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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 18, 2008 11:17 PM

M's cruise on early homers

Posted by Geoff Baker

indians0718 043.jpg

Cesar Jimenez, above, notches a strikeout, then walks a guy but gets a double-play grounder to end the game in the ninth. The Mariners win 8-2 over the Cleveland Indians, riding a grand slam homer from Raul Ibanez in the second inning and a three-run shot by Jose Lopez in the fourth.

Both homers came off Aaron Laffey.

Felix Hernandez goes six strong innings for the win.

Lots of talk after the game about Ibanez and how his three-hit pouting might impact trade rumors. Ibanez said he doesn't think that far ahead. Says it would throw him off his game and the way he prepares for it.

I asked him about what goes into that.

"For me, it starts the night before,'' he said. "And right when you wake up, it's game time. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning, you're already thinking about who's pitching and what's coming up and what your approach for that day is.''

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman told us what happens once Ibanez arrives at the ballpark.

"He does so much,'' he said. "He's in great physical shape and he spends a great deal of time in the batting cage every day. He's relentless in there.''

Riggleman noted that a shortstop or catcher might not be able to put in that much hitting time. That it might prove detrimental to their defensive game, given the energy it saps from a player's body to do that much cage work. But in Ibanez's case, it merely keeps him as ready as can be.

"With what he does in the off-season to prepare for the season,'' he said, "he's physically so strong that he doesn't lose anything during the course of the season.''

What does that focus do? Keeps Ibanez's head in the game. He'd hit into a double-play his first time up. But one inning later, he'd stood in the on-deck circle as Willie Bloomquist drew a four-pitch walk to force in a run. Ibanez knew the first pitch he'd see would likely be down the pipe. He was ready for it and hit his grand slam. He wasn't still worried about the DP grounder an inning earlier.

"It's a clean slate every time you go up there,'' he said. "And the quicker you can let go of negative things that happen, the quicker you can get back to focusing on the things you need to do.''

If only the rest of his team did that every night.

Hernandez felt stronger than he had his last time out. Said his command felt better as well.

Ibanez joked about Hernandez having hit the team's only other grand slam home run this season.

"He's been walking around here with his chesat stuck out a little bit,'' Ibanez said. "Ever since it happened, he hasn't stopped reminding us.''

But Hernandez knew his place when asked whose was better. He quickly pointed towards Ibanez across the room.

"Raul is such a good hitter,'' he said. "He's a great guy. An unbelievable player.''

Which is why other teams -- starting with the Diamondbacks and Mets -- would like to take a crack at landing him. We'll see how talks progress.

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Posted by M Dogg

10:14 PM, Jul 18, 2008


Posted by tomtom

10:49 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Oh come on... Cleveland is another team in last place.

You might as well celebrate, but give credit to the Indians for making the M's look good

Posted by BrianL

11:01 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Oh, Geoff thanks for that link in your last post. I was discussing that particular Riggleman quote with a few friends of mine.

And to Resin earlier - Really, go find one scout that says Yuni's range hasn't vanished since 2005. He has a reputation of being a good defender, but that reputation isn't matching his on-field performance.

And let me clear up my stance on Ibanez - He's not bad now. As it stands, he's probably the third best hitter on the team. The argument I was trying to make is that he's a quick-decline candidate, and his peripheral stats (and some scouting tidbits I've read) seem to suggest he's in the process of declining. With batspeed, that decline starts gradually but picks up in speed. Next year, he probably could be an average DH, but I wouldn't count on him beyond that.

Posted by BrianL

11:12 PM, Jul 18, 2008

And let me say, I wasn't clear when I was trying to articulate my Ibanez argument. That's my fault entirely. Sorry for confusing anyone.

Posted by scrapiron

11:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I hope the Mariners talk to Ibanez and let him know that they are going to trade him so gets to play for a contender, but they will be one of the teams bidding for him as a free agent and would like to see him back in Seattle in 2009 as their 1B/DH.

Keeping him in the dark about trade talks, or not having the desire to bring him back would be wrong, and he deserves better. A true professional.

