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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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August 19, 2008 9:08 AM

Nah, on second thought

Posted by Geoff Baker

Had an earlier post, didn't like the tone of it when I read it in black and white, so I took it down.

What do I care if Jarrod Washburn got lit up last night? I'm not paying his salary. I didn't decide to keep him on the team instead of trading him. Yes, he got lit up. I won't cheapen this blog by resorting to a petty back and forth. Many of you come on here to get a credible take on what's gone on this season and I've tried to give it to you the best way I can. If you don't think Washburn was worthy of those last 14 starts, you don't have to. He's certainly had his problems in August with giving up too many home runs and extra-base hits.

Like the rest of his team, he hasn't been good enough this month. The Mariners are now 1-8 over their last nine games. They are 5-14 for the month. They are 21-31 under manager Jim Riggleman. That's a .404 winning percentage. Yes, it's better than John McLaren's winning percentage. But it won't spare this team from joining the 100-100 club. That is, it won't keep the M's from becoming the first team to spend over $100 million and lose 100 games.

Maybe that's why the team is reluctant to trade away players other than Arthur Rhodes? I keep hearing whispers about that wherever I go. I certainly hope that is not the case. Just the usual rumor mongering. The usual supposition by people not in a position to know.

Here's what I do know.

The record for losses by a team spending more than $100 million in payroll is 96 by the 2003 New York Mets. The Mariners will almost certainly top that mark and then some if they keep getting blown out on the scoreboard the way they have the last four games. For a team that is supposedly trying to win games, these Mariners sure find it difficult to succeed at the task.

I don't know what's scarier, believing Carlos Silva -- that some of these guys aren't trying their best to win.

Or to believe the opposite is true. That this team really is giving 100 percent maximum effort every night.

Because if this is the best this bunch can manage, nothing short of a complete blowup this off-season is going to even begin to undo the damage that's been done to this franchise in 2008.

On that happy note, I'm off to play MLB 2K8. If you want more analysis than that, this team will have to give me something other than smouldering ruins to sift through. But yes, they have been getting a lot of hits lately. The trick is to get them when you're not five runs down.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS (9:35 a.m.): For ScottM, this is a team with a core of players that failed to win when it mattered in August 2006, September 2007, or in all of 2008. So, that's a pretty empty glass to start with. There is talent here, but even those talented players have underperformed when it mattered. It's a team with a potential ace pitcher in Felix Hernandez and a No. 2 starter in Erik Bedard who may or may not be damaged goods and will likely be out of here before 2010. After that, a whole lot of guessing, including a closer having trouble closing and a bullpen weakened by the loss of Brandon Morrow.

The most consistent player all season, (no, not Ichiro)...Raul Ibanez, could be gone this winter as a free-agent. You have a center fielder playing in right field because of the wear on his aging body, a catcher given a $24 million extension after putting up some of the worst offensive numbers in the league, a handful of promising prospects still trying to hit and a middle infield that appears non-existent.

It's a team that's been called out by former GM Bill Bavasi, ex-manager John McLaren, anonymous coaches, Carlos Silva and maybe Miguel Batista (we're still not sure about that one). Hardly a who's-who of team leaders, but then it begs the question of who passes for a leader on this team. And when even your worst-performing executives and players feel the need to call you out, it doesn't exactly speak volumes about the capabilities of your team.

Yes, there are some nice, complimentary pieces here, like Ichiro, or Adrian Beltre, who would look good on a contending team with others around to carry the load. But here, they are simply some of the better pieces on a team missing key components. The M's lack a true No. 3 or No. 4 hitter. For those wondering what that entails, it's sort of what Ibanez has done the past month. Just picture that all year long and you'll have an idea. The guys who are eating up the most payroll on this team are not good enough to put this team over the top without others around to shoulder the burden. Those others will cost money. The kind of money those players here are already making.

So, either you're going to spend more money and drive payroll higher. Or, you're going to start over.

And that's just the stats part. Then, we get to real life. The stuff that takes place on the field and in the clubhouse. Who is going to make these players, new , old, or whatever, perform up to the levels expected of them when it matters? Who will hold them accountable when they don't measure up, or don't bring their "A-Game'' for a month or two?

These are questions we've tried to ask and answer all season because they will help dictate what this team does next. I'm leaning towards the glass being real empty right about now. We'll see what the new GM thinks.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT (12:46 p.m.): For Piratesfan, I think I understand what you're getting at. And yes, as far as singles hitting for average goes, Ichiro has been more consistent. But as far as overall production, it's pretty tough to argue Ichiro over Ibanez.

Ibanez OPS:

April: .839
May: .673
June: .827
July: .916
August: 1.227


Ichiro OPS:

April: .683
May: .782
June: .713
July: .823
August: .727

One guy has put up an OPS beyond .800 in every month but one. The other guy has had one OPS month above .800. Both have had one month in the high .600s. I don't think this is a matter of following the team every day and drawing the wrong conclusion based on being too close. Just a matter of seeing who has been the better producer. Ibanez wins that one pretty easily. If ichiro was hitting for power and stealing bases, there might be an extra argument to be made. But he isn't and there isn't. Sorry.

For ViewFromBallard, I appreciate what you're saying, but there's a difference between "defending'' players and not continuously attacking them even when they do something right. To point out that some players have done some things right is not "to err''. Any more than it's "right'' to ignore what Carlos Silva said just because he weighs more than other players and has a losing record. I know you didn't bring Silva up specifically, but, I've been accused of "defending" and "enabling" him before. If anything, the evidence (a ton of Seattle losses and mistakes) seems to support what he said about the team not playing hard enough. And he's been saying it since May. Unless someone out there has better evidence to the contrary, maybe he's on to something? Just maybe he knows more than the Seattle blogosphere about what's happening on the team? I know that's tough to fathom, but it could be possible. I think the perponderance of evidence, while it may be totally circumstantial, at least merits further exploration and not outright dismissal and condemnation. But if you, or anyone else out there, knows why we should ignore the issue he and others have raised, let's hear it. And not just guesswork. Direct knowledge. Otherwise, I'd submit we don't all know the answers to everything and do have to listen to what others have to say from time to time.

If you think we're too close to management to be objective, then you really haven't been reading what's been written in this space this year. And you have, I know, because you mention in the second part of your post that we do criticize the team. Maybe we're just not criticizing them enough for your taste? Sorry, I don't think I can blast the team any more than I have already. I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can't stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it's too negative. But sometimes, you can make a point without scorching the earth.

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