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

May 10, 2007 at 3:33 PM

Right down the middle

No, the title isn’t describing the latest Jeff Weaver pitch. More like the status of a Mariners team that seems afraid to show folks what it is really about. The 7-3 loss here today tempered much of my enthusiasm from the previous night. I liked the offense the team generated in spots today, but once again, the key hits were lacking .We saw them six days ago at Yankee Stadium and at Comerica Park last night. But other times, just a lot of baserunners. Sometimes, not enough baserunners.
The pitching from Weaver? Same old story.
“It’s just frustration, you know?” Weaver said with a sigh afterwards. “I’m not doing anything to help the team. I’m out there giving up early runs, putting us behind early. It’s tough to come back when you’re down three right from the get-go.”
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove was just as blunt.
“Everything was flat,” Hargrove said of Weaver’s pitches. “He had a fastball he was getting up in the strike zone, hung a breaking ball to Inge for the home run. Everything was flat today. There was no movement, hardly any depth to his pitches.”
Somebody described my optimism last night as being fanlike. Not even-keeled enough. Well, friend, that’s the nature of running a daily blog. But I also must say that there is nothing wrong with being optimistic for the Mariners when they play well. They played very well last night, moved a game over .500 and came an inning or two away from beginning today alone in first place. Now, whether or not you like the composition of this team, it’s tough to be overly pessimistic when something like that happens.
Yes, plenty of the 3-5 record this trip had to do with luck. The Mariners should probably not have won that game on Monday when the umpire blew the Bloomquist call at second. And Seattle probably would have lost the opener to the Yankees had someone other than Kei Igawa and Colter Bean been manning the mound for New York. So, the M’s could have been 1-7. But baseball doesn’t work that way. You don’t get credit for style points. Wins are wins, no matter how they are compiled and at the end of the day, the team with the most wins, well…they win. Unless you are the St. Louis Cardinals from last season, then you just get a little lucky. But that’s what I mean. Sometimes, the best teams aren’t the ones holding the trophy. You’ve got to stay close to have a shot and so far, the Mariners are staying close.
Do I believe they can keep this up? Not with the pitching staff I’ve seen so far. Weaver has to be out of the rotation. He had his shot. Hargrove wasn’t tipping his hand, but hardly offered a vote of confidence. Horacio Ramirez may not be far behind if he can’t figure out how to win on the road. Miguel Batista is a so-so “right down the middle” starter, which more or less symbolizes the team as a whole. Win one, lose one. Lose two, win two. A .500 team can be frustrating to watch, if indeed that’s what this Mariners club is. I believe it’s relatively close to that.
One test I’ve always used to separate contenders from pretenders is the sweep test. How many series of three or four games (forget the one and two-gamers, we mean real series) does a team sweep and how long does it take? I did some research last year that showed only a tiny fraction of contending teams over the last century have needed more than two months to record their first sweep of the season. Don’t have the data here in Detroit, but it was a miniscule amount. So far, the Mariners have yet to sweep anybody.
Another good test is to see whether a team puts together a winning streak of seven games or more. Such streaks usually go hand-in-hand with sweeps. They also offset the inevitable long losing streaks teams endure and are what helps separate true contenders from pretenders. Most contenders generate several winning streaks of at least five games. The Mariners don’t have one of those yet. They do have a losing streak of six games.
So, no, I am not a fan. But I also don’t mind seeing teams disprove my theories about them. Just because I’ve picked the M’s third doesn’t mean I’m rooting for them to lose. Any writer will tell you that it is more fun to cover a winner, a contender. If the Mariners can prove people wrong, more power to them. I don’t think they will, in the end. I think the strong additions to the offense have been offset by starters that don’t quite measure up.
The addiiton of Felix Hernandez will be a welcome one for this squad, in that it will at least have hopes of a solid outing every five days, then a second one most times out from Jarrod Washburn. But a contending team needs more than just “solid” two out of every five days. Had they finished 4-4 on this trip I would have been very impressed. But they didn’t, they finished 3-5. I realize it’s only one more game we’re talking about.
But I guess that’s what I’m getting at here. I expected the M’s to go 3-5, or worse, and they didn’t surprise me. I suppose I’m waiting to be surprised. Waiting to be shown some sign this team can put together a streak that can pull it out of this .500 dance. Maybe that will come once Hernandez returns. Maybe not. Maybe it never comes and we watch this $108-million team do this “right down the middle” cruise to .500 for the rest of the season. Until I see more signs to become optimistic, or too pessimistic about, I’ll simply do what I promised last night. Hop my flight home and enjoy the weekend.



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