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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

February 25, 2007 at 8:50 AM

Probing questions

Time for the Mariners to get back to some real work today after putting on their little show for the fans Saturday afternoon.
To celebrate a sunny, gorgeous Sunday morning, I’ll answer some of the questions forwarded to me.
Q: Why are you trying to scare players away from Seattle by pointing out what could go wrong for the Mariners in 2007?
A: We in the media do not get paid to be cheerleaders. And it is very rare, in any baseball season, that something will go completely right for a team. The way these Mariners have been built, they need plenty to go right. They need Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro to stay healthy, or else the offense risks being just as bad as it was last season. They need Horacio Ramirez to stay healthy, despite recent history. Jeff Weaver to prove his final seven weeks of 2006 wasn’t a one-time occurence. Jarrod Washburn to show he is not on the decline. Felix Hernandez to break out. They need Chris Reitsma to recover from elbow surgery, or else the bullpen will have a glaring hole before J.J. Putz. Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre to be more than two-month wonders. And all of this without anyone else getting seriously hurt. Do that, and the team might contend. It’s a lot to ask. Impossible? No, but a lot to ask. A year ago, I took all types of flack from Toronto fans online for predicting the Blue Jays would win 85-88 games. When they won 87, no one wrote in to apologize. It’s part of the job. See it that way.
Q: What’s the most pressing issue facing the Mariners so far?
A: For me, it’s the progress of Jose Lopez, who will start taking ground balls today. The entire construction of the team’s starting rotation is based on the premise that the team’s middle infield will swallow up the ground balls induced by the guys on the mound. If Lopez isn’t 100 per cent ready at second base, that will mean some early problems and potentially losses in an early part of the schedule that looks very tough based on last year’s results. Lopez is taking longer than the team thought to recover from his sprained ankle. He’ll miss at least a week of spring training games, likely more.
Q: Shouldn’t the coaching staff be the ones helping backup catcher Rene Rivera stay in shape during the season? Why are his teammates the ones doing it?
A: In an ideal world, every coach would have enough time to cater to the specific needs of every player. But let’s face it. This is the backup catcher we’re talking about. It’s not like Rivera is going to wander up to his coaches and say “Gee, boss. I’m feeling so rundown all the time. Maybe I can’t hack this job.” Every good team, in my experience, has players who police themselves. On issues like this, their words will often carry more weight. Peer pressure is an enormous motivator in baseball. It’s probable that Rivera got plenty of coaching advice as the season progressed. But backup catchers usually don’t hit all that well. There is a fine line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. Another hit per week for Rivera and this would not have been perceived as a problem. I’m sure he flew under their radar screen for a while, with the team hoping he’d eventually come around. No doubt he’ll be monitored more from the start of this season.

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