Posted by BrianL

11:35 PM, Jul 18, 2008

scrapiron - Well, it's really not a bad situation for Ibanez to be in. He either gets traded away to a contender, he finishes the year with the team and walks away on his own accord (giving the team some draft compensation), or he works something out in the off-season to stick around for another year. So really, unless the team deals him to the Padres, he's going to wind up in a situation that bodes well for him.

Posted by Adam

11:39 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I'd welcome back Raul as a DH next year.

But I think you HAVE to trade him by the deadline, for a couple of reasons:

1. He could very well accept arbitration if offered. If the Mariners think they are better off offering him arbitration and getting two comp picks if he signs elsewhere, I wouldn't bet on it. I can see him taking the bigger payday in arbitration rather than signing a two- or three-year deal for less per year.

2. Raul doesn't promise to be better for us than the player we'd get back. The guy is 36, and is pretty much a platoon DH at this point. If we can get a 3 or 4 starter or a young OF for him, you pull the trigger.

I think the best bet is to deal him and hope he comes back via FA - although we'd lose our 2nd round pick to the team that we would trade him to, if they offered arby.

Posted by BrianL

11:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Adam - True, but we might be able to fetch someone that has 2nd round value if we trade him to a contender.

Out of curiosity, where does he stand with the wonky veteran trade rules? He can veto a trade seeing as he has 10 years of ML service, right?

Posted by AARRGGHH

11:45 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Not that I am complaining about Burke's play because I like the way he plays, but it is killing me to see Clement up and NOT playing. What's the deal? He needs to play.
Kenji DH and have Clement in everyday and have Burke spell him every 4th or fifth day don't let Clement just sit and rust.
GO M's!!

Posted by Adam

11:46 PM, Jul 18, 2008

He's been with us for 4 1/2 years, so I think we are safe. I haven't heard anything about his 10/5 rights, so I think it's a non-issue.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

11:53 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Or maybe it was just an honest mistake?

Posted by BrianL

11:53 PM, Jul 18, 2008

AARRGGHH - That's been bothering me as well. Clement, historically, has needed time to adjust to each promotion he's gotten. The sooner he gets regular playing time, the sooner he'll be ready to handle ML pitching in '09.

In other words, the more PT we give him this year, the happier we'll be next year.

Posted by Ichiro Must Go

2:04 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Question from the Ichiro thread: All you Ichiro Lovers out there, What is more important winning ballgames or watching a future HOF (not 1st ballot) player?

My answer is winning ballgames. We can get a heck of a lot for him right now and we could be a contender in 2010 or 2011 without him. With him we will never be a contender, we have seen 7 years of that.

Posted by thumbprint27

7:29 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Contrats Raul on a very nice game, again! Sorry to hear that it is raising your trade value! When er got you back from KC, I was hoping you would end your career here. But never in my wildest imagination, would I have thought that the GM, Manager and Sexson fired and we would be 20 games out of first place. Best wishes where ever you end up! You are a true professional, Raul!

Posted by byebye

7:46 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Sexson was immediately plugged into the lineup against Oakland left-hander Greg Smith. Sexson finished 1 for 3 with a walk. He also struck out swinging and grounded into a double play.

Mr Richie hasn't completely forgotten his Mariner ways.


Posted by Lance

8:23 AM, Jul 19, 2008

I agree with Jerry Brewer. Trade Raul or Adrian, but not both. But, you really need to sign Raul now. I wouldn't give up my high second round pick to sign any veteran with the state this team is in right now. Even Ibanez.

Beltre should fetch just as much. Then they could move Lopez to 3B, where he belongs. We need a top-notch second base prospect. Sorry to see the A's land Cardenas, he'd have been nice to have.

As for Ibanez, moving him to 1B should keep him fresher and stronger for an entire year. Doing that, his swing should hold up for a few more years.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Burke go to a team needing a catcher. He's solid behind the plate, handles pitchers well, and is an adequate hitter. We've got plenty of catchers coming up. Let's take a look at Rob Johnson for a bit, besides Clement..

