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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 18, 2010 at 7:54 AM

For the collapsing Mariners, it’s starting to smell a lot like 2008

In one of the zillions of pre-season articles lauding the Mariners for their winter manuevering and predicting great things — this one in USA Today on Feb. 19 with the headline “Postive Energy Flowing in Seattle After Off-Season Moves” — team president Chuck Armstrong had a quote that in retrospect looks prescient:

“We feel good, and the weather has been unbelievable, but we’re actually trying to dampen the enthusiasm a little. I remember when we came out in 2007 and won 88 games. There was so much optimism. And then we lost 101 games (in 2008).

“I like our chances to be competitive, but there are a lot of quality organizations in our division.”

As it turns out, enthusiasm-dampening has reached hurricane proportions among Mariners’ fans. I’d say we’re in the midst of a flood of criticism and ill-will that I haven’t seen since, well, about this time in May of 2008.

Guess what? The Mariners right now stand 14-24 after last night’s 8-4 loss in Oakland. The 2008 Mariners, after 38 games, stood 14-24 after an 8-4 loss to the White Sox. The current M’s have lost 13 of 16 to drop 6 1/2 games out of first place. Those M’s had lost 14 of 17 to fall eight games out of first.

That year was marked by in-fighting, much of it revolving around Ichiro. This year, we’ve already had Milton Bradley leaving the ballpark before the end of a game, then going on the restricted list to receive counseling for personal issues, and the furor over a story leaked by two players that Ken Griffey Jr. was asleep in the clubhouse during a game.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the similarities, and I know I’m not the first to point them out. But I’d maintain that this year’s demise is even more disillusioning — and infuriating — for M’s fans. Maybe it’s revisionist history, or maybe I’m not remembering correctly, but I don’t think the level of optimism after 2007 was nearly as high as it was after 2009. I know there wasn’t the same level of faith in then-GM Bill Bavasi as in current-GM Jack Zduriencik . The “go for broke” trade for Erik Bedard was not as widely hailed as the “go for broke” trade for Cliff Lee. I think there was much more of a sense that the 88-win surge of 2007 was a fluke, while the 85-win surge of last season seemed indicative of a team very much on the rise.

Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned. Just read the scathing comments in any of the posts on the Mariners blog last night, or any other Mariners blog or message board of your choice.

The 2008 Mariners, at this juncture, still thought they had time to resurrect their season. In his quotes after Game 38, manager John McLaren lauded his team for their grit in fighthing back in the late innings after falling behind 6-0.

“I think we can carry this over,” he said. “The guys stuck with it and kept fighting which is a positive sign.”

Current manager Don Wakamatsu has been emphasizing much the same thing after tough losses.

It was merely wishful thinking in 2008, of course. By the All-Star break, McLaren and Bavasi had been fired, and the Mariners were 20 games out of first place en route to 101 losses.

Let’s see if these Mariners can resurrect their thus-far miserable season.

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