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June 24, 2007 at 11:01 AM

Better pitching this time

With apologies to “Joe” and “Jake” and “1 m’s fan” the John Belushi “it ain’t over till it’s over” segment on the scoreboard was created by marketing types to keep fans in their seats instead of heading for the exits. I have seen enough of those video board moments, followed by losses, to know that many of those fans who stayed in seats wound up snarled needlessly in traffic later on. Yes, it’s “only” June. Late June at that. But I’ll give you the June part. If you want, I can sit here and tell you the team has a great chance because Jarrod Washburn just went eight innings to beat the Reds, 9-1, last night. When is the last time the M’s had three starters in four nights go seven-plus innings? Not this season.
Now, if it had come against teams other than the Pirates and Reds, I’d be even more excited, but for now, I’ll take it and so will the M’s. Especially after that 16-1 drubbing. It is a positive sign that the team avoided turning that moment into a tidal wave of bad fortune. As I’ve said, this is a decent, .500 team. A team that can win slightly more than it loses. And winning teams win those sorts of games. But that doesn’t make it a contending team. Washburn has struggled for a month, so to see him do this was a step in the right direction. One more interleague game to go and then the Mariners face the Red Sox and an improving Blue Jays team. Not exactly the Reds and Pirates. And yes, eight games is a lot to make up in June. The odds are stacked at some 95 per cent or greater against the Mariners overtaking any team at that far behind this late in the season. Let alone an Angels squad that beat up on Pittsburgh yet again. Yes, it was Kelvim Escobar getting another win. Told you back in spring training that all he needed was anything resembling run support and he’d have a career year. Had some of the worst run support of any major league pitcher from 2004 through 2006. Now that he’s clicking, along with John Lackey, the Angels are poised to run away with the AL West.
Where does that leave the M’s? Once again, if they fall out of the wild-card race, meaning something like six games behind at the break, they have to seriously consider going the seller route. We can all sit here and pretend they are going to come back. Especially the folks who read this blog every day and root for the M’s with all your heart. That’s what fans do and I understand it. But I am presenting the pragmatic options left for this team. In the long run, if it clings to too much false hope, it will harm its chances of seriously contending next year.
No one is telling you to stop being fans or rooting for a miracle. But as an organization, the Mainers cannot afford the “Don’t Stop Believing” approach of Tony Soprano and his family. Not unless they want to get whacked it 2007 and 2008. There is a time for every organization to pull the plug on a season — even a better than .500 season — and make the moves needed to help make the next season better.
That time isn’t quite here for Seattle just yet. But it’s coming up fast. I know the players haven’t given up hope yet. And right now, all they can do if they want to be buyers and not sellers a month from now, is keep on winning.
They have to win today, obviously. And they have to surprise people — with the same quality pitching received this past week — when the NL teams go home and the big boys arrive in town starting tomorrow. Because, despite the fact it’s still June, there really isn’t a whole lot of season left if they fall much further behind.

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