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

April 6, 2007 at 6:51 AM

Old weather, new home

Someone wrote in to ask whether being here in snowy Cleveland makes me harken back to the “good old days” of growing up in Montreal. Answer: not a chance, pal. Give me the rainy winters of Seattle any day. This 20 degrees and chapped lips thing in April is getting real old, real fast. At least I don’t have to play this afternoon.
One of the unexpected benefits of covering the Mariners is the quality of some of the online fan sites that deal with the team. The ones I read on a daily basis far surpass anything I’d seen in my previous stop or come to expect. They aren’t all the same. Some are more populist and immediate, others more introspective. Among the good ones I read on any given day: Lookout Landing, USS Mariner, Prospect Insider, SportSpot and Seattle Hardball. But one thing I’d yet to see, until now, is a local blogger actually having an impact on a team in direct competition with the home club.
Well, now I feel like I’ve seen it all. Anyone watching ESPN or reading a paper in North America the past 24 hours is aware of the Francisco Rodriguez “cheating” controversy. MLB has announced it is investigating whether the Angels closer has been doctoring the ball with a foreign substance contained inside the bill of his cap. What many folks don’t know is that MLB is attributing the “tip” in this case, as having come from this website, run by U.S.S. Mariner’s very own Derek Zumsteg.
Rodriguez promptly went out and served up the game-winning homer in last night’s ninth inning. Was his mind on other things? I can easily believe it was. And I’m not one to fall for that “outside distraction” thing too often, having once been accused in 2003, somewhat ridiculously, of sinking an entire Blue Jays season based on a story I wrote. But could the Zumsteg post have thrown K-Rod off just a little this one night? You’d better believe it. Ballplayers are only human and Rodriguez was bombarded with questions about the post and MLB’s subsequent announcement of an investigation. For a “fan” of one team to have this much impact on an opponent’s star closer is another coup for the rapidly-expanding blogosphere. At the very least, it’s a darn good way to flog a book (which Zumsteg, by the way, happens to be selling, as anyone who reads USS Mariner even one day a week would know by now). Hats off to him (pardon the pun).
Oh yeah, here’s what they’re worried about, baseball-wise, back in Canada. Yeesh. Yup, loving Seattle. Now, if only the Mariners could do something about that lingering sense of doom I have about their chances this series. This is a very tough road trip to have to start off a season on.
Things to focus on this series:
— The two new starting pitchers. Hopefully, they do better than Miguel Batista. But both guys (Horacio Ramirez and Jeff Weaver) are California boys being asked to pitch in Arctic weather conditions.
— DH Jose Vidro. Has not looked comfortable as the DH or a No. 3 hitter. The one big drawback to his style of hitting in the No. 3 spot is the potential to ground into double-plays and he has been doing that. I still say he needs a few weeks to adjust to his new role. No, the team doesn’t really have that long, but they should have thought about that when they dealt for him.
— The bullpen. Let’s face it, the ‘pen has yet to be thoroughly tested. The only time it was called upon to protect a slim lead, Julio Mateo let it last all of two outs before giving up two runs that tied the game. So far, the bullpen has allowed 12 baserunners in 8 1/3 innings. That’s a WHIP of nearly 1.5. Too high. Too small a sample size, yes, but it’s all we have to go on. Before that, the spring results made me very antsy. Chris Reitsma looked good in his one and only inning. George Sherrill, not so good. I have a feeling the bullpen will be a huge factor in this Cleveland series.

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