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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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May 31, 2008 1:07 PM

5/31 game thread -- Mariners vs. Tigers

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

3:23 p.m. The M's win, 5-0. Reed homers in the eighth, and Morrow and Putz close the door.

2:51 p.m. My bad earlier -- only Leyland was ejected. That's it for Felix after 7 innings and 87 pitches. He struck out seven and walked none -- though he hit two batters. Morrow's coming in.

2:27 p.m. Just had a long delay as Detroit's Jim Leyland was ejected. Still 4-0 M's heading into the bottom of the sixth.

2:05 p.m. The Mariners added a pair of runs in the fourth, one when Kenji Johjima stole home -- it was a squeeze gone bad (then good) when the the pitch went in the dirt -- and another when Miguel Cairo scored on an Ichiro grounder.

1:53 p.m. You might want to save this line, because you might not ever see it again: Kenji Johjima just stole home. The wild pitch surely didn't hurt there.

1:47 p.m. This one's scooting righ talong. Hernandez made a great survival play in the third, stabbing a Pudge Rodriguez line drive that came pretty darn close to his head. Then a double play helped the M's escape the fourth with the lead 2-0.

1:27 p.m. The M's lead 2-0 on a Johjima single in the first -- bailing out Jose Lopez, who failed to score from third on Adrian Beltre's fly out an at-bat earlier. The Felix came out and dispatched the Tigers in eight pitches.

1:07 p.m. Felix gets out of the first with three strikeouts, but it takes 25 pitches to do it. We'll see how that affects him from here on out.

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May 31, 2008 11:35 AM

Cairo at first, Reed in right

Posted by Tom Wyrwich

For fourth consecutive game, Richie Sexson will be on the bench while Miguel Cairo plays at first. That decision, manager John McLaren said, will remain "day-to-day."

Also, Jeremy Reed will start in right field today, his fourth start since getting called up from AAA Tacoma. "We're going to keep him in the mix," McLaren said.

Most likely, R.A. Dickey and Mark Lowe would be off limits in the bullpen today -- I think "doubtful" is the word they're working with -- after combining for 7 1/3 innings yesterday. Interesting note: Yesterday was the second time in franchise history the bullpen pitched eight innings of scoreless relief. I'm sure it would have meant a lot more if they weren't down 7-nil by the time the relievers got started.

Here's the lineups:

DETROIT (23-31)

1. Curtis Granderson CF
2. Placido Polanco 2B
3. Carlos Guillen 3B
4. Magglio Ordonez RF
5. Marcus Thames LF
6. Miguel Cabrera 1B
7. Jeff Larish DH
8. Edgar Renteria SS
9. Ivan Rodriguez C

Justin Verlander RHP

MARINERS (20-35)

1. Ichiro CF
2. Jose Lopez 2B
3. Jose Vidro DH
4. Raul Ibanez LF
5. Adrian Beltre 3B
6. Kenji Johjima C
7. Jeremy Reed RF
8. Miguel Cairo 1B
9. Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Felix Hernandez RHP

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May 31, 2008 10:32 AM

May day, May day!

Posted by Geoff Baker

Some numbers to chew on this morning as we prepare to close out the month of May:

Record:

May -- 7-20
April -- 13-15


ERA

May -- 5.60
April -- 4.12


OPS

May -- .665
April -- .717

The good news? I just saved some money on my car insurance by...ah, never mind.

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May 30, 2008 10:50 PM

Silva buries team early

Posted by Geoff Baker

batista0530 045.jpg

Say goodbye to the two-game winning streak. The Mariners actually outscored the Detroit Tigers 4-0 after the top of the first inning. But those seven runs in the first allowed by Carlos Silva ensured a 7-4 loss for the home side. The Mariners played hard in this game, for what that's worth. When your pitcher gets smacked around like Silva did in an 0-5 month of May, no amount of hard work is going to overcome that.

"Nothing was moving today,'' Silva said of his pitches. "Nothing. I felt good in the bullpen. I felt really good. Out on the mound, I felt nothing.''

And he produced nothing except a lot of boos as he left the mound just 34 pitches in.

Mariners manager John McLaren seemed at a loss to explain how his starting pitchers -- four of them now, save for Erik Bedard -- have been demolished by Detroit this season. McLaren said he's asked pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre to review footage of the game to see whether the Tigers had an idea of what was coming before Silva threw it.

Silva didn't think so.

In the end, the Mariners scored four runs to make it interesting. But they also had only five hits all night and that wasn't going to be enough.

"It limits you quite a bit,'' McLaren said of the early 7-0 deficit. "You certainly don't want to give up any outs. But on the other side of the coin, you want to stay aggressive. It's a tall order to come back from seven down in the first.''

Too tall on this night.

Funny enough, R.A. Dickey managed to get hitters out even though his knuckleball wasn't at its best. He rated it a 5 or 6 out of 10. What saved him? His sinker. The pitch that's usually Silva's bread-and-butter.

Dickey drew some laughs when he said he was forced to "knuckle-up" and be more fine early in counts.

"They're a pretty aggressive club,'' he said. "I didn't get deep in the counts because they were swinging early at the knuckleball.''

So, he made sure the pitches he made early on weren't going to be driven 400 feet. Sounds easy. But anyone who's watched the first four meetings between these clubs so far knows it's not. Back to the old drawing board for the Mariners.

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May 30, 2008 8:57 PM

Detroit Tigers at Mariners: 05/30 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

batista0530.jpg

8:57 p.m.: Just got back up from the stands where buddy, James, and my girlfriend, Amy, pictured below, were enjoying themselves a little more after Yuniesky Betancourt got that two-run Mariners sixth inning going against Nate Robertson. It's now a 7-4 ballgame after Seattle scored on a pair of RBI groundouts by Jose Lopez (doing his job again) and Jose Vidro. That's four runs on four hits for the M's. Believe it or not, this one isn't over yet. That Detroit bullpen is lousy. If the M's do somehow come back to win this thing, R.A. Dickey deserves all the credit. He shut the Tigers down through 5 1/3 innings. Mark Lowe is now on to pitch the seventh. Robertson got chased in that sixth inning, so the Tiger bullpen will have to go more than three tonight.

batista0530 043.jpg

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May 30, 2008 5:37 PM

Cairo back at first base

Posted by Geoff Baker

batista0530 019.jpg

A look at Miguel Cairo, taking grounders moments ago in preparation for his third consecutive start at first base later tonight. Cairo told me in the dugout that he spent two consecutive weeks at first base last season when playing for the New York Yankees last season. I looked it up and he did indeed spend much time at first base throughout June as the Yanks went through an unsettled season at the position with Jason Giambi injured.

Cairo has been making more of an impact with his glove than his .186 bat. Not a surprise, since he's a former shortstop.

"You've got a bigger glove,'' Cairo said of playing first. "You've just got to make sure you catch it, that's all.''

Is Richie Sexson done in Seattle? Mariners manager John McLaren was tripping all over himself to avoid saying that when quizzed about it by reporters.

"This is starting to take on a life of its own,'' McLaren said. "It's just a situation where we expect a lot out of our players. We're just trying to get him going. But in the meantime, the team was struggling so bad and we won two games, and that's why Miguel is back out there.''

Listen to the audio clip right here.

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May 30, 2008 3:34 PM

Working hard

Posted by Geoff Baker

batista0530 003.jpg

A look above at Miguel Batista, running the steps here at Safeco Field (he's still doing it as I post this) as part of his between-starts routine. Some of you asked me this morning whether I'm being too hard on the team. Whether the M's improved play the past few games (and snaring grounders instead of letting them bounce into the outfield) was more a result of luck turning their way after being totally against them as it had been in recent weeks.

No, I don't believe that.

I refuse to believe that all of that "luck" just miraculously happened to shift in Seattle's favor the day after GM Bill Bavasi called out the players for not getting on each other about their accepted level of play. And precisely one day after Carlos Silva suggested this team would look a whole lot different if every player played hard every single inning of every single game.

My tolerance for coincidences goes only so far.

So, nope. Sorry, I'm not buying that. I believe that teams make their own luck. Believe that when they play hard all the time, they will inevitably make more plays than they miss. And it's not as if luck has totally shifted Seattle's way. Yuniesky Betancourt nearly cost his team the game a few nights ago by flubbing one ground ball that led directly to three Boston runs.

But you play hard, you can overcome that.

So, again, no, I'm not buying the "luck" excuse. This is what I meant last week when I wrote that I find plenty of fans, bloggers and some media (but not all) in Seattle to be too soft on the players in general. Many of you wrote in to ask what I was talking about and this is it. No one likes to criticize their favorite players. Media members know they won't have an easy time in the clubhouse if they criticize the 25 guys they face every day. It's always easier to target the manager and GM, who you don't see as much all the time. And we've written that both John McLaren and Bill Bavasi have made mistakes this year and could lose their jobs because of it.

But enough is enough. These players did not magically get "luck" to bounce their way 24 hours after they were called out in public for not playing hard or getting on each other about it. Not after losing the way they did for two solid months. This team hasn't won three in a row since April. It's almost June. The road trip last week did not happen in isolation. It was the cherry on the sundae of bad play the M's had shown for weeks on end. The final straw. This has not been a good team all year. You can use code words like playing "clean" baseball and stuff. They have not played "good" baseball. They have played "bad" baseball. And I do not think they played particularly "hard" baseball until this week.

So, if some of you want to excuse it away to "luck" you can do so. But I won't. If you still think I'm wrong, still believe in coincidences, then we can respectfully disagree. And playing "hard" during games has nothing to do with working "hard" off the field. Some M's, like Batista above, work very hard away from the field. But you still have to put it all together on the field. This is a results-based business.

So, I hope that answers some of your questions.

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May 30, 2008 9:30 AM

Remembering Guillen

Posted by Geoff Baker

Interesting to see what's going on with Jose Guillen in Kansas City, where he dropped an F-bomb laden tirade two nights ago after the Royals had lost their 10th game in a row. Guillen stepped up and ripped his teammates, calling them out for not playing hard enough. And the teammates appear to agree with him. Either that, or they're afraid to disagree.

Guillen says the main reason he went public is he was tired of folks bashing manager Trey Hillman.

"Too many babies in here,'' Guillen said in the clubhouse during his tirade. "They don't know how to play the game and how to win the game. That's the problem here. Now I know why this organization has been losing for a while. Now I know...It's not the manager. Things are going to change here, I can tell you that. I promise you that. Soon.''

Guillen hinted at similar stuff with the Mariners throughout last season. By season's end, he was hoping to stick around and finish what had been started with the 88-win campaign.

Now, let's be clear. Guillen is no saint, as the KC Star story mentions. He showed up to Royals camp 20 pounds overweight and appears to have dogged it down to first base on routine grounders at times. But he is at least calling things for what they are.

And no, a manager can't always sit there and force players at gunpoint to play hard. There are certain things a manager can do, like shuffle lineups around and sit players who don't run out ground balls. But if an entire team is playing at a level slightly beneath where it needs to be, you can't bench all 25 guys.

Let's look at the Mariners. I happen to think the level of play they've shown as a team, overall, has lifted dramatically the last four days. John McLaren disagrees, saying the players were "playing hard" during the series sweep in Detroit last week.

I respectfully disagree with him to a point.

I do believe McLaren is right in that the hitters were still trying to generate offense each inning, even while the deficit kept growing bigger as opposing hitters went to town on his pitching. But I did not see the defense I've been seeing from the M's the past four days. All season long, I've seen too many gloves waved at ground balls. Too many diving attempts at balls that somehow managed to go underneath the diving body -- meaning the effort was poorly-timed.

All of a sudden now, the balls are winding up in gloves. The pitchers are suddenly going six innings and more, keeping the team in it all night.


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May 29, 2008 9:22 AM

Pondering the future

Posted by Geoff Baker

Interesting discussion in last night's post-game thread between Adam and others on what the Mariners win and series victory over the Boston Red Sox could ultimately mean in regards to the future steps taken by the organization. I don't think it will lead to a 20-game winning streak and vault the M's back into contention. They're going to have to show me first before I hop back on any bandwagon.

That said, stretches like the last four games by the Mariners -- in which they played hard, competitive baseball in all facets of the game, especially pitching -- make the upcoming job a little more difficult for the front office and ownership.

Is this another mirage? A last gasp by a team in its death throes, all pressure removed and simply going out there more loose? Or is this Mariners team able to go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox, and with the Yankees in the Bronx?

One thing is certain. This team, as constructed, should not have gotten blown apart in five consecutive games as we saw on the road last week. It's a better team than that. But how much better? That's the big question and it's why calling for everybody in sight to be fired/traded/shipped out, might not be the answer right now. Of prime importance, once this organization admits that it's already torched its chances in 2008, will be figuring out what to do next.

Do you blow the whole thing up? Or is this team just a handful of bats away from contending?

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May 28, 2008 10:52 PM

What might have been

Posted by Geoff Baker

sea0528 028.jpg

This is the Erik Bedard fans expected to see when that five-for-one trade with Baltimore went down. Bedard threw seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball, striking out eight batters. Brandon Morrow used some 98 mph heat to work through the eighth. J.J. Putz walked Manny Ramirez and Sean Casey in the ninth, but got Coco Crisp on a groundout (pictured above) to notch the save in a 1-0 win by the Mariners.

Fans tonight saw the pitching this team was supposed to have. They've seen it the last four days, really. And oh how much it must hurt. I mean, where was this stuff three weeks ago? This team is still 14 games under .500 and will soon be 11 1/2 back of Los Angeles -- getting wiped out tonight. But they waited a long time to put this mound stuff back on display. Too long.

"The starting pitching has really picked it up,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said afterwards. "And it's been huge for us.''

One for M's fans to savor, at least for 48 hours. They just took a series from a winning team, and that doesn't happen often. But someone get these guys a calendar. It's May 28. They are finally getting well-pitched games, not much offense but at least timely hitting, and some defense. Now, all they need to do is make a record comeback and all is forgiven.

Bedard looked comfortable all night. Even after that 25-pitch first inning.

"It's real hard, them and the Yankees, they take a lot of pitches,'' Bedard said. "You've got to pound the strike zone early.''

That he did. He averaged only 14 pitches per inning the rest of the way, finding that elusive rhythm.

"As a pitcher, you always try to get the most rhythm you can,'' Bedard said. "Inning by inning, you try to get the most you can.''

Bedard's personal catcher, Jamie Burke, told the pitcher beforehand that he should be mixing his change-up in more often. Bedard did that early and it threw the Red Sox off.

"I told him we have to start throwing that pitch a little more and we've got to get it going,'' Burke said. "You can't go out there with two or three pitches. You've got to have that other pitch. And that's a great pitch.''

Bedard made a lot of great pitches tonight. He finally did get it going. This team has turned it up a notch since embarrassing itself on the road.

But the season doesn't start in June. If this was the final week of spring training, these M's would be poised and ready to live up to their hype as the season neared. But it's May 28. All they can do now is hope the newer hype about how bad they've really been so far enables them to catch teams off guard. To sneak up on opponents the way they did in 2007. To make this disaster of a 2008 season a little more palatable in the won-lost column. And to learn something going forward. Maybe give the folks running the show a little better idea of what needs to be fixed. Their timing would be the first thing on the repair list.

Judging by how they've played these past four days, the timing truly stinks.

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May 28, 2008 8:41 PM

Boston Red Sox at Mariners: 05/28 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

sea0528 025.jpg

8:41 p.m.: That's seven solid innings by Erik Bedard so far. He's allowed only two hits as we enter the seventh inning stretch, his M's ahead 1-0. Tim Wakefield has given up four hits through six, but one of them is a home run by Yuniesky Betancourt that's the difference so far. Where was all this starting pitching a couple of weeks ago. Seems like a shame to see it now. This was what the rotation was supposed to look like. At least, the stuff we've seen the past four nights now. Too little, too late, I'm afraid. But it raises some interesting questions when we start looking ahead at what needs to be changed and what doesn't.

By the way, that call on Miguel Cairo at third, to end the sixth inning, did not look too great from here. Good thing the grounds crew came running right into the argument between hi mand third base umpire Eric Cooper. Likely saved someone from getting ejected.

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May 28, 2008 5:22 PM

No Morrow in rotation this year

Posted by Geoff Baker

sea0528 014.jpg

It sounded nice in New York over the weekend when everyone was making comparisons between Brandon Morrow and Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees. But the Mariners have decided not to work Morrow into the starting rotation by letting him increase his innings as the season progresses. Morrow said he was approached by manager John McLaren during batting practice on Tuesday to talk about that very subject.

"He didn't think it was going to be a good idea to do it during the season,'' Morrow said.

Morrow added that he was disappointed, but completely understands the team feels he's more valuable to them in a late-inning bullpen role for now. He had just finished telling reporters how much he was looking forward to eventually getting the chance to start when he let slip that it wouldn't be this season.

"Starting, I feel like I have more contribution,'' he said, later explaning that he feels 'getting a quality start is more important than getting a couple of outs in the seventh and eighth.''

McLaren told reporters afterwards that he hadn't completely made up his mind. But he was also leaning heavily, he said, towards not transitioning Morrow to a starting role -- especially with what he saw on Tuesday night when the pitcher struck out Mike Lowell and Manny Ramirez, then got J.D. Drew to fly out to right after entering with two on and no out in the eighth inning.

Morrow's fastball hit 99 mph against Ramirez and 98 mph versus Lowell.

McLaren told reporters a short time ago, after Morrow had talked about how he won't be starting, that his outing last night played heavily into that call.

"We're still talking and stuff,'' he said. "I'm not saying we've backed off it. But there's a lot he has to do to get ready to start. We've by no means given up on this season at all. What he can do in that eighth inning like that is special. We just want to get him in that opportunity a lot more here coming up. A lot of times we just use him to get some work in. We'd like to utilize him when the game is on the line.''

So, there you have it. At 15 games under .500 and 12 1/2 behind in the division, the M's say they still have a shot. They feel it's too early to work towards the future. I know what many of you think. I think their season is done. They disagree. At least, that's what they're saying in public. Hard to sell tickets when you're waving a white flag on May 28.

sea0528 005.jpg

By the way, Richie Sexson is not in the lineup again. Miguel Cairo (pictured below, getting stretched out) is in there, batting second. McLaren likes the energy he brought to the team last night. Jose Lopez and his hot bat have been moved back to the No. 5 spot. It worked well when Sexson was suspended, which is, by the way, something McLaren feels set the slugger back in his hitting.

Maybe it did. But Sexson wasn't exactly lighting it up before either.

sea0528 012.jpg


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May 28, 2008 8:26 AM

M's trade for Padres' Wells

Posted by Geoff Baker

Ah, that headline would have excited a little more 12 months ago. After all, a guy like David Wells could have kept things interesting around here for what promises to be a dismal four months to come. But no, it's not David making his way to Seattle. A guy named Jared Wells has been picked up in exchange for Cha Seung Baek. He's a living, breathing body. What else? Well, actually, all snarkiness aside, there is some potential here. But a lot has to happen first.

First, let me get the pro forma stuff aside. Yes, the M's actually won a game last night. Hooray! They snap a seven-game skid and manage to remain 12 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels. The post-game, on-field celebrating was a little much for me to watch. I know they've had a rough time, but, geez. Game Seven of the World Series won't be for another five more months. Yuniesky Betancourt reacting the way he did at being pinch-hit for? You can look at it two ways. One, he's a gamer and wanted a shot at redemption after nearly sinking things with another mind-boggling error. Two, he just doesn't get it. Let's hope, for the team's sake, it's the former. This is the stuff we've been preaching for weeks now. Team first. The team has to come ahead of the individual.

Back to Wells. He's a former college football quarterback, so I like him already. Means he has some smarts. No, the college he played for, East Texas Baptist University, may not have beaten some high school teams in that state, but who cares? (BTW, I'm kidding. Any college program can beat any high school program in this country).

But forget about football. What makes Wells interesting is that before he became a reliever, making his major league debut over the weekend, he was a starting pitcher. Going into spring training 15 months ago, he was still one of the highest rated prospects in San Diego's system.


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May 27, 2008 11:23 PM

M's win! M's win!

Posted by Larry Stone


Hard to believe, but I called it right. Next stop, Las Vegas.

Yes, I'm going to gloat, because I don't get the chance very often. I did pick the Mariners to win the AL West in our baseball preview section, after all.

Not surprisingly, it was a very happy clubhouse, with a steady stream of players coming up to hug Jose Lopez at his locker (after nearly burying him in a back-slapping scrum around second base on the field). Yuniesky Betancourt led the line of players sprinting out to congratulate his buddy Lopez, but Betancourt was very clearly not happy when McLaren sent Jeremy Reed up to pinch-hit for him in the ninth.

A lot of praise went to Miguel Batista, deservedly so, and Brandon Morrow, who said the key to his relief effort was getting ahead of both Manny and Mike Lowell on first-pitch sliders for strikes. He blew both of them away with high heat. In case you were wondering, the official word on Daisuke Matsuzaka was that he was experiencing shoulder fatigue when he was taken out in the fifth inning, even though he appeared to clutch his back. No one was saying if he would miss his next start.

I'm tired, it's almost midnight, and I need to head home, but I'll leave you with one newsy tidbit. The word on the street is that Cha Seung Baek, who was designated for assignment last week, is going to be traded to the San Diego Padres for reliever Jared Wells. Look for the deal to be announced Wednesday, and for Wells, a right-hander, to be assigned to Tacoma. Considering the proclivity of trading activity between Bill Bavasi and San Diego GM Kevin Towers, it's not too surprising.

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May 27, 2008 6:50 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Red Sox, May 27

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 8:44 P.M. Weird happenings hear in the fifth. First, Dice-K went out to warm up, threw two pitches, and the trainer was summoned. He was removed from the game and replaced by David Aardsma, the only player in baseball history ahead of Hank Aaron alphabetically. No official word on Matsuzaka's injury, but it looks like his back to me.

Then, with Jose Vidro on first and Raul Ibanez at the plate, Boston shortstop Julio Lugo went inexplicably bonkers on a checked swing that was ruled no swing on the appeal to third-base umpire Angel Hernandez. Lugo sprinted over to argue, Terry Francona came out to push him away and take up the argument, and both Lugo and Francona were ejected. I'm not quite sure why the vehemence of the protest, since it looked like a borderline call.

McLaren said before the game he hasn't given any thought to moving Miguel Batista to the bullpen. His ERA in his last four starts is 10.69, and he's gone 2.1 innings, 5.1 innings, 5.1 innings, and 3 innings. Another game along those lines, and they will have to start thinking about it.

In honor of Dice-K pitching for the Red Sox tonight, I'm going to drag out my all-time favorite Ichiro quote -- and there's been some beauties over the years. This one was in the Seattle Times last April in a piece by Brad Lefton, an American writer who speaks Japanese. We ran the story right before the Mariners faced Matsuzaka for the first time (it was Dice-K's Fenway debut, and Felix upstaged him with a one-hit shutout). Anyway, here's Ichiro's epic quote about how he felt facing his countryman for the first time in America:

"I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger.''

I think Richie Sexson expressed similar sentiments about facing Detroit's Nate Robertson on Friday.

LINEUPS

Boston

Coco Crisp CF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Manny Ramirez LF

Mike Lowell 3B

J.D. Drew RF

Jason Varitek C

Sean Casey 1B

Julio Lugo SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka P

Mariners

Ichiro CF

Jose Lopez 2B

Jose Vidro DH

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Kenji Johjima C

Wladimir Balentien RF

Miguel Cairo 1B

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Miguel Batista P

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May 27, 2008 5:00 PM

It smells like victory

Posted by Larry Stone


All right, I'm going to be the first to call a Mariners' victory tonight. Why? Because on paper, they have no chance. You've got unbeaten Dice-K going for the Red Sox against a guy in Miguel Batista who has been horrible in his last four starts (16 ip, 29 hits, 13 walks, 19 earned runs). You have a Mariners' team that is flailing as badly as any team in recent memory going up against the world champions. Seattle doesn't have a prayer, right? So, sports being the perverse and unpredictable business that it is, that means the M's are going to win. How's that for convoluted logic?

A couple of interesting nuggets from the pre-game. One, Richie Sexson is out of the lineup, and Miguel Cairo is playing first base. Is this the beginning of the phasing out of Sexson, whose average is UP to .200 after dipping into the .190s? Here's what McLaren had to say: "We're just giving Cairo a chance to play and keep him in the mix, and give Richie a day off. You can read into this a lot of ways. It has nothing to do with Richie hitting below .200 or anything. We're just getting a different look tonight, that's the easiest way I can put it. There's no one trying harder than Richie...He's battling hard. He's having his struggles like a lot of the rest of us on this ballclub are. He needs to keep himself going, keep working hard. Hopefully, the cream will rise to the top."

Nugget No. 2 is that the Mariners held infield and outfield drills before the game for about 15 minutes. Teams used to do this every day when I started covering baseball in the 1980s, but somewhere along the line it stopped happening. It may be slowly coming back -- the Royals, Rays and Rangers are all doing infield this year.

"You know what? I'm just changing the routine," McLaren said. "We've actually been fielding the ball really well. I'm just trying to change the routine up, maybe give a little spring training theme. I'm trying to break the monotony a little bit.''

McLaren said he was even thinking about reviving the "American Idol'' competition from spring training to lift morale.

"We need a laugh. A dancer, or something. Something just to break things up.''

When he was coaching in Toronto, McLaren said, the team once brought a stripper to the clubhouse during a slump.

"It got mixed reviews,'' he said. "Some of the guys that are pretty close to the Lord weren't too happy.''

