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

April 17, 2007 at 9:39 AM

Great series potential

Lots of big names making their way to Safeco Field starting tonight, when the Minnesota Twins arrive for a three-game series. We’re talking American League MVP in Justin Morneau, a fellow Canadian I might add. By the way, would it hurt too much to point out that Canada now has the MVP in baseball, basketball and hockey? That’s three of the four big team sports. We were angling for football as well until Mike Vanderjagt got cut by Dallas. Anyway, thought I’d give you this primer on Morneau, since it makes our city look pretty good.
The other big name coming our way? Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who goes Thursday and will be the first lefty starter the Mariners have faced this season. Santana has had his usual so-so start to a season. But the other arms in Minnesota’s rotation are providing some early season surprises, especially the two Seattle will face, Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva, in the first two games of this series.
To answer a question from the previous post: No one is trying to tarnish Lou Piniella’s good name. Just trying to point out that no manager is perfect and no manager is all bad. You can pile up a list of individual dugout “infractions” committed over the years and use it to tarnish any field boss. All you have to care about right now, all that matters as far as Mike Hargrove’s tenure in Seattle goes, is that his team is 5-3 and leading the division. If the team is 5-10 next week, then we’ll take a closer look at his shortcomings.
For now, there are more important matters, like Jeff Weaver. I’ll be very interested in his performance tonight. As I said on KJR last night, this is not make-or-break for him, but he has to show something closer to a normal performance than he did in Boston. He’ll get a one-game Mulligan for that since the outing came in freezing weather, after a long layoff because of snow delays and with limited opportunities for between-game bullpen sessions. He has had a more normal preparation time now, though he’ll still be working on six days’ rest.
The Angels’ loss in Boston yesterday — at least they got the game in — was pitched by Ervin Santana, which means younger Weaver brother, Jered, makes his season debut today. If all goes well, it’s still possibile he and older brother Jeff would hook up in Anaheim next Sunday, making them the eighth brother pairing to oppose each other on the mound.
This is meant to answer BuhnerFan’s question below. The brother pairings who have opposed each other on the mound, as I wrote them after Weaver signed with the Mariners.
I’m sorry if some of you are feeling confused about this issue, or my logic in explaining it to you. What I’m trying to do is explain to you why Hargrove remains employed and why teams do not always go out and fire managers based on the perceptions of fans. He remains employed right now because his team is in first place, playing .600 ball and because his 2006 squad won considerably more games than the 2005 version. That’s it and that’s all. You can try to dissect it, scrutinize individual moves made in individual games. But that is the bottom line. He will not be fired as long as he is managing a first-place team, whether it is 161, 100, 50 or eight games into a season. That is the only logic you need to concern yourselves with.
Most teams will also not fire their manager when the club makes a leap in wins, year-to-year, the way the Mariners did last season. Especially when just about all of baseball and pundits across North America (including this one) picked them to finish in last place before the season began. Had the consensus 13 months ago been that this was a second-place team, good for, say, 85 wins, then it would have been a different story. But very few people outside the Seattle area (or in it for that matter) felt the team was that good.
So, logic dictated that Hargrove hold on to his job after winning 78 games. Had the club not pulled out of the 11-game losing streak last year and finished with 68 wins instead of 78, the arguments for firing him would have been stronger. And I’m not saying the arguments for his dismissal last year were completely out to lunch. There were arguments to be made both ways. But the point is moot. The team improved over-all, he had one year left on his contract and has been given increased tools this season in the form of Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro and some veteran starters. Everyone associated with the team, Hargrove included, says they expect much more in the way of results. So, the logic now dictates we go by that.
If the team wins only 76 games and finishes last, the logic would then dictate Hargrove not return. But we are a long way off from that. Had the M’s started off 12-18 or so in April, then logic would dictate the club was headed towards a losing season and the “Hot Seat” factor would likely kick in and a move be made. But we are also now a long way off from that.
So, to sit here and listen to some people advocating for the manager’s dismissal because of individual lineup moves in individual innings, or games, of a 5-3 season so far (or last season) just misses the mark in my book. Agree with me, or disagree if you’d like. I’m just trying to open your eyes to why certain decisions have been made and keep on being made. It’s not like Howard Lincoln and company woke up one morning and said “Let’s make the most outrageous decision possible just to tick off the fan base”.
Regardless of what I think of decisions by Lincoln, Bill Bavasi and others, there is a certain logic to why Hargrove is still running the dugout. I’m trying to explain it to you as best I can so that some of you can stop wasting time fuming about it. Or looking up “Google” and other search engines in a futile attempt to point out which games Hargrove messed up two years ago and why.
Hargrove is the sixth manager I have covered on a day-to-day basis and is not even close to being the worst. In fact, he is much closer to the top of the list. The last guy I covered, John Gibbons, is a great guy who was constantly accused by fans and media alike of overworking his bullpen. That bullpen burned out midway through last season. Gibbons still has a job and has managed pretty well the first couple of weeks of this season. Hargrove, from what I can tell, hasn’t been accused of getting relievers up for nothing, or using five in a game where three would have sufficed. Every manager has an issue or two that fans don’t like. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture, would be my advice.
You don’t have to agree. But the guys paying Hargrove and keeping him employed are looking at the big picture. If he keeps winning more this year, he could be around in 2008. If not, he’ll be gone. That’s all the logic I can give you.



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