Posted by ken

8:39 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Despite some odd lineups, the team is definitely looking more focused and playing better ball under Riggleman. 13-11 record despite having 3 games lost due to 9th inning blown saves. I guess this is reflecting how overmatched Mac was as a manager. The team looks to be falling out of the Strasburg sweepstakes - lock #1 pick in 2009 draft. Geoff: Any word on progress in signing Josh Fields? Signing deadline of 8/15 is approaching very rapidly and it doesn't look as though he will sign in time to get some minor league experience this season.

Posted by downonstrikes

8:43 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Concerning Raul, I'm ambivalent. He has done good work for the M's in the past and will in the future. If we get get players/prospects for him in a trade, now may be the time to pull the trigger.

Beltre is exciting defensively. I would miss his great plays at third if he is dealt. I say hold on to who we have that is strong and offers good potential for the future. Adrian is in that category.

Purge Vidro, Kenji, Cairo, and give our SS/2B men a stern lecture and ultiatum.

I''m with others asking that Clement be given consistent playing time. Reed too. It's time to develop for the future.

And, nice job Raul!

Posted by donwonstrikes

8:47 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Sorry about my mistakes:
get top players

Posted by downonstrikes

8:52 AM, Jul 19, 2008

As long as I am taking up space here, does anyone else consistenly have to redo their comment due to the CAPTCHA not being accepted? Honestly, I don't have trouble with it on any other blog or site but here I always get rejected on the first try. Maybe I should join the losing CAPTCHA team?

Posted by bikeman

8:54 AM, Jul 19, 2008


Those two premises
1) Ibanez is going to accept arbitration if not dealt and 2) if traded the Mariners may/will probably get him back though free agency

How likely are they? I know it's going to be repeated ad nauseum by the haters of Ibanez's LF defense. But, if one of those premises aren't correct then an Ibanez trade would have to get something better than a no. 3 pitcher or a young OF.

Where are they going to put a no. 3 starter when they have Felix, Bedard, Silva, Washburn, RRS, Dickey, Batista, and next year Morrow and Feierabend vying for starter spot.

Posted by Bill

9:03 AM, Jul 19, 2008

I agree that Raul is a true professional. Unfortunately it doesn't rub off on some of his teammates.

I want to echo the disappointment that Clement is not playing just because a lefty is pitching. Look at Beltre's splits yet there is no talk of platooning Beltre.

Posted by Patrick F.

9:14 AM, Jul 19, 2008

I still think Ibanez and Beltre are worth hanging on to, until their contracts expire.

However, the Cairos, Kenjis, Bloomquists are getting playing time that should be going to the Lahairs, Clements, and Reeds the majority of the time.

As far as deals go, it's become obvious that teams aren't dealing away many top prospects at the deadline anymore, so why get involved.

Dealing Wash, Rhodes, or Batista makes sense, but after that the team should stand pat.

There's a great article about Ichiro's all-star speech on Yahoo.

Posted by BrianL

9:22 AM, Jul 19, 2008

If the Mariners were to give up either Ibanez or Beltre, I would have to think they would retain Beltre. Above-average bat and steller defense at 3B make him more valuable than Ibanez.

Posted by Scanman

9:55 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Lance, Iím curious as to your reasons for thinking Lopez can handle 3rd base. I personally donít see it so Iíd like to know what it is you see. I find that we all see things a bit differently based upon our own backgrounds in the game. To me, 3rd is a spot that requires total concentration and instant reflexes. Judging by his performance at 2nd base, Iíd say he isnít always mentally into each pitch. Let me know what you see that I am missing. I feel he would be far and away better suited for the DH role

Posted by benihana

9:59 AM, Jul 19, 2008

I thought this was cute:

"It's exciting to come here and have an opportunity to at least push for a playoff spot down the stretch."

- Richie Sexson

Glad you're having fun now Richie, and thanks for using your ice cold stick to spoil any mere thoughts of contention for us this year.

Posted by Ziasudra

10:03 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Same ol' Sexson - strike out, hit into a DP, then get a hit when your team has a big lead, and the back of the bull pen is pitching . . . NY is welcome to him.

Posted by Lance

10:04 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Brian L - I'm pretty confident Adrian would rather move back to the NL, where the parks are smaller. Safeco is not the place for right-handed power hitters. He probably hates hitting here as much as Sexson did. Arod, too.