Hey, he got his laugh with that comment. Unfortunately for him, it was the media that was laughing, not his players.

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May 27, 2008 6:11 AM

Who is accountable?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Lots of comments around town about the fact John McLaren gets to keep managing the Mariners -- for now. After all, when a team that was expected to at least contend this season, by the folks running it, if not some bloggers, loses seven in a row, that is not a sign of job security for a manager. Any manager. Other markets have far less tolerance for the field boss than does Seattle.

Over in New York, the status of manager Willie Randolph is daily tabloid fodder. And the Mets are only a handful of games under .500. So, two markets, each with a team spending more than $100 million and hoping to contend.

One of them is a modest winning streak away from being above .500. The other team is 16 games below .500 and owner of the worst record in the majors.

And yet, it is the second of those teams, the one in Seattle, whose manager gets the first vote of confidence.

Interesting. I'm not saying it's the wrong move. But somebody is to blame for this mess. Ultimately, Bill Bavasi will have to take full responsibility for putting this group together. It doesn't matter that I also thought he had built a contender. When you guess wrong, after five years of trying with a payroll this big, expecting a sixth season is a bit presumptuous.

But again, that's not the immediate concern.

The prime worry should be getting this team to win again. Who is being held accountable for this disaster? If not McLaren, then, as I wrote on Friday, somebody else must be. If the team's ownership and management truly does believe this is not "a field managerial issue", then it has to not only point fingers at the players (as was done) but actually do something about it. As far as I can see, the same lineup keeps being trotted out night after night. The pieces get moved around a little. But in the end, it amounts to the same roster. That's a weak stance to take. If you're going to blame, you have to make some moves.

The encouraging sign I've seen in this team is two consecutive competitive games. No, that isn't much. Not for an expected contender. But it beats the five previous uncompetitive games it played. All this talk about the team "playing hard every day" that came before the past two contests was a little ridiculous. Anyone who's watched the past two days of play can clearly see an upturn in the defense. A seeming increase in the intensity level. The past two days amounted to playing hard. The previous five were a joke.

I wrote last week that thopse types of games tend to get managers fired. One game. Not five in a row. The manager did not get fired. Blame was placed on the players. So far, no one has paid a price.

That's a disturbing sign of a lack of accountability within this organization. It's one thing to talk tough. Another to back up your words. It's appaling to me that this team was allowed to embarrass itself for five consecutive days without any consequences. And it wasn't just me who noticed. The entire New York press corps universally agreed that the first two games of the series at Yankee Stadium was the worst they had seen a team play back-to-back this season.

Seven in a row? Sixteen games under? Two competitive games after a five-day joke? And no heads rolling anywhere, on the field or off?

That's the symbol of complacency. That is not an organization dedicated to winning.

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May 26, 2008 10:59 PM

Groundhog's Day

Posted by Larry Stone

You've got to wonder if John McLaren wakes up every morning to a clock radio playing "I Got You Babe,'' just like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. The point is, of course, that each day is looking the same for the Mariners -- some sort of gruesome breakdown that leads to another defeat. They've lost seven in a row now to fall 16 games under .500. Let that sink in: 16 games under .500 (at 18-34). . And that's after just 52 games. Unbelievable.

I seem to remember hearing -- and writing myself, probably -- that one thing the Mariners won't have happen this year is the sort of long losing streaks that doomed them down the stretch last year. Not with a maturing Felix Hernandez joining Erik Bedard for that vaunted "one-two punch." Well, they've now lost 20 of their last 25 games, plus seven and counting. Felix and Bedard haven't been able to stop it, although in all fairness Felix pitched great tonight until the eighth, and he was one out away from getting out of that inning.

I have a feeling McLaren is going to get ripped for leaving Hernandez in for nine batters in the eighth (haven't had time to read the blog comments yet, sorry), but both manager and Felix himself said his stuff was just about as good as he's had all season. Felix said he was still strong and sharp in the eighth, so I don't have too much of a problem with leaving him in. Bottom line, they needed to muster more offense than one run until the ninth inning, when they had their usual too-little, too-late rally to score two off Jonathan Papelbon. Bartolo Colon looked pretty darned good, and you have to wonder if he's going to be another coup for Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.

The Mariners did have three great defensive plays in the game -- a diving catch of a blooper by Yuniesky Betancourt, a diving stop by Adrian Beltre to start a double play, and especially the wall-crashing catch by Ichiro. The most interesting post-game tidbit was Ichiro saying that the catch was inspired by criticism he received in New York on Sunday. He was referring to the ball that the Yankees' Jose Molina hit in the eighth that went over his head when he was playing shallow during their eighth-inning collapse.

Here's the quote: "(Sunday), for some reason, some people thought I should have caught a ball. That really ticked me off. I said to myself I was going for the ball no matter what, even if I'm injured on the play. I had a lot of stress piled up from yesterday. Because of that, I don't remember much about what happened. I just thought to let my body go.''

Asked who the criticism came from, Ichiro said, "I don't think it's necessary to answer.''

I believe he's referring to the media, not his teammates. Ichiro said he was dazed, not hurt, unlike the Mariners themselves, who are both.


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May 26, 2008 6:53 PM

Game thread, Red Sox vs. Mariners, May 26

Posted by Larry Stone

UPDATE 8:05 P.M. Ichiro couldn't get the run home in the third, but he just made up for it with arguably the catch of the year in the fifth. With a runner on first and one out, Jason Varitek hit a bomb to center. Ichiro raced back, and with his back to the plate hauled in the ball at full sprint just as he crashed into the wall. Who says Ichiro doesn't ever bang into walls? This was a solid blow,and he appeared dazed, but he held onto the ball, and stayed in the game. The crowd gave him a huge standing ovation, and another one when Hernandez got out of the inning.

UPDATE 7:52 P.M. I should have waited a couple more minutes before talking about how dynamite Felix looks. He does, but David Ortiz's bat must have had some dynamite in it as he just crushed a home run to center field on a 1-0 pitch. It's 1-0 Boston.

UPDATE 7:45 P.M.: The Mariners' third inning was a case study of how you lose six games in a row. They get a nice rally going, first and third, one out, on a double by Kenji Johjima and a single by Yuniesky Betancourt. But Ichiro can't get the run home, popping out to shallow center, and Lopez's grounder to the hole on the right side is smothered by a diving Dustin Pedroia, who threw him out. You've got to get that run home in a tight game like this.

Felix looks dynamite through a perfect three innings.

Can Felix step up? Can the Mariners finally win a game? Will anyone get a vote of confidence today? It should be fun. Jeremy Reed is starting in right, Richie Sexson is batting seventh, and Bartolo Colon is making his second start for the Red Sox. Talk to you later.

LINEUPS

Boston

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Manny Ramirez LF

Mike Lowell 3B

Kevin Youkilis 1B

J.D. Drew RF

Jason Varitek C

Julio Lugo SS

Bartolo Colon P

MARINERS

Ichiro CF

Jose Lopez 2B

Jose Vidro DH

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Jeremy Reed RF

Richie Sexson 1B

Kenji Johjima C

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Felix Hernandez P

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May 26, 2008 5:28 PM

When will it end?

Posted by Larry Stone


Larry Stone here. Geoff gets a well-deserved mental break after covering the last road trip. I was just watching from afar, like most of you, but I've got to say that in 20-plus years of covering major-league baseball, I can't ever remember seeing a more hideous stretch of baseball. They were simply blown out - - embarrassed -- for the first five games, and then the capper comes in the final game when J.J. Putz and the bullpen can't hold a three-run lead. Just brutal.

As I Iook out at Safeco Field here at about 5:30, I see a sea of red. It's amazing -- Sox Nation is out in full force. It will be interesting to see how the crowd noise goes during the game. I have a feeling that the Sox support will be very evident. Whether or not the Mariner boo-birds will be out will be something to note. I have a feeling they'll start out supportive, but if things go poorly for the Mariners, the fans will let them have it. (One more interesting sight: Manny Ramirez is taking grounders at shortstop. Now that's something I'd pay to see in a game).

This could be a deadly homestand, with Boston, Detroit and the Angels lined up, followed by the Red Sox in Boston. I won't say it's do or die, because I think we've thought that before, but if it turns as ugly as the road trip, I'd be absolutely shocked if there weren't major repercussions.

To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised that John McLaren is still managing the team. As last week was unfolding. I thought (and this was no stroke of insight; most people thought the same thing) that the situation was the classic scenario for a managerial change. But even though he got the vote of confidence, along with GM Bill Bavasi, I'm sure neither of them are feeling very safe right now. As I wrote over the weekend, the upper management team (Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong) are strong proponents of continuity, but they don't have limitless patience. And contrary to popular belief, they're not completely tone deaf. They have to be feeling the wrath of Mariners' fans, judging by my e-mail and the blog comments that I'm sure they're getting multi-fold.

McLaren was asked before the game if he was happy to receive the vote of confidence from Armstrong and Bavasi.

"It's something I appreciated, but I really didn't need,'' he said. "We talk every day about how the mood of the team is in the clubhouse, and how we're preparing for the game, and then we play the game hard. I think at this stage, the fans could care less about any of that, about my security or anything. All they want is wins, and that's all I want. That's all I care about -- if we win tonight.''

McLaren added that he hasn't been reassured privately by the organization about his job security.

"No, but I don't need it. If they pull the plug, they pull the plug. As I said, I'm a fighter. Every day I come to the ballpark with enthusiasm....We dug ourselves a hole, and we're the only ones that can dig out of it.''

Let's see if they brought their shovels today -- and no wise cracks about grave-digging.

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May 25, 2008 3:47 PM

M's play hard, lose hard

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Who would have thought we'd see Mariano Rivera jogging in to finish this game off when the M's took a three-run lead in the eighth and sent J.J. Putz to the mound? I agree with the choice of Putz for a two-inning save. The Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi at-bats were looming as the decisive points in the game.

It was a much better game from the Mariners today, which made this 6-5 loss all that much harder for them to swallow, I'm sure. Putz, Arthur Rhodes and Sean Green allowed four runs to score in the eighth inning after Jarrod Washburn had pitched them to a 5-2 lead through six. Everyone on this team appeared to play hard today. A much better effort all around. Some bad luck in the eighth killed the M's. That squibber by Hideki Matsui was just out of Putz's reach, meaning he had to dive for it. The ball just slipped out of his hand as he threw to first from a prone position and wound up sailing over Richie Sexson's head.

"I couldn't get a grip,'' Putz said. "I'd probably have been better off eating it.''

On that flyball to right center, Ichiro had to take charge. Looked like he and Wladimir Balentien were both uncertain whose ball it was. Ichiro said they were playing shallow to prevent a base-hit from dropping in and scoring Hideki Matsui from second. Matsui isn't the best runner, so getting to a hard-hit single faster by playing in could also have kept him from scoring.

For me, the game's underrated play was Matsui advancing to second on the prior sacrifice fly to center by Robinson Cano. Had Matsui stayed on first, the outfielders would have played deeper on the Jose Molina fly ball that ultimately won the game.

That flyball hung up like a Ray Guy punt. But Ichiro never could catch up to it. He didn't even look at the ball when he began racing back, given all the ground he had to make up.

"As soon as they hit it, I thought it was going to be a tough ball to catch,'' he said. "At the end of the play, I never got to where the ball was.''

Which prompted the natural question of whether he should have been playing a little deeper to begin with.

"If I had spiritual powers and knew the ball was going to be landing there, then I would have,'' he said. "But I don’t have spiritual power.''

Neither, apparently, does this team.

A tough end to a better day. These types of endings happen. Unfortunately, when you play lousy baseball for an entire week leading up to it, it makes these collapses seem a whole lot worse. And there is nothing positive to offset it. That's an 0-6 road trip.

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May 25, 2008 1:07 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: 05/25 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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1:07 p.m.: Disaster strikes in the eighth inning as the Yankees score four runs to take a 6-5 lead. J.J. Putz threw a ball away at first base on a Hideki Matsui infield single. Would have been a great play by Putz had he made it in time. That scored the second New York run of the inning. A sacrifice fly tied it 5-5 and then, with Matsui at second base, Jose Molina hit a towering double to right center that fell between Ichiro and Wladimir Balentien. Ichiro looked at the ball, the Balentien, then watched the ball drop in.

Here, enjoy a video tour of Yankee Stadium.

For Chris from Bothell, those were some good questions. I just put the first couple of them to a colleague of mine in the Japanese media. He writes a daily blog as well, and assures me the fans in Japan are in a similar uproar over the terrible play of the Mariners. The blame list, he tells me, is Bill Bavasi first, then Richie Sexson and then, much further down in terms of intensity, John McLaren. Part of the reason for that is the closeness between McLaren and Ichiro. Many Japanese fans feel that if Ichiro sees the good in McLaren, he can't be all that bad as a manager.

As far as "owner" Hiroshi Yamauchi goes, first off, he is still the team's de-facto owner. The Japanese billionaire did sell his shares to Nintendo of America a few years back, for estate planning purposes. But he owns the darned company, so figure it out. Nothing has changed. Yamauchi owns the team. He gets up at 5 a.m. every day and -- if the team is playing at that hour -- watches them right away. If they lose, he's on-the-horn to Ninetendo's president asking what's going on.

That president meets regularly with Howard Lincoln over lunch and they discuss what's going on. Lincoln might have to start picking up a few more tabs and plying his lunch date with a little more saki this coming week because it's sure not to be pleasant eating conversation.

Hope that part helps.

No, Mel Stottlemyre did not simply become mortal. This is what we've been saying the past two weeks. Last year, it was the fault of Mike Hargrove. So, he left and John McLaren came in. Then, it was the inexperienced coaching staff. So, they were purged and one of the most experienced staffs in baseball came in. Stottlemyre was considered one of the top pitching coaches of this era. Not yesteryear. Present-day. This decade. And look what's happened.

I truly do not believe there is any manager out there who would have done a better job. There are problems built into the fabric of this team, as we began discussing last week when we talked about the difficulty of firing everyone in sight.

It would be one thing if McLaren was not positioning players to succeed. If he was setting them up to fail. But he keeps shuffling the lineup around to get the best hitters into the positions to contribute. And the players keep failing. Adrian Beltre is one of few guys on the team with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .800. But it's at .697 with runners in scoring position. And .579 with RISP and two out. He's making errors in the field. You want to point fingers of blame, start there. Don't cherry pick and say this is all "old guys" with no talent sinking the team.

Beltre has loads of talent. He's a Gold Glove infielder and one of the team's best hitters. He's got plenty of value and will be snatched up the minute he's a free agent. Yuniesky Betancourt has "talent" but is also making mistakes in the field (and he's not playing hurt like Beltre is) and has a .282 on-base-percentage. His numbers with runners in scoring position are actually very good. Trouble is, he doesn't get that many opportunities, largely because he's too big a free-swinger to be trusted higher up in an RBI spot in the order. He can't get on-base.

Now, of course Richie Sexson has not done the job. Of course Jose Vidro didn't start turning things up a notch until recently. They are as big, even bigger, as problems than Beltre and Betancourt. We all know that. But it's not as simple as getting rid of those two guys and thinking all problems will be solved. This is a team-wide malaise. Raul Ibanez is a .240 hitter with RISP. All five pitchers have stunk it up this past month. Including Felix Hernandez. Including Erik Bedard. Hernandez has "talent". Bedard has "talent".

So, are these problems going to be cured by replacing "veterans" with "talent"? The "talent" on this squad is tanking as badly as everyone else at the moment.

So, adding "talent" sounds like the quick-fix solution. But that's overly simplistic. Simply quoting PECOTA numbers and suggesting a GM should be stacking his roster with players projected to do well under similar systems also strikes me as a bit pie-in-the-sky as the answer here. Of course every GM would like to do that. But those players are not always out there. Sometimes, you trade "talent" to get back more established "talent".

Look, you don't have to argue with me on Bill Bavasi. He built this team. If he loses his job after this season, because of what's gone on, it will be a deserved firing. He's had five years.

But that's a question for later on. Not right now. Firing a GM right now will not make one iota of difference on this team. Figuring out just how internally ridden with trouble this clubhouse is would be my top priority. This management team and ownership has to go beyond the simplistic and look at factors many of you cannot see daily. But just because you don't see them does not make them a "myth" or unimportant.

That kind of analysis, dismissing what you can't see and looking only at things that are easily quantified, is what gets clubs into trouble on the first place. It's the same criticism I see of writers who are reluctant to take sabermetric statistics seriously. No sense ignoring something because it intimidates you.

To ignore clubhouse troubles, for me, in a case like this is just as ignorant. Not saying it's the entire problem. But it's entirely plausible that it's a huge part of the collapse we've seen. You've had players of all stripes, young, old, "talented'' and marginal, who are underperforming both PECOTA expectations and their career norms. Who are regressing with age, but also not progressing in their youth.

If a culture of losing exists in that clubhouse that makes it easier for players to accept mediocrity, or sub-mediocrity, then it has to be weeded out. Otherwise, you could start Alex Rodriguez at third base tomorrow and David Ortiz at DH tomorrow and it won't make one bit of difference.

Well, maybe a little difference. But not enough to turn this team around. This team is getting used to losing. It's accepted losing, perhaps grudgingly, but it's learned to live with it. That can't happen. If you expected this to be a .500 team, then you have to be at least a little curious as to why it's a .360 club. And to find answers, you have to be willing to dig a little deeper, perhaps even slide outside your field of expertise.

We all get intimidated by stuff inside the clubhouse. My access is limited, my interaction with players based on what they're willing to tell me. Also on my powers of observation. But I've tried to highlight some potential areas of concern for you these past two weeks -- before Bavasi and Carlos Silva spoke out yesterday.

Many of you have called on Bavasi to step outside the so-called box as well, assuming he does not fully grasp statistical analysis. That may be true to an extent. And to ignore the stats would be foolish of him. But by the same token, those of you who have little grasp of what the inside of a major league clubhouse is like might also have to admit that you don't have all the answers and that some of them -- not all but certainly some -- just could be hidden behind those doors.


Continue reading this post ...


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May 25, 2008 8:47 AM

Morrow may transition to starter

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just got done talking with John McLaren during his morning briefing and the subject of Joba Chamberlain was brought up. The Yankees have allowed Chamberlain to go multiple innings in the bullpen, building his arm strength gradually until he'll be able to start (once he throws about 70 pitches in a game). McLaren said the organization is contemplating the same thing with Brandon Morrow.

"We have thought about it,'' he said. "We haven't come to a conclusion yet, but that is a possibility.''

Morrow could either go back to Class AAA to begin the transition, or work out of Seattle's bullpen in the majors.

"There are a couple of schools of thought,'' McLaren said. "That he could be like Chamberlain and work on it here.''

By the way, Kenji Johjima will catch Jarrod Washburn today.

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May 24, 2008 3:53 PM

Carlos Silva on clubhouse accountability

Posted by Geoff Baker

Carlos Silva agrees with what Bill Bavasi had to say today. The veteran starter, in his first year with the Mariners, feels that some players have to be spoken to and he's on the verge of doing it.

Silva talked of how he felt embarrassed after his four-inning start in Detroit the other night. Talked of being embarrassed when he came to the clubhouse the next day. Thing is, he's not sure he sees that same embarrassment in all the faces of players he sees after games and in the days after.

Putting the past behind you is one thing. Not learning from it, or treating it like just another setback on another day at the office, is something else.

There's a fine line and he feels some players are crossing it.

"It's like when I pitched in Detroit and I had a bad game, I didn't even want to see my teammates' faces the next day,'' Silva said. "Because I care so much about my team. But it's like, guys in here have a bad game, or whatever, it's great when you stay positive and have the same attitude, but, man, feel embarrassed too.

"I feel embarrassed, you know what I mean? If you don't feel embarrassed in this game, once in a while when you're struggling bad like this, it's like you don't care enough about this game.''

Silva felt he'd done a better job in this game after that four-run second inning. He wasn't happy with that frame, but [ut it out of his mind and gave all he had through the sixth.

"I don't want to point fingers at anybody,'' he said. "But if we go out there and play hard, no matter what, you're going to see a different game. No matter what. If you strike out, or you miss a play or whatever and you put it behind you and play hard, you're going to see a different game.''

So, he wasn't hanging his head afterwards.

"I hope they have that in mind,'' he said of his teammates. "Play hard no matter what. If you have a bad at-bat go out there and do your best in the field. Some guys do, but some guys don't.''

And he feels some players need a talking to.

"To be honest, I wanted to do that today,'' Silva said. "But it's like, right now...you have to pick the right time to do that. Because we've been losing. I'm pretty sure that of I said something to somebody, they'd get very upset. So, that's why today, I didn't say anything. I preferred to leave it at that and keep pitching my game.

"But somebody needs to do that."



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May 24, 2008 1:19 PM

The embarrassment continues

Posted by Geoff Baker

Another day, another pitiful performance turned in by the Mariners, this time a 12-6 defeat to the New York Yankees. Seattle made things interesting until the sixth inning, when Jose Lopez pretty much torpedoed their chances with an error that cost the team two unearned runs.

New York poured it on in the seventh inning, an error by Adrian Beltre contriubting to the five-run outburst by the Yankes. Seattle has gone down 12-8, 9-4, 9-2, 13-2 and now 12-6 on this trip. I've never seen anything like this from a group that -- contenders or not -- just about every analyst had pegged at somewhere between 79 and 90 wins. Not 100 losses. The player performance deserves to be ripped. Bill Bavasi might lose his job after this season and will deserve to if this continues because he built the club. But there are too many people out there prepared to let these players off the hook far too easily, I'm afraid. Show me anybody who predicted this would be the wrost team in the majors two months into a season. Don't recall any.

These players have to be called out. Bavasi did that today. Whether he loses his job after the season or not is irrelevant. This is what is happening right now and it has to be stopped. The players have to be held responsible at present. So far, the general criticism of them has been fairly soft.

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May 24, 2008 1:03 PM

McLaren safe; Bavasi rips into players

Posted by Geoff Baker

1:01 p.m.: New York scored five more runs in the seventh inning off the bullpen to go ahead by eight runs. Richie Sexson then blasted a two-run homer in the eighth off Kyle Farnsworth after Jeremy Reed drew a 13-pitch walk. Remember folks, the Mariners have shown all week they are the league's most dangerous team when trailing by eight or more. I'm sure Mariano Rivera is getting nervous.

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Now the news of the day...

The guesswork is over. John McLaren is staying put as manager. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi stepped up moments ago, in a conference call with reporters, and blasted his team's players for a lack of clubhouse leadership and inability to police themselves.

Bavasi left no doubt that it's ''beyond frustrating'' for him at the moment. He described the team's clubhouse as "a group of individuals.''

"We're ending up with a man on second, or a man on third, or men on second and third with nobody out and they stay there. And then we may run into a period where we can't get out of the first three innings without giving up 20 runs.

"Unfortunately for us,'' he added, "we don't have on this club so far, that player, or players -- it takes more than one -- that has enough in his gut to take care of himself, with enough left over to take care of somebody else, and help somebody else do his job. We don't get a runner over, we don't get a runner in and as a group of individuals, the players tolerate it. And good teams just don't tolerate that.''

We've been trying to point this out to all of you, on this blog, for the past couple of weeks. There are things that teams do internally, to enforce a level of conduct on and off the field, from one player to another, that just is not being done by the Mariners. You need guys who can get into the faces of their teammates when they mess up on the field. When they make others come out and face the music for them in post-game interviews. When they see a level of pre-game preparation that is not being carried out. I mentioned Raul Ibanez taking extra BP yesterday after slumping for a couple of game. He's this team's best hitter. There are several other guys who could follow his lead on a regular basis. But if no one is making demands of them to do this, who's going to? The coaches can't, because of contractual things and such. Extra BP is extra BP. A late bus from a hotel is a late bus. There is no contractual obligation to be on the early bus. That's something players can police themselves, without the union getting involved.

"The best teams take care of stuff in the clubhouse,'' Bavasi said. "They make demands of each other and I'm not sure that's going on right now.''

Bavasi said McLaren has done his job and that there's only so much any manager can do in a clubhouse where no (or not enough) players are truly being held accountable by peers for their play.

"This is not a field managerial issue,'' he said. "John is doing a good job. Our performance is not related to his work. It's purely related to player performance and underperformance and underachievement. Nobody had the nerve to pick us less than second place in our division. We were picked anything from first to second to wild-card. You name it. The expectations were a heck of a lot higher than this, based on any analysts' evaluation of out players' individual track records and their age. Their ages are such that they're not all young guys that they're inexperienced. But they're not too old to believe that they would backslide. So, I think those expectations are realistic. They were and they are.''

He said he's in constant communication with other teams and on the lookout for deals. But it's early, he said, before the July 31 trade deadline and there aren't a lot of clubs looking to make deals.

"I don't know that that's something that we want to react to right now,'' he said. "If we had a magic bullet, we would fire it. I think we have to, from our point of view as a staff, in the office we have to keep looking for player personnel, deals, but like I said, we're going to be hard-pressed to find somebody better right now than what we have. We have to keep looking for those guys. It doesn't mean you stop looking.''

Bavasi said his front office always takes character issues into consideration when trading for, or signing a player. Or while they are developing.

"Every club pays close attention to the character of guys,'' he said. "But you never know what their character is truly like until they get into the heat of battle.''

McLaren and his staff have been identifying problems on a daily basis, he said, and trying to keep on guys to up their level of play. "But again, at the end of the day, the players have got to go out and do those things.''

Bavasi insisted he doesn't want his words to be construed as a "sole attack on the players'' who he still feels are working hard and trying to improve. But perhaps, he said, they have to be smarter in how they work and look after one another.

