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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 20, 2008 8:45 AM

How winning teams do it

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, I'm not going to get into a whole dissection of Felix Hernandez's bad night. Been a while since he got shelled like that. It happens. Pitchers have bad games. In fact, he hasn't given up two home runs, gone only five innings and given up five runs or more all at the same time in a game all season. Last time he went at least five innings and failed to get a strikeout in any game? It's never happened. That was a first. The only other time he's failed to log a strikeout in a start came in April of last season when he was sidelined by an elbow injury in the first inning against the Twins.

Anyhow, if not for Hernandez buckling down, which he did in that fourth inning, he probably would have allowed six runs over just 3-plus innings. So, it could have been worse. These White Sox have made good pitchers look bad all season, so don't sweat it. It's one game.

On to today's topic. We've spilled a lot of words this season over the M's clubhouse culture and the things they don't seem to do right. Bill Bavasi got the ball rolling back in May, and the subject keeps coming up. I know many of you have followed the happenings with the Tampa Bay Rays, specifically the travails of young phenom B.J. Upton, a good player with some bad habits. These habits include loafing it on the basepaths. He's already been benched twice in the past few weeks for not running hard down to first base.

After the first benching, some of you compared his situation to how the Mariners might have handled a similar event with one of their young players. You were surprised that a team in first place might take such action for a first time offense. But, as many of you noted, good teams do tend to try to snuff out these little brush fires with quick, decisive action, rather than letting them grow into something more serious.

It's August. Players do tend to loaf all across the game.

Anyhow, Upton was at it again a couple of nights ago, this time getting thrown out at second after cruising in to the bag on what should have been a double. He apologized for his actions when speaking to reporters on Tuesday. And this time, he wasn't benched. No, what interested me was how manager Joe Maddon decided to deal with Upton this time. Here's the account from the Associated Press version of the story:

Maddon, however, did not take him out of the game Monday night. Instead, he left it to veterans such as Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena to take up the issue with Upton.

Floyd vowed, "He's going to get it right, trust me."

And that, folks, short and sweet, is what good clubhouses do. Some of you might not like the methods, which can include throwing folks up against walls if talking does not drive the message home. But the message will eventually be driven home, one way or the other. I have no idea how Floyd planned to make his point. I mean, he seems supremely confident that Upton will listen to him. Must be an engaging fellow. I don't know, Floyd has always seemed a nice enough guy, so perhaps he merely plans to talk to Upton over some coffee. But at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he can probably be pretty persuassive with somebody who tries to blow him off. Pena is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Upton is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. It helps that both Floyd and Pena are sporting on-base-plus-slugging percentages above .800. Talking is always easier when you can do it on the field as well as off. But, sometimes you make do with what you have.

The New York Times version of the story says:

Maddon did call upon ''the other 24 people'' in the Rays' clubhouse to handle Upton, who is as popular among teammates as he is now frustrating.

So, let the debating begin about what the Rays should do next.

"It's the way it should be,'' Maddon said (of clubhouse enforcement). "And it's how these things should be handled. I really want to move beyond all this. The focus needs to be on how well we are playing and the accomplishments of these guys in (Monday's) game.''

There's more.

Floyd was very hurt by the event and told reporters he would "put his butt on the line" to fix the situation.

By the way, Floyd is talking to reporters, referring directly to Upton and saying he plans to take action, before actually speaking to the player. Just thought I'd point that out. In fact, this whole thing, I'd say, has been handled rather publicly by Maddon, Floyd and the Rays. Not really being kept "in-house". Or is it? What constitutes in-house? Maybe that's something else to talk about today.

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure Upton won't be goofing off on the bases again anytime soon. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. As can be staring down the wrong end of a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder's cocked fist as the wall presses against the back of your neck.

Sigh.

As for the Mariners? Heck, Hernandez could have thrown nine innings of one-run ball and still lost this game. So much for Seattle's 15 hits on Monday being a sign of something to come. The Apocalypse, maybe? For me, seeing Jarrod Washburn get out-slugged the night before was more disappointing because his team had at least done a few of the things necessary to win.

But when you don't score runs, nor help out on defense, a pitcher will usually wind up losing the game. Hernandez wasn't helped all that much by Wladimir Balentien's defense on that A.J. Pierzynski double in the third inning. But he's used to that, I'm sure. The Mariners defenders have made a lot of starting pitchers work harder than they had to this month. I think I heard somewhere that they aren't happy.

Oh well, so Hernandez couldn't "stop" this onslaught. What a road trip. It concludes today with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, the way these White Sox have scorched any balls up in the zone. We'll see. Happy Dickey Day?


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Posted by RagArm

8:54 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Riggleman has the secret for how winning teams winning rubs off on his team.