He may be showcasing himself. If he doesn't get traded by the deadline I'd be very surprised if he's on the 2009 Opening Day roster. Let him have his contract year with somebody else because he's not re-signing here. Not with the team in rebuilding mode.

Raul, on the other hand, loves Seattle and would likely be happy to stay and help with a two-year rebuilding job. It better be just two-years, or Felix leaves, too.

downonstrikes - to keep from having to retype your comment because it didn't post the first time (happens to me all the time) copy your comment before sending. Than paste it back on once you're back to the thread. Always back up any comment before sending. If you always save it, you'll cry less.

Don't know why it acts so particular. It's been going on since they put in the new software. But, it is what it is, and I guess we just have to deal with it.

Posted by BrianL

10:09 AM, Jul 19, 2008

All I'm saying, Lance, is that I'd offer Beltre a contract extension before I offer Raul a contract extension. Even if Beltre walks at the end of his contract, the club will likely get 2 compensation picks in the draft.

Beltre will be significantly harder to replace than Raul. That's the only point I'm trying to make.

Posted by Lance

10:20 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Scanman - my thinking on Lopez at 3B is that his skillset is better suited for 3B, if it's suited for the infield, at all.

His replexes are fine. But, he doesn't have particularly great footwork. His range at 2B isn't very good. And, I'm concerned one day he's going to get wiped out on a double-play attempt.

His lack of concentration has more to do with youth than anything else. It's actually been pretty good this year. But, how many balls just got by him. A 2Bman with just a bit more range would have made those plays.

Range is not as important at 3B than is arm strength. And, Lopez has an outstanding arm that is being wasted at 2B.

We need a 2Bman whose got some range. I know Carlos Silva, and Felix for that matter, would love that.

Remember, Ozzie Guillen used Lopez at 3B in the All-Star game. Maybe Ozzie knows something.

But, if not the infield, there's no reason to consign him to DH. He'd probably make an excellent corner-outfielder in Safeco. I'd be happy with him there, also.

Posted by Lance

10:30 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Brian L - I don't think there's a chance Beltre will re-sign. And, for what you'd probably have to sign him for, I'd rather use the money elsewhere.

Adrian's glove is nice, but .260/25 home run guys aren't incredibly hard to find at 3B. A guy like Joe Crede, would do well there, if the.Chisox wanted to make a spot for their Josh Fields.

Plus, in a couple of years you're blocking guys like Matt Tuiasosopo or Carlos Triunfel, who'll soon be outgrowing shortstop.

If you'd rather have a couple of draft picks for Adrian, fine. Assuming he'll even be a Type A FA. But I'd rather get three solid near-ready prospects for him, like Billy Beane seems to constantly do. But, that's just my feeling on the matter.

Posted by KP

10:31 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Raul would be a much bigger asset to us as a DH. As Riggleman said, he focuses on his batting first, at a possible detriment to his defense... and it was clear to see last night that he has no range out there, if Sizemore's double had been hit to RF it would have been an easy out as Ich would have covered that ground. Why would it not make sense to put Wlad in left and move Raul to DH? We lose our worst hitter (vidro) and replace him with much better. Our OF defense also gets better, and any HR Wlad hits is more then Vidro would have given us...

Posted by Scanman

10:33 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Lance, thanks for your insight about Lopez. We both agree he doesnít have the range for 2nd, And Iíll trust your judgment as to his concentration levels. As far as the outfield, is he fast enough to cover and can he go back on a ball. My thinking of him as a DH is that position would be solid for years to come, and with a great 2nd baseman added to the team that would go a long ways in solidifying our long-range plans.

Posted by scrapiron

10:34 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Ibanez is a leader, but he leads by example, ala Edgar Martinez. He's not going to stand up and make speeches. It's not his fault that Raul takes extra batting practice every day and his teammates don't want to join him.

Example: In the off season Mike Morse called Ibanez and asked if he could work out with him to pick up his workout techniques. Morse said it was the hardest he's ever worked in his life. The result? Morse came into ST more prepared than ever and made the team.

Posted by scottM

10:41 AM, Jul 19, 2008

How dysfunctional is the M's clubhouse?