"I take it to heart in that it's my responsibility,'' he said. "The buck stops here. This is a club that we all had higher expectations on.''

And in the end, he is the guy who put this roster together. If it has character issues, the fault ultimately lies with Bavasi and not McLaren. Bavasi is in Seattle and isn't planning to speak to the players as a group. He and McLaren have discussed the situation and both feel it's McLaren's job -- as the guy in the clubhouse -- to relay any such messages.

But if Bavasi's tough talk is to carry an impact, or ultimately have meaning, he has to be prepared to make an example of a player or two if this type of on-field performance continues. You've all asked me this question and this is how I feel. I wrote yesterday that the organization had to step up and clarify McLaren's status. It has done so in timely fashion.

Now comes part two. Backing up words with action. Demanding accountability of others, namely the players, and then being accountable yourself. If the clubhouse lacks leadership and doesn't change on its own, go out and do something about it. That's the only way anyone, be they fans, the media, or the players in that clubhouse, will take an organization seriously.

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May 23, 2008 8:46 PM

Start spreading the news...

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners stink

They went down 13-2 to the New York Yankees tonight in a game as ugly as any of the previous three. I don't think that, on paper, they are this bad. But in reality, right now, they look awful.

That's four blowouts in a row and counting. The Mariners truly should not expect a Christmas invite from the McLaren family next December. This game had it all once again, with a crooked-number inning when the Yankees put up eight runs in the fifth. A ton of hits. The usual defensive miscues. Losing arguments with the umpire. Nine strikeouts in six innings by Andy Pettitte, the most he's put up in two years.

"Playing on this team and seeing what is happening around me, I feel that something is beginning to fall apart,'' Ichiro said, through a translator. "But, if I was not in this situation, and I was objectively watching what just happened this week, I would probably be drinking a lot of beers and booing.''

Ichiro wouldn't say what exactly is falling apart, but invited reporters to draw their own conclusions. He's not happy with what's gone on here. Nobody is. But some guys are contributing more than others.

The starting rotation has collapsed. The 4 1/3 innings by Erik Bedard tonight was actually the most by any Seattle starter on the road trip. Seattle has been outscored 43-16 in those four games.

Bedard insisted he wasn't distracted by Jason Giambi drawing a walk on a close pitch in the at-bat before a Shelley Duncan homer in the second gave New York the lead for good. Bedard said he'd put the walk out of his mind, something he learned to do long ago as a starter.

"You have to,'' Bedard said. "If you let them get in your head, you might have a bad inning.''

Turns out, the bad inning came in the fifth. That's now two starts in the last three where Bedard let his team down. He's just as guilty as any of the other starting five when it comes to the rotation's collapse. At this point, though, analyzing individual games is almost pointless. This season has collapsed. This team is showing no signs of being able to compete for more than a handful of innings. There is no cohesiveness. No coming together of all aspects of the game.

John McLaren is running out of things to say.

"None of us are happy about this,'' McLaren said. "I really don't know what to say about it. We're in a funk and we can only get out of it ourselves. We've had a lot of meetings and I don't think meetings are the answer right now.''

This group is playing like a team that's out of answers. And in McLaren's case, likely out of time.

Don't go taking Ichiro's advice and drowning your sorrows in beer. Here, enjoy this video instead, a tour of Yankee Stadium. You'll see the new stadium being built across the street, then go inside the old place, the one I'm now sitting in, with me. We'll trek across the field to visit Monument Park, beyond the fence in left center. We'll also tour the visiting team's bullpen area. Enjoy.

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May 23, 2008 6:40 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: 05/23 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Here, enjoy this video, a tour of Yankee Stadium. You'll see the new stadium being built across the street, then go inside the old place, the one I'm now sitting in, with me. We'll trek across the field to visit Monument Park, beyond the fence in left center. We'll also tour the visiting team's bullpen area. Enjoy.

Still a 13-2 game in the eighth. The M's aren't going anywhere.

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May 23, 2008 3:19 PM

Hernandez out, Washburn in

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A look at Raul Ibanez, above. Want to know why I like Raul Ibanez? No, not because he's a veteran. Because he is the team's best hitter, but had a couple of bad days in Detroit. So, here in New York, he showed up to take early batting practice. Didn't stay out shopping on Fifth Avenue, or lunching in Times Square. He wasn't on the early BP list, but put himself on it. That's why I like him. He's a pro. This team needs more of him, in left field, as a DH, or whatever.

Am at the ballpark and can tell you, you're all in for a surprise. Yes, there has been a rotation shakeup. But not what any of you were expecting.

Carlos Silva pitches tomorrow. Jarrod Washburn on Sunday.

No, that's not a misprint. Felix Hernandez's sore calf is still...well...a sore calf.

Washburn and Silva will both be working on short rest. Yes, it's true, they didn't go all that deep their last time out. So, that's the good news. The bad news is, they still pitched. Their arms will be taxed, somewhat, though both say they're ready to go. And they did not pitch well. Silva pitched terribly his last time out at Yankee Stadium and has never done well here. Washburn pitched terribly his last time out -- period.

"I've thrown bullpen sessions that were tougher than that,'' Washburn said. "My arm will be fine. I'm ready.''

Washburn is anxious to get back out and show that he's a better pitcher than the one who got pounded for nine runs on 12 hits in 2 1/3 innings in Detroit.

"Physically, I'm ready to go,'' he said. "And mentally, i want to get out there as quickly as possible.''

Mariners manager John McLaren said the idea for now is to use Hernandez in Monday night's game to give his calf all the two extra days needed to heal. It's worth remembering that the Yankees pounded Hernandez the last time he pitched here. Washburn has done well at Yankee Stadium.

That said, Hernandez is supposed to be part of the "one-two'' punch. Any decision not to use him, or push him back, is bad news.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi has been suspended one game -- tonight's -- for his tirade late in his team's win over Baltimore last night. So, if the M's have a shot at winning anything here, it may be tonight with Erik Bedard on the hill and Girardi not in the dugout. Then again, Tony Pena does know how to manage. Won a lot of games with a lousy Royals team in 2003.

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May 23, 2008 11:03 AM

Where teams come to die

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Greetings from New York City, where I'm staring at the view pictured above as I write this. We've said it before and I'll repeat it once again: this is the city where struggling teams often come to die. It doesn't matter how poorly the New York Yankees are doing this season. Over the past decade, they've had their hardships. But come in here playing like you're waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it usually does. Only it's a piano that falls, not a shoe. Falls from 50 stories up and clobbers you smack dab in the head.

I met up coincidentally last night, at a favorite Manhattan hangout, with a buddy who covers the Baltimore Orioles, who just finished playing a series against the Yankees. We caught up on all things George Sherrill, Adam Jones and Erik Bedard, then got around to talking about good teams gone bad. I still don't, in my heart of hearts, believe that the Mariners are a bad team. But they are playing like one -- and that's even worse. And it's to the point now where, even if the Mariners manage to play up to their talent level of at least a .500 club, too much damage has been done. It's not early anymore. It's late. Too late. After a long chat with my Baltimore pal, we both agreed that this weekend will likely be reckoning time. Even if Bedard goes out and wins tonight. That's the other thing we agreed upon: Bedard has lived up to his end of this trade so far. It's not his fault the rest of the team is tanking.

So, after spending two hours this morning going over all of your comments, there seems to be a lot of common themes. The most important one, to me, is to deal with the managerial situation right now. Forget about firing Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. It's not going to happen. At least, not this year. That pair has made a lot of money for the team's owners over the years and still are. They are not going to be fired over a one-season train wreck. You can argue until your head explodes on this matter, but it's useless. They aren't going anywhere.

Bill Bavasi, as I've mentioned, is likely safe for the rest of this year, or at least until late in the second half. Teams don't fire GMs before the June draft. And there's little point to doing it in-season unless you're going to blow the whole thing up and start over. I don't see the M's doing this. And I don't blame them for not going that route. It can be long and painful and attendance might never recover. Yes, I've read all of the quick-fix solutions where you can turn over 20 out of 25 guys and contend in two years. Rarely ever works out that way. There is only one Billy Beane and even he isn't always right. The best the M's could hope for would be a replay of the Mark Shapiro-style rebuild in Cleveland. That team got lucky and contended a little earlier than expected. But even after a wait of only three to four years, the attendance in Cleveland hasn't rebounded. Fans are getting more and more impatient these days, with the internet, high technology and other diversions. This is a fast-paced world. You all want answers from me the minute the final out is recorded. You want winning seasons. A good three-year rebuilding plan (which almost always becomes a five-year rebuilding plan) is going to seem a lot longer when the club is halfway to losing 90 games in Year 1. I've covered rebuilding teams. There is nothing remotely romantic about them after the initial novelty wears off. It's a nice concept to dream about. But in reality, it involves watching a lot of bad baseball and hurts the bottom line.

We're watching a lot of bad baseball now, of course, and that has to change. Somehow, some way. And the first order of business is figuring out the future of John McLaren. This organization can't sit paralyzed any longer.


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May 22, 2008 4:24 PM

A sweep to the basement

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Some great points being brought up in the comments section, which is a change from some of what we'd seen in recent days. So, good on all of you. I am scrambling right now, as I have a flight out to New York shortly, but I wanted to share some of the post-game happenings with you.

John McLaren is getting tired of saying the same thing every night, about how his starting pitchers threw poorly, or his fielders missed the ball, or his hitters couldn't come though. So, as he was finishing off another description of what we all know, that the Mariners are playing lousy ball, I asked him how much longer he was going to bother sending Miguel Batista out there when he can't get past the fifth inning. About whether he'd consider skipping him in a start or two until he can figure things out on the mound. I could have just substitued Batista's name with Jarrod Washburn's. In the end, I didn't have to, because McLaren made a statement that was obviously aimed at both pitchers.

"No one likes to be skipped and whatever,'' McLaren said, adding that he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre had discussed the matter. "We're going to look at it, not just for Miguel, but all the way around. We've got a couple of guys struggling. We'll see.''

Hear what was said right here on this clip.

That's not just a throwaway "we'll see'' because this is a serious issue for a starter and if McLaren wasn't toying with the idea, he'd have just said no.

But this team can't keep sending guys out there who are not even delivering performances worthy of fifth starters. Any number of replacement-level pitchers can deliver five innings. These two have not even been going that deep on a regular basis lately. They have to turn it around.

After that, we went to Batista's locker. Today, he was talking. I know he was spoken to by team officials and some players after he'd ducked out on previous media sessions. As I said, this stuff may not matter to you. But it matters to people in the clubhouse. Anyhow, with respect to those of you who offered up suggestions on the line of questioning, I decided to go a different route in light of what McLaren had said.

Batista had just finished telling us that he thought this start was an improvement -- command wise -- from previous ones when he was walking guys left and right.

"My command is getting better,'' he said. "After I got hurt it, was really bad. And now, when I miss, I miss around the plate most of the time.''

Yeah, OK, but some of the Tigers didn't miss when those pitches came around the plate. Batista's velocity was down as well. This was brought up to him and he then went on about all the nagging hurts he's faced this year.

"I've been battling a lot of stuff since spring training,'' he said. "My back, my foot, my back. And then I had a dead arm. It's hard to get everything going when you're not completely healthy.''

Fair enough. But it begs the question of how all this is going to get better by Batista's next start. Of whether he'd benefit from skipping a start or two. He didn't seem sure about that one. He did go back into how his command improved in this game.

"Getting my command better is one of the things,'' he said. "Especially when you don't have your best stuff, you have to make them hit the ball.''

Hear the exchange right here on this clip.

It's not my job to stand there and argue with him. That's what fans do on blogs. I ask the questions and he answers them. So, now you know the parameters of the next decision McLaren has to make. Will he stick with Batista, seeing that the pitcher felt his command was better? Or, will McLaren decide that improved command is not enough for a pitcher whose velocity was down and has looked pretty poor in recent weeks? It goes a little beyond "this guy sucks'' or "trade that guy". That's kid stuff. The major leagues are for grown-ups. With professionals doing the asking and answering. You ask grown-up questions and expect grown-up answers. Anyhow, that's why we ask the questions. Sometimes, these post-game sessions bring you something.

I've got to go catch a plane now, but keep on talking. This team has serious issues that need to be addressed. This team is an embarrassment right now. To itself, its fans and anyone bothering to show up for these games. Changes have to come. This organization can not just sit around watching itself get humiliated night after night. Erik Bedard might change things tomorrow in New York but it can't just be him all the time. Somebody has to get the players to play winning baseball -- or even good baseball -- or the team will have to figure out whether somebody else can. And quickly. Or else, these guys will lose 100 games.

As promised, below, here's the latest road trip video to divert you from yet another travesty of a game. I'll walk from my hotel in the Renaissance Center, where I showed you that photo from 58 stories up the other day, over to Comerica Park. You'll get a taste of downtown Detroit in all its splendor. From there, we'll head inside Comerica Park, walk around the dugout a bit, then go up inside the ballpark for a look around. Hope you enjoy.

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May 22, 2008 12:44 PM

Mariners at Detroit Tigers: 05/22 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This may be one of the last times today that I can show you the scoreboard without the Mariners getting thumped on it. The over-under on Miguel Batista's innings total today? Let's just say, we had an anthem singer moments ago who may have dragged the Star Spangled Banner out longer than Batista will be able to contain the Detroit Tigers if he pitches like Jarrod Washburn did last night.

12:44 p.m.: Wake up everyone, only one more half-inning to go. It's still 9-2 for the Tigers. Seattle has done an admirable job the last two nights of holding their opponent to single digits. The Tigers bullpen has had trouble closing these games out against the plucky M's, but Seattle only trails by seven runs this time. It's when the Mariners are down by eight or more that they get very dangerous. Not suggesting they'll go down without a fight, only that my camera is warming up to take the "moment of victory/defeat'' shot. Oh and to kwk, in the comments area, yes, I do believe it's very telling of the character on this team. But thanks for you insights. I'll make note of them.

As promised, below, here's the latest road trip video to divert you from yet another travesty of a game. I'll walk from my hotel in the Renaissance Center, where I showed you that photo from 58 stories up the other day, over to Comerica Park. You'll get a taste of downtown Detroit in all its splendor. From there, we'll head inside Comerica Park, walk around the dugout a bit, then go up inside the ballpark for a look around. Hope you enjoy.

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May 21, 2008 9:28 PM

Is that a fork in 'em?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, as you no doubt know by now, the Mariners have designated Cha Seung Baek for assignment and will likely have R.A. Dickey on-hand here in time for tomorrow's game. The starters left this team little other choice. They are now 3-12 with an ERA of 7.27 in the month of May and averaging just 5 1/3 innings each time out. Seattle burned up Baek and Ryan Rowland-Smith the last two nights, so there is no one left to clean up after Miguel Batista if he leaves another early mess. That is, until Dickey arrives.

The M's sure looked cooked tonight. This game was over by the third inning when Jarrod Washburn grooved a bunch of fastballs and watched the Detroit Tigers hit line drive after line drive to go up by eight runs. Marcus Thames hit a grand slam that inning to pretty much end this thing right there. The M's got a little offense after that, but the end was still a 9-4 loss and another game in which the team was uncompetitive.

I can't blame the entire team for this defeat as much as I did last night. This was mostly Washburn burying his club before it could even breathe.

Here's the scary part. Washburn insisted his pitches weren't all that bad. And catcher Jamie Burke backed him up on that. The Tigers have a history of pounding on Washburn, who has lost his last seven starts against Detroit and has a 7.38 earned run average over that stretch. Some guys just don't match up well against certain teams. The Tigers are an aggressive, fastball-hitting club and Washburn was throwing a bunch of mid-to-high-80s fastballs.

Even if they weren't all right over the plate, the Tigers obviously found them hittable.

"They were jumping on it fast, but it wasn't like I was throwing strikes or good pitches for them to hit,'' Washburn said, shaking his head. "I knew they were going to be aggressive. They were aggressive last night. They came out swinging the bats. I knew they were going to do the same thing tonight. I wanted to throw good, early in the count pitches, not give them something to hit and I did that. But they still found holes.''

A few could have drilled some holes as well. Washburn says he rarely looks at video, but went in right away to check on the location of the pitches getting ripped.

"The pitch to Thames was a mistake. It came back and got too much of the plate,'' he said. "Other than that, every other hit they got in the inning was on a ball. I was hitting spots and they were just doing a good job of putting the bat on the ball and making it find a hole.''

The Tigers can do this to teams. Washburn isn't having the best year. He's struggled at putting guys away. it was a terrible combination. Let's leave it at that.

"He went out there, he had good stuff, he got ahead of hitters,'' Burke said. "I thought he'd had better stuff than he'd had in a while.''

If that's the case, the M's might want to skip Washburn the next time the Tigers come up on the schedule. Because his good stuff wasn't nearly good enough to get hitters out in this game.



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May 21, 2008 6:00 PM

Mariners at Detroit Tigers: 05/21 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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We won't even show you a picture of the field of play tonight. Might be harmful to small children, especially those being groomed as Mariners fans. Not even the guy in the statue above could save this team now. Maybe 25 of him. Wonder if he could catch?

6:00 p.m.: And a Richie Sexson "Funk Blast" in the sixth cuts the gap to 9-4. "We want the funk!'' Come on folks, sing along..."We need the funk!''...so, uh...not really interested, huh? Yeah, can't blame you. I don't got much funk either. In case you can't tell. Cha Seung Baek is ready to pitch here in the bottom of the sixth. Believe it or not. Get him back on the ole' horse. He'll take the ball. Thing is, it's raining so hard here now, it'll be hard to tell if those are drops hitting the bleachers or some Baek fastballs.

Good job by Ryan Rowland-Smith, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Tigers from going double-digits. But it's still early. Wonder what the over-under on tomorrow's game will be in Vegas?

To answer a question from Todd, in the comments thread, I don't see anything wrong with John McLaren's decision to let Erik Bedard have Jamie Burke as his personal catcher. Bedard is the rotation's top starter, has pitched well except for one game and this team gave away a bunch of players to get him. If he feels better being caught by Burke, no harm in doing it. In fact, it's dumb not to do it. Bedard produces. I know there have been studies showing a catcher's impact on pitchers to be negligible, but this isn't about that. It's about the comfort level of your staff ace. The Houston Astros gave Roger Clemens his own plane and days off to be with his family. If all Bedard needs is Jamie Burke, give it to him.

But Washburn is another story. I can understand McLaren, given a coin flip of a choice between starting Burke or Johjima today, would lean towards allowing Washburn the catcher he works with best. No harm to anyone involved and Johjima loses no playing time since he was only going to catch in one of the two games, tomorrow being a daytime affair. That's different from making Burke into Washburn's personal catcher as well.

Do that, when it does take playing time from Johjima, and it looks ridiculous that the team would extend the catcher for three more years. We're talking about 40 percent of the rotation here. For me, it's already suspect that the team is looking for ways out of a battery with two of the five starters. Do that on a full-time basis and it sends the wrong message to Johjima and the team. Either you stand behind your organization's decision to extend Johjima, by letting him catch 80 percent of the games, or you stand up and explain the rationale behind extending him in the first place.

Otherwise, this whole thing is just bizarre. No, a fourth or fifth starter should not be getting a personalized catcher when the staff ace already has one. If you're going to do that, you have to be prepared to go a different route on the catching front altogether. But on a semi-routine basis, if it's an either-or decision on when to give Johjima rest -- and you know there's a pitcher who prefers to go with Burke -- I don't see anything wrong with trying to make the pitcher happy. As long as it's not a permanent thing.


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May 21, 2008 2:40 PM

Johjima out again

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mariners manager John McLaren had a choice on when to use Kenji Johjima and when to go with Jamie Burke, since there was a day game after a night game tomorrow. He opted to use Burke tonight with Jarrod Washburn on the mound. Coincidence? I decided to find out. And McLaren was blatantly honest. He wants to match the pitching and catching batteries that work together when he can.

That means, he volunteered later in the conversation, that Burke will be catching Erik Bedard for the forseeable future. As McLaren pointed out, it's been done before with Greg Maddux in Atlanta and Mike Mussina in New York. Neither was caught by their team's No. 1 catcher very often. But Washburn is not Maddux, nor is he Mussina. McLaren would not commit to making Burke the full-time Washburn receiver going forward. He only said he'd do such matching up when the situation presents itself.

"If we can do it, we'll try to do it,'' he says, here on this audio clip of my questions and his answers. "I'm not going to switch everything around. Just when there's an opportunity, when certain pitchers are pitching, if we can do it we can do it.''

All I'll say is, it's a very interesting situation for a team that just gave Johjima a three-year extension and has it's former No. 1 draft pick catching in Class AAA instead of up in the big leagues.

"You've got to look at it two ways,'' McLaren said. "If a guy is having success with one guy, you've definitely got to really weigh that heavily. That doesn't lie. We've got kind of that situation with Burke and Bedard. It's been a good combination and so we're going to stick with it for a while.''

I'll give McLaren credit. He didn't try to dance around what he was doing. He was accountable. And that's not always a common thing with this team.

And for Nat, in the comments section, I hope this adequately addresses what you asked about when you posted a link earlier today. I'm only trying to tell you what's going on in that clubhouse, the way I see it, as best I can. I don't think any of you would expect or accept anything less. It's not always fun writing this stuff, but when it's out there, it has to be told.

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May 21, 2008 9:52 AM

Losing ugly

Posted by Geoff Baker

One of you, maybe it was Lance, asked me what the difference is between simply losing and losing ugly. Isn't any loss an ugly one? No, in fact. At least not the way I see it. So far, in the majority of their losses, the Mariners have managed to keep the game at least "winnable'' only to be let down by their offense. And I still do believe it's the offense costing this team the majority of games. The Mariners may be averaging 4.13 runs per contest, but in reality, the games in which they've actually scored more than four runs have been few and far between.

The team's run average has been pumped up by a handful of games, including ones like last night's where a lot of late markers are scored in a lost cause. Think back to last week's 13-12 loss in Texas, where the M's scored six runs the final two innings to tie. In 99 percent of games like those, the Mariners would not have been able to come back all the way and tie the score and the final outcome would have been long decided. They got lucky instead, lost the game in extras, but still managed to bump the overall run total significantly. Those two losses, last night's and last week's, added 20 runs to Seattle's offensive output. In reality, 20 runs is about what this team scores in a given week when things truly matter. Last night's game mattered up until the Tigers made it 11-1.

In reality, the M's have scored four runs or fewer in 31 of their 46 games. So, the fact that they are averaging 4.13 runs per night is misleading. In two-thirds of their games, they haven't scored more than four runs. Compare this with 2007, when the team scored four or fewer in only 53 percent of games. And remember, last year's team was hardly an offensive juggernaut, finishing just above league average in terms of production.

So, that's a serious offensive problem in 2008. And I still believe you have to fix that first, then look at overhauling the defense.

But this club, as has become obvious, does have other problems. Most notably, defense. We saw some of it last night. On the Ichiro play on the three-run triple, for those who asked, I wasn't saying he has to catch that ball. Just keep it in front of him. But you're right. He was the least culpable. Jose Lopez allowed a ball to get past him at second base that should have been stopped. The official scorers in Detroit are known for pumping up the home team's batting averages and that play was a prime example of a hit that should have been an error. A tying run scored on that play.

Yuniesky Betancourt also wrongly covered second base on a hit-and-run, after being told by Lopez that he would take second, and another hit got through where he should have been standing. Once that happened, the floodgates opened from there.

So, the defense didn't help in this game.

And once again, the starting pitching didn't measure up. This has become all-too-common a theme for the M's over the past 3 1/2 weeks or so. Carlos Silva did not bring his A-game to the table and got pounded. Lasted only four innings and allowed seven runs. Cha Seung Baek threw batting practice after that.

And when the hitting, pitching and defense aren't working, you have the makings of an ugly loss. A game that is essentially over by the fourth inning. Games that make it look as if a team has gone to sleep.

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May 20, 2008 9:10 PM

Terrible loss

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Well, I told you the Detroit Tigers had blown a six-run lead with their gaslighting bullpen before. You can see how they did it. But the Mariners had an eight-run gap to overcome. It wasn't going to happen.

The final score of 12-8 does not do justice to what happened here tonight. The Mariners were flat-out embarassed by the Tigers, trailing 11-1 by the seventh inning before piling on seven runs in the final three frames (four in the ninth) to make the score look a little better.

This team had zero life after Adrian Beltre's first inning home run. Neither at the plate, nor in the field. They allowed themselves to be manhandled by Justin Verlander, who's done that to teams before but not so much this year. Seattle has two more games to salvage this series and -- most likely -- its season. Though I've got to tell you, I'm not seeing very much to inspire any confidence this team can do it.

"They kept adding and adding and adding,'' Jose Vidro said of the Tigers. "We did have some good at-bats in the end. But we were so far behind, it was too late to make it back all the way.''

And as I wrote earlier, games like this get managers fired. I saw one fired in Toronto four years ago after back-to-back games just like this one in New York. This team has to show more life, even when it loses. There's losing and then, there's losing ugly. This one was ugly.

What made it so? How about Yuniesky Betancourt covering second base at the same time Jose Lopez was doing it on a hit and run? The ensuing grounder, right in the area where Betancourt should have been standing, put two on with no out in the fourth. Betancourt gets to that ball, it's one out, maybe two. Instead, Carlos Silva walks the bases loaded and Edgar Renteria hits a line drive that Ichiro charged in on -- but let get by him and roll to the wall. You know the rest.


