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

June 1, 2007 at 9:08 AM

It’s already June

Must be June 1 because I woke up from one of those eternal sleeps (finally off the road), peeked outside and viewed the magnificent Seattle weather. Now I remember why I wanted to move to this city so badly. You know what? For all the negativity expressed the past 48 hours or so in this space about the M’s limited playoff chances — and they are limited — there is also a lot that fans have to be happy about right now.
The one thing last night’s sleep reminded me of is that this team is on a grueling stretch of 23 games in 23 days. I can’t begin to tell you how tough that is. Yes, the players fly first class, stay in fancy hotels and such, but it’s all relative and they are still tired. We writers don’t have to go out and play every night, but we have our own little routines and mental grinds (some of us even work out, so there is minor physical stuff involved) and I can tell you, we were all feeling it by the time we headed home from Anaheim on Thursday. I don’t think any of the regulars were interested in being at Safeco Field last night. Not sure who went and who didn’t (still in a morning fog) but I know the players had no choice. Keep that in the back of your heads the next time you start laying into the team. Hey, we all do it and I’m not telling you to stop criticizing mistakes. But just be aware that no other team is being forced to endure what the Mariners are going through. And the next road trip, to San Diego, Cleveland, Chicago and Houston, promises to be just as tough. Three time zones once again. No, it isn’t fair. The players have plenty to complain about.
As for last night’s game, the M’s took care of business. The Texas Rangers handed them the game when their fraud of a No. 2 starter, Vicente Padilla, couldn’t get anyone out. I like that the Mariners beat the tar out of him when he tried to get by with that slop he was throwing. His manager’s comments midway through the story kind of say it all. Good teams have to punish bad ones when they aren’t ready to compete. Here’s my rant of the day. Some of you may have noticed in my Devil Rays comments of last week, but I just hate when major league teams don’t put up professional-style competition in front of fans paying top dollar. Hey, I realize that blowouts happen. But watching last night’s game, it isn’t as if the Mariners were doing anything that magnificent to be up 7-0 in the third inning. Maybe 3-0 or 4-0. But the Rangers looked like Little Leaguers out there early on and Padilla was the reason. I’m glad the Rangers made a game of it to at least make things interesting for the paying customers. The D-Rays didn’t do that in the first two games at Tropicana Field and have rolled over too often the past decade I’ve watched them to allow that type of play to go uncommented on. The Rangers? Not at all impressed. I gave a radio podcast interview early in spring training to a 14-year-old Boston host, in which I picked Texas third and Seattle fourth in the AL West. By the end of spring, having seen how bad the Rangers looked, that pick was quickly flip-flopped in our 2007 season preview.
The things I liked about Cha Seung Baek last night? That he threw at the opposing hitter after his own guy got plunked. Ask Jose Guillen how he feels about that particular baseball code. It’s the big reason he and the Angels’ staff started feuding in Anaheim three years ago. Accused them of not doing it. Not protecting their own hitters. You have to do it. Especially with a 7-0 lead. If Baek hadn’t, you were liable to see him show up with an extra shaving cut on his face, or a slight limp and tale of slipping in the shower the next day. Yes, those things do happen in major league clubhouses. Shaving is real tough at times.
I also liked that he waited until he was up 7-0 to have his little in-game breakdown. Better than doing it with the game scoreless. Winners do those sort of things, it seems. And when Baek is on the mound, the M’s seem to win. That’s a good trend. Another positive sign is that he shut the Rangers down after that and worked into the seventh inning. Hey, he was up at nearly 80 pitches in the fourth. To work into the seventh is what a winner does. I like this guy. Stuff isn’t overwhelming but he seems to know how to pitch. That’s important. Right now, he’s a solid No. 3 starter. If Jeff Weaver ever came back stronger, like he says he now is…slap! Sorry I was writing with my inner voice.
What did happen to my “beloved” Escobar (as one sensitive reader so nicely put it) last night? Well, at first glance, the same thing that’s plagued him the last three years. The Angels went back to being the Angels and couldn’t score runs. He did go eight innings again. Five runs allowed. Some nights, that’s good enough to win.
What’s happened to the Orioles? My initial take is that they have pretty good pitching. My realistic take is that, as in the decade I spent covering the also-rans of the AL East, it’s the time of year where it’s safe enough for them to start winning again. They have no shot at the division title, no one expects much out of them and they do have some talent on that roster. Won’t matter when it counts, but right now, they are a dangerous club. The M’s had better be careful next week. Then again, the O’s could come to Seattle, get swept and lose nine in a row. Seen them pull that type of stunt before, just when folks start to take them seriously. It’s the middle portion of the season now. Lots of strange stuff tends to happen.
The M’s? Two games over .500, 4 1/2 back. Second place. Life could be better. But it could certainly be worse. Let’s just enjoy the baseball for now, forget about the standings for a while and see whether this team makes progress in bettering itself. Not in the standings. Just in the race against itself.
Also, I should mention, that Detroit bullpen is looking awfully bad without Joel Zumaya. Do you think that…nah, let’s wait for June to play out first.

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