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

August 7, 2007 at 9:21 AM

Now batting for Geoff Baker….

Larry Stone here in Baltimore, pinch-hitting for Geoff Baker, which in the blogging world is like Neifi Perez pinch-hitting for Magglio Ordonez (without the stimulants, of course, unless two 20-ounce Diet Pepsis a day counts). Geoff is taking a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii, so I will attempt to fill in, as I did a few times in spring training.
Alas, there won’t be any audio. Geoff has a state of the art digital recorder to provide his audio. I might be the last reporter in America still using a Radio Shack microcassette to do interviews. I don’t think they’re down-loadable. I also warn in advance that I won’t be as prolific as Geoff, who has been doing a brilliant job in keeping this blog updated, lively and relevant, virtually round the clock. I am making this trip to Baltimore partly so I can visit my oldest daughter, who is living in D.C. while she attends college. I’ll be spending part of my non-ballpark time here with her, and then as the weekend nears, I need to devote time to producing my baseball page in Sunday’s paper. There’s also the minor matter of writing stories and notebooks each day for the newspaper (you know, that quaint old item with the smudgy ink you used to hold in your hands and read, way back when).
That said, I’ll do the best I can to provide tidbits of news, and throw a few opinions out there to keep up the great Mariner debates and discussions that you all have been having all year. And just to make the transition less jarring, every few days I’ll talk about my time covering the Toronto Blue Jays and how it relates to a current Mariner issue. (Geoff, I’m kidding. Go drink another mai tai and stop logging onto the blog. You’re on vacation, for crying out loud).
I already had a great Seattle moment last night. Walking to a restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue in D.C., near Georgetown, my daughter nudged me and said, “Look, it’s Jeff Green.” Sure enough, there was the new Sonic, strolling down the street with a couple of buddies. For some reason, he was wearing an Oklahoma City cap (not really).
A couple of observations to get us going today:
On the subject of Boston coming up with a plan to stop Ichiro, forget it. We’ve been hearing this ever since he came over in 2001. I remember when the Yankees came up with a plan, which involved, as I recall, busting him inside to knock him off the plate, and then going away, away, away. They handled him pretty well in the 2001 ALCS (.222, one extra base hit). But Ichiro adjusted, as he always has. Don’t think that other teams didn’t try to copy the Yankees, but he has done pretty well since then. Boston’s plan worked more because they have great pitching than because of the plan itself, I’d wager. Ichiro is the least of the Mariners’ concerns, although he has a worrisome pattern of not always hitting great in August:
2002: .282/.658 OPS
2003: .242/.620
2005: .244/.726
2006: .233/.567.
Oh, did I leave out 2004? All Ichiro did in August of 2004 was knock out 56 hits, the most in the majors since 1938, and hit .463, with a 1.128 OPS. And he had 51 hits in August of 2001 (.429/.948), with a 21-game hitting streak included. So there are some major aberrations to his August pattern. The fact is, as many people pointed out, Ichiro has these occasional dry spells throughout each season, then has a tendency to bust out big-time. He’s a .383 career hitter at Camden Yards, and a .371 hitter against the Orioles, so that bodes well.
As far as John McLaren, “Bill” needs to chill out a little. Has he made some mistakes? Of course. I have a hunch we might not see Vidro at second base again for a while. But he’s trying out some things, feeling his way, and from what I’ve observed, he has a very good command of the clubhouse. It’s too early to make a judgment on his managerial skills. It’s fine to criticize and second guess — that’s what we do — but to write McLaren off is way, way premature, and unfair. Moves that don’t work are not always mistakes. I’m willing to cut him some slack now and let the next few months unfold and see what happens.
I said after Hargrove quit that McLaren was set up for a fall when he took over. The Mariners were at their absolute peak, having won eight in a row. As we have all discussed ad nauseum, this is a flawed team that simply wasn’t good enough to sustain that level of play, and McLaren came aboard at a time when I think the M’s would have hit reality under any circumstances. As for McLaren being emotional and tearing up occasionally, it’s pretty weak to criticism someone for that. Dick Vermeil was emotional, too, and he did all right. Won a Super Bowl, as I recall, and cried at the drop of a hat. To me, it shows that he cares about his players and the Mariners. It’s called passion, and it’s a good thing.
If you missed it, Times’ columnist Steve Kelley wrote about what shaped McLaren today. Find it here:
This is a pretty key road trip, against a couple of trap teams. Yes, the Orioles and White Sox are under .500, but the Orioles have played well since firing Sam Perlozzo (23-17 under Dave Trembley), while the White Sox just swept the Tigers and have won 9 of their last 12. The M’s can’t afford to stumble against teams like this, no matter how well they are playing. They get a big break missing Erik Bedard, who is pitching as well as just about anyone in the league.
OK, that’s enough for the first time. I’ll be back later.



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