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May 20, 2008 6:36 PM

Mariners at Detroit Tigers: 05/20 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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6:36 p.m.: It's now a 12-4 game, heading into the top of the ninth. Mark Lowe yielded a tape-measure home run to center in the seventh by Carlos Guillen. The Mariners tacked on some meaningless runs in the seventh and eighth. Chance they'll come back? Well, the Tigers have blown a six-run lead once this year. Sorry, the M's trail by eight.

Spoke to Jeremy Reed earlier. He's not sure what his role is going to be here yet, but admitted to being somewhat emotional when the team recalled him. Reed wasn't sure he'd ever get back to the majors and talked about some dark days as he toiled in the minors.

"It just gets grueling,'' he said. "It just gets tough. It's a hard thing to deal with.''

Harder still, he said, because he had that early taste of big league ball. One thing's for sure. He earned his way back through his numbers and play. But he won't be in the lineup tonight. I can hear the groans out there already. Nope, Reed is on the bench for now. Wladimir Balentien is in right, Raul Ibanez in left. Jose Vidro is the DH.

We asked manager John McLaren about using Reed as a late-inning defensive replacement.

"We're happy with our defense in the outfield,'' he replied.

Knew some of you would love that one.

McLaren does plan to use Reed in both outfield corners. "We'll give (Balentien) a break in right field, Raul (Ibanez) a break in left,'' he said.

Anyone want to make some jokes about the scoreboard message below? I'd have thought we would have seen plenty within minutes of this post going up.

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May 20, 2008 9:19 AM

Chemistry contradictions

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good morning to you all. Adam, Mr. X, M's Fan in CO Exile, Tacoma Rain, Kujo, Jeff, and company. See ya, Ziasudra. Don't let the cyber door hit you on your way out. Same for everyone else. If you don't like the debates here, you don't have to stick around. There are plenty of other sites out there that will tell you exactly what you want to hear at any given time, while cheerleading for your favorite players and kicking your least favorite when they're down, up, or otherwise. There are so many different sites out there that you can custom-design your daily reading to suit your every mood. If you come on here looking for the standard "every move this team makes is idiotic'' stance so you can find an outlet for your anger, you're wasting your time. Therapy works best for anger issues. Not a blog.

Two more things I wanted to throw out there, because I didn't get to them last night. No. 1, there is a distraction involved to being a DH. It's called sitting around on your butt trying to stay focused and loose for 45 minutes to an hour at a time while there's a game going on. Position players have to be focused on the game because a ball can be hit their way at any time. Try doing that at your next company softball game. Go sit in the stands when your team takes the field, chat with the guy from accounting, buy a soft cone, pet the dog, then try to walk in cold and hit. Then do it all over again for another hour. And pretend the pitcher is throwing 95 mph instead of lobbing it to you underhand.

Last thing, this to answer Al's question about why I "only'' spent a paragraph ripping Miguel Batista's performance and refusal to speak to the media, when I also lambasted Felix Hernandez for the same thing. Al, I devoted an entire blog post to this topic on Saturday -- about players being accountable to their teammates and not leaving it to others to do their talking in the media. I posted how Billy Wagner of the Mets had criticized Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran for the same thing, told you how -- in my experience of actually covering major league baseball clubhouses for a decade -- players don't like teammates pulling this stuff. Paul Lo Duca said much the same thing last season in regards to his Mets teammates, so this isn't just a onetime thing. I challenged readers to tell me why Hernandez and Batista should get the free pass they've received from the Seattle blogosphere when two of the decade's better hitters, Delgado and Beltran, did not get one from a relief pitcher on their own team. One or two of you tried to bite. The rest of you shied away. Didn't want any part of that action. Don't blame you. Never thought I could shut so many people up so easily with a little logic. Usually doesn't work that way, unfortunately. But for whatever reason, all the big talkers teeing off on the media earlier in the week, missing the point entirely, I might add, suddenly had little to say when confronted with Wagner's views on the issue. Most of you were more interested in getting into petty name-calling with Adam. But it wasn't only this site that went quiet. Heard no debate about this anywhere else in the Seattle blogosphere the rest of the weekend. Funny, because other sites had plenty to say about the topic earlier in the week before Wagner spoke up and perhaps enlightened some people as to what actually does go on in a major league clubhouse.

As they say, live and learn. Or stick to your guns and insist it doesn't matter in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Whatever. If some of you want to think I call out only "young'' guys, I can't stop you. I'd ask you to go back and read previous entries. Can guarantee you we've ripped just about the entire team to this point, individually and collectively. I'll guarantee you the veterans on the Mariners saw my story last Thursday, about whether language and cultural differences are getting in the way of a more together clubhouse, as an indictment of their leadership skills. Some of you want to have a "young versus old'' holy war played out on the blog pages every day. That's OK, too. Just don't expect me to follow along. And when I don't, if you want to take your glove and trudge on home from the sandbox, that's fine with me. For the rest of you, which is several hundred times more than the daily comments you see posted here, thanks for sticking around. And for your private emails and your patience. It is much appreciated.

On that note, on to today's topic, which ties in with that clubhouse leadership thing. If you think the Mariners have it bad, consider the plight of this week's opponent. The Detroit Tigers spent $135 million and sold fans and media on the notion they could win it all this year. Right now, they are a game behind the M's, dead last in the American League. Some fans are blaming GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland. Most are blaming the players. That's ultimately where I think most of the blame in Seattle lies. But I understand the difference in sentiment between fans in the two markets. After all, the Dombrowski-Leyland combo has achieved far more than Bill Bavasi-John McLaren.

But it's easy to blame management all the time. That's what the media does in bad, uncompetitive markets, with a few exceptions. Some management is so bad for so long that blame truly does fall on them. But I can tell you, it's always easier for a media member to point a finger at one GM or manager than at some of the 25 players he or she has to face every day. In the good markets, though, the players -- even popular favorites -- are held accountable by the media.

That said, figuring out what is causing player non-performance is no easy task. If Jeff Pentland can't figure it out with his Seattle hitters, how are we supposed to? Plug some numbers in to the trusty computer? Well, that works on some occasions. But not others.

How about this clubhouse chemistry thing? Been thinking a lot about it since I wrote my piece for the newspaper last Thursday on Seattle's clubhouse. Pretty much wrote the same stuff in this blog two days before that story was published. So, it's been on my mind.

Then, I open my copy of USA Today at the hotel this morning and get two different versions of how important clubhouse chemistry is: one from Tigers boss Leyland, another from former Mariners reliever George Sherrill.


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May 19, 2008 8:54 PM

Mailbag time

Posted by Geoff Baker

It's been a while since we did one of these and I know how much you enjoyed it the last time. Be warned, this is not quite the mailbag you'll find on MLB.com. So, if you're looking to dish some out and not take it, better have your tissues ready. As for those of you with serious questions, we'll answer those as well.

Q: Why does Richie Sexon get a free pass from you Geoff? More importantlly, what was the Mariners backup plan going into the season for a 1st baseman that barely broke the Mendoza line last season and continues to perform at that level this season?

-- Sexson is Mendoza


A: We weren't really dealing with Sexson today, but if you want. Devoted an entire blog post to Sexson three weeks ago: "Sexson, while not producing nearly enough as a first baseman overall, is still one of the better offensive producers on his team at this very moment.''

So, how is that a free pass? We've been on Sexson's case since last year. At the time the blog post came out, on May 1, he was showing signs of improvement, but has since regressed. Sexson has only three hits in his last 30 at-bats and his .686 OPS is seriously hurting this team. We wrote back on May 1 that Sexson was not this team's biggest trouble spot and that the team could give him another month. Not at this rate. It looks like the suspension threw his timing off but he was not doing all that great beforehand. He needs to get it going on this trip. There are not a whole lot of options to replace him with at the moment. So, to answer your question, there is no backup plan. Not when you're paying a guy $14 million. Some of you would like to stick Raul Ibanez at first base and that's a last-ditch option, I suppose, if Jeremy Reed shows he can play the outfield every day. But that's shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. The truth is, without Sexson getting his bat going again, this team is done. And if he can't get it going, those who want Bill Bavasi gone will have their prime ammunition for it.


Q: Why in the world do you believe that evaluating a player by throwing out his accomplishments in blow outs is valid? Are you going to credit Clement and Wlad for not wasting hits when they didn't do well in blowouts? Or dock Wilkerson for his performance?

-- Jakob


A: No, nothing that radical. And Balentien did hit a fourth home run I forgot about in a winning cause against Texas one day. But breaking down the homers was done to underscore a point that Balentien's other numbers, namely a .265 on-base percentage, have been pretty bad. Without the three useless dingers, you'd all be looking at him as a sub-.600 OPS hitter and in the same boat as Clement and Jose Vidro. Yes, it's nice to see some power from Balentien. But he's been an all-or-nothing guy so far. Aside from the home runs in mostly lost causes, he's done very little to help the team. More than Clement. But not all that much more. His defense has been adequate, not great.


Q: Nice attempt at an argument on keeping Vidro around. Now I'd like to see an argument along the same lines for Cairo.

--Joe


A: OK, let's try:

Clement .167/.286/.250
Cairo .188/.278/.219

Um, let's see. Cairo has him in batting average, but loses the OPS race based solely on that misjudged triple Clement had bounce his way in Texas? And Cairo plays multiple positions and has some speed. Oh yeah, and he has one more game-winning hit. How's that? Not great? Yeah, I know. Seriously, this is an argument I can't get my heart around. You got me. Clement should be recalled and installed as the second pinch-runner ASAP.


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May 19, 2008 2:44 PM

Clement, Reed, Vidro and other fun

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Now, that's a hotel room view. Just arrived here in Detroit and am in my room on the 58th floor of the downtown Renaissance Center, which served as the building used for police headquarters during filming of the 1980s movie Robocop. You can see Comerica Park off in the distance and, just to the right of it, Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions (and where the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl two years ago).

Nice to get off the plane and see our comments thread pushing 100 even before 2 p.m. Pacific time. On an off-day at that. Many of you are charged-up. Some need a little de-amping, but that's nothing unusual on this blog anymore, is it?

I think the big disconnect some of us have, or, more specifically, some of you have with what I write is the tendancy I see among those writing in to view things in extremes. Many of you want to see Jeremy Reed playing left field and Raul Ibanez as the DH. You don't want to see Jose Vidro as a full-time DH any more and feel that Jeff Clement will ultimately be a solid, everyday contributor.

The funny thing is, we all share similar beliefs. It's just the degrees of change we disagree on. Many of you want to see those moves happening yesterday. Or, in the next five minutes. What I've tried to share on this blog with you the past 15 months, if nothing else, is that real life major league baseball is not a game of Strat-O-Matic or MLB 2K8. Changes rarely happen as instantly as fans would like to see and there are reasons behind that. I tried to point some of these things out to you last August when the Adam Jones drama unfolded, telling you that few teams were going to pull hot-hitting veterans out of a lineup in order to give playing time to a rookie outfielder who could have the growing pains we're seeing from both Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien. Not to mention Jones himself in Baltimore this year. Tried to tell you that over a small period of time, in the heat of a playoff race, the stakes become higher and rookies won't always have a fair evaluation time before the need to get it done takes priority. That and the possibility of "losing the clubhouse" in the event Jones was a short-term bust made for a compelling case for not using him as a regular. That's ultimately the course the team took. And when its season fell apart, offense had little to do with it. Defense played a small part, but ultimately it was a junky starting rotation and burned out bullpen that cost Seattle its season.

Two weeks ago, I told you that Clement and Balentien were not going to have the usual grace periods to get their games going, if they were going to help this club. Told you it wasn't fair to either of them, but that's life. Some of you paid attention, others continued to argue that it wasn't fair. Again, I agree with you that it's not fair. I agree with those of you continuing to re-hash the same argument today, as if it's going to make any difference whatsoever in changing unfair reality. No, it's not fair that Clement only had 15 games to prove himself. Right. Agreed. Let's move on. This sentiment has nothing to do with the realities behind why Clement was optioned back to Class AAA.

Clement and Balentien were brought up here to help the team get better. They have not done this. Balentien is a marginal-to-decent improvement over Brad Wilkerson, so that's why he stays for now. That and there aren't many options left to replace him with. But take away a few meaningless home runs in games all lost by his team -- one was a three-run homer in the seventh inning of an 8-0 game, the other a two-run shot in the eighth inning of a 10-6 contest and the final one a solo blast in the ninth inning of a 4-1 affair -- and that .453 slugging percentage all of a sudden doesn't look so hot in front of a terrible .265 on-base percentage. So, while Balentien has not been an all-out flop, he's hardly tearing it up for a team that needs more offense out of its power positions when it matters.

In Clement's case, he did nothing to better the numbers that Vidro had put up in the DH spot before him. Since Clement and Balentien were called up, the team has gone 5-13 and dropped 7 1/2 games out of the division lead. On the day the pair was called up, the M's were 13-14 and only 3 1/2 games out. So, the season has gone downhill in a hurry.

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May 19, 2008 7:26 AM

Pitchers do their jobs

Posted by Geoff Baker

Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez did exactly what they had to do this weekend and the result is, the Mariners head off on this road trip still only 7 1/2 games out of first place. Could have been a whole lot worse. Bedard stepped up in the best way possible, delivering that eight-inning quality start we'd written on Saturday that this team needed badly.

Hernandez had his best outing in a month and looked certain to go seven frames had he not hurt his calf muscle.

The end result was that "one-two punch" not seen in a while. It proved just enough to give this offense a chance to come back in both contests.

So, that's back-to-back wins for the first time in a month. That's three wins in four for Seattle, all comebacks in which the offense helped pick-up the pitchers and vice-versa. Team baseball. And that's the first series win for the M's after eight straight defeats.


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May 18, 2008 4:33 PM

Felix Hernandez experienced tightness in his calf

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren said he knew Hernandez wouldn't want to leave the game after the sixth inning, but he didn't give his pitcher the choice. Hernandez's calf was tight, something he said began with his warm-up pitches earlier in the game, perhaps the third inning he said. He threw 91 pitches in six innings, struck out five and walked one.

Hernandez said after the game he didn't expect the tightness would cost him a start. McLaren didn't expect that would be the case either.

"I don't think so," McLaren said when asked if Hernandez might miss a start. "You know him, he wanted to stay out there. I knew he was going to fight me on it, but I was going to have to win this battle. Like I said, he means too much for us. We don't think it's serious, but it's something that if he altered his pitching delivery or something, he might do something to himself.

"We'll monitor this day by day, and hopefully with a little treatment, a little rest, he's going to be fine. We'll know something more Tuesday."

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May 18, 2008 4:16 PM

Jeff Clement optioned to Triple A Tacoma

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Jeff Clement was sent down to Tacoma following Sunday's game against San Diego.

The Mariners will make the corresponding move to replace Clement before they begin their three-game series in Detroit on Tuesday.

Outfielder Jeremy Reed was seen entering the Mariners clubhouse after Sunday's game. Presumably, he will be the player who replaces Clement, but no move will be officially made until later this week.

Jose Vidro will resume the role as the team's designated hitter as he's recovered from a sore back. Vidro pinch-hit in the eighth inning on Sunday and singled to start the Mariners' rally.

Here's general manager Bill Bavasi's explanation of what prompted moving Clement to Tacoma:

"Right now, he needs more at-bats than we think we can give him with Vidro healthy now. He's had a bit of a struggle here. But he's too good a prospect to not be playing every day. It's not more complicated than that. A young guy, comes up, struggles, gets knocked back down, comes back up and goes to the Hall of Fame."
    -- Bill Bavasi

Clement played in 15 games for the Mariners. He batted .167 and struck out in 20 of his 48 at-bats.

Clement was asked about the mindset he'll take going back down to Tacoma.

"Get back to what I was doing when I was successful," Clement said. "It was a great opportunity to come here and play. You've got to have results here, and I didn't. That's all there is to it."

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May 18, 2008 1:24 PM

Running game thread

Posted by Danny O'Neil

BACK 2 BACK: The Mariners have won consecutive games for the first time since April 20 and 22.

FOUR SCORE? Not on Sunday. The Mariners won 3-2, the first time all season they have won a game in which they scored fewer than four runs. They were 0-17 when scoring three or less before Sunday's victory.

VIDRO: Jose Vidro entered the game in the eighth inning, pinch hitting for Willie Bloomquist. He singled up the middle, Seattle's third hit of the game.

SHORT ON SUPPORT: Felix Hernandez has been replaced by Sean Green. Hernandez threw 91 pitches in six innings, the only runs he allowed coming on a two-run homer from Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth. Hernandez struck out five, walked one, but he left the game with the Mariners behind 2-1. The lack of run support has not been unusual in Hernandez's starts. The Mariners have not scored more than two runs in any of the previous four games Hernandez started.

GONZO-LEZ: Adrian Gonzalez homered for the second time in two games against the Mariners. Once again, it was a two-run homer. Once again, he hit it in the fourth inning. On Saturday night, he went to the opposite field off Erik Bedard. On Sunday afternoon, he pulled a two-run homer to right field, hitting it into the terrace-level seats next to the Hit It Here Cafe to give San Diego a 2-1 lead.

GRAND THEFT ICHIRO: Ichiro stole second base with one out in the bottom of the first, his 291st stolen base as a Mariner. That sets a franchise record, surpassing the previous mark of 290 set by Julio Cruz. Ichiro stole third on the next pitch. He was going on a pitch that got away from catcher Luke Carlin. There was no throw.

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May 18, 2008 12:10 PM

Sunday's lineup

Posted by Danny O'Neil

1. Ichiro, CF
2. Adrian Beltre, 3B
3. Jose Lopez, 2B
4. Raul Ibanez, DH
5. Kenji Johjima, C
6. Richie Sexson, 1B
7. Wladimir Balentien, RF
8. Willie Bloomquist, LF
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

No Jeff Clement as he's out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game.

Before the game, manager John McLaren said that Jose Vidro is getting close to be ready to return.

"He’s been getting better every day," McLaren said. "He feels like he’s close to 100 percent."

He will start out as DH, and McLaren was asked how he figures to balance that spot in the lineup.

"We’ll keep him in the mix," McLaren said. "We’ll keep him in the mix."

That will be an interesting situation, especially considering Clement's role and his struggles since being called up. But McLaren said it's really the fact of having three catchers -- Kenji Johjima, Jamie Burke and Clement -- that forces some tough decisions.

"It’s even tougher having three catchers really," McLaren said. "I’ve been told he [Clement] hits better when he catches or is in the field. You’ve got Joh starting to swing the bat and we have Burke, who has done a pretty good job every time he’s caught. That has been a lot of discussions, too. How do we use these guys?"

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May 17, 2008 11:07 PM

Post-game summary from John McLaren

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Here's a link to the audio from manager John McLaren after Saturday's 4-2 victory over San Diego.

At the end he goes into an explanation that he feels Adrian Beltre takes great pride in his role as a leader of the Latin players on the roster, but that he wants to make sure Beltre takes care of himself and really gets himself going.

Beltre was asked about that after the game.

"I think it's two different subjects," Beltre said. "To go and help the young guys play the game right and how to handle themselves has nothing to do with what I'm going to do on the field. I appreciate his concern, but it's two different subjects. I don't mind at all."

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May 17, 2008 10:00 PM

Erik Bedard: Frugal with his answers

Posted by Danny O'Neil

"He was dealing tonight," manager John McLaren said of his starter Erik Bedard. No argument there. He struck out a season-high 10, had two different stretches in which he retired seven in a row and didn't allow a hit in the final four innings he pitched.

How'd he do it in the same week that he lasted only two innings on the mound in Texas? Well, if something changed, he wasn't real forthcoming with that. Here's the transcript of his interview. As you can see by the length, it didn't take a whole lot of time to compile:

[Author's note: These were not compiled with any sort of passive-aggressive swipe at Bedard. This was the first time this specific reporter was ever involved in an interview with Bedard. It's his prerogative how to answer questions. I thought people would be interested in his answers and that's the only reason I posted them. -- Danny O'Neil.]

Q: What was your approach to the game tonight? The Padres were complimenting you before the game on your aggressiveness.

Bedard: Just trying to throw strikes.

Q: Ten [strikeouts] tonight.

Bedard: Yeah. It doesn’t matter. As long as we get the win at the end of the game, that’s all that matters.

Q: Double digits, though, you have to feel a little bit good about that. Give yourself a little credit.

Bedard: Not really.

Q: You had trouble getting into a rhythm in Texas. Were you able to get into that rhythm tonight?

Bedard: Just trying to throw strikes and get ahead and get ‘em off balance.

Q: More movement on your fastball this game?

Bedard: The same. Same as usual.

Q: Any pitch that was more effective tonight?

Bedard: (Shakes his head).

--- End of transcript ---

Not real compelling stuff there. In absence of insight from the man himself, we'll turn to the player who caught his pitches on Saturday night, catcher Jamie Burke:

"His ball was cutting a little bit more tonight," Burke said. "He just had some good movement on his fastball today and that was a key for him and obviously being able to throw the curveball for strikes and then getting it down when he needed to."

OK. That helps us understand just how Bedard was so effective.

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May 17, 2008 7:19 PM

Running game thread

Posted by Danny O'Neil

9:14 p.m.: Richie Sexson struck out in the eighth, his third strikeout, and his averaged dipped back down below .200.

We interrupt the game thread: To say that I'll be assembling the nuts-and-bolts of my game story, which is apparently going to take me longer given my lack of familiarity with the team. The game's moving at a fast clip and I'm afraid I've fallen behind in my story. I'll be back after the game.

Bottom 4th: Ichiro flied out to right field to end the inning as the Mariners left runners on first and third. Seattle trails by one, and they've left six runners on base through four innings, five of them in scoring position.

Top 4th: Somebody's gotta' get Tadahito Iguchi a primer on baseball guidelines. I mean, I'm no expert being that my primary job is covering the NFL. But even I know that a runner on second doesn't try to go to third on a ground ball to the left side of the infield, which is what Iguchi did after doubling to lead off the fourth. Not only that, but he made the first out of the inning at third base -- also a no-no, right? -- when Yuniesky Betancourt scooped up Brian Giles' ground ball and threw Iguchi out at third. And then all that was rendered totally inapplicable when Adrian Gonzalez went and hit a 2-2 pitch the other way for a two-run homer to left field.

3rd inning: If you blinked it was over. Well, maybe not quite that fast, but Erik Bedard needed only seven pitches to induce a pair of fly balls to centerfield and then a liner to left. He's retired seven consecutive batters after allowing those pair of singles in the first inning. San Diego's Randy Wolf got through that third inning with only nine pitches.

Bottom 2nd: One single and two fielder's choices put Wladimir Balentien on third base with two outs. Ichiro went to first after being hit by a pitch and the fans here at Safeco Field started booing when one of Randy Wolf's pitches pushed Adrian Beltre off the plate. Hard to imagine Wolf wanted another runner aboard ... but anyway. Nothing like an inside pitch to make fans grumble. Beltre made the final out of the inning with a fielder's choice.

Top 2nd: Now that was an efficient half-inning by Bedard. He threw 16 pitches of which only five were called balls. He struck out two batters, giving him three strikeouts and no walks through those first two innings.

Bottom 1st: Ichiro singled, reached second on a fielder's choice and then stole third. It was his 290th stolen base as a Mariner, which matches the franchise record held by Julio Cruz. He scored on Raul Ibanez's double to left field. It was the first time in four games the Mariners scored in their first at-bat.

Top 1st: Erik Bedard allowed singles to two of the Padres' first three hitters, but got out of the inning on a pretty bizarre double play in which Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive toward second base that Jose Lopez leaped to catch, only to bobble the ball, nearly catch it again, and then had it drop. But he stepped on second based, forcing out Brian Giles and threw to third where Adrian Beltre tagged out Scott Hairston.

Bedard threw 15 pitches in the first inning.

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May 17, 2008 6:13 PM

Jamie Burke catching Erik Bedard Saturday, Johjima DH

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Kenji Johjima remains in the lineup along with his six-game hitting streak. He is batting No. 5 on Saturday while Jose Lopez moves to the third spot in the order, Adrian Beltre is at No. 2 and Richie Sexson is hitting sixth.

Jamie Burke is catching, which is becoming the norm when Bedard starts. Saturday will be the fourth time in Bedard's last five starts Burke has been behind the plate. Now, Bedard has only six starts with the Mariners this season -- too small a sample size to draw any conclusions -- but he has been more effective with Burke catching than Johjima. Here's a look at the numbers:

Johjima catchingWLERAKsBB
3 games108.181212
J.Burke catchingWLERAKsBB
3 games121.31156

 

Now, that note should also include the caveat that the starts with Johjima were earlier in the season. Bedard is known to start seasons slowly and he was also having trouble with his hip earlier. Still, the disparity is pretty striking.

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May 17, 2008 10:06 AM

A team that loses together

Posted by Geoff Baker

I'll make this short and sweet. I'm off this weekend, having covered plenty of games consecutively the past two weeks and facing more on the road this coming week. Some of you have, snidely as usual, written in that you want to see me lambaste Miguel Batista for not standing up and facing the music after helping his team lose last night. Not sure why some of you want to make this an issue. You yawned when it came up with Erik Bedard this spring, leaped to the defense of Felix Hernandez this week and now have it with Batista. Why are you all so surprised? I'm not. If a 22-year-old can brush off hard-working media relations employees asking him to show some accountability, why should a 37-year-old veteran have to go out of his way? Hey, this is the team some of you asked for. Judge them on performance, you said. OK, here goes: Batista's performance stinks. It stank last night and has continued to stink for much of the season. He is letting his team down.

How do other teams react to this? One of you pointed out what's going on with Billy Wagner and the New York Mets. Wagner called out his teammates in New York for ducking post-game interviews and leaving it to him and others to stand up in their place.

