... BUT, seriously, come on gys. It's a little too early to give up on the season, don't you think?

Also -- I am still fairly positive Morse will make this team. Obviously I'm no expert, but for a team that has lots of questions about offensive productivity, how do you let a guy batting nearly .550 get picked up by another team? Spring training stats don't matter -- unless you're playing for your job. With the young guys, they're out there playing for a spot on the team. Morse has exceeded all expectations with his bat. He has left some to be desired in terms of some of his defense and fundamentals, and I imagine McLaren is trying to light a fire under his ass with all the "we have no idea what we're going to do with who makes this team". Hopefully, it works.

If the Mariners cut Morse, I'm going to be dissapointed... but it's not like he's a sure thing at the major league level, either. Cutting Morse means we're not commited to winning? You may disagree with the direction, but I think everyone is being overly pessimistic. Wait until we have a few games that count in before declaring this season is over and done.

Posted by PRchef

6:45 PM, Mar 22, 2008


I agree with you. And I hope you are right about Mac and Morse.

It is hard to get on people for being so pessimistic though. It seems like there have been way too many bad calls made from the front office down to the field.

I think it makes for a very impatient fan base.

The season has yet to begin and I already feel like I have been in this roller coaster ride between the team looking really good at first with the Bedard trade to not so good on the field, then Geoff proclaiming the West is theirs to lose (with the Angels being hurt) and now this last blog entry...

I am still very excited for the season to begin, but a little guarded with what will happen on the field. I hope we are all proven wrong in the worst way.

Posted by DrLo

7:10 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Comments about the management not being committed to winning seem a bit over the top. We can debate the soundness of their judgement if and when they cut a contributor like Morse, stick with Sexson during his downward spiral, continue with Vidro at DH despite an absence of power behind him, and fail to come up with a viable plan B for second base. But it isn't necessarily a lack of commitment to winning. It is a matter of judgement of betting, possibly (and in my opinion, very likely), on some of the wrong horses. Interesting irony in that much of this blog was complaining about the Bedard trade specifically because it signalled a "win now" mentality rather than a longer-term view of developing the franchise. Now, they are not committed to winning?

Posted by pups ahoy

7:13 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Geoff, Mike Morse is batting something like .566 this Spring. How can he not be a starter in the OF on Opening Day?

Posted by hcoguy

7:21 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Why does Reitsma even have a chance at making this team? He is garbage. Probably a nice gentleman, just does not deserve to be in a contender's pen.

If Morse hit half as well as Manny there would be no question about his making the team and subsequently starting as the DH.

Hyperbole? Perhaps, but barely.

Posted by Zach C

7:38 PM, Mar 22, 2008

this bench stuff is getting way too much attention. Its the BENCH on an AL team...who cares? none of these guys are gonna make a difference. how many times can we say bloom won or lost us a game over his career...w/e

I dont know if i would be willing to give reitsma another chance to cost us some games, im pulling for the guy, but he hasn't shown me anything. I would much rather have Rhodes and Lowe in there

im way more concerened about the starters. I dont like the way there playing. Someone tell BONE to kick some ass down there...did he leave yet?

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

8:09 PM, Mar 22, 2008

A viable plan at second base was Asdrubal Cabrera, however he was dealt for Eduardo Perez. Eduardo represented a player that could "help now. under the great Bill Bavasi" Perez ended up being worthless for us as depth to our bench. The value of an American League bench is hardly even worth discussion. Today's viable plan at second base is Jose Lopez. He was a top prospect, has a solid minor league track record, and has the tools to be an above league average second baseman.

Howard Lincoln and Armstrong being criticized is fair game. Not everyone here is a believer that this is the dynamic duo that will bring Seattle a title and parade.

Posted by DH Schmginsky

8:33 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Are you quoting Jim Street or Rick Rizz?

Posted by Reality Check

8:45 PM, Mar 22, 2008

If Reitsma makes this team it will end badly, this guy is done. We are in trouble.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

8:50 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Morse is still adjusting to the outfield. The M's have been jacking him around for years. They've had him everywhere but catcher. He's already proven he can hit at the ML level. If Bavasi can't pull off a deal for Roberts, then they should put Morse at second base. He plays all infield positions well. Remember, he was once a promising shortstop. He would also fill the 2-hole in the line-up nicely.

Posted by Bum Knee McGee

9:08 PM, Mar 22, 2008

How about a deal something along the lines of Roberts for Lopez, Baek, and Reed?

Posted by CMH

9:14 PM, Mar 22, 2008

Zach C - BONE was active on the bench today high fiving players - particularly Rhodes when he came off the field.