Here's a Jim Wiggleworm quote found in an article on the Mariner's official website. Wiggleworm is commenting about how playing against contending teams is good for the Mariners' players:
"The intensity those other clubs have had trying to win their division has carried over to our team. They are wanting to win the game."

http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080820&content_id=3336952&vkey=news_sea&fext=.jsp&c_id=sea

Yeah, Jim, that intensity has sure carried over to YOUR team. They are 46-79 and have a string of 5 losses in a row going for them. Intense!

Now for a little dictionary lesson today that applies to our dear delusional manager.

Delusional: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also : the abnormal state marked by such beliefs

Posted by Merrill

9:03 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Thanks, Geoff.

The hand-wringing in some quarters over "threatening a teammate with violence!" has been hysterical.

("Hysterical" as in, gut-busting, rolling-on-the-floor hysterical...)

Posted by oerwilly

9:05 AM, Aug 20, 2008

I really think the lack of a strong personality in the clubhouse is an issue this year. Guillen was in that role last year, and I strongly suspect that is why last year's team 'overachieved'. Sure, we have talented and skilled players, such as Raul and Beltre, but they are the type that admits to leading by example, not by getting iin one's face. It's the latter which this clubhouse desparately needs. It has no fire, no spark. Especially when dealing with the younger players.

Posted by Novice

9:18 AM, Aug 20, 2008

I can't help but notice, but this team has gone straight downhill ever since Bloomquist got hurt. probably not a coincidence.

Posted by AC

9:20 AM, Aug 20, 2008

"I have no idea how Floyd planned to make his point."

THAT'S the point. Floyd isn't taking his issues to the media first, like all the vets on this M's team. If there's a problem, solve it in-house, not in the newspapers and over the airwaves. Washburn has thrown his catcher under the bus, Silva has thrown his infielders under the bus, and not for obvious signs of dogging it (like Upton), it's been for just not being very good in the first place.

I know if my co-workers put a big sign out front that said "AC IS NOT A GOOD EMPLOYEE" it certainly wouldn't motivate me to be better, it would make me quit my job. A good hitter wants to talk to Upton about it over coffee? Great. That's leadership. Praising the crappy M's pitchers for doing the opposite has been dumb all year, and it remains so today.

Posted by The Centerfield Bum

9:21 AM, Aug 20, 2008

My observation...

With the young players starting to hit, the offense seems to have improved against right handed pitching; however, it really struggles now against left handers. Of course, 3 of the 4 new guys (Clement, LaHair, Reed) are left handed with only Balentien being a rigt handed hitter.

Posted by meagain

9:26 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Since we have no numbers to back us up, and we're not in the clubhouse (most of the time in Geoff's case, and we'll grant him better sources), this is guesswork.

My guess is that the wet blanket tossed on the team by Sexson and Bedard has more to do with the M's lack of spark than any Guillen-type could have reversed. The team, I surmise, was split into factions and hasn't been able to recover. Yet.

Unlike others who are primarily concerned about the draft position--fairly meaningless past the first pick--I want the M's to reverse this thing NOW in order to set a tone for next year. But that's just me.

Posted by VictoriaFan

9:41 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Looks like the M's have fallen so far behind that they aren't even included in the AL West standings seen on this newspaper's site anymore... they've truly fallen off the map.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/mariners/
(as appeared at 9:30am, anyway)

too funny

Posted by downonstrikes

9:50 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Do you really think peer pressure is a wonderful thing in the M's clubhouse, Geoff? It looks like the peer pressure with this team is to force players to be lazy, disfunctional, non-caring, and carefree in the face of criticism.

A man with a temper and fist may be what it takes to wake up a few of these men.

Posted by Scanman

9:59 AM, Aug 20, 2008

People, People, quit worrying. What’s needed is some Blonde thinking. If we lose its good, if we win its bad. Stop complaining and revel in the race for worst so we can be best.

Posted by ChicoV

10:05 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Happy Dickey Day, Geoff!!!!!!!

Posted by Spokane E-Six

10:07 AM, Aug 20, 2008

I'm rooting for 100+ loses this year.

Maybe then they'll blow it up.

Posted by Balentienforcer

10:08 AM, Aug 20, 2008

I've said it all along that this teams problem is the chemistry.

Ichiro's one man Japanese traveling sideshow.

Felix and Lopez' historically bad attitudes.

Sexson (although gone now) sulking and not being able to man up to the press when his game went to crap.

Yuni and his Homer-esque (Simpson) way of doing things.

Eric Bedard and his extremely weak personality.

Two managers that have been forced to be the Puppets for the FO (happy happy joy joy).

Not to mention this team is made up from most of the countries on the Small World Ride.

Ibanez is a professionals professional, but that doesn't translate into baseball leadership.

JJ has been rehabbing half the year.

Silva would love to be a leader, but when your ERA is close to 4 digits, he doesn't carry much weight. (lol)

What else is there??