"Somebody tell me why the...the closer is being interviewed and I didn't even play,'' he said, appearing to motion to the empty lockers of Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran. "Why are they over there and not being interviewed? Oh, I've got it. They're gone ... shocker."

Wagner apologized on Friday, the day after his remarks. But the intention behind what he said was clear. Paul Lo Duca had similar criticisms last year when he was the Mets' catcher. Neither enjoys teammates leaving it to him to answer for them. They expect to see some accountability, not to the media, but to them. To the team. Remember, the team concept? No individuals leaving others to clean up their mess? That is what Wagner has said in a rare unveiling of what goes on behind the scenes on a baseball club. This is how teams think. Anyone who's hung around a major league team for any length of time knows this. They don't like players leaving them to face the music for them. The San Francsico Giants could not stand this about Barry Bonds towards the end of his stint. But that's the extreme example. Much smaller episodes can irk just as much within a clubhouse. I've seen it before. Good teams stand behind one another. Very few ballplayers like teammates who pull this stuff. I've talked to Mariners who do not like this. But who knows? Maybe it is OK for Mariners to do this. After all, who the heck is Carlos Delgado, or Carlos Beltran anyway? What did their franchise do in 2001?

All I can say is, Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard have two days to turn this team around. No more seeing pitchers bury their squad before a game is even three innings old. Or else, this team had better get prepared to hit the road and face a season with far more losses than anyone -- you, me, USS Mariner, Lookout Landing, Detect-O-Vision -- ever dreamed possible. This whole facing the media thing is only a small part of what's going on with this club. But for me, it's pretty indicative of a larger problem and why this team can't seem to mesh as a unit. If you can't stand up for one another off the field, how in the heck is a group of guys going to do it -- get all facets of the game working at the same time -- on the field?

Go ahead. Let's hear you thoughts.


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May 16, 2008 11:04 PM

Mariners-Padres post-game

Posted by Bob Condotta

Pretty bleak clubhouse after this one.

Mariner manager John McLaren had so little to say, and reporters so little to ask, that his post-game press conference lasted one minute and 50 seconds.

Reporters, however, were assuming that Miguel Batista would be available to speak, as is usually the case for a starting pitcher. But he was gone before McLaren finished and before reporters got into the clubhouse and while a few other players milled about, no one really had much to say.

Batista was the biggest story tonight as he again struggled out of the gate, allowing three runs in the first inning tonight after giving up two in the first of each of his previous starts.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said he thought Batista had a good warmup --- he noted Batista threw about 10 more pitches than normal, though he wasn't real sure why --- and was surprised he struggled.

About all he could come up with is that he thinks Batista has trouble trusting his stuff early in games and tries to be too fine, which leads to a lot of pitches overall --- he threw 29 in the first inning tonight.

Seattle never could catch up after the Padres took a 3-0 lead and while the offense did get four runs, it was stagnant after the third, getting just four hits, all singles.

The only real highlights were two hits by Raul Ibanez, raising his average to .305, and a two-run homer and two hits by Kenji Johjima, who is now at .236 after standing at .184 a week ago.

Ichiro snapped an 0-16 skid but also struck out with no outs and a man on in the ninth against Trevor Hoffman, seeming to take the air out of the place after the fans got into it when Jose Vidro led off with a single. Ichiro is hitting .272 for the season and if there is anything disconcerting it is that May is traditionally his month --- he has a .366 career average in May, the best of any month.

And Jose Lopez, moved back to the No. 5 spot, went 0-4 to snap a seven-game hitting streak.

It was the eighth eighth loss in the last 10 for the Mariners, and 13th in 16, and dropped them 11 games under .500.

The Mariners were 18-17 a year ago today, two games out of first place.

Tonight, they fell to 16-27, still the worst in the AL and ahead of only Colorado in all of baseball.


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May 16, 2008 5:47 PM

Mariners vs. Padres, May 16, game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

M'S DROP ANOTHER ONE --- A tough loss as the Mariners couldn't turn that win in Texas two days ago into a streak. Good news is Bedard and Felix the next two nights. Bad news is a loss to a team that was the worst in the NL (Colorado now holds that distinction).

ONE LAST CHANCE --- Jose Vidro pinch hits to lead off the ninth, and gets a single, with his back apparently well enough to hit.

ATTENDANCE IS 35,586 --- Some likely lured by the J.J. Putz bobblehead, others by the weather, and others simply by the fact that this is what they have come to expect to do come mid-May. But they may leave this night with little to remember but those dolls.

CLEMENT DOWN TO .170 --- Jeff Clement has now struck out three times tonight and his average was down to .170 before that K in the eighth.

THE OLD 9-5-3-6-2 --- That was the official scoring decision on the out that ended San Diego's top of the eighth, and that could turn out to be a big run denied if the Mariners can get something of their own going.

ICHIRO SNAPS 0-16 STREAK --- With a single to left to start the seventh.

YOUNG OUT --- Chris Young is now out for the Padres and Cla Meridith, who really ought to have a Y in his name, in.

BATISTA STRUGGLES --- He finished allowing six runs and nine hits in 5.1 innings. He has now allowed 16 runs in 20 innings in May, which is historically one of his better months. The Mariner press notes include a rather obscure stat that Batista has the third-largest decrease in ERA in May among active pitchers, from 5.32 in April to 4.04 in May. Probably not this year, however.

WEIRD PLAY --- San Diego gets a 2-1-4 putout on that play in the last inning where catcher Josh Bard lost and then dropped a high pop up from Sexson. It's 5-4 entering the sixth and Ryan Rowland-Smith is warming up, likely to take over soon for Batista.

BATISTA BARELY HANGING ON --- Batista has thrown 89 pitches through five innings, allowed eight hits, five for extra bases, walked two and hit one. But he's stayed in the game due to a few timely outs, such as the nice over-the-railing catch by Beltre that ended last inning. If the M's can get a couple of runs here he could get a win out of a performance that's been pretty ugly overall.

STEALING TIME --- Ichiro's steal there in the fourth didn't amount to much as the rally fizzled, leaving the score at 5-4. But it did give Ichiro 47 stolen bases against NL teams, the most in the history of Interleague play.

HANGING IN --- The bats are heating up with the temperature here as it's 5-4 at the end of three innings. It's taken 1:05 to play the first three innings --- it took just 2:23 to play the entire game here last Friday when the White Sox won 4-2.

RIGHT BACK IN IT --- Shades of the old "two outs, so what'' days there as the Mariners get three runs after two were out, including a homer by Johjima whose hot streak continues. He is now 10 for his last 22. But the inning ended in disappointing fashion as Beltre struck out with the bases loaded, leaving it 4-3 San Diego.

SO MUCH FOR THE MOMENTUM OF THE TEXAS WIN --- Okay, so there are eight innings to go. But the early returns here tonight aren't encouraging that there will be any carry-over of the win in Texas on Wednesday, which McLaren said before the game was one of the most important of the season. It's 3-0 Padres and the Mariners went three up, three down. Ichiro is now 0 for his last 16.

OUCH --- Tough start to this one as Miguel Batista gave up three runs on three hard hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. He entered the game with a 6.14 ERA in May (10 runs in 14.2 innings) and will need to do some work now to keep that from not going up even more tonight. The crowd grew restless early, booing after the third batter of the game.

PRE-GAME --- Bob Condotta here filling in for Geoff.

First, the lineup tonight for the Mariners

Ichiro, CF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Richie Sexson, 1B
Jeff Clement, DH
Kenji Johjima, C
Wladimir Balentein, RF
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

As you can see, Sexson is back after his five-game suspension, and manager John McLaren said before the game he hopes the time off will help Sexson get on a roll.

Also, Jose Vidro is again out of the lineup, still dealing with back issues. When McLaren spoke to us before batting practice he said Vidro was seeing the doctor. He said he expected that Vidro will be able to pinch-hit tonight if needed. Vidro has missed seven of the last nine games with back spasms.

That means Clement and Johjima are together in the linenup, something McLaren said he thinks could happen regularly against left-handers. The M's tonight face righty Chris Young.

I was out here last Friday and Johjima was on the bench, mired in a slump. But he's played the five games since then, going 9-21, .429, to raise his average from .184 to .227. McLaren said he thinks Johjima was trying too hard and thinks he's beginning to turn it around now.

In fact, he said he thinks the whole team may have found something with the 12-inning win at Texas that on Wednesday, saying that could be the game were the "worm turned.''

"Now this is our type of weather,'' he said. "And we had a huge game the other day. ... Now we're looking to get back to winning two out of three, two out of three, two out of three, and start gaining some momentum, and hopefully some of the other teams in our division start struggling a little big and we start gaining on them and get even and we go from there.''

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May 16, 2008 9:17 AM

Playing together

Posted by Geoff Baker

What a terrible past week for the Mariners, huh? I mean, heck, it's already May 16. If you look back at the standings from a week ago, you'll see that those freefalling Mariners managed to blunder their way into...gaining a half-game on the division leaders.

What was that, you say?

You betcha. The M's were eight games out a week ago. This morning, they are 7 1/2 back, despite how poorly they've played. It was about a week ago that I told some of you to go perch yourselves on the cliff, but have yet to give the order to jump. I did write that if the M's were going to lose to the White Sox and Rangers, which they clearly did, then you're all on your own and could make a choice to bail. I'm sure there was some spalshing this past week. But for those of you still atop the cliff, weird as this game can be, the M's are actually better off today than they were a week ago.

For that, you can thank the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's. The Angels went 2-5 during that stretch while the A's were 1-5. Seattle went 2-4, so there you have it. Picked up a game on second-place Oakland and a half-game on the Angels. What does it all mean? Nothing for the M's if they can't get their act together. That it took them depleting their entire bench and bullpen just to score four runs and finally win a game in Texas isn't inspring much confidence on this end. But let's face it. If the M's get it together and do what they should do to the San Diego Padres, all of a sudden, the gap closes to possibly a half-dozen games. From there, they hit the road to Detroit and New York, not a pushover trip, but the fact is both teams are last in their respective divisions. Might as well catch them now. In other words, this M's team has been granted a stay of execution. Either that, or it has more lives than Morris the Cat driving backwards on the freeway at 100 mph.

This team should be about a dozen or more games behind. It isn't yet. The rest is up to the Mariners. I wrote a story yesterday about whether the team has a problem with clubhouse leadership and chemistry, based on there being so many different personalities from all corners of the world, speaking different native languages. The players and GM Bill Bavasi don't think it's an issue. They say the clubhouse is together and that this is a team that sticks by one another. Well, it's time to prove it. Frankly, they may be right, but I hadn't really seen this group play like a team until that final game in Texas.


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May 15, 2008 12:20 PM

A look at Jose Lopez

Posted by Geoff Baker

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I walked up to Jose Lopez yesterday morning and greeted him with a line I've never used before.

"I want to write a good story about you,'' I told him.

Lopez looked at me with surprise. He isn't used to very many of those any more. Two nights earlier, he'd stood grittily by his locker and answered questions about how he'd helped blow a game with an error that indirectly led to four runs by the Texas Rangers. Didn't make someone else come out and face the music for him, which teammates, by the way, almost universally detest doing for a guy.

I haven't had many nice things to say about Lopez the past 11 months or so, either. Part of me wasn't certain he'd get another chance with the team this season after what he did last year, when he was one of the worst everyday players in the major leagues. He got a pass on some of that, rightfully so, after continuing to play every day despite the June death of his brother in a motorcycle accident.

Beginning this season, I wasn't sold on Lopez as an everyday player. If you check the ballot box from our spring training supplement, you'll see I ticked off the "No'' box when it came to the Lopez question. He still makes mistakes in the field that will blow your mind from time to time. That make you think he isn't paying attention to the game.

But those, the other night aside, have decreased as May rolls along. And what has returned, at least so far, is the bat we saw from Lopez the first two thirds of the 2006 season. It's not his .315 batting average that has me impressed. He's been up near .300 for much of the year, but it was an empty .300.

Not so much right now.

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May 14, 2008 9:46 PM

One for the road

Posted by Geoff Baker

Very sorry for how long it's taken me to post about the game. I've had a very tight work schedule today and am now back in Seattle, believe it or not, after covering today's game. I had a feature-length story I had to basically write this afternoon as well as the game story. Not to mention a flight out of Texas that left at 6:40 p.m. local time. When the 4-3 win by the Mariners over the Texas Rangers went 12 innings and finished just before 5 p.m., it naturally had me scurrying. We don't get in to the clubhouse until 10 minutes after the game ends, so I had to scramble for some interviews, run upstairs, and finish writing the game story.

I was at my car by 5:25 p.m., then had to drive to the airport, through some rush hour traffic, drop the rental car off, take the shuttle over to the terminal, clear security and still make it for my on-time flight. Not really sure how I did it. I think a couple of traffic violations may have helped. Sorry, no video this time. Too much hurrying and would have been too dangerous to show you a real "getaway day" under pressure. But if you saw the last video, you'll know this was no cakewalk.

So, anyway, the Mariners did salvage the win today, with Miguel Cairo -- of all people -- coming through with that single in the 12th. And then there was Jarrod Washburn notching the save, allowing a walk in the 12th, but otherwise coming through. Washburn told me he's been working out with the bullpen guys the past two days. The M's decided earlier in the week to bump back his next start. With some off-days coming up, most of the rotation would have been working on seven days' rest at some point had the M's not pushed back somebody. So, Washburn was available out of the bullpen to notch his first career save.

"The adrenaline and stuff is a lot different,'' Washburn said of working in relief. "The rush you get from just being out there.''

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May 14, 2008 1:15 PM

Mariners at Texas Rangers: 05/14 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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1:15 p.m.: Carlos Silva left today's game with mild lower back tightness. But his team leads 3-2 as we enter the bottom of the eighth, having escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the seventh on that double-play ball attained by Arthur Rhodes. It's rare to see this team pick up a teammate like the M's have done for Silva so far, scoring twice in the seventh to take the lead. This type of stuff has been lacking all season.

11:22 a.m.: We're back up, finally. I've got a ton of work to do here today and a feature due out in our paper for tomorrow, so my comments in-game are going to be sparse. I can tell you the Mariners' coaching staff had another long meeting with GM Bill Bavasi behind closed doors today. They are not happy with the defense, which committed four errors last night. They are making some re-adjustments to outfielder positioning -- hoping it will cut down on all those runners going first-to-third on singles. The outfielders will be playing more shallow than usual. If a ball gets over their heads, the attitude of the team now is so be it. They simply don't want all those extra bags taken.

Jeff Clement is in at catcher today. Kenji Johjima and his hot bat are at DH. Jamie Burke is the odd man out. Burke has been losing some playing time. The M's hope that Clement not having to DH all the time will help get his bat going.

On Felix Hernandez from last night. Those of you suggesting this is about me needing a quote from Hernandez to fill a story up are a tad off-base. It took twice as long for me to write that story the way I did than to simply plug in a few dial-a-quotes from the pitcher. This is about accountability. I find it hilarious that so many of you are quick to write in demanding answers for this season's failures, but are more than willing to let players slide when they feel they don't owe any. You'll have to make up your minds, please. You either want answers, or you don't. Can't have it both ways.

This is about accountability. We hear the M's constantly talking about how they are all accountable to one another. Then show it. A pitcher who is accountable does not leave it to his catchers to continuously answer questions about their performance. A pitcher who is accountable to his teammates does not place them at risk during a brawl by trying to continue it when he knows darned well those same teammates will never let him get within 20 feet of any serious punches.

Hernandez has not been accountable all week. To the media, his team's staffers, or his teammates. Performance-wise, his bullpen-weary club needed seven or eight innings last night. Not six.

If it irks some of you (and a few emails are telling me it does) that I am writing this about your favorite player, then so be it. Hernandez is certainly not the worst problem on this team. We've already identified plenty of those on a daily basis. But Hernandez hasn't helped his team much these last three starts when it truly mattered either. And he is 22. If a 22-year-old feels he doesn't have to be accountable to his teammates, figuring he can just trot Burke or whoever out there to do their talking for them, or prolong brawls on the field, then what does it say about the rest of this team's comfort level? Tells me it's a team that's a little too comfortable.

Who exactly are the Mariners, as an organization, accountable to? The fans? The media? Themselves? Who? If you can't handle these questions being asked, then maybe you should stop asking me why this team has played so poorly. Want to know why the team extended Kenji Johjima for three years? Simple. Because they felt like it, OK? What's it to you?

So, tell me...are you happy with that answer?

I've tried this week to give you some insight into what is actually going on in this clubhouse.

I realize, by now, as most of you have, that this offense is far worse than I'd ever imagined. To those of you who predicted that, congratulations. You were right. I was wrong. Now, let's move on because your job is only half done.

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May 13, 2008 10:20 PM

M's lose again

Posted by Geoff Baker

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7:28 a.m.: It's now Wednesday morning. For all of you writing in, we've been having technical difficulties with the blog page since late last night, so we've posted last night's entry without the turn page so you can at least read it. The comments area is still down, but we hope to have it restored soon. Our apologies. No new blog posts until the problem is rectified. You can still catch my thoughts on my Talkin' Baseball segment on the Mitch in the Morning show on KJR AM 950 at 8:25 a.m.

A shot of Eddie Guardado, above, polishing off the M's in the ninth.

This is the eighth series in a row the Mariners will have failed to win, going down 5-2 tonight thanks largely to four errors by the Mariners and a catch not made in left field by Raul Ibanez. Ibanez dropping a Brandon Boggs double he had in his glove led to a second inning run for the Rangers. After the Mariners tied the game in the sixth, an Ibanez fielding error in the bottom of the inning helped the Rangers score the go-ahead marker.

Seattle nearly retook the lead in the eighth when Kenji Johjima was robbed at the center field wall by a leaping Josh Hamilton with Jose Lopez on base. But two more Seattle errors in the bottom of the inning helped put this one away as a Yuniesky Betancourt throw allowed Gerald Laird to reach first. An ensuing walk by Sean Green -- the sixth of the night issued by M's pitchers -- put two on and Wladimir Balentien promptly overran a single to right by Ramon Vazquez. That allowed one unearned run to score and another came home soon after on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler.

Guardado came on to notch the save and rub some salt in the wound. That's 12 losses in 14 games. This season is crashing through the floor.

"It puzzles me a lot,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said of all the errors piling up for his team this season. "Because I think it's one of the big strengths of our ballclub. When we're trying to build our team around pitching, we need our defense.''

Ibanez said the double by Brandon Boggs was a tough ball to corral -- and he's right about that -- because it was slicing. He thought he'd caught it, but it popped out of his glove. Not much to say about his error on the Gerald Laird single later on. He bobbled it and it cost his team the go-ahead and decisive run.

I know there will be calls for Ibanez to be moved to a DH role, especially with all of those Ken Griffey Jr. rumors floating around. All I can say is, at least he came out and answered the questions.

Ibanez stood up and talked for several minutes about his play tonight and the state of the team in general. I asked him about the mood of the clubhouse and how a team avoids being plagued by fingerpointing and other stuff as losses mount.

"I don't think that's going to happen here,'' he said. "We win together, lose together, and that's the belief in the clubhouse. Guys are sticking together well in here.''

Ibanez talking isn't enough to justify an argument for keeping him in the field if the M's think they have someone better -- like Jeremy Reed, perhaps. But he does keep on hitting. And moving him to a DH role right now may not be the best thing for his bat. That's up to the M's to decide. if they think his hitting overrides his defense, then they'll keep him there. So far, despite him not making the tough catch on Boggs, or the easy play on Laird's hit, I still don't think they see it as all that serious.

Would have liked to ask Felix Hernandez about a few things -- since he did not get the job done for a third straight outing. The team was shorthanded in the bullpen tonight, especially with a day game tomorrow, and needed more out of him than the six laborious innings it got. Five walks helped do Hernandez in.

But Hernandez, unlike Ibanez, again did his best to avoid the media for as long as he could. He's been doing it all week, since helping to ignite that brawl with the Rangers. This time, he ignored a media relations staffer's repeated, polite requests to come talk, purposely hanging out in an off-limits area for 45 minutes after the game until all but a Seattle radio reporter had left. Writers have deadlines and pitchers are made well aware of them and usually come out to speak quickly unless they are receiving treatment. Media members will rarely linger in a clubhouse more than a half-hour after a game. Players don't like it. Neither do we.

But Hernandez was being purposely difficult, making a team employee chase him around. He did the same stuff to other employees in spring training and, I've got to admit, it bugs me to see a 22-year-old allowed to do that. Bugs me that anyone would, especially putting out employees of his team doing their jobs. His team, not mine. I know how much talent Hernandez has, but he has accomplished very little in this game. And in 11 years of doing this, I've yet to see a 22-year-old pitcher act this way unless he's been badly burned by somebody. He hasn't been,.far as I know.

I got some Hernandez quotes run up to me from when he finally did emerge from hiding. But I'm not going to use them. He uttered something about keeping his team in the game, then insisted he was aggressively attacking the strike zone.

McLaren didn't think Hernandez was attacking the zone aggressively. The five walks Hernandez issued sort of back that theory up.

Whatever. They can fight it out. Hernandez is a struggling third-year starter on a last-place team. Wake me up when I'm supposed to care. All I know is, a lot of you write in here demanding accountability from this team and its players, especially considering how disappointing it's been.

I don't see a whole lot of accountability. Saw some from Ibanez tonight. Not from Hernandez. A guy in his early 20s. Apparently, he has no answering to do. Do the M's care? Who knows? Some of you won't care, and will try to dismiss this as a sour grapes media thing or a favoring vets over rookies thing. What can I tell you? It is what it is. Hernandez is what he is. I'm sure he'll be great someday. Then again, I thought the M's would be great this year. One never knows what the future holds.

Until that future materializes in a glowing way, it's always best to stay humble. Especially on a team that's 15-26. Have a good night. And Happy Felix Day!

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May 13, 2008 7:11 PM

Mariners at Texas Rangers: 05/13 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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7:44 p.m.: Tough break for Seattle in the eighth inning as Kenji Johjima came about a foot away from hitting a go-ahead two-run homer, only to be robbed at the wall by a leaping Josh Hamilton. That's the way things have gone for this team of late. One last chance for Seattle. Ichiro has a 12-game hitting streak on the line and will hit third in the ninth. Rangers still leading 3-2 as we enter the bottom of the eighth. Felix Hernandez was pulled, naturally, after the sixth. A slightly better effort from him and Raul Ibanez in the field tonight and Seattle might be leading.

A look, below, at Mariners GM Bill Bavasi watching his players taking batting practice earlier today.

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May 13, 2008 9:59 AM

Coming undone

Posted by Geoff Baker

For those of you who missed it last night, here's our latest Mariners road trip video, chronicling the journey from Seattle to Arlington, Texas:

On to some thoughts about the baseball team...

Forget about catching the Angels, who came back to win last night and snap a four-game losing streak. Don't worry too much about the Oakland A's, now 8 1/2 games up on Seattle after this latest Mariners loss, a 13-12 stinker to the Texas Rangers last night. Yeah, it would have been a feel-good win had Brandon Morrow managed to keep striking out everybody in sight. But the reality is, the M's were outscored 12-3 between the bottom of the first until the top of the ninth. A win in this game would have been a gift from the Baseball Gods.

But forget the Rangers, A's and Angels. The biggest foe this Mariners team is fighting right now comes from within its own clubhouse. And for all the calls I've seen for the ouster of manager John McLaren in recent weeks, some well-reasoned, others bordering on the ridiculous, these coming days will be a true test of his leadership abilities. McLaren alluded to it slightly in yesterday's pre-game session with reporters, about how "little things'' in the clubhouse had to be dealt with before becoming bigger. The manager suggested at the time that his staff had moved to quell any small brush fires and that the team was more together now. I'm not so sure that's the case.

Yes, there have been some team meetings. This team, if nothing else, is excellent at holding meetings. But that alone won't do it. You get the sense walking through that clubhouse that it is more of a collection of individual groups than one team streaking towards a common goal. Every clubhouse has its cliques, but for the M's, this is always going to be a particular challenge strictly because of the natural language barriers that exist. You glance around the clubhouse on any given day, you'll see the young relief pitchers off in one corner, the two middle infielders in another, sometimes holding court with Carlos Silva and Felix Hernandez, other times with Miguel Cairo. Miguel Batista will be off by himself. Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard, sometimes, in another corner. Ichiro off doing his own thing, which will usually involve intense pre-game stretching. Kenji Johjima off by himself. Cha Seung Baek off by himself. Adrian Beltre doing his own thing, though he'll also socialize with the middle infielders. Richie Sexson holding court with Willie Bloomquist and sometimes Jamie Burke.

There will be interminglers between the groups. J.J. Putz spends plenty of time with the young relievers, trying to help them feel as comfortable as he can. Putz is one guy who can roam freely around the clubhouse interacting with all the groups I just mentioned. Silva is another, who, despite Spanish being his first language, seems comfortable interracting with everyone. Raul Ibanez can do it as well. But this clubhouse will always have its challenges. And now, with 12 losses in the last 15 games, those challenges look more serious than ever.

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May 12, 2008 10:04 PM

Painful loss

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Texas fans, glum moments earlier, react in celebration as Ramon Vazquez is mobbed at home plate following a solo home run off Brandon Morrow in the 10th. Texas hands Seattle a 13-12 defeat. Sorry about the late post, but my newspaper obligations are right up against their deadline after that four-hour game and some things have to wait. Thanks for being patient.

John McLaren was not happy, obviously, with the pitching tonight.

