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

June 7, 2007 at 8:03 AM

Third place Mariners?

Not quite yet. The Mariners woke up this morning, with half of an off-day before they have to fly to San Diego, knowing they remain percentage points ahead of the Oakland A’s. But yes, as readers keep pointing out, it’s officially time to look out for the crew in Oakland. Did I really write a few weeks back that these guys didn’t have the horses to make a second-half run? Sounds vaguely familiar. But allowing just 19 runs in their last eight games has me thinking differently. My colleague, Larry Stone, will be positively tickled because he was a huge proponent of the A’s repeating as division champs coming out of spring training. Oakland’s injury situation is also slowly — very slowly — clearing up.
It’s not just the pitching numbers, it’s the quality of opponents the A’s are beating. Look at what they just did to a team that was considered baseball’s best just last week.
Wow, does this ever make for an exciting second half on the AL West pitching front. Think the Mariners are a little down on themselves for not gaining ground on the Angels yesterday? How do you think the Angels feel? They just completed the best start in franchise history and still have the M’s nipping at their heels and the A’s now poised to make one of their infamous charges.
Where does this leave the M’s? With GM Bill Bavasi needing to acquire another pitcher. Can he do it now? I’m not sure. Look, no one is trying to be a killjoy after one defeat. Seattle has played very well, in spite of its pitching woes. But the Mariners, for all of the good they’ve accomplished, are losing ground in their playoff hunt. Are they going to be able to keep pace with the Angels and A’s? I don’t know. Can Bavasi go out and land a starter who can make a difference? I doubt it. He’ll have Jeff Weaver going in San Diego on Saturday and if he can somehow rediscover how to go seven innings, that will be the equivalent of landing a new pitcher. Perhaps that is why the M’s insist on running him out to the mound yet again. Maybe he will re-invent himself from what we saw.
Otherwise, what can the M’s do? No, I have not heard any good trade rumors regarding Seattle. The only rumors I keep hearing involve Ichiro. And it’s usually in the form of a question, with some out-of-town radio interviewer asking: “When are the Mariners going to make a decision about trading him?”
Good question. And as I keep explaining, this is not an easy decision. The Mariners probably are not in the situation they are today, four games over .500, without Ichiro. But the big question remains, how much better can they be by keeping him? And, can they get better this year by dealing him? It’s the classic Catch-22. They likely will not land another starter — a quality starter — unless they trade arguably their best hitter.
I mentioned an Ichiro deal to Los Angeles for Brad Penny on the air yesterday. But can such a deal realistically get done? Don’t forget, the Dodgers are in an arms race of their own in the NL West right now. And they would still have a crack at Ichiro as an off-season free-agent if he was dealt to another team mid-season. Unless, that is, the team dealing for Ichiro worked out a deal with him and his agent beforehand on a multi-year contract. Doesn’t happen very often. I doubt Ichiro would forego his free-agent leverage that quickly in advance.
So, there you have it. Bavasi is very much up against it here. But then again, the time to fix major pitching problems is in the off-season. Not in July. Chances are, the guys we’ve already seen this year are the same ones the M’s will have to count on the rest of the way.

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