This team needs to be blown up....get rid of what you can, and start over. Get some guys that'll bust some heads and lockers if need be. Show the youngster the RIGHT WAY to become winners.

I'm fine with the fact that we may not be great next year, as long as we make a respectable effort to have a TEAM.


GO MILL CREEK!!!

Posted by Scanman

10:15 AM, Aug 20, 2008


Now if the mariners were smart they would draft a couple of those HR hitters from Mill Creek and “ presto” another Grady Sizemore will emerge. Well, that’s been their rational for trying to find the next Randy Johnson.

Posted by meagain

10:16 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Let's assume for a moment that Ichiro is a "one man show". What was Rickey Henderson?

A good player who goes his own way is an asset to a good team.

If you think this team is more than three years away for the potential to be good, go ahead and blow it up.

Posted by K-Man

10:26 AM, Aug 20, 2008

It's comments like Balentienforcer's last one that have pushed me over the edge. Blatant bigotry against non-white players should have no place in a baseball blog. What a maroon.

You won't find me here again anytime soon.

Posted by Beezlebub

10:29 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Interesting that the Times Sport page left Seattle out of the standings today, maybe there is something subliminal going on here.

Posted by Balentienforcer

10:38 AM, Aug 20, 2008

K-man-

In no way was my post meant to be racist.
I was just stating fact.

Ichiro is japanese, and draws japanese fans all over the league. He has his own work ethic, and clubhouse presence that may alienate some players.

The "small world ride" was maybe a little flippant, but we have a lot of players from a lot of different places.

If Burger King transferred you to, say, Switzerland to run the broiler, do you think you would get along with everyone, or even understand the language and culture??


Posted by Ryan

10:41 AM, Aug 20, 2008

What's the over/under on wild pitches-passed balls combo today?? I'm gonna go with 7.


Happy Dickey Day!!

Posted by Ryan

10:46 AM, Aug 20, 2008

We should just have a blog dedicated to Riggleman quotes. " I think that intensity has carried over to our team." Oh, that's the best laugh Ive had in a while. Keep them coming Riggs!!

Posted by K-Man

10:53 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Balentienforcer, ALL teams have lots of non-white (non-US, whatever) players. It's not an issue for the rest of us, only you.

Posted by xteve

10:55 AM, Aug 20, 2008

"I can't help but notice, but this team has gone straight downhill ever since Bloomquist got hurt. probably not a coincidence."

Nah, they sucked with him in there too.

Posted by Balentienforcer

11:11 AM, Aug 20, 2008

K-man:

Sorry that you have some kind of chip on your shoulder.
The post was meant to show all of the intangibles of clubhouse chemistry for our team. I don't care if you come from mars, as long as you can hold your own on the field, and act like a professional in the clubhouse.

Yes I know that baseball is a multi cultural sport, and all teams have representatives from all over the world. The worldwide love for the game is what makes it great. The Mariners clubhouse is unique to most other teams, in that they have been one of the first pioneers in recruiting players from ALL over the world. Sometimes the chemistry works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm of the opinion that the lineup we have right now isn't working.

The only issue for me is fielding a team that compete.

Posted by Donovan

11:13 AM, Aug 20, 2008

Interesting topic. My (non-sports) related experience has been that individuals who truly lack self-motivation will never excel, no matter what you do. You can't make someone great through threats and intimidation. In fact, most talented people are demotivated by that approach. We are talking about young, male, not necessarily very emotionally mature individuals though. A 22 year old, heady from early success in his pro career, can perhaps be forgiven for a little lack of perspective. A young guy like Upton can correct his problems and become great, even an example for young players down the road, but at 24, I'd suggest it is time for him to get his act together or just be considered a talented slacker like Andruw Jones.

I don't think you can say that any single approach works to motivate all young players though. In this case, perhaps the Rays have it exactly right. For every such case that becomes public, I'd wager there are 10 that never make the news, because they are handled quietly and maturely, without the need for public excoriation or hulking veterans putting anybody against a wall.

With regard to extrapolating this situation to the M's, I'd note the following key differences:

1) The Rays are doing something special this season, which makes the stakes for everybody much higher than individual stats. They have a real reason not to loaf in August. Chicken and egg argument? Maybe.

2) Floyd and Pena having excellent OPS numbers doesn't just make their leadership role easier, it makes it possible. I'm sure Richie Sexson could have picked Yuni up by the ankles and threatened to drop him on his head if he didn't develop some plate discipline, but what credibility would he have had? You don't have to be a league leader to have credibility with young players, but you have to play to your full potential. Who is going to listen to an old guy who sucks even when he plays hard?