"Our pitching didn't hold up tonight from the beginning to the end,'' he said. "It was a tough night tonight. A lot of base on balls.''

Erik Bedard didn't have it from the get-go. He didn't look in-sync with catcher Kenji Johjima, the game's hitting hero for the Mariners. But you have to overcome that. He was handed a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Bedard didn't blame anyone. Said nothing was working for him. And it wasn't.

McLaren didn't have Sean Green available and was saving J.J. Putz for later. Morrow had been mowing down hitters since coming on in the ninth, but Vazquez got hold of one.

"We had a 5-0 lead and with a pitcher like Bedard on the mound, you're going to win more of those than you lose,'' McLaren said. "It was just a shame we couldn't get a win.

"We're starting to swing the bats. We're coming around. We just had a rough night pitching.''

Johjima didn't make excuses, even though the wind likely wreaked havoc with some of the pitches and contributed to the 13 walks we saw from Seattle pitchers. For a brief moment, Johjima's season-long struggles at the plate were forgotten in that ninth inning. He was mobbed by teammates after hitting that three-run homer.

"I think they went off (in celebration) because a guy like me that was the goat for the past couple of weeks had hit his first home run,'' he said.

But it was soon forgotten. Vazquez, the former Mariner, is the same guy who hit that homer off J.J. Putz last July to snap his saves streak. He's bad news for the M's. Lots of bad news for this team. This one really hurt.

ballpark0512 028.jpg


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May 12, 2008 9:00 PM

Mariners at Texas Rangers: 05/12

Posted by Geoff Baker

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8:58 p.m.: Texas Rangers fans are in stunned disbelief, above, after a Kenji Johjima three-run homer with two out in the ninth and an 0-2 count, ties the game at 12-12. Johjima's blast came off Texas closer C.J. Wilson. A huge RBI double that inning by Raul Ibanez as well to get the M's back within three. Seattle's dugout erupted like I've never seen before when Johjima hit that ball. Any of you sending me those emails the past hour want to re-hire Bill Bavasi now? LOL. You all had him fired five minutes ago. Maybe five minutes from now, too. Let's see.

The Rangers had gone ahead 12-8 in the eighth, courtesy of four walks, three by Mark Lowe and one by Arthur Rhodes, to force in a pair of runs. The 13 walks issued by the M's is their most in a nine-inning game since they yielded 14 in July 2004. It is only the fifth time in club history they've allowed 13 or more. Hang on, it's not over yet. We're almost at a four-hour game and it's only the bottom of the ninth.

7:55 p.m.: Jose Lopez just cost his team four runs in the seventh inning, booting a ground ball that should have been the final out of the frame. Instead, his error gave the Rangers the go-ahead marker (the bases were loaded with two out) and an ensuing single to left by Josh Hamilton brought home two more runs. Pinch-hitter Frank Catalanotto then singled in another. It's now a 10-6 game, the Rangers in the lead. Things looking bleak indeed for Seattle. Tonight and overall. I watched Lopez's body language on that grounder. To me, even before the error, it looked like he was afraid of making a mistake. Yes, he had to range to his right a little. But a major league second baseman has to make that play. Mark Lowe should have been out of the inning tied 6-6.

I hope Ryan Rowland-Smith's mother wasn't streaming live on her MLB Extra Innings package from back in Australia in that inning. I don't think her son was offering friendly Aussie "G-day, mate!'' greetings to Ramon Vazquez of the Rangers after striking him out with runners at second and third. Vazquez dropped an "F" bomb or two, after which Rowland-Smith unleashed a torrent of unprintables clearly visible to the lip-reading public via television replay. No brawls this time. But the words were flying fast and furiously between the pair.

Here's the latest in our series of travel videos. Come join me as I fly from Seattle to Arlington, Texas earlier today. Catch the view of Mount Rainier out my airplane window. Afterwards, I'll show you footage of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium being built just up the road from here. For Crazy in the comments section, to answer your question, I use a Panasonic PV-GS83 digital video camera.

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May 12, 2008 1:40 PM

The long road home

Posted by Geoff Baker

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That's what the Mariners face, beginning tonight. Just arrived here at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, having caught a morning flight from Seattle. A very early morning flight. Been catching up on some of my reading today, including the debate over the winning percentage the Mariners will need to attain from here on in to reach 90+ wins and make the playoffs. You can't argue with Adam's logic. The numbers are there. They don't lie. I can tell you, the way these things are viewed by the players are in short-term increments. In other words, they'll see it as, win five in a row and all of a sudden, the winning percentage needed the rest of the year becomes smaller. I know, I know. It's still the same hurdle. But psychology is an important part of baseball. If we look at the standings on June 24 of last season, we find the M's were eight games behind the first place Angels. Seattle had whittled that down to two games by July 12, then to one game by July 20.

Of course, the M's never did catch the Angels. But they had their chances. Is it going to work that way again this year? I wouldn't bank on it. But if you're going to get yourself in an eight-game hole, the earlier in the season the better.

Seattle was a sub.-500 team on May 21 of last year, sitting at 19-21. But the M's still rebounded to win 88 games and that was with a late-August collapse.

Things are possible. Teams are often capable of playing better-than-.600 ball for prolonged stretches, as the Mariners did for three months last season. The thing is, once teams reach a certain level of confidence, they can start to reel off wins without being daunted by the prospect of having to play .640 or .650, or whatever between May and late-September.

What do the M's have to do? Right now, get back to being a .500 team. Get back to within four or five games of the division lead and worry about the math part later. I've seen plenty of teams up their games the final month or two and play .650 or better down the stretch. Teams in pennant races can often beat up on those playing out the string. Not all of those wins in a .650 percentage are created equal. But the M's are a long way from worrying about that.

They've got three games here and three more against a struggling San Diego squad after that. If you want to make up ground, this is where you start. It won't be easy. This team has already lost a lot of ground, perhaps too much. It's going to be a long road home.


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May 11, 2008 7:16 PM

Could have been worse

Posted by Geoff Baker

Not much worse, but worse nonetheless. The Mariners managed to finally come back and win a game in which they'd trailed by two or more runs, taking a 6-3 decision today after trailing 2-0 in the first. Seattle had been 0-19 once the other team achieved at least a two-run lead. The M's had only overcome the gap twice previously, losing both times in the end. Not this time.

I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to back away from the cliff. Stay there for a bit. This team finally managed to score four or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since April 20 and 22 (four runs each time). Problem is, it's May 11. That is ridiculous. No team with designs on winning even a Little League tournament can go three weeks between putting up consecutive run totals that don't even equate to league average. The time for being diplomatic is done. This team has to step it up.

That said, the Los Angeles Angels did the M's a favor by getting swept by Tampa Bay this weekend. Instead of being double-digits back of the Angels, the M's are "only'' seven games behind. That's pretty sad. But it isn't -- sigh! -- terminal just yet. I know, I know, it's about as bleak as you can get. The M's are also eight games behind division-leading Oakland. If you expect the A's to win the AL West, that's bad news. I don't expect that, so it isn't the end of the world to me.

Seattle is, however, up the proverbial creek with a splintered paddle. Seven or eight games out is not where you want to be at any point in the season -- let alone the second week in May. But it is still May. If this was the worst of the storm, the Mariners may have a shot -- may have a shot -- at getting back in this thing. But only if the starting rotation comes through in Texas this week and the offense finds away to score five runs in a game again.

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May 10, 2008 10:09 PM

Game thread

Posted by Jose Romero

Bottom 9th

Game over as Cairo makes last out.. 8-4 the final M's lose. Buenas noches amigos!


Top 9th

Mark Lowe has allowed a run to make it 8-4. Ryan Rowland-Smith is coming into pitch and the Go-Go Sox (1959 reference from the Minoso era -- what decade wasn't?) have runners at first and second with two out.

Bottom 7th

Man, tough luck strikes again. The White Sox escape a jam when P Octavio Dotel fakes the pickoff attempt, only to see Bloomquist going for second. His throw to Uribe at second is too late, but Ichiro is breaking for home on the play. Uribe fires to catcher Toby Hall and Ichiro is tagged out. Inning over.

Bottom 6th
Update III: Clement, who has struck out twice already,

Update II: Javier Vazquez is on the ropes as the Mariners are threatening to add more. First and third, one out, sacrifice fly for Lopez. 7-4 Sox.

Update: Beltre is the RBI man tonight. He comes through with a base hit up the middle to drive in both runners. It's 7-3 Sox.

A threat perhaps? Cairo singles, Ichiro doubles.


Top 6th

Washburn is out, Cha Seung Baek is in. Line on Washburn: 5 IP, 8 H, 7R, 2 BB, 3 K, 103 pitches.

Top 5th

It seems Ibanez is having a tough night. First the ball he couldn't get to a ball in left field in the second, and now a grounder ("hot smash," as Harry Caray used to call 'em) down the line that he let get by him for an RBI triple.
7-1 Sox.


Bot 4th

We want the funk! We need the funk! They certainly do. And Beltre just provided some with a solo home run. 6-1 Chicago.


Top 3rd

A silver lining: Nice throw from Balentien in RF to Beltre at 3B to Lopez at 2B and they get Joe Crede trying to go from first to second on a single. No further damage as Washburn gets Anderson to pop out.

Top 2nd
Carlos Quentin has hit a two-run HR off Washburn. Make it 6-0 Chicago. They are hitting Washburn hard, and the boos are raining down.


Well, here we go again. This is how it's been going for the M's these days. Three-run bomb by Brian Anderson gives ChiSox (does anyone call them that anymore?) a 3-0 lead. That rhythm Washburn had in the first is more like a groove, as in grooving the pitch right over the heart of the plate, for the opposing team. He went to 3-1 on Anderson before the HR came.


Bot 1st

How many times lately has Ichiro weakly grounded out? Maybe it's just me but it seems to be happening quite a bit.


There won't be much to this but I will do my best. 58 degrees, roof closed at game time.

Good start for Washburn, who looks like he's got a rhythm early. Now let's see if those listless bats can perk up.

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May 10, 2008 5:44 PM

Tonight's batting order

Posted by Jose Romero

UPDATE: Oops! Sorry for the 3 RFs. Wow you guys are so on top of it! Thanks for making me aware of the mistake.


Get ready for some interesting names in interesting places. Hey, whatever they can do to get it going, right? That's what John McLaren's attitude seemed to be as he discussed the lineup for tonight. Here ya go...and thanks for joining me on my every-once-in-a-while game night in place of Mr. Baker. Saludos a todos! They're playing "Change Clothes" by Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams on the PA at Safeco right now. Underrated song. And Wanda from the press box staff hooked me up with the Mom's Day T-shirt! Something else to give Mom tomorrow.

1. Ichiro CF
2. Bloomquist SS
3. Beltre 3B
4. Ibanez LF
5. J-Lo (er, Jose Lopez) 2B
6. Clement DH
7. Johjima C
8. Big Bad Wlad Balentien RF
9. Cairo 1B

Swear I didn't make that up.
-Jose


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May 10, 2008 4:49 PM

From 6 to 5 for Sexson

Posted by Jose Romero

Major League Baseball has reduced Mariners 1B Richie Sexson's suspension by one game, from six to five, the team announced today.

Sexson was suspended Friday by the league for "violent and aggressive actions" stemming from when he charged the pitcher's moundThursday night after a pitch from the Texas Rangers' Kason Gabbard came in high and at head level.

Sexson threw his helmet at Gabbard and both team's benches emptied. Sexson was suspended and fined but asked the players' association to appeal the suspension.

Sexson was in the lineup Friday pending the appeal, but he will miss tonight's game and the next four thereafter.

The appeal hearing took place earlier this afternoon. Sexson had hoped to miss only three our four games,
but said today that "one's better than none."

Sexson will stay in Seattle when the team heads to Texas for a three-game series beginning Monday, Mariners manager John McLaren said before tonight's game.

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May 9, 2008 10:53 PM

White Sox aftermath

Posted by Bob Condotta

I was once chastised by a reader for using the word "aftermath'' in a post-game post on my Husky blog for sounding too negative and fatal.

But hard to sound too much of either in regards to this team right now.

This was as perfunctory as it gets as the White Sox got their three in the third, then accurately seemed to think that would be good enough as everybody on both sides went up swinging quickly, apparently eager to get this one over with --- it lasted just 2:23.

As I mentioned earlier, the only regular position player for the Mariners who made himself available to the media afterward was Ichiro. Despite the dire circumstances --- the Mariners are now nine games under .500 where they were never more than four under last year --- he said there still is hope. Or, at least, the players have to believe there is still hope.

"Of course there is time,'' he said. "Because looking at the ability of this team, you can tell. One good way of looking at it is that it is good we are going through this kind of phase early in the season because we still have time to recover this time of year. If we had gone through some kind of situation like that late in the season, we wouldn't have time to recover. But something everyone should not do is brainwash themselves into thinking this is our team, this is the way we play. We must not do that.''

Interviewing Ichiro is interesting as he speaks through a translator despite having been here since 2001. He looks at you when you ask your question and there appears little doubt he understands what you are asking. Still, he waits for the translator, then gives his answer to the translator, who then gives it to us in English.

Twice tonight, Ichiro listened to the translator give us an answer, then added more.

Once came when he was asked whether the team was feeling frustration.

He responded first by saying that "of course. If we were not frustrated at this point, we should not have the privilege of wearing our uniforms.''

Then, after the translator answered, he added that "what's especially tough what we are going through right now is that the fans have been very nice to us. Our record is not good, but you look in the stands today and there are quite a few fans who came out here. And most of the fans are watching warm-heartedly and I could tell. So the fans are reacting this way and we are not performing and that makes it extra hard.''

I'll leave the rest of the post-mortem to Baker.

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May 9, 2008 6:31 PM

White Sox game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

IT'S OVER --- Sorry, that last inning went so fast that I had to send in my story and head downstairs before I had a chance to update the blog. Not much earth-shattering from the clubhouse. No throwing of furniture or anything. The only guys who really talked with the media were McLaren, Silva and Ichiro, and I give the latter a lot of credit. He gets some guff for his supposedly standoff-ish ways. But every time I've covered a Mariners game he's been available to talk afterward, which is more than can be said for a lot of the other guys. Ichiro basically said that they have to believe that the season isn't over but that everyone in the locker "should be frustrated or we should not have the privilege of wearing our uniform.'' You can't help but wonder at the moment what he thinks about signing that extension last season.

I'VE GOT NOTHING --- Not much I can find to say about this one right now. Maybe the Mariners will finally make it interesting here in the bottom of the ninth.

ONE CHANCE LEFT --- Seattle hasn't won a game this year when behind by more than a run. They'll get a chance in the bottom of the ninth as the White Sox lead 4-1 heading into the top of the ninth.

ATTENDANCE TONIGHT: It is 27,169 for the gentleman who just asked. And about 13,096 by my estimate have headed for the exits. George Michael won't find much faith here.

TWO CHANCES LEFT: To those sending in e-mails tonight to Geoff Baker I'll point out again that this is actually Bob Condotta filling in tonight. I usually cover Husky football and basketball so a little out of my league here doing this. Still, I bet I've covered 150 or so Mariner games in my career as a fill-in guy so I do know what a wild pitch is. Mariners are down 4-1 entering their half of the eighth inning and have two at-bats left to avoid another disheartening loss (though is there really any other kind?) Scott Linebrink is one for the White Sox and he is tied for third in the AL in holds (one of greatest stats ever in my opinion).

ANOTHER EMPTY INNING: Marienrs have now left seven runners on base in the last four innings, getting just one run. Closer to a breakout inning, but not getting it done. It's a nice night at the park, though.

WHAT A CATCH: One of the better catches of the season in Safeco turned in there by White Sox CF Brian Anderson off a long drive by Sexson, who appeared to have tied the game up. Instead, it was another fruitless inning for the Mariners highlighted only by the scoreboard showing that Jeff Clement's favorite college team is, believe it or not, USC.

WHO'S BAD? The Mariners' dancing grounds crew just performed to the old Michael Jackson song "Bad.'' Right now, a more fitting song probably couldn't have been played.

THE STREAK IS OVER: Mariners score on a wild pitch and get what iabout as manufactured a run as possible to break their scoreless streak at 24 innings. Ichiro singled, stole second, moved to third on a grounder and scored on a Jose Contreras wild pitch. Now 3-1 White Sox.

IS IT OVER? The odds aren't good for the Mariners now with the White Sox ahead 3-0. Seattle hasn't come from more than two runs down to win a game all season and has scored more than three runs just once in the past nine games. Sliva is now up to 52 pitches after that eight-pitch first inning.

AND NOW THAT'S 24 IN A ROW: The Mariners got two runners to third base in that inning but couldn't get either in and now have gone 24 straight without a run. That ties the fourth-longest streak in team history. I know there's a lot of debate over the impact of a manager, but it is interesting to me that none of the top 13 streaks in Mariner history occured during the watch of Lou Piniella, who was with the team longer than any other manager. All occurred either pre-1990 or post-2002.

NEW JOY FOR SEXSON? Felt like it as Sexson received some pretty hearty applause as he came to the plate for his first at-bat.

THAT'S 23 STRAIGHT SCORELESS INNINGS FOR THE M's: And that ties the seventh-longest scoreless streak in team history. The longest is 29 from June 7-11, 2004.

GOOD START FOR SILVA: Carlos Silva needed just eight pitches to get through the first inning. Still, it elicited little buzz here at Safeco, where the fans are definitely in an impatient, wait-and-see mode. Quite a change from the last time I wrote in this space, covering the series opener against the Angels on
April 11. Seattle won that game to get off to a good start in what figured to be a long, tight race with the Angels. Now, the Mariners are just trying to stay afloat.

LINEUPS FOR TONIGHT:

Here is the M's lineup

Ichiro, CF
Lopez, 2B
Ibanez, LF
Beltre, 3B
Vidro, DH
Sexson, 1B
Clement, C
Balentein, RF
Betancourt, SS

Most notable is the return of Vidro after missing the last three games with back spasms, and the inclusion of Clement at the expense of Kenji Johjima. M's manager John McLaren said before the game that the time for worrying about anyone's hurt feelings is over and that "we need to win a baseball game --- that's all I care about.''

Johjima is hitting .184 for the season and McLaren said he is doing extra work in the cage and all of that, but that until he gets it turned around, there is no guarantee of being in the lineup on any given night.

"We've reached a stage where I'm going with the best nine I think can win that game,'' McLaren said.

McLaren, in fact, started off his pre-game address with something of a state-of-the-team address.

"We're a good team playing terrible baseball,'' he said. "Only we can fix it. The coaches and I have exchanged some ideas and we are working to do some things behind the scenes. You can only shuffle the lineup so many ways and make so many lineup changes. I think now we are at the point where we just have to play a good, solid baseball game and pitch well, get timely hitting, catch the ball and get us a win and go from there.''

If only it were that easy.

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May 9, 2008 4:35 PM

Sexson in lineup tonight

Posted by Bob Condotta

Bob Condotta here at Safeco Field filling in tonight.

The big news of the day is Richie Sexson's six-game suspension for instigating the fight last night.

However, he will appeal the suspension so he remains availalble to play until there is some resolution. He will play tonight and bat sixth.

It is unclear when the appeal will be heard, but likely soon --- unlike the old days, appeals no longer have to be heard in New York but can be done via conference call.

Sexson did not talk with reporters before the game on the advice of the Players' Union, apparently.

Mariner manager John McLaren just spoke to reporters and while he was non-committal on whether he thought the penalty was fair he said that there are some things the Mariners may be able to show Bob Watson, baseball's vice president of discipline, that could reduce the suspension.

"There were some things said last night that we are aware of that we can use in our defense,'' McLaren said. McLaren wouldn't specify what those things were or who said them, however.

"We'll get with Richie so that when he does appeal he'll have some things that he can give Bob,'' McLaren said.

McLaren said he thought the fact that Sexson threw his helmet at Texas pitcher Kason Gabbard probably added to the suspension.

"It's a tough situation,'' McLaren said. "Richie's frustrated and he's had some issues off the field and I think talking to Richie, he expected maybe for them to retaliate and when the ball was up in the eye area, it wasn't over inside toward his head, but when your eyes see that you react, and he reacted.''

"He was real frustrated and he went out to the mound. I wish he had dropped his helmet off on the way, but he didn't.''

McLaren also had some interesting stuff to say about the state of the team --- including that he is now putting what he thinks is the best nine out there each day without worrying about hurting anyone's feelings --- and I'll get to that a little later.

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May 9, 2008 3:07 PM

Sexson suspended six games

Posted by Geoff Baker

As some of you already know, Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson has been suspended for six games "for his violent and aggressive actions, which incited the bench-clearing incident during the bottom of the fourth inning of his Club's game against the Texas Rangers last night at Safeco Field in Seattle'' according to a release put out by MLB. Sexson is appealing.

Felix Hernandez was fined, along with Rangers catcher Gerald Laird and pitcher Sidney Ponson, for their actions during the incident. So, not because Hernandez hit anyone. For all the stuff that was done during the brawl and which nearly ignited another one. Discuss.

Sexson, as I mentioned, did appeal. He admitted the helmet throwing was dumb and now he's paying for it. The appeal enables his bat to stay in the lineup. Some of you will be joking about that, but the truth is, the alternatives aren't too palatable. Sure, you could replace Sexson with Bryan LaHair, as one or two of you keep insisting should be done, suspension or not, and risk having three rookies struggling to get their feet under them in the lineup. As long as this team is clinging to life, even if the EKG is barely bleeping, you're still better off having your team's .209-hitting home run leader at first base. My opinion, anyway. So, if you've got a "pro-kids'' agenda and want to rant and rave about why you'd rather throw another rookie in the mix with two who are hitting .130 and .233 right now, let me hear it. But make sure you've got some facts to back you up. Because like it or not, Sexson is still the third-best statistical hitter this team has in terms of on-base-plus-slugging percentage and I've yet to see a rookie called up who has done better.

Yes, the season is going down the tubes. No need to accelerate the process.


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May 9, 2008 11:16 AM

Hernandez and brawling

Posted by Geoff Baker

I could begin today running off the latest list of Mariners stats. Like their 0-17 record when they fall behind by two runs or more. Or the fact they've gone 23 innings without a run. Or scored just once in their last 32 innings. But I'll bet you're all getting tired of hearing about those. So, let's talk about last night's fight, since that seems to be all any of you are emailing me about.

One of you wrote in, I think it was Faceplant (ironic name, since that's what several players were having done to them during last night's brawl) who asked why I'm trying to portray Felix Hernandez as a coward. I'm not. For all I know, he's the next Bruce Lee with a baseball glove. What I'm saying is, if I'm running the Mariners right now, I'm praying I never have to find that out. It's one thing for hitters to protect their livelihoods by charging the mound if a pitch is too high and in. Richie Sexson says that's what he thought. I thought the pitch wasn't all that close to hitting him and so did the Texas Rangers TV announcers. But it's a split-second decision on a ball coming in at 90 mph. Remember the Pedro Martinez-Don Zimmer "scrap'' during the 2003 ALCS? I was at that game live (still am live). The pitch that started it all, Roger Clemens up-and-in on Manny Ramirez, was quite similar in not really being close to hitting Ramirez.

So, whatever. History won't care.

But it's another thing for a pitcher to go actively seeking out trouble the way Hernandez keeps doing. The "hold me back'' thing does get tiring. I'm sure his teammates are growing a little weary of it, particularly because no ballplayer really enjoys these fights. There is too much to lose. Too much risk for too little reward. Who wants to see a career end because of a sucker punch, or a gang-tackle from behind when there are seven-figure contracts being handed out like candy these days?


Continue reading this post ...


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May 8, 2008 11:56 PM

Fight, then flight

Posted by Geoff Baker

lopez0508 038.jpg

Miguel Cairo, above, prepares to notch his first hit of the year, an infield single that took a bad hop with two out in the ninth. Yuniesky Betancourt lined out to end the game after that.

The Mariners put up a good fight on the mound in that fourth inning. After that, the offense pulled its vanishing act once again, managing just four hits all game in a 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. Let's get out the calculators, shall we?

That makes it 23 consecutive innings without a run and one run scored over the last 32 frames. But at least the Pythagorean record was salvaged somewhat by those seven runs the M's scored in the first three innings of the series opener. That helped Seattle score eight runs in the series -- an average of two per game -- which is better than the reality this team scored only one run in Game 2 and zero in the final two contests.

Cheered up yet? No? Don't worry, it gets worse. The Mariners just blew through their two best starters without giving them even one run of support.

Seattle is now eight games out of first place at 14-22. Fight Night turned into Fright Night yet again.

"I've never seen it this bad,'' Richie Sexson said of the offense.

Sexson admitted he should not have thrown the helmet. Used a swear word to describe his action, which has to do with a chicken and is a euphamism for cowardly. But he doesn't regret charging the mound, saying he was consumed with rage to see Kason Gabbard throw up near his face.

"I'm 6"8, what are we talking about here?'' Sexson said. "He's a guy who can hit corners at will. All of a sudden, he's up near my face?''

Sexson expected to be hit by Gabbard after Felix Hernandez plunked two Rangers. "I understand the situation,'' Sexson said. "There's a right and a wrong way to play the game. Hit me below the shoulders and I'm fine with that. You get up near the face and that's when you start talking about careers and you start talking about family.''

Sexson had missed Wednesday's game to tend to his sick son in the hospital. He admitted the stress of that, plus the team's dismal slide, likely contributed to the rage that exploded inside his head.

"I'm sure it all came to a head right there,'' he said. "It's no secret we haven't scored a lot of runs for a while. It's no secret we haven't lived up to our potential.''

Continue reading this post ...