If Raul IbaŮez won't attempt to re-sign here either after being a rent-a-player elsewhere for the rest of '08, or at the end of the season, then the situation inside the M's clubhouse is far worse than we've imagined.

If he comes back, then it will show that the players themselves believe that they can turn it around in 2009.

Posted by Scanman

10:43 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Hey Geoff, whats the word on Mike Morse?

Posted by BrianL

10:48 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Lance - I may be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that Beltre would be a Class-A free agent if he were to walk away.

You also have to consider the fact that most third-basemen are right handed. The Safeco Effect is going to hurt them just like it's hurt Beltre.The chances are very, very high that whoever we replace Beltre with will be a markedly worse player.

I don't think you're giving full credit to how much Beltre's defense helps this team, either. In fairness, defense has always been one of the most underrated facets of the game. I can almost guarantee that whoever you replace Beltre with will be a much worse defender, and the last thing this team needs is to downgrade at a defense-premium position like 3B.

A lot of people complain about Beltre's contract as being worth more than the results he's put up, but what if he had posted '04 numbers every year since signing? That would be A-Rod type performance, and would deserve A-Rod type pay. With the way the market has progressed since 2004, I would argue that Beltre's pay is right in line with his performance. Unfortunately, I doubt I'm going to sway you on this matter. Adrian Beltre is a ridiculously underappreciated player who's biggest mistake was signing a contract in the same off-season as Richie Sexson. For some reason, fans view both Sexson and Beltre in the same vacuum, and that really isn't fair to Beltre, who has been one of the best 3Bs in the league over the last three seasons.

And lets be honest, the White Sox are not going to give us Joe Crede for a relief pitcher. Not even worth trying, either. Joe Crede isn't a better player than Beltre, or even Beltre's equal.

Posted by Lance

10:52 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Scanman - Lopez has plenty enough speed to handle the OF, I'd say. Particularly LF in Safeco, which is much more challenging than most ballpark's leftfield. ]

But, he'd have to learn the OF. That would take some time, as it did for Adam Jones. He knows the infield, which is why I'd prefer he stay there.

But, he's much too young to be a DH already. Besides, best to let some left-handed power hitter have those ABs. In time, Raul would do a great job there, like his exemplar Edgar Martinez. And, that's if they don't bring back Griffey.

Lopez as DH? No. Best to just trade him then.

Posted by Lance

11:01 AM, Jul 19, 2008

"And lets be honest, the White Sox are not going to give us Joe Crede for a relief pitcher." -- BrianL

I'm sorry. Who said anything about that? Besides, I simply cited Crede as an example of a guy who could adequately replace Beltre, which, after all, was your initial point. I never said anything about trading for him. You're being presumptuous again.

And, no, I don't think any 3Bman brought in to replace Beltre would be markedly worse. A right-handed power hitter in Safeco, yes. A right-handed gap hitter? Not at all.

Which is why I'd love to see Lopez there. And, a real 2Bman brought in.

Posted by BrianL

11:06 AM, Jul 19, 2008

"Chisox wanted to make a spot for their Josh Fields."

Sorry, I assumed you meant the RP we just drafted. My mistake.

As for Crede being an adequate replacement for Beltre...I disagree.

Yes, Crede has put up similar numbers this year...while hitting in the bandbox that is US Cellular Field. Put him in Safeco and watch those numbers regress to something awful. Compound that with the serious downgrade in defense Crede would provide, and it's not even close.

Posted by Lance

11:08 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Then put Lopez there, like I said.

Anyway, gotta scoot. Bye.

Posted by BrianL

11:12 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Lopez at 3B would be a huge downgrade. Not as big as Crede, but still a marked downgrade. Worse defense, far worse power.

Posted by headliner

11:20 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Ibanez-3/4 with grand salami,without Vidro's "protection" my oh my

Posted by players=people

11:38 AM, Jul 19, 2008

"Same ol' Sexson - strike out, hit into a DP, then get a hit when your team has a big lead, and the back of the bull pen is pitching . . . NY is welcome to him."

Sexson's RBI single, on a 3-2 pitch, came in the first inning, and it tied the game at 1-1, off Oakland's starter Greg Smith.

Perhaps you'd like to throw a little more dirt on him?

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