3) The most notable thinig about Floyd's comments isn't the fact that he has the option of physical intimidation (and his use of this option is purely speculative on our part). The big thing is that he took ownership of the situation. He didn't just call out Upton to the media. He said "I will accept responsibility for getting the message across". That is the key leadership element missing in Seattle. I'm not big on testosterone laced fits of screaming and chest pounding as motivational tools, but I am a big proponent of individual accountability. I don't think you need an implied threat of violence to hold someone accountable, but that doesn't mean that you just say "Hey, just do the best you can tonight, and so will I." Count me among those who would like to hear Ichiro start off spring training next year with one of his ASG profanity-laced screeds. Something has to change, and the veterans just putting up good numbers and waiting for the rest of the team to pick it up isn't enough with the marginal talent level we have.

Posted by MTGRIZFAN

11:40 AM, Aug 20, 2008

As a M's fan stuck in the midwest I have to get my information from this blog and ESPN. Geoff you do a great job. Anyway I took my kids up to Minneapolis to the games last Friday and Saturday. I never once got the feeling the M's would pull off a win. In the past when I would go to games I always had the feeling they might just win but this year it wasn't the same. The highlight of the weekend was getting Raul to sign a ball for my 5 year old before the game saturday.
I was wondering, is it a good Idea to bring up all of these AAA guys to the big club and expose them to the losing culture that has become a way of life for this team. Why not wait until next year after the team is rebuilt and a little life is brought back to the M's. We must break the cycle, and bring somebody to the lock room that knows how to motivate other plays when they are slacking and just going through the motions. WE NEED A LOCKER ROOM LEADER!!!

Posted by K-Man

11:54 AM, Aug 20, 2008

The Mariners clubhouse is unique to most other teams, in that they have been one of the first pioneers in recruiting players from ALL over the world.

That's simply not true, nor relevant. Using your faulty logic, the 2001 team should have had lousy "chemistry."

Look, this is a tough time for everyone who's an M's fan. Everyone is looking for reasons for all the failure. Trust me, it ain't chemistry. It's a lot of bad choices, bad luck and bad management. Which of course leads to bad chemistry. Nuff said.

Posted by David Gee

12:02 PM, Aug 20, 2008

You know what we really need? Hockey mentality. We need to start a brawl, and we need to win it so that we can get SOMETHING out of this disastrous road trip. Riggleman needs to do this to Ozzie Guillen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGo3ANHxilI

Posted by Mister B

12:34 PM, Aug 20, 2008

Balentienforcer, K-Man was right.

While your description of Ichiro wasn't typically racist, if you go back and read it again, you'll notice that the only player whose race you described was Ichiro.

Now if there's anyone on this blog who doesn't know Ichiro is Japanese, speak up now because I have some Arizona swamp land to sell you.

If you're going to call him a traveling sideshow or whatever you believe him to be, you should be able to do it without mentioning his race (or at least be consistent and mention the races of every other player in your post).

Again, you didn't make the classic racist comments about Ichiro (you know, the ones our parents and grandparents used to know), but to throw race in there with your insult implies a certain prejudice that may or may not be there, but your singly specific comment certainly gave that impression to K-Man -- and myself.

Posted by Balentienforcer

12:34 PM, Aug 20, 2008

K-man:

"........That's simply not true, nor relevant. Using your faulty logic, the 2001 team should have had lousy "chemistry." ........."


Obviously you have no knowledge of the scouting history of the Mariners, or the international scouting history of MLB. And for that matter the sociology and psychology of sports culture..........2001 M's? WTF does that have to do with anything. I'm done with your little pissing match, because you obviously missed the points I was trying to make by reading WAY too much into a couple of the points.

Posted by Balentienforcer

12:48 PM, Aug 20, 2008

Point taken Mr. B.

There was no racist intent...Thanks for your opinion in a civil manner.

To explain my intent:

Ichiro has always had an extremely dominant fan base that come from his homeland to see him play. In all the ballparks. The Japanese media follows him around relentlessly. What other player has that kind of attention, and fan base that comes to the ballpark on a regular basis?? I never meant to be racist....just pointing out the fact that he gets A LOT of attention from Japan. Which in turn can be distracting to all the players. Especially when Ichiro is kind of a distant personality in the first place.

The last thing I would ever want to be is racist.

Posted by Spokane E-Six

1:55 PM, Aug 20, 2008

Balentienforcer;
We look forward to your future posts after completion of the mandatory Multicultural Sensitivity Training Courses and finish the Self-Flagellating Puget Sound Apology Tour up and down the I-5 corridor. You should finish up around 2010, just in time for Spring Training.

Posted by Balentienforcer

2:10 PM, Aug 20, 2008

Counselor Rocker at the Sensitivity course gave me an OK to proceed.

I'll only continue the apology tour if Howie and Chuckie will join me! lol

GO MILL CREEK!

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Aug 20, 08 - 10:35 AM
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