Posted by badbadger

9:49 PM, Mar 22, 2008

I hate to break this to you guys, but Morse isn't that great of a hitter. He does not have enough ABs this spring to give a statistically significant picture of what his batting average is going to be this year. He did not magically become the reincarnation of Ty Cobb this off season.

He's a .270-300 hitter without much power who doesn't take as many walks as a good hitter should. He's got some value but he's not an all star.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

11:17 PM, Mar 22, 2008

.270-.300, low power, and lowwalks. How is this any worse than Jose Lopez? Would you rather have Cairo?

Posted by John

11:32 PM, Mar 22, 2008

This team misses Jose Guillen badly. And this is why they probably won't contend this year like they could and should. Without someone like Guillen to kick guys in the butt when they're dragging, this team will not have the energy it needs to compete.

Posted by beady eyes

11:37 PM, Mar 22, 2008

The bench doesn't matter? Ok. Guess the Angels, Indians, Tigers and Yanks all would disagree with anybody saying such nonsense.

A bench with just Bloomie and his twin Cairo taking up half the available spots may just prove your point but having a kid like Morse whose a decent contact hitter and Norton to go with Burke's decent bat says that we'd have alternatives late in a close game.

Sorry the bench DOES matter.

Posted by LA Mariner

12:05 AM, Mar 23, 2008

If Morse isn't on the roster at the start of the season, it will be status quo for Bavasi and his mismanagement of this teams resources. If you could put a statistical value on his abilities as a GM, he would be hitting below the Mendoza line. Same goes
with Lincoln and Armstrong. This team is run by businessmen, not baseball men. It's not that they don't want to win, it's that they are inept and incapable of making smart baseball choices.

Posted by Zach C

12:16 AM, Mar 23, 2008

maybe so but it doesn't diserve the attention we're giving it...

Posted by Nat

12:24 AM, Mar 23, 2008

Wow, seems like a tad bit overreaction here. This team is just feeling its way as it winds down the clock. They'll be fine! But if it makes anyone feel better the M's floundering puts them in good company. Check it out-

Take a deep breath, guys!

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

12:52 AM, Mar 23, 2008

In a close game it would be complete nonsense to take out any starter and pinch hit with Mike Morse.Yes, that includes the awful Sexson and even Lopez. In the American League, the bench really doesn't have much value compared to the National League. I shouldn't even have to make the statement, but obviously someone believes platoons, pinch-hitters, pinch runners, double switches are quite common in a league with the D.H. I guess I missed the entire year last season when the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels, and Yanks had the majority of their everyday players play close to 150+ games.

Posted by Bum Knee McGee

12:55 AM, Mar 23, 2008

Thanks for the link Nat, but at least the Tigers aren't making lame excuses about the dry air.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

1:03 AM, Mar 23, 2008

yeah I'd much rather see Morse starting at second base than riding the pine on the bench all year. If last year was any indication, Mac won't be using the bench much. Considering the slow start of the pitchers and the bullpen's breakdown last year, I think we'd be in far better shape to keep 12 pitchers, especially to start the season. We can't count on our starters to all come out of the gate each giving a solid seven innings. And we should take all the precautions we can to prevent a repeat of last year's overuse of the bullpen.

Posted by corndog

1:59 AM, Mar 23, 2008

If Johnny's dead set on the vets, and they are looking to trade for a bat, then they include Morse in the trade. He's hitting .550. That's got to give him some trade value. I'd rather see him playing everyday somewhere. He's earned it.

Posted by Ed Schrob

4:32 AM, Mar 23, 2008

I think Morse will look good in grean and yellow.

Posted by Bum Knee McGee

6:45 AM, Mar 23, 2008

Oh God not Oakland! Great for him. Bad for us.

Posted by thewyrm

7:21 AM, Mar 23, 2008

Ok, when people start comparing Mike Morse to Manny Ramirez you know it is time for the season to start. Morse's inflated spring average is just like Bloomquist's last year: Irrelevant. His .500 BA is not sustainable against real teams in real situations and his defense is just not good enough to warrant being a starter in MLB. The best thing we could do with Morse is trade him now while he still has an inflated reputation.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

8:36 AM, Mar 23, 2008

In 291 AB's in the majors, Morse has a career .302 BA. His .550 spring BA suggests he's on his way up, not down. I have every reason to believe he can sustain a .300 average in the majors. But no he'll probably never be Manny!

Posted by jujay

8:41 AM, Mar 23, 2008

Sorry but anybody that knows anything about Morse knows he can't play second base. Sure, he came up as a shortstop, but lots of people do...and he was 6'2" at the time.... now he is 6'6" and everyone agrees he can't play second. I agree that if we can get something for him, throw him and Baek in a trade. He would do the same thing as Norton on the bench.

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