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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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April 11, 2008 7:37 AM

Interesting weekend

Posted by Geoff Baker

Not the greatest start to a season by the Mariners. Not the worst one either, when you think about all that has happened with the hitters and bullpen. A lousy starting rotation, this team could be 1-9 instead of 4-6. Seattle has actually won two of the three series it has played this season. I know, I kind of smacked my head a couple of times when I thought about that last night.

Of course, dropping four in a row in Baltimore was an awful result that takes away from the two series wins. No doubt about that. So, I'd say the M's had best put the past 10 days behind them and look ahead. And why not? They have, as I said, taken two series out of three. And now, with a series win against the Angels, they'll have taken three of four. Yes, they will still be a sub-.500 club if they win this series instead of sweeping. But as I said, keep doing that -- taking series -- and this Baltimore debacle will eventually be overcome.

In other words, nothing catastrophic has happened yet. Look at the standings. Only two teams in the entire American League are more than two games over .500. Plenty of clubs have sorted through a myriad of troubles the first two weeks.

That would be the Orioles and Kansas City Royals, both still building off early sweeps at 6-3. We know neither of those teams is going to the post-season. If you have to ask why, you have not been paying attention.

So, the M's, for all of their problems in getting started, truly have not lost all that much -- yet. This is where they have to forget the past and focus on the future because the hurting Los Angeles Angels are in town. You know, those Angles. Thumped 13-6 in games by the Halos last season. That cannot happen again and -- truly -- there is no reason it should. The M's have the pitching matchups in their favor this series. It's up to the hitters to get their game faces on and start producing. Yes, there is pressure. And yes, the bats are being squeezed a little tougher. That's the difference in playing on a team that's expected to win, as opposed to one that surprised folks with an 88-74 record last season.

Someone wrote in a few days ago saying that I was wrong last season, when I told you how to approach the season in the first few weeks, and in which I said the M's weren't really contenders for anything yet. Well, I was not wrong. The Mariners never did contend for anything that mattered past the first few days of September. In my book, a true contender goes until mid-September within realistic -- read that word -- striking distance of the other playoff-bound teams.

After that, anything can happen the final two weeks. But at least your "contending" team is right there.

Note that I said realistic.

A team that sits six games back with two weeks to go and then whittles that down to two games was not a realistic contender. A team that sits two games out with two weeks to go, then gets swept by the division leader in four straight to fall six out?

A more realistic contender.

If the M's want to realistically contend all season and when it truly matters in September, they have to start sweeping series against lesser opponents (at some point in the next month) and winning series like this weekend's where the cards seem in their favor.

That's my definition of contending.

What's yours?

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