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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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July 11, 2008 9:21 PM

M's hitters AWOL again

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The new video scoreboard here says it all.

Another one of those nights for the Mariners, turning mediocre Royals starter Luke Hochevar into a Cy Young Award contender. Hochevar went seven innings, allowing just a run on five hits. That's what Erik Bedard needs to do for the M's. Anyhow, a 3-1 loss by Seattle. Felix Hernandez gave up three runs in his five innings, but had no shot of winning this game with an offense behind him that's barely done anything the past week.

Seattle led the Royals 6-4 in hits, but stranded five men on base.

"In Oakland, we weren't finishing off some rallies,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Here, we just really didn't rally at all. But you know, that's the nature of it. I'll take it. Just keep pitching good and playing good defense. The hits are going to come and the runs are going to come.''

I understand where Riggleman's coming from. Hitting is a cyclical thing. But this team's hitting has been catastrophic. It's not like last year, when the M's would go on a two-week rampage to offset a two-week slump. I mean, the last Mariners guy to hit a home run was Richie Sexson. What does that tell you. Hernandez himself has more home runs the past four weeks than the guy who started tonight's game at DH, Jose Vidro, or the one playing first base, Miguel Cairo.

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July 11, 2008 6:55 PM

Mariners at Kansas City Royals: 07/11 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Felix Hernandez was indeed pulled, going five innings and allowing the three runs. Roy Corcoran got through the sixth unscathed and Cesar Jimenez is now on in the bottom of the seventh, his team trailing 3-1. The Mariners scored a run in the top of the seventh as Adrian Beltre doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an RBI groundout by Miguel Cairo. No Horacio Ramirez in this game. He's already sat back down and others are warming up. Yes, I know. The window of opportunity is closing fast.

The Mariners have shipped Jared Wells back to Class AAA Tacoma to clear room for Felix Hernandez to start tonight's game. They could have put Miguel Batista on the DL and kept Wells here. But manager Jim Riggleman said there's a chance Batista could be used out out of the bullpen if the pitching situation gets dire the next few days. Oh well, at least Wells got a free night in a hotel and a ride on the team jet.

Jose Guillen has been scratched from tonight's game with a stiff neck. He had the neck pad on while we were interviewing him earlier and it's too sore to swing properly. Had this problem in Seattle last year as well.

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July 11, 2008 2:57 PM

Guillen speaks on M's clubhouse

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, just got done talking to Jose Guillen in the Kansas City clubhouse. Quite the interesting conversation, as you might imagine. Lots of subjects. He was happy to see the media from Seattle. Been having a rough time in Kansas City. But when I arrived today, he was surrounded by the local media. Looked like a one-man press conference in front of his locker. He assured me it was the first time in two weeks he's even spoken. Caused a fuss earlier this year for calling out some of the team's younger players for not working hard enough. Used some colorful language that didn't go over all that well with some of the good midwestern folks in this neck of the nation. There was more focus on his language at the time than his message.

Then last week, Guillen got into a verbal confrontation with Royals pitching coach Bob McClure. Guillen had been giving an interview saying that coaches didn't need to be getting in the players' faces, that they knew they had to play hard and were trying. Anyway, there seems to be a common theme here. A theme missing in Seattle this season. When controversy erupts with the Mariners, it's usually because no one is calling anyone out for not playing hard.

Former GM Bill Bavasi said as much and then, the day he was fired, said that letting Guillen leave as a free agent might have been his biggest regret.

So, how surprised is Guillen to see what's happened with the Mariners? Very. Says he didn't see it coming.

"I just cannot believe it,'' he said. "It was such a great team. A veteran club, got some great pitching this year. Has some good offense. I was totally surprised to see that team have pretty much the worst record in baseball. I did not see that coming, trust me.

"I just feel bad for Mac and Bavasi. Such great baseball guys, to see tham go like that...it's not their fault. It;s the players' fault. We all have to realize and understand that. Thet are not the ones playing. I know they're the ones putting the team together, but if you don't come to play hard and play to win every day, what do you think is going to happen?''

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July 11, 2008 11:53 AM

Bidding war launched?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just arrived in Kansas City. Spent the night in Houston just to get a little bit closer to here in order to not have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get here by 4 p.m. Not a while lot of direct flights here, across the two time zones, that fit with our needs and schedule. So, I opted to fly to Houston, arrive there at midnight and get a good night's sleep before the two-hour hop-over to here. But I made that flight to Houston last night with about 10 minutes to spare, thanks to the ninth-inning collapse by the Mariners in Oakland. The quick version is, I wrote my game story on the train from Oakland to San Francisco, which had the night's last flight out to Houston leaving at 6:25 p.m. It's an hour train ride from Oakland to SFO Airport (longer if you drive in rush hour traffic). It's a quarter-mile walk to the train station with luggage. Needless to say, I didn't have time to draw you up any colorful stat boxes.

Anyway, remember a couple of days ago, when we discussed the M's need to get a bidding war started over Erik Bedard? Well, let the bidding begin. First off, it looks like the career of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder, one of the Big Three from the Oakland A's heyday earlier this decade, is done. With that pitching loss, Cards manager Tony LaRussa is hitting the panic button and putting some public pressure on his GM to do something.

Doing something could mean getting into a bidding war with the Philadelphia Phillies over Bedard.

But here's the catch. New Cards GM John Mozeliak has already said he isn't going to make reactionary moves. Well, that stance is going to feel pressure as the days tick by towards the July 31 trade deadline.

There is a trend by newer GMs, especially those committed to rebuilding from within, to resist the temptation to spend big bucks on free agents or do mega-deals at the deadline. Hey, after seeing what just happened to the Mariners after going all-in on Bedard, who can blame them?

But it's one thing to talk tough. Quite another to do it and watch as your team loses games in the nights leading up to the deadline.

We're seeing a kind of similar thing take place in Tampa Bay, where Rays GM Andrew Friedman keeps insisting he isn't in a hurry to give up tons of talent to bring in arms that can help his staggering bullpen.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on both situations and see what happens next. Not only from a Mariners perspective. But just insofar as how it relates to what GMs do going forward. If the Cards don't add an arm and fall out of the race, or if the Rays keep blowing late leads and eventually squander their division advantage, it could provide a lesson to future GMs. That there may be such a thing as being too cautious, too focused on the future at the expense of the present.

Conversely, if the Cards can hold out until some injured arms return in August, and should the Rays manage to make the playoffs while not giving away any of their core of young prospects, it could send the lesson in the other direction. That maybe holding off and not making the July 31 trade deadline into an annual circus really is the smartest way to go.

There is, of course, a third way. That would be for the Rays to hold off now, miss the playoffs, then make the playoffs again and again. Or contend for several years down the road.

That third route is laden with risk. For one, you need a patient fan base, an owner willing to stand behind you and wait and a future that unfolds the way you see it. There are no dynasties left in baseball. Maybe a handful of teams that make the playoffs year after year, yes, but even they are not guaranteed to make the post-season on a continuous basis.

It's a risk. And it's not your job, or mine, at stake.

That's why this year's deadline should be particularly interesting to follow. Even after it's come and gone.


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