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

June 5, 2007 at 9:42 AM

Hargrove’s team

Still savoring the memories of that eighth inning comeback by the Mariners, quite the rarity as I mentioned last night. A good thing, too, where my fingers are concerned. Was typing so fast as the Mariners piled on the runs that I was worried about a Jose Vidro-type of injury. Many of you don’t know this, but rallies like that can take years off the life of beat writers trying to write stories on deadline. I just read some of the comments from last night’s threads and had to laugh at the ones saying the tone of my posts made it sound as if I wanted the Mariners to lose.
That’s not it at all. For future reference, whenever there’s a night game on the West Coast and some team erases a late deficit to take the lead with only one set of at-bats to go, know that the beat writer will usually have to re-write most if not all of the next day’s newspaper story in a span of about five minutes. Once Vidro tied the game, some major tinkering with the story began. Once Ichiro doubled to give Seattle the lead, the keyboard pounding began full throttle. After that, it was race downstairs to get quotes, run back up and completely re-write (again) that haphazardly written first story version. This time, in about 25 minutes because of the late finish.
Along the way, just before Vidro tied it, I had started typing up a late-game blog update about the possibilities of Baltimore again blowing a ninth inning lead. I’d discussed this issue in yesterday morning’s blog, stating that “Seattle’s odds of winning the series will increase if it comes down to a battle of late-inning relievers.” Figured it was time to re-visit that topic.
Once Vidro tied it in the eighth, I rejigged a couple of lines, cut out some others, then added the line about Ichiro giving Seattle the lead, and hit the “send” button. The alternative to that post would have been no post at all, given the time constraints. Didn’t have time to look at the blog again until after writing the newspaper story. Banged out some more quick lines to give you a feel for what the M’s were saying — hastily written, which is why I typed “Vidro” instead of “Lopez” on the double part — and got it in before midnight. Anything after midnight usually doesn’t get much reponse until morning so I wanted something up there for those of you still awake and charged-up about the win to talk about.
Anyway, that’s it. No conspiracy. Nobody hates the Mariners.
The late-inning bullpen part is very intertesting when it comes to this team, more specifically, to the way it’s been used by manager Mike Hargrove. I went on a Baltimore radio station yesterday and was asked by the host about the job Hargrove was doing for the team with the fifth-best record in the AL. Other than praising Hargrove for generally holding things together despite some trying times (six-game losing streak, Felix Hernandez’s injury, 23 games in 23 days) the thing I thought stood out the most about Hargrove has been his managing of the bullpen.
Think it’s easy to do that? Just ask Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo about it. He may lose his job this season and bullpen management will be a key reason.
Hargrove has been faced with a situation — no off days in over three weeks — that should be seting off alarm bells everywhere about early season bullpen burnout. His bullpen had already been teetering on the brink of exhaustion even before these 23 games in 23 days. And yet, how many games has the bullpen blown late? Try none. The M’s are 27-0 when leading after seven innings. That stat is pretty incredible when you think of what this bullpen has been through in 2007. They have a college kid setting up the eighth inning for crying out loud! Looks like Hargrove knew what he was doing in slowly grooming Brandon Morrow for that job. Morrow hasn’t been scored on since back in the days when the Yankees were still contending for a playoff spot.
George Sherrill has given up runs only once in 24 outings. J.J. Putz is 14-for-14 in save opportunities. Hargrove lost his main go-to guy in the sixth and seventh, Julio Mateo. He lost Chris Reitsma to the DL. And yet, the M’s keep on surviving. Remember that Cleveland game where he left Cha Seung Baek out there to avoid burning out relievers if he could? Yes, the M’s were losing that one game and still went on to lose. But since then, the M’s have gone 10-4. That’s called not giving up the war for the sake of winning one battle.
Yes, I think John McLaren did a decent job of managing the team in Hargrove’s absence. But it wasn’t his call to put Jose Lopez in the No. 2 spot in the order. That was Hargrove and if he keeps managing the club this way, it will be his team all season long. Is this Hargrove’s team? Put it this way. It’s his team until it stops playing for him. See any signs of that last night? Or last week in Anaheim, even the night Hernandez gave up the three home runs? No, this team is not quitting. Perhaps that’s a byproduct of Hargrove standing behind his veterans for so long. Running them out there every day. If we knock it when things go bad, it has to be praised if it seems to be working.
Remember what we said back in spring training? A manager is only as good as his players. Ask Lou Piniella if he agrees with that statement right about now. Piniella appears to be a manager who has lost his clubhouse. He might be out of a job long before Hargrove if that’s the case. Now, who could have predicted that back in March. Not me. Not Piniella, that’s for sure. But there you have it. Things in Seattle are not nearly as bad as advertised on the dugout front. In fact, right now, they are looking quite good in spite of Richie Sexson’s batting average, Felix Hernandez’s loss of command and a bunch of starting pitchers who can’t get beyond the sixth inning.
The Mariners, for all of their obvious faults, are four games above .500 and hanging in there. Yes, the Oakland A’s may pass them soon. I’ve been ignoring the A’s until I saw some signs they might get serious in the second half. Well, just 17 runs allowed in the last seven games? That’s pretty serious. If they get the consistent pitching, which they do seem to have (Chad Gaudin is a huge addition to the Dan Haren Show), then they will again be a threat.
But Seattle is still in second place for now. And it’s about time, in my book, that Hargrove starts to get some credit for the things he has done right.



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