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

July 9, 2007 at 10:19 AM

Mariners kicking up some dust

Plenty of folks talking all about the Mariners this morning. Joe Blanton being one of them. Didn’t like all the Seattle players chirping at him from their side of yesterday’s on-field skirmish. Perhaps he shouldn’t have grabbed his crotch? Just wondering. Here’s what he told the papers in the Bay Area about Crotch-Gate.
“At that point, I lost my temper. That’s pretty much it,” Blanton said, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News. “When you lose your temper, sometimes you don’t think about what you’re doing.”
The San Francisco Chronicle had a similar take.
My favorite quote has nothing to do with the brawl. Instead, here’s some whistling in the dark by Nick Swisher about how his team’s playoff chances may actually have improved by dropping three of four to the Mariners and two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays before the break.
“As weird as it may sound, we’re in a good spot for us,” Swisher said. “Everybody thinks we’re down and out, so no one sees us coming.”
Count me among the group that thinks these guys are toast. Been getting a lot of emails from A’s and Mariners fans spinning the same old yarn about how eight games is not too big a gap. Uh, yes it is. The A’s haven’t been this far back at the break since 2001. That Oakland team had the Big Three. It had Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada. This bunch has Swisher and Jack Cust. Yeah, “the” Jack Cust. A guy every team in baseball was well aware of five years ago and yet everyone mysteriously took a pass on the next great bat. So now, we’re supposed to buy into him as a franchise savior?
I could keep going on and on. We won’t get into the A’s bullpen for now. Come to think of it, the way Oakland played this series, the M’s didn’t really need to get into Oakland’s pen. Ha, ha. But seriously, what’s Huston Street doing right now? How about Justin Too-Many-Letters-To-Spell-his-Last-Name? By the way, I know the answer to both guys, so please don’t write in with the obvious.
This is not the same Oakland team as last year. Checked out Bobby Kielty lately?
Oh and yes, there are two teams well ahead of Oakland in the AL West this year. Not just one. In the end, that may prove their ultimate undoing. Frankly, I think Oakland’s inability to beat the teams ahead of it has already done that. But trying to overtake multiple teams is a whole lot harder than climbing past one. I already have a hard time believing the Angels are about to collapse, despite the freakish number of games (six) the M’s just made up in only two weeks. Don’t forget, they haven’t caught Los Angeles yet.
So, those of you writing in with “Don’t write off the A’s” admonitions. Do you have anything to support your theories other than the fact that some other Oakland teams bearing little resemblance to the current one managed to make some second half runs?
Yes, I saw that little streak the Oakland pitchers put together a few weeks ago. Every dog has its day and I would be shocked if the A’s finish below .500. But the only thing keeping Oakland on the radar screen these days is the worst slump of the year by Los Angeles and the Tigers and Indians beating up on each other. Very little of anything has been done by the A’s that would merit believing in a turnaround.
Why am I suddenly bullish on the M’s when I wasn’t two weeks ago? Because they have beaten all the better teams in their way. They had not been doing it before. Because their starters have shown signs of making vast improvements. All the things they weren’t doing earlier in the year. They got it together just in time. Their bullpen was already fantastic and their streaky hitters still good enough to be the division’s best. They appear to have fewer weaknesses.
The A’s? Yes, they might get their act together by month’s end. Maybe. By then, I say, it will be too late. 1995 was a dozen years ago. Time to get over it. How do you folks feel? Do you see any real evidence the A’s are about to mount a second-half run? I’m not saying they won’t be a force in 2008 once they regroup. I also thought they would make a second-half run until I saw them play these past two weeks. What do you think?
That said, could we all please get off Richie Sexson’s back about what he did — or didn’t do — during yesterday’s fight? Some people are just born to instantly react to a fight situation, others need some prodding. Sexson to me just appeared to be stunned by what happened and didn’t react instantly. It has little to do with his heart or desire to defend teammates. He was just stunned. I’m sure if Blanton came at him, he would have reacted. We’ve all been there. Some people just react differently in the instant something happens. It’s not like he ran away from the melee or anything. He was right in there.
Carlos Delgado is another, big player who doesn’t instantly have the inclination to go at people. He never charges the mound, no matter how many times he angrily glares out at the pitcher after being plunked. He always told us he doesn’t believe in doing that. But one time, I did see him get upset during a fight between the Devil Rays and Blue Jays. And at that point, noted “mean streets” tough guy Carl Crawford of the D-Rays was backpedaling for safety when Delgado sought him out and confronted him. Crawford had chirped off cockily to the media that day about Toronto players having no heart (he was right by the way, about that particular Toronto edition). Delgado went after him and the street smart Crawford, for all his tough reputation, wisely backed off.
It’s not the talk that makes somebody tough.
And I’m not big on talkers who shout from behind the crowd. Felix Hernandez looked just as foolish as Blanton yesterday. He had no business being out there in the first place and unless he’s some type of martial arts expert, I would not put my money on him in a scrap with some of the bigger A’s players. He’s young. But he has to realize he’s the future of the franchise and nobody is paying him to show off his fighting talents. Or to yap.
That said, Hernandez pitching the way he has of late is the biggest reason I like Seattle’s chances going forward. Between him and Jeff Weaver, the mound improvement since June has been astounding.
Even Bill Bavasi is getting his kudos. Oh my, I love Jon Heyman’s work, but this might be a bit much. Let’s see how Bavasi does these next few weeks.

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