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May 8, 2008 9:18 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: 05/08 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

lopez0508 034.jpg

9:18 p.m.: Smoke has cleared after the big "fight'' but the M's still trail, now 5-0, after Ryan Rowland-Smith yielded a double to Gerald Laird in the sixth and an RBI single to Ramon Vazquez (who is killing Seattle with four straight hits tonight). Felix Hernandez was pulled after five. I'm amazed he made it that deep. He threw 109 pitches, but had thrown 68 after two innings. One run by the M's in their last 28 innings of play. By the way, Kason Gabbard left the game with "bruised legs" -- no jokes please. Although, maybe he bruised them hitting the ground too fast when he saw a 6-foot-8 tree charging at him with his batting helmet primed and cocked. Maybe not.

8:47 p.m.: The first solid contact by the Mariners all night came when Richie Sexson scored a direct hit on Texas starter Kason Gabbard with his batting helmet in the fourth inning. Gabbard threw up around Sexson's head area (though he didn't come close to hitting him). Sexson charged the mound without hesitation, ripped his helmet off and landed a direct hit on the ducking Gabbard, who simply went for the 6-foot-8 behemoth's knees and held on for dear life. The dugouts and bullpens emptied. Felix Hernandez was doing the same crazy act he pulled in Oakland last year -- the old 'hold me back'' routine as several teammates took turns flinging him out of harm's way. See the far right corner of the photo below. I hope for Hernandez's sake that he fights as well as he yaps because one of these days, someone's going to get through the melee and put him to the test. The franchise player can't be doing that. He's too valuable to go looking for fights unless they come directly to him like it just did for Gabbard.

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Hernandez had hit Ian Kinsler with an inside pitch in the top of the inning that the latter did little to get out of the way of. The pair exchanged some words. Earlier on, Hernandez had plunked Gerald Laird. Laird had to be picked up piggyback style by teammate Milton Bradley (a true peacemaker if there ever was one, right?) when he did his own "hold me back'' thing and got too close to reigniting the fracas. Sexson didn't hesitate. I think he expected this might happen and knew what he was going to do before the pitch was thrown. Anyhow, nothing wrong with what he did. Ballplayers have to protect their turf -- and their livelihoods when brushback pitches get too high up and in. But Hernandez has to cut it out.

The M's got their loudest ovation of the week when the field was cleared. Sexson is out of the game, replaced by Miguel Cairo, who drew a walk off the rattled Gabbard. Texas pulled the pitcher when Yuniesky Betancourt hit an infield single to shortstop and both runners advanced on an error. Through all this, the M's still trail 4-0 heading to the fifth. But at least they got the pitcher out of the game. Now they have to get a hit with something other than fists and helmets.

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May 8, 2008 5:28 PM

Clement out, Lopez to DH

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Jeff Clement is getting the night off tonight after striking out 13 times in his last 23 at-bats. Jose Lopez (showing off his dance moves to Lee Elia above) moves over to the designated hitter's spot while Willie Bloomquist plays second base. I'm sure Jose Vidro would be the DH against lefty Kason Gabbard if he was healthy. But he's still out with back spasms and this is the best the M's can do for a backup at the moment. Clement hits righties and lefties with fairly good numbers, so you know that his sitting has everything to do with performance.

"I think he might be pressing a little bit,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said. "He's trying to get his feet on the ground. They're making some pitches on him and he's pressing, so we'll just let him take a deep breath.''

It was bench coach Jim Riggleman who made the call to pinch-hit for Clement in the ninth inning last night, figuring the Rangers had gotten the better of him on consecutive strikeouts. McLaren had been ejected in the second inning and was watching the game on TV from the clubhouse, trying to pick up on something he could relay to hitting coach Jeff Pentland if need be.

"It looks like a lot of our guys are trying to do too much,'' McLaren said. "Last night, I thought we had a lot of wild swings. It could be a frustration thing. The game plan they had, they weren't applying it last night. I mean, Padilla throws so hard and when you try to do that little extra you're either going to miss it or you're going to swing and miss. It looked like, to me on TV, that they were swinging too hard and too wildly.''


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May 8, 2008 10:48 AM

Long days ahead

Posted by Geoff Baker

No two ways about it, this Mariners team -- and all of us watching them -- have some long days ahead, even if they somehow manage to turn their season around. I went through something like this covering the 2004 Toronto Blue Jays, a team that fans, some media and the manager felt was capable of winning 95 games. Instead, it wound up losing 94. I was not among the media picking that team as a favorite that year, so there was a certain inner satisfaction in knowing that I had the right feel for what transpired. Turns out, the team was a whole lot worse than the mere .500 squad I'd pinned it down as. And, after a couple of months of feeling smug, the season truly was one big drag to be a part of. Didn't help when broadcast media colleague John Cerutti, the former major league pitcher, Toronto color analyst and all-around great guy, was found dead in his SkyDome hotel room of heart failure at age 43 on the morning of the season finale. Tom Cheek, the Dave Neihaus of Toronto radio, lost his elderly father one week, then got diagnosed with brain cancer the next and was dead within 15 months. That was the type of season I never wanted to cover again. Terrible memories and just a gloomy feeling all around, every single day you walked into that clubhouse. We're supposed to be impartial in the media and generally are. But that clubhouse is still our workspace to a degree and if the mood is down, it's a six-month, daily dose of depression you want to shed ASAP.

So, this time, I'm on the other side of the prognostication game, having picked the Mariners to make the playoffs. Obviously, some things I expected have not gone that way. This offense is a whole lot worse than I'd imagined it could be. And than I still think it will wind up being. But it had better wind up being something soon. Like tonight, or tomorrow. Because I'm not in favor of sitting through another season like in 2004. And even those of you who expected this offense to be lousy, I'm sure, would rather have been totally wrong than face the prospect of watching the worst team in the AL.

On that note, I received an email from some members of the Seattle blogosphere -- no, not Dave Cameron of USS Mariner, though he and I have exchanged friendly emails in recent days -- with concerns about how fans will perceive them. They were among those "out there'' this winter warning that the offense was too weak and that the defense was terrible. I'll still say, the defense (and runs allowed) is not what's killing this team. It's the bats and the runs scored. But of course, they were technically right. The defense is not very good. That, I think, many of us agreed upon this winter. It was the impact of said defense we disagreed with.

Anyhow, point is, these folks don't feel very good about their predictions coming to fruition -- so far at least. A couple of them were out at the ballgame the other night (they are names you'd recognize if you read other websites even semi-frequently) cheering on the team as any hardcore fans would. They would much rather see the team win than be right and were wondering what comes next. They are afraid to crow too loudy in public, worrying that fans who felt this team would contend will turn on them. I think their humble stance in public is a very good route to take for the moment. I remember my sports editor giving that advice to myself and our baseball columnist in 2004 after the Blue Jays were taken apart in a three-game sweep at home by Detroit -- coming off a 119-loss season -- to open that 2004 campaign. Not that we needed it. But it was good advice. Act like you've been there, done that before. Because for every pick you get right, you'll get plenty wrong. It's why none of us are millionaires betting sports in Las Vegas.

It's in that frame of mind, too, that I believe we should all be in when we try to decide what this team should do moving forward. A calm, rational state of mind. Not one overcome by the euphoria of a positive prediction or the inflamed, knee-jerk response of someone whose dreams for the team are going up in smoke. As I said, there are going to be some long days ahead.

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May 7, 2008 11:19 PM

Another start wasted

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This is why the Mariners find themselves on losing streaks even with a solid rotation of starting pitchers. Last year, it was because the starters were driven out of games by the fourth inning. This season, the team keeps wasting seven-inning outings by their rotation. Erik Bedard just gave the team its 15th start of seven innings or more this season. It was a quality start, too.

"I pitched great but it doesn't really matter,'' Bedard said. "We needed the win.''

Know how many of those 15 games his team has won? Try eight. Eight! You're supposed to win about 75 or 80 percent of those games. Not just over half. So, the team keeps throwing these contests out the window, notching just two hits (!) tonight against the Texas Rangers in a 2-0 loss, then has nothing in the win column to offset those bad stretches all pitchers go through. Like the one we just saw this past week. The result? You guessed it. More losing stretches like we saw last year. Seattle has now dropped seven of eight.

"We're just trying every day, trying to get a win,'' Bedard said. "That's all you can ask. If we don't get it today, we'll try again tomorrow.''

By the way, the starters themselves have earned just six wins when going at least seven. That's barely a third of the 15 total outings of seven frames or more. Show me another team in the majors where a starter goes seven innings and wins a third of the time. Toronto maybe? This is getting worse before it gets better. Seattle had twice as many walks tonight as hits.

The team's record when falling behind by two or more runs? Now at 0-16.

On to the Willie Bloomquist pinch-hit appearance in the ninth.

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May 7, 2008 9:29 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: 05/07 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Another sparse crowd on a cool night at Safeco Field.

9:29 p.m.: A nervy eighth inning there for Arthur Rhodes, who loaded the bases up with two out by walking David Murphy. But Sean Green came on to get Brandon Boggs on a full-count flyout to right to end the threat and give Seattle at least a chance of coming back.

That was a tough seventh for the Mariners. I didn't like plate umpire Mark Wegner's call on Jeff Clement. Thought the pitch was inside. Yuniesky Betancourt's strikeout was borderline as well. For him not to swing at a pitch, it would have to clearly be a ball most of the time, no? Anyhow, that's the thing with teams like the Mariners. When you don't hit and word gets around, it seems like you tend not to get the close calls from umpires. I mean, Vicente Padilla had just walked the first two guys. Looked like the only way Seattle was going to score in this game was to rest the bat on their shoulders, cross their fingers and hope for the best. The old Moneyball way. Didn't work. They're still in big trouble in this game. Only two hits the first seven innings. One run in their last 21 frames.

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May 7, 2008 5:32 PM

Armstrong backs McLaren

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mariners manager John McLaren, pictured above during his pre-game session with reporters, got the ole' "vote of confidence'' from team president Chuck Armstrong moments ago. Armstrong was down on the field talking about the sorry state of Mariners attendance (he says it's been cold and folks traditionally have other things going on in May), when he was asked about McLaren and the job he's done.

"I think he's doing fine,'' Armstrong said. "I like our staff, I like the manager. As far as game management, you manage right along with him. It's been said that there are two things that every male in North America can do better than any other male. One is charcoal a steak and the other is manage a baseball team.''

Armstrong goes on to conclude: "I think Mac is doing a fine job, he's got a good staff and they give him good support. He has a lot of conversation and he's providing good leadership to the guys.''

Hear some of Armstrong's audio right here in this clip.

He says he isn't happy with what he's seen from the team so far, but stressed that patience is a virtue in baseball. He harkened back to last summer, when there were early calls to replace a struggling Raul Ibanez in left field before his bat erupted.

That said, Armstrong added that being too patient can come back to haunt a club.

"It is a fine line,'' he said. "We have already made moves this year to address what I think are some of the problems.''

Below, see a shot of Armstrong preparing to give a television interview. He's been in hot demand in recent days, what with his Ken Griffey Jr. comments of a couple of days ago and the poor attendance and overall slumping of the team. On Griffey today, he declined to answer specific questions, which he can't because of tampering. But he gave no indication Griffey is coming here anytime soon.

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May 7, 2008 10:34 AM

On the brink

Posted by Geoff Baker

A gloomy morning out there today for Mariners fans and it has little to do with cloudy skies and cool temperatures. The Mariners have to win these next two games, especially with their two top starting pitchers on the mound. As I mentioned last night, I wrote before this series began that Seattle had to take three of four from the Texas Rangers. They will then have to take the next series from the Chicago White Sox and move on from there. These are not good teams the M's are facing right now and it's imperative that they use these games to make headway in the standings.

So, despite the 10-1 loss last night, it only counts as one defeat and leaves the series tied. That means Seattle can still take three of four and, quite frankly, can't waste any more time. This team is already 7 1/2 games out and 6 1/2 back of second-place Oakland. Catching one team is hard enough. But even the wild-card shot is starting to become a pipe dream here. And honestly, the M's can no longer afford to look at other teams in the standings. They have to get their own house in order. If I'm them, my goal becomes to win these next two games, stop the bleeding first, then focus on whittling that gap with the Angels down a bit.

And focus on getting some offense. No, there wasn't much that could be done last night once it was a 10-0 game in the third. There was plenty that could be done when it was still a 2-0 or 3-0 game, but several of the key hitters, as I mentioned last night, have not come through with runners in scoring position this season.

Seattle is now 0-15 in games in which they trail by two or more runs at any point. I talked about this stat during my Talkin' Baseball segment this morning on the Mitch in the Morning show on KJR 950 AM. Some of you have asked me how that number compares to other clubs. Well, I can tell you that only two other teams in baseball have yet to overcome a two-run gap to win a game this season: the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies. The Blue Jays are 0-13 in such scenarios while the Rockies are an abysmal 0-19. But wait. While there is at least one major league club worse off than Seattle, the M's still come off poorly in comparison to last year's World Series finalists.

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May 6, 2008 10:01 PM

M's routed before record-low crowd

Posted by Geoff Baker

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As I mentioned already, Seattle's 10-1 shellacking tonight at the hands of the Texas Rangers was witnessed by only 15,818 fans, making it the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history. Things are going down the drain in a hurry on this club, now at 7 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels. I said before the series opener that the M's needed to take three of four, so I'll stick to that. But it's getting late in a big hurry on this team in 2008. I've seen this kind of fade act before from an expected contender, back in Toronto in 2004, and let me tell you it was not a fun summer for the fans or the team.

This season could get real ugly. In short, the M's have to win these next two games, with their two best starters on the mound, and worry about undoing some of this damage after that. It won't be easy. This is a formidable hole being dug.

Batista has no idea why he's been so inconsistent, dating back to even his first few outings. He hasn't felt physically comfortable. It could be lingering from that spring training back problem. It's possible that favoring his back caused the groin problem a couple of weeks ago, one that is still lingering.

But Batista, the trainers and coaches are going to try to figure it out.

"We can't actually pinpoint it yet,'' he said.


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May 6, 2008 9:57 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: 05/06 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, not only are the Mariners getting beaten like a dusty rug over a balcony railing tonight, down 10-1 in the ninth, but it's happening in front of the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history. There are only 15,818 fans here tonight, beating the previous low by 80 people. While that might be an average turnout in Oakland, or even Cleveland these days, it has to be a concern for the Mariners. The way this team is playing, the crowds stand to get much worse.

Some of you asked why John McLaren would send Miguel Batista back out for the third. I can't speak for him, but the team is worried that Jarrod Washburn might not make his next start. If that's the case, Cha Seung Baek would be an option to start in four days. But after Baek was used tonight, I'm not sure that can happen now. I think the team, with the game still 3-0, was trying to squeeze as much as it could out of Batista and hope he could get through a couple of more innings. I don't think anyone expected him to throw 85 pitches over 2 1/3 frames.

Below, see some crooked numbers on a crooked scoreboard.

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May 6, 2008 6:12 PM

Griffey, Washburn updates

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Now why can't Adrian Beltre, pictured in the cage above, get a cut like that on a ball when there are runners in scoring position? Thanks to eastcoast in the comments thread for bringing that up. More on it later, but first...

I know a lot of you are in an uproar over the possibility of Ken Griffey Jr. coming here after he swats his 600th home run. Much of this is based off today's USA Today story by Bob Nightengale. In it, there's a quote from Mariners president Chuck Armstrong saying: "I think everybody in Seattle would like to see him retire in a Mariners uniform. He was born a Mariner. And I'd like to see him finish up as a Mariner.

"I can't say much because he is property of the Cincinnati Reds, but he always will have a special place in my heart, and everyone here in Seattle.''

Well that, predictably, set folks off all over the place. Armstrong is attending an owners' meeting and couldn't come down to comment today. But he relayed info via the team's media relations director, Tim Hevly, who said Armstrong made the comments to Nightengale while doing a Saturday interview on the recent death of Buzzie Bavasi, the father of Mariners GM Bill Bavasi. When the conversation switched to Griffey, Armstrong apparently made his comments along general lines, meaning yeah, he'd like to see Griffey return for a day, wear the uniform and retire, or something like that. But he insists he told Nightengale, as you can read in the story, that he could not talk about bringing him here this year or anytime since baseball does have serious tampering rules. I'm sure the Mariners got a phone call from the commish's office in New York today. They won't confirm or deny that.

What do I think? It makes sense as a theory that the Reds would try to benefit from PR for Griffey by waiting three more homers until he reaches 600. It makes sense to unload him if they can get a genuine prospect for him. I'm not sure, though, that it makes sense for the M's to give up a decent prospect to go get him now. This team has enough DH types already. If you want to wait until next year, he'll likely be a free agent if his club option is declined. Then you figure out if he's got enough left and pay him to come back if he fits.

Here's what Griffey's agent said ealier today, about it being speculation and little else.

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May 6, 2008 2:08 PM

Mailbag time

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A look above at Wladimir Balentien, to the right, chatting with Miguel Cairo before taking some early batting practice this afternoon.

OK, I can see my attempts to spell out, in English, the short-term pressures being faced by this team and Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement are not getting through to some of you. For others, it is getting through, but for the sake of clarity, I'll attempt to address your concerns.

Q: Let's give Balentien and Clement more than a week before we depend on them for survival! We need them to be competent, with upside potential. For survival, we need the other 7 guys to contribute more offense than they have, and we need the defense from past years to return! -- Gatorman

A: This team may not have a week or more. Lose this series and the next one, the team could be double digits back and this season could be effectively over from a playoff perspective. Agree on the seven other guys. If they were doing their jobs, Clement and Balentien would still be in Class AAA.


Q: In addition to showing patience with the kids from Tacoma, this team needs to find a way to win eight or more of the next twelve against mostly Texas. -- Scott M

A: Agree with your premise, but the kids are what's supposed to help this team try to win 8 of the next 12. One's unlikely to happen without the other. Therein lies the quandry.


Q: That's all very well and good, but the problem is that for all their huge team salary, these guys ARE the back-up plan. What are they going to do if these guys don't work out? Sign a couple of stiffs released from another team? Trade their last prospect? Start Willie Bloomquist? -- greyguy3

A: You've hit the nail on the head. It's sink or swim with these two. And they need them to swim fast to help keep a 6 1/2 game deficit from becoming 9 or 10.


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May 6, 2008 3:57 AM

Clement, Balentien need to be quick studies

Posted by Geoff Baker

NOTE (9:40 a.m.): OK, in reading the first 30 comments or so below, I see some of you, quick to defend the two callups, have clearly missed the point. It isn't that Clement or Balentien are going back to Class AAA anytime soon if ever, nor should they after six games. It's not about comparing them to what Vidro and Wilkerson did in their first five games when the team was still right up near the top of the division. It's that this struggling team is already 6 1/2 games out and if Clement and Balentien take the normal time to get their feet wet, as they did the first five games, all Seattle losses, the Mariners might fall out of the race entirely. Not judging them, just telling you how precarious this team's situation is. And how badly it needs a boost from these two -- yesterday, not in three weeks. I'm sure both guys will be fine down the road. But this team doesn't have "down the road'' time. I'm sure, as some of you have written in, that it puts some undue pressure on everyone involved. That's what I've been trying to tell you. It does.

3:57 a.m.: I can see the Mariners did something right last night, judging by the scarcity of comments in the threads as the game wore on. I'm sure some of you enjoy it when your team wins, right? Sure, it was only one win. I understand. Didn't really change much. Seattle still trails the Angels by 6 1/2 games, with one fewer game on the schedule to try to close the gap. But hey, it's a start. Jarrod Washburn gave them the shot in the arm that was needed on the mound. Better than what the team had gotten since Saturday. Wladimir Balentien also stepped it up with that home run and the single. Of course it's not fair to judge him, or Jeff Clement, based on their first half-dozen games. But this isn't about fair. This is not a rebuilding year for the team like Adam Jones is having in Baltimore, where he can swing and miss and drop some balls while popping the odd home run, or double -- usually against the Mariners.

Balentien and Clement were brought up here to produce better that the guys they were replacing. In Balentien's case, that was Brad Wilkerson. And in Clement's case, it's Jose Vidro who is no longer the full-time DH because of Clement's arrival. Heading into last night, though, the two Tacoma graduates had not done better at the plate than the guys they'd replaced. They had done worse. Clement's OPS was at .527 compared to Vidro's .546, while Balentien had a .500 to Wilkerson's .652. Yes, an extremely small sample size. But again, this isn't about fairness. The kids didn't hit and it did nothing to improve an already-staggering team that failed to win a game with either of them in the lineup until last night.

This isn't about fairness, I repeat. It's about what the team needs right now. Not next week.

So, in reading some of the back-and-forth arguments some of you were having about the pair in our comments sections yesterday, both sides are right. It is unfair to judge them as hitters based on a half dozen games. But it is fair game to judge the imapct they've had. Again, it's not their fault this team had so many regulars struggling at once that a pair of Class AAA callups were seen as a quick solution. But that's what this team needs right now: a quick fix.

Seattle needs to win games in a hurry. Lots of them. Or the team will be buried once June rolls around. Sorry, but those are the facts. A loss last night would have left the M's 7 1/2 games out of first place and that's just too big a gap to be letting form this early.

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May 5, 2008 10:54 PM

Three innings of great offense

Posted by Larry Stone


It looked like the Mariners were really going to break out tonight -- nine hits and seven runs through three innings. And then they went silent, getting just one hit over the final five innings. In fact, Josh Rupe and Eddie Guardado retired the last 14 Seattle hitters in a row.

But seven runs are seven runs for a team that has been in a brutal slump. The game was especially sweet for Wladimir Balentien, who at times has looked overmatched but crushed a Kevin Millwood fastball for a three-run homer to left-center in the third inning. That's two homers and six ribbies for Balentien in six starts -- more pop than they got from Brad Wilkerson in a month.

Jarrod Washburn looked as good as I've ever seen him for six innings, blanking Texas on one hit. He said he tweaked his right calf warming up but was able to pitch through it. At least, until his last pitch in the sixth, when he said he felt it pop. That doesn't sound so good. The word "pop" is always ominous. Washburn gave up an infield single to Gerald Laird leading off the seventh on a slow roller, then a double to Michael Young and a two-run single to Milton Bradley. The trainer came out, and Washburn was done. Manager John McLaren said afterward he expects Washburn to make his next start, but Washburn said he wouldn't know for sure until he sees how he feels tomorrow.

J.J. Putz worked the ninth and didn't exactly look like vintage Putz, which remains a concern. But after giving up two hits that put runners on second and third, Putz did work out of it, striking out Brandon Boggs and getting Frank Catalanotto to pop out. It was 3-2 on Catalanotto. If he had walked, Josh Hamilton would have come up as a pinch-hitter as the potential tying run, which would have been scary. Remember, it was Hamilton who homered off Putz way back on April 1, in the second game of the year, after Putz had hurt his rib. That cost the Mariners a victory. He went on the DL the next day. Hamilton has emerged as one of the league's top hitters, and leads the AL with 33 RBI.

No day is completely worry free in baseball, but this was a pretty good day for the Mariners.

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May 5, 2008 6:47 PM

Game thread, 5-5, Mariners vs. Rangers

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 9:02 P.M.: Washburn left the game with tightness in his right calf, it was just announced. He was brilliant for six innings, as good as I've seen him. But in the seventh, he gave up an infield single and then two smashes before being pulled.

UPDATE 8:10 P.M.: With a 7-0 lead, this hardly looks like the same team that couldn't buy a run in Cleveland and New York. Yes, it's just the lowly Rangers, but Kevin Millwood is a legitimate pitcher, so the offensive splurge is still impressive. Besides, the way the Mariners have been going, they'll take a rally any way they can get it.

Richie Sexson has a screaming homer to center and Kenji Johjima has a pair of much-needed hits, but the most encouraging performance has to be that of Wladimir Balentien. The way he's been struggling, he needed some positive reinforcement. Balentien had a single in the second, then blasted a three-run homer to left-center in the third.

Jarrod Washburn, meanwhile, has been outstanding, giving up just one single, to No. 9 hitter German Duran, through four.

***


So here it is, the battle to get out of the cellar. To put it bluntly, if the Mariners can't win a series against the Texas Rangers, at home, they're in even bigger trouble than it looks. And they're in pretty big trouble. But the Rangers come in hot, having won four of their last five, while the Mariners have dropped five in a row and eight of 10.

The Mariners do get a break tonight in that Josh Hamilton, the league leader in RBIs with 33, is getting a night off. It's the first game he's missed all season, and Ron Washington wanted to give him a rest. if you're wondering about Ben Broussard, he started the year playing against lefties and righties. Now he's not playing against anyone, which happens when you're batting .159 -- and just .083 (4-for-48) over his last 15 games. Chris Shelton is the regular first baseman, but he's just 1-for-13, so we'll see how that goes.

LINEUPS

TEXAS

Ian Kinsler 2B

Gerald Laird C

Michael Young SS

Milton Bradley RF


David Murphy CF

Brandon Boggs LF

Chris Shelton 1B

Jarrod Saltalamachhia DH

German Duran 3B

Kevin Millwood P

SEATTLE

Ichiro RF

Jose Lopez 2B

Raul Ibanez LF

Adrian Beltre 3B

Richie Sexson 1B

Jeff Clement DH

Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Kenji Johjima C

Wladimir Balentien RF

Jarrod Washburn P

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May 5, 2008 5:46 PM

McLaren's mindset

Posted by Larry Stone

Tonight's lineup has only a minor tweak, with Jeff Clement hitting sixth at DH and Yunieksy Betancourt seventh at shortstop. That's a reversal from Sunday in New York.

