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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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June 19, 2008 2:44 PM

Many questions, few answers

Posted by Geoff Baker

Well, the John McLaren R.I.P. press conference has come and gone with plenty of questions remaining. Not so much that McLaren was fired. After all, when a team loses like the Mariners have, it's pretty much a given that the manager will be going at some point.

The big question is why the team didn't simply do this on Monday. Let McLaren and Bill Bavasi go at the same time. We asked this of Chuck Armstrong, the team's president and highest-ranking M's official at today's gathering. Armstrong said that he and CEO Howard Lincoln had actually planned on keeping McLaren around after the Bavasi firing.

But interim GM Lee Pelekoudas talked them out of it.

"Clearly, he'd been giving it a lot of thought,'' Armstrong said of Pelekoudas. "He presented his reasons to Howard Lincoln and myself and after we talked about it for a while, we agreed with him.''

But Armstrong would not reveal what Pelekoudas said to talk them into such an about-face.

"Behind closed doors meetings and as you know, we really don't talk about our personnel, our reasons for making changes,'' he said. "It just seemed like the best time to make this move now.''

So, you'll all just have to guess. If anyone wonders why the M's are becoming the laughing stock of baseball, it's because of delays and changes of mind like these. McLaren could have been fired weeks ago. Why wait until after the GM goes? I understand that Lincoln and Armstrong are allowed to have their minds changed, especially by a baseball man like Pelekoudas. Not many "baseball men" running this team. But still, that's something you might want to explain to your fans a little more clearly, no?

Anyway, Pelekoudas was just as tight-lipped.

"We hadn't shown any improvement the last couple of months,'' Pelekoudas said. "In fact, we were probably regressing at this point.''

Well, yes, they've actually been regressing since before Jeff Pentland was fired. They've had trouble scoring two runs per game since that move. By the way, Lee Elia is now the bench coach and overseeing hitting duties. New hitting coach Jose Castro reports to him. Castro was around throughout spting training, so the players know who he is.

But Elia is running that show and now will be Jim Riggleman's bench coach as well.

Pelekoudas has known McLaren since the early 1990s.

"John took it hard,'' Pelekoudas said. "He's an emotional person, I'm an emotional person.''

McLaren is expected to talk to reporters in a conference call tomorrow. Riggleman was flying to Atlanta with the team and was not at today's press conference.

Meanwhile, the players just keep on trucking.

Both Armstrong and Pelekoudas insist they are not done. But they want to give Riggleman some time to see what he can do with the team. See if he can get some hitters to produce, enabling the team to win more and perhaps pumping up their trade value in the process. We'll see. So far, as I said before, all of baseball is watching to see what it will take to get the M's to part with a veteran player or two.

"With 90 games left in the season, we thought we owed it to our fans and ourselves to win as many games as we possibly can,'' Pelekoudas said.

Well, yes, of course that's true. And both he and Armstrong don't see that keeping veteran players around will constitute blocking younger guys from coming up. Armstrong warned about the pratfalls of calling some young players up too early. How a poor showing could hurt their confidence.

But what about keeping some massively underperforming older players up too long? Both men inisisted they are not done scouring the trade market. When the subject of dumping players simply by releasing them came up, both mentioned giving Riggleman time to see what he can do with the roster.

What can I say? It's a mess. I have no doubt some player bodies will soon be getting tossed overboard. As to when, I simply can't tell you. I can't read what this organization is going to do next, or find much rhyme or reason as to why it does the things it does.

How's that? Best I can give you for now.

Oh yeah, Pelekoudas says he liked McLaren moving Ichiro to right field and it doesn't mess up any of his plans for the team. This, even though McLaren said he made the move independant of the front office -- just three days before he was to be fired. Like I said, may we live in interesting times. Any of you want to predict what's going to happen next? Feel free. The best I can tell you is, the next Mariners manager ejected by an umpire will probably be named Riggleman.


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