I thought I'd present some of John McLaren's comments during his pre-game media session. He was peppered with questions about the mindset of the team and the predicament the Mariners have gotten themselves into. No bombshells, but it might give some insight into his state of mind.

Here goes:

"It's good to be home. Needless to say, we need to start winning some ball games. There couldn't be a better time than right here at home. We're ready to go.

On Clement and Wladimir Balentien's early struggles: "They came in at such a time we weren't hitting as a team. When you go into Yankee Stadium, it's pretty hostile. I thought they held up all right, truthfully. They're going to be fine. We took a little extra batting practice with them today, just trying to get them settled down a little bit."

On the team-wide offensive struggles: "We just ran into a streak where nothing was falling...Guys do get down on themselves a little bit. It's our job as a staff to keep them moving, keep them positive. We've dug ourselves a hole here. Let's be honest about it. We've got to get ourselves out of it. We've got to get going again, start feeling good about ourrselves again, swinging the bats, swinging at good pitches, and doing the things we're capable of doing. We're trying to do too much, not working the count, little things like that, and it shows up. That's how you lose ball games.

"Jeff Pentland talks about this everyday in the cage, doing drills. When you're not hitting collectively, you try to do too much. You start swinging wildly, you get frustrated, you've got this anger inside of you. All teams go thorugh some bad streaks. Hopefully we've gone through ours, and we can get it over with and start playing winning baseball.

"We had a good spring training, felt good about ourselves coming out of spring. We were doing fine, then we had some things go wrong. Since then, we stopped hitting, and everything is magnified now.

"We're not panicking by any means, but there's an urgency. We need to start winning. There's a point we have to start going the other direction. We have to put some slashes in the left-hand column and get some wins, get on a roll the other way. We're kind of treading water. We haven't hit collectively as a team. Sometimes we have nine hits in the game, but they're scattered. There's nothing together.

"We've tried to stay aggressive, tried to stay active on the bases. There's only so much of that you can do, too. The bottom line is we have to hit. And I know we will. We have too many good hitters not to hit. You can see some guys start to pick it up quite a bit. Hitting's contagious. We get some guys hitting, and it will take pressure off the other guys, and kind of trickle on down. That's what we're looking for."

It had better start tricking down soon, or the Mariners will get buried by an avalanche.


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May 5, 2008 2:56 PM

Greg Norton now a Brave

Posted by Larry Stone


Sorry we're a little late with this one. With Geoff traveling home from New York, it kind of fell between the cracks. Then again, it's not the blockbuster of the century.

Greg Norton, who was designated for assignment on April 30, along with Brad Wilkerson in the big purge that accompanied the callups of Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement, has been traded to the Atlanta Braves. The Mariners will recieve a player to be named or cash considerations.

It was really only a matter of time before some National League team acquired the switch-hitter, who had a .438 (7-for-16) average in six games with the Mariners after hitting .409 (9-for-22) at Tacoma. He'll help the Braves as a pinch-hitter (with more opportunities in the NL) and spot starter.

No word yet on the status of Wilkerson. The M's are halfway through the 10-day period in which they can trade, release, or outright him to the minors. Most likely, they will have to eat the bulk of the remainder of his $3 million contract before making a deal, or eat all of it in a release.

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May 5, 2008 6:16 AM

Crunch time

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good thing the Mariners aren't panicking yet. Panic can have two outcomes: generating a sense of urgency that heightens play, or freezing one's knees in-place and preventing any type of adequate response to a situation. No, it isn't panic time yet. Lose this four-game series against the Texas Rangers and you'd better believe it will be panic time.

The Mariners are already 6 1/2 games behind the streaking Los Angeles Angels and 5 1/2 back of the surprising Oakland Athletics. If it was only Oakland that the M's had to catch, the need for worry would be less. The A's still look primed for a dropoff, given their unsteady offense. But the Angels? That gap is already getting far too big after only five weeks of the season.

To answer your questions, no, it's no longer early. The Mariners were able to almost make up an eight-game deficit on the Angels last summer. Almost, but not quite. And you know what they say about close. Counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Not baseball.

Thing is, there were reasons the M's almost caught up last summer. Ervin Santana was pitching horribly and provided an automatic loss every five days. Not any more. Also, this Angels rotation stands to get better, not worse, with the addition of John Lackey. Not saying they can't be taken. But if this gap is allowed to grow any bigger, the task of catching the Angels becomes monumental. A look at coolstandings.com shows the M's already in single digits percentage-wise when it comes to their odds of making the playoffs. Now, obviously, a few wins by the M's and a few losses by the Angels will knock those numbers down significantly and Seattle will be back in business.

That's the beauty of having so much time left in a season. Problem is, let the gap grow to eight games, or nine, and all that those few games picked up by winning three while the Angels lose three would mean is a deficit of five or six in the standings. Then, the Angels win one, the M's lose one and you're back to seven.

The gap, like a credit card balance allowed to accumulate interest, starts working against teams. It negates the impact of all the head-to-head matchups between division rivals. Seattle has 13 games left against the Angels. Those are games in which the M's can hope to make significant gains on their AL West foe. That won't matter as much, though, once the M's get to a point where the gap with the Angels starts to hover indefinitely between 6 and 8 games.

Out of those 13 games, the M's, now 3-3 versus the Angels, would be fortunate to go 8-5. That picks up three important games in the standings and gives Seattle an 11-8 record against a squad that owned them 13-6 last season. But those three games would only whittle the gap with the Angels down to between 3 and 5 under present circumstances. Come September, that's too much.

Much better to keep the early gap at something manageable. More like three to five games. That way, if you win the head-to-head matchups, it keeps you within striking distance. You don't have to buy into this. As I mentioned, the M's picked up five or six games on the Angels in about two weeks last summer when one team streaked and the other folded for a time. It could happen again. Of course it could. But I don't like the odds of it happening any time soon. Historically, forgetting about last year's Phillies, the odds are always stacked against a team that trails by six or more once June arrives.

It's just tough to make up that many games. On one team. Right now, the M's are facing that kind of a gap against both the Angels and A's. It's time for Seattle to get rolling. The M's are now tied with Texas for the distinction of being the worst club in the American League. I can't tell you how many longtime baseball media types, scorekeepers and officials came up to me in New York truly stunned at what the M's have allowed themselves to become. Many of them picked Seattle to finish first based on the quality of the team's pitching and cannot understand how the team is doing this poorly. Even with the offense and some defensive shortcomings. An offense has to be truly awful to offset pitching this good.

Nobody expected the M's to set offensive records. But few expected them to drop off the planet like they have. And anyone claiming that they did "predict'' that it would be this bad, based on simulations and such, will have to show me how those same simulations predicted the Cleveland Indians would do so far this year. Or the Detroit Tigers. If anyone can find me a simulation that had the Tigers and Indians fighting it out for the AL Central basement five weeks into the season, I'd love to see it. Otherwise, the system is an approximation -- and that's it.

Yes, the M's were going to have offensive struggles. We all knew that. I did think the team could stay reasonably close to league average and maybe even approach last year's production. I am disappointed in the performances of a number of players I felt would do better offensively than they have. But as a group, this offense has been catastrophic. Most projections I've seen from folks who did not think the M's would would make the playoffs this year still had them as a .500 team. I believed that, at the very worst, they would be a .500 team. A .500 team right now would trail the Angels by 3 1/2 games.

Not great. But far more manageable than 6 1/2 games. No matter what anyone's offensive projections for this team were, the team has underperformed them. It's time for the M's to get cracking on their 2008 season. Or else, it's going to be an awfully long, hot summer.

It's not time to panic yet. But time is definitely of the essence here. This series, as I mentioned yesteday, could very well set the course for the rest of the season.


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May 4, 2008 3:32 PM

Mariners in a death spiral

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A look at Mariano Rivera, coming out from the bullpen to the tune of "Enter the Sandman'' to finish off the Mariners in the ninth inning of this 8-2 loss. J.J. Putz was also going to get some mop-up work, but he had a slight irritation on his finger from his extra bullpen sessions so the team didn't push it. Putz is available to close games, just not do mop-up duty. Anyhow, a fifth straight defeat for Seattle. The M's are in a death spiral now and they have to pull out in the next few days.

No other way to put it. As I write this, the M's are in sole possession of last place in the AL West. Texas is losing, so the M's could be tied with the Rangers going into this week's four-game set with Texas. But that will also mean the M's will begin Monday 5 1/2 games behind second place Oakland and -- if today's score holds -- 6 1/2 games behind the first place Angels.

Start getting this far behind multiple teams this early and it takes the entire season to catch up.

Carlos Silva didn't think he pitched all that badly today. But he admitted to making some mistakes, leaving some balls up and getting crushed by the Yankees when he did. I asked Silva about the playoff teams he was on in Minnesota and how they avoided losing streaks.

The M's, as we know, had four losing streaks of at least six games last season -- including a nine-gamer that finished them off. Silva told me he's seen some things here that have him concerned.

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May 4, 2008 12:51 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: 05/04 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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12:51 p.m.: The Mariners enter this ninth inning, down 8-2, having scored two earned runs or less before the ninth in their last four games. They have scored three earned runs or less heading into the ninth innings of their last seven games. Seattle is fortunate to have won one of those contests, scoring five in the ninth to beat Cleveland the other night. But you can see why this team is losing. These guys will have to figure it out this week when the Texas Rangers come to town. This series was an enormous disappointment for the team, considering it had its top three starters going against an injury-weakened Yankees lineup. Doesn't get much worse than that. Time for a leader or two on this team to step up and show the others how it's done. On the mound, at the plate. It doesn't matter. In the clubhouse wouldn't hurt either, but performance starts on the field. This would be a good time for Jarrod Washburn to throw a quality start of seven innings or more. If the M's get any more of these mound outings at Safeco Field, the game could be over by the third. If this team truly does have five No. 1 starters like John McLaren and Mel Stottlemyre keep saying, this would be a good time for Washburn to prove them right.

After that, the hitters have to show they can do the job.

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May 4, 2008 9:16 AM

Betancourt bats sixth

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Yuniesky Betancourt, pictured above at right with second baseman Jose Lopez and coach Eddie Rodriguez, has been moved up to No. 6 in the order for today's game. Richie Sexson gets a day off and is replaced at first base by Jose Vidro, who hits fifth. Mariners manager John McLaren says he made the Betancourt move to see if it can jumpstart the offense.

"We'll get him in an RBI slot, see if it helps us out a bit,'' McLaren said.

Jeff Clement is the DH, batting 7th, while Wladimir Balentien hits ninth.

"We dropped him down a bit just to see if he can get his feet under him,'' McLaren said of Clement, though he could have been talking about Balentien as well.

McLaren and his coaches dined in the Little Italy section of New York last night and debated possible lineup switches to try to snap Seattle out of this four-game losing streak that has pushed it 5 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels. Division titles aren't won in May, but you sure can lose them this month. McLaren and his coaches know that, which is why he went off on the team yesterday.

"We believe in these guys,'' he said. "I'm not just saying that to blow smoke. I believe in these guys. We're not at the panic point. We're just losing games we should be winning and at some point it's going to bit you.''

Oh yeah, McLaren also said: "Today's the most important game of the year. That's as simple as I can put it.''


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May 3, 2008 2:07 PM

McLaren goes off on team

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Kenji Johjima, pictured above, had two of Seattle's eight hits today, but grounds out in a 1-2-3 ninth inning that took 10 pitches to complete. The Mariners lose 6-1 and after the game took a verbal tongue-lashing from manager John McLaren in a clubhouse tirade that could be heard echoing in the hallways outside. Clubhouse attendants were prevented from entering, as was the media, as McLaren unloaded on his team.

Afterwards, doors finally opened, he said: "We can't hit for them. It's up to them. We put their names in the lineup and it's up to them to hit. If that doesn't work, we'll look at other options. We spent two hours in the cage before the game and we have nothing to show for it.''

He added: "I don't know if a switch in the lineup would change anything. We have capable hitters and we need to hit collectively as a group.''

McLaren concluded by saying the team isn't playing good baseball and that he's "very disappointed'' in the 13-18 record after a positive spring training. "I need to take full responsibility because it's my team and we have to get things right.''

Only he's not taking full responsibility if he's yelling at the players. Not to play semantical games here, but that's it. For the record, I don't think, as I told you last night, that he is fully responsible. This is a player thing. The players have to play.

Raul Ibanez, who was indeed trying not to make that outfield throw that wound up spiked into the ground, said of McLaren's outburst: "Everything he said, he hit the nail on the head and he's absolutely right, It's time for us to pick it up.''

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May 3, 2008 12:48 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: 05/03 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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12:48 p.m.: Once again, the M's head into the ninth inning having scored just a lone run. That's three games in a row for anyone keeping score at home. That's six games in a row in which Seattle has scored three or less heading into the final frame. You can't win that way. Not much else can be done right now. You mix the lineups around, move guys up and down, but soon it becomes like shuffling deck chairs on the old Titanic. The M's need hitters to do what's expected of them. No jokes here. A bunch of .200 averages were not expected. Not all of these guys were expected to hit .280 with 20 homers, but something a little more in the middle would help. Anyhow, we head to the ninth in a 6-1 game.

In case you missed it last night, here's the video of my trip from Cleveland to the Bronx:

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May 3, 2008 8:57 AM

Miguel Cairo starts

Posted by Geoff Baker

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No, this isn't a punishment thing for Jose Lopez missing the throw last night. If you were going to punish the Mariners who messed up in the game, Richie Sexson would be the only infielder starting today. It's a matchup thing. Miguel Cairo is 7-for-28 lifetime off Mike Mussina. While Lopez is 1-for-2 off him over his short career, that's not much of a sample to go off of. McLaren gives Lopez a short rest today and has a backup with a decent -- though not spectacular -- track record off the pitcher.

As far as McLaren goes, he says he didn't talk to the media after last night's game because he was afraid of what he might say. What he said this morning was, a team that isn't scoring runs can't afford to give an opponent four or five outs per inning. We went over all this last night, so no sense repeating it.

The players apparently had a players-only meeting within the past week to discuss what's gone on so far. Not a scream and yell at each other type of thing. More like a discussion. Time for talk is done, though. These guys have to produce. The one good thing going for them is that neither the Angels nor the A's have grabbed this division and run away with it. Both lost again last night, meaning the M's still trail by only 4 1/2 games. Not optimal, for sure. But better than the eight games out they could be had one of those teams gotten really hot.

Seattle is fortunate to still be within striking distance. It has to step its game up a notch without pressing as hard as the players have been.


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May 2, 2008 7:57 PM

Put a blanket on them

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners are done. At least on this night they are, going down 5-1 to the New York Yankees. This was one of the worst displays I've seen from the Mariners -- ranking up there with that wild debacle in Tampa Bay a year ago, a 13-12 game I believe -- since I began covering the team. The fielding was attrocious, the hitting non-existent and the result...all too predictable.

Erik Bedard and Ichiro were both the team's only saving grace tonight. But not enough.

"I'm just trying to keep the team in the ballgame,'' Bedard said after holding the Yankees to one earned run over seven innings. "Keep them in the game so they can try to score some runs.''

That would be the first problem. The scoring runs part. Once Seattle spotted the Yanks a pair of unearned markers the first two innings, thanks to three of the four errors committed by the M's, this one was effectively in the books.

That's an 0-12 record for Seattle in games in which it trails by two or more at any point. Look it up. I'll try to find stats on other teams at some point, but I'm a little busy these days doing videos, flying around the country and trying to keep track of all the goose eggs on the scoreboard. Just how many of these seven-inning quality starts can this team keep wasting? I'll give you a hint: not many. They all count in the end.

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May 2, 2008 5:56 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: 05/02 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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6:56 p.m.: And that should just about about wrap things up here, with Ichiro and Erik Bedard the only Mariners who seemed interested tonight. Bedard allows one earned run over seven innings, but his team trails 5-1 heading to the ninth after Ryan Rowland Smith gave up two singles and a walk in the eighth. Sean Green came on and yielded a run-scoring single to Morgan Ensberg and Jose molina later added a sacrifice fly. About time to turn these lights out. Enter the Sandman.

Down below, take a video trip with me from Cleveland to the South Bronx. We'll fly from Cleveland to Detroit, then on to New York City, landing at La Guardia Airport. After that, the cab ride into Manhattan, where, if you've never been in a New York City cab, you'll discover they have TV sets in them. Rachel Ray happened to be on with one of her gazillion cooking shows. Can't seem to avoid her anywhere these days. Not sure if that's a good thing. I drop my bags off quickly at the hotel room, high above 3rd Ave. near 53rd St. then head off to Yankee Stadium, riding the No. 6 and then the No. 4 subway to the Bronx. At the stadium, our train emerges from the subterranean tunnel into the daytime light and the stadium comes into view. Next to it, I'll show you a brief glimpse of the new stadium being built across the street and opening next year. Enjoy.

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May 2, 2008 1:49 PM

Clement bats fifth

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The New York Yankees just came out for the pre-game stretch here in New York on a damp, foggy and chilly afternoon. Hope the rain holds off.

I know many of you have complained about Jose Vidro batting fifth in the lineup, despite his 18 runs batted in. Well, that problem is solved tonight because Jeff Clement is the DH and positioned in the fifth spot. Jamie Burke is the catcher tonight. That was always the plan, which is why Kenji Johjima came in as a defensive replacement for Clement in last night's game after Willie Bloomquist pinch-ran for the latter.

Talked to Mel Stottlemyer, earlier on. He's making his return to a place where he spent a decade as the pitching coach on some of Joe Torre's top playoff teams.

"There was a whole lot more good than there was rough times,'' he said. "During those years I left, I really appreciated those years when we went to the playoffs a lot more.''

Stottlemyre said the problems J.J. Putz is having with his command are similar to those he's seen other relievers experience. He feels Putz needs to get into games more regularly for it to work itself out. In his book, a closer sitting out three to four games in a row is too long. He'd rather not use Putz in non-save situations, but, at this stage, the six-days between appearances for Putz this last time didn't work out so hot either.

So, if it's a choice between the two, he'd choose to use him.


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May 2, 2008 6:28 AM

Out of the frying pan and...

Posted by Geoff Baker

The Mariners are thrown right back into the fire tonight against the New York Yankees and none other than Chien Ming Wang, who owned them last season. I'm at the airport in Cleveland waiting for my flight, so not much time to write. All I'll say is, the M's got too many of their hits last night with two out and none on. A good way not to get rallies going. What can they do about it? Same thing that's been said all year. Be more selective in the pitches they swing at. I don't know how many times the inning was nearly over last night before I'd have time to finish writing a summary of the previous inning. Old habits are hard to break, but this team has to start finding ways to get the leadoff guy on. Ichiro did it in the ninth and it paid off. This has been a problem all season though. It's either no one gets on until there are two out, or the team gets a bunch of guys on with no out and wastes it. Have to start doing the in-between stuff.

In case you missed it last night, here's the video tour of Progressive Field once again.

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May 1, 2008 9:19 PM

Mound of heartbreak

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The hitters came through late, but the pitchers couldn't get it done for Seattle in a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in 11 innings. J.J. Putz blew the lead in the 10th and Mark Lowe just lost it in the 11th, yielding a one-out walk to Jhonny Peralta and a bloop double to left by Travis Hafner. No, Adam Jones would not have gotten to the ball, or kept the lead runner from taking third base. Sorry. Lowe then hit the .216-hititng Jamey Carroll on the hand with a pitch to load 'em up.

Sean Green came on to try to clean up Lowe's mess, but -- after striking out Franklin Gutierrez -- gave up a single to right to former M's prospect Asdrubal Cabrera, seen in the photo above.

After the game, Putz said his velocity isn't the issue. It's his command of the fastball. Simply put, he has none. Didn't have it on the Travis Hafner strikeout to begin the 10th, or against the other hitters later on.

"I'm really at a loss because I've never had this much trouble throwing strikes with the fastball,'' he said. "Sometimes your splitter or slider is going to be off, but I feel like I've been pretty good with my fastball over the years. Being able to locate that whenever I've wanted to, it's like being able to close your eyes and throw a strike with your fastball. And right now, it's just not there.''

That's not good.

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May 1, 2008 7:17 PM

Mariners at Cleveland Indians: 05/01 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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7:17 p.m.: A dramatic comeback by the Mariners is now on-hold as J.J. Putz blows a one-run lead in the 10th inning to make it 2-2 heading into the 11th.

Seattle had scored the tying marker in the ninth, then took the lead in the 10th on a Richie Sexson solo homer to left field. It was the 300th homer of Sexson's career and his 100th as a Mariner. Seattle could use a few more from him, but he's off to a better start in that department than last season. At six already. We had a long discussion about him this morning and what he needs to do going forward. This was a start. It also was not one of those worthless homers hitters can get in blowout games. This one definitely mattered. A big one for his team.

But Putz yielded one-out singles to Ryan Garko and Franklin Gutierrez in the bottom of the 10th. Garko took a wide turn at second and looked like he'd have a strong shot at third. But he pulled up and went back to second. The fans booed, but it became a moot point when Putz walked Asdrubal Cabrera on five pitches to load the bases. Putz then walked Grady Sizemore, also on five pitches, to force home the tying run.

Putz rallied atrong from there, striking out Casey Blake and David Dellucci with the game on the line. But he's now blown two saves -- as many as he had all of last season. He's had only one save opportunity since coming off the DL and hadn't thrown in six days since almost blowing that 5-1 lead in the ninth against Oakland. He's rusty and needs more work.

As promised, down below, take a video tour of Progressive Field. I'll walk you through the streets of Cleveland to the ballpark, where we'll stand in the bleachers by the left field foul pole, up underneath the centerfield scoreboard where a lone drummer plays during games and over in Heritage Park. a place where they pay tribute to Indians and baseball Hall of Famers. Also where they post the names of the top-100 Indians of all-time as voted by fans. Enjoy.

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May 1, 2008 3:28 PM

Buzzie Bavasi: 1914-2008

Posted by Geoff Baker

Sad news given us moments ago that Emil Joseph "Buzzie'' Bavasi has passed away in California after a short illness. He was 93.

Bavasi was, of course, the father of Mariners GM Bill Bavasi and patriarch of a multi-generational baseball family. Not to mention a reader of this blog. Bavasi would email myself and Larry Stone from time to time. I once had a lengthy email exchange with the longtime Brookyln and Los Angeles Dodgers GM about his years spent in my hometown of Montreal in the 1940s, where the Dodgers had their Class AAA farm club, the Royals, during the Jackie Robinson era right on through to the 1960s. Bavasi played a key role in Robinson's integration into the major leagues in 1947, after he'd played for the Royals in 1946. It was great to see a guy in his 90s, obviously an "old school'' baseball guy, working a computer as often as Bavasi did.

Bavasi's clubs won eight NL pennants and four World Series titles during his 17 years at the helm from 1951-68. He built their only championship team in Brooklyn in 1955.

Later on, he was part-owner of the San Diego Padres from 1969 to 1977 and executive vice-president of the California Angels from 1978 to 1984.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Evit, and four sons, Peter (a former Toronto Blue Jays founding president and the guy who gave Pat Gillick his first big front office job), Chris, Bob and Bill. Bill Bavasi was here in Cleveland today, but caught the first flight he could back out to California to be with his family.

I can say that Buzzie was truly proud of his son's work as a GM and fiercely loyal in standing up for him. Never discussed their relationship with Bill, but it could not have been easy trying to live up to the standard set by his father's legacy. Part of me is truly sad, today, that Buzzie will never get to see his son win that division title he was so close to in Anaheim back in 1995. And that Bill will never get to do have his father see him do it either. But as I said, the father was truly proud of his son and would say it in emails, even when he was imploring me to "go easy on him'' -- tongue half-planted in his cheek.

This game has plenty of superstars. But it's when the characters depart, the ones who have stood the test of time and helped shape the game's history, that it's time to pause and remember. He'll be missed.

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May 1, 2008 9:49 AM

The Sexson question

Posted by Geoff Baker

Good for Mariners fans to see the calendar turn to the month of May, I'm sure. April was no treat, with the team going 13-15. A disappointment, to be certain. One thing to keep in mind, though it doesn't totally excuse what's gone on. That "soft'' schedule the team supposedly had? Maybe not as soft as we thought. Seattle's schedule was against teams that are now 18-11 (Angels), 17-12 (A's), 15-12 (Orioles), 15-12 (Rays), 12-14 (Royals) and 9-18 (Rangers). So, only the Rangers were true patsies and the M's faced them in just three games. They played the "best'' teams in two series apiece. As I said, it doesn't excuse everything because Seattle's offense was still terrible. And some of those teams won't be above .500 much longer. But still, it was not the cakewalk month it first appeared to be on paper.

Time for the team to start anew. May is usually when Ichiro kicks it into gear and he's going to have to. April was not a typical Ichiro month. But he's not the team's worst problem. We saw some of those dealt with yesterday when Brad Wilkerson was shipped out, replaced by Wladimir Balentien, while Jose Vidro and Kenji Johjima stand to have some playing time cut by the arrival of Jeff Clement. Just how much time is cut will depend largely on what Vidro and Johjima do going forward.

My email inbox is getting flooded by your queries about when Richie Sexson is going to get the axe as well. Many of you are passionately pleading for a cut in his playing time. My answer is simple. No cuts for Sexson are coming anytime soon. And I can understand why.

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Silva buries team early

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Detroit Tigers at Mariners: 05/30 game thread

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A look at the local Ferrari dubbed the nation's top carnew
It's been called the most prestigious car show in the nation, and possibly the world. Every summer, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance attracts the ...
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