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Mariners blog

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

August 24, 2007 at 7:47 AM

First place tonight?

Wow, I don’t think we’ve ever had an “overnight” comments thread with that many thoughtful responses. I mean it. By the way, Roy Halladay goes for the Blue Jays against the Angels tonight. Meaning another victory by the Mariners over Texas, with Felix Hernandez taking the hill, could result in a first-place tie in the AL West. I know that every fan on this site wants that, no matter how they go about looking at the team.
And no, I am not telling all of you to put your blinders on and be steadfastly, uniformly loyal to the Mariners. If we did that, this site would get boring rather quickly. I just wanted to point out to you that there are multiple ways of looking at things. Different perspectives, if you will. My biggest fear is that some of you will wake up on the final day of the season and realize that the M’s are headed to the playoffs. Without having had a chance to enjoy it. But in the end, that’s not my problem. Hey, I’ve been there as a Montreal Canadiens fan. In 1993, when they won their last Stanley Cup, my biggest emotion right afterwards wasn’t unfettered joy. It was relief. Relief that they had added a 24th title to their previous 23 and would keep ahead of the Yankees in that regard. That they had added a title in the 1990s to their others in every previous decade. Now, some 14 years later, I find myself wishing I could feel the joy of it. I realize just how fleeting that joy can be. If they win it again — who knows, it may never happen — relief will not be my first emotion.
That said, this blog is a place for dissenting opinion. I really don’t like the term “stat nerds” and I’d appreciate it if some of you would stop employing it here. We have fans of different types here. Some prefer results-based analysis, as many of you put it, while others prefer the stats approach.
My take on what John McLaren has done right? I’ve always felt that if I have to start picking out individual games where a manager has done the right thing, then he’s probably coming up way short on the totality. Instead, I’ll give you this. When McLaren took over, Jose Vidro was the worst DH in baseball. Raul Ibanez had dropped off a cliff. Felix Hernandez was pitching like a 21-year-old rookie call-up and the bullpen was on the brink of burnout. Richie Sexson was the Invisible Man.
Now? Well, you know the story. I can even see a Sexson holograph hovering around like some ghost of X-mas past. When was he ever good, one of you asked me? Last September. That’s what the M’s want to have happen again. If that happens, it will have completed the last impact turnaround the club desperately needs. And I have to give the manager credit for how he has positioned this team and allowed some of his players to undergo dramatic turnarounds so far. That work Jeff Pentland did with Ibanez? Hey, that’s pure coaching and the manager oversees much of that. How about what Rafael Chaves has done with certain pitchers this year? Can’t you give the manager at least some credit for that? Chaves has had more “projects” foistered on him than any pitching coach for any other contending team. If Horacio Ramirez duplicates what he did in Minneapolis, Chaves will deserve a medal just for surviving until September roster expansion. His “boss” deserves some of the credit. These guys meet every day to plot strategy. (By the way, David Wells just signed with the Dodgers, one of those California clubs he’d angled for all along). Being a manager isn’t all about the dugout and in-game decisions. Doesn’t McLaren deserve credit for the win when Sexson hit that walk-off homer? After all, he stuck by him. If we can blame him for losing games on decisions, doesn’t sticking with a player loathed by his home crowd earn him credit when that player delivers the winning shot?
Ditto for Ibanez.
And consider the context. McLaren could have had a veteran mutiny on his hands with the explosive Adam Jones situation. But instead, he’s seen a pack of veterans “up” their performance level. Can’t he get credit for how he handled that potential season-wrecking situation? For me, how McLaren has handled the clubhouse, being thrown into a managerial situation the way he was, has to have him at least considered for Manager of the Year.
But of course, I understand that fans want to maximize their team’s production. I understand that all of you want the club to keep winning down the road. I know it’s still too early to lose that “other shoe to drop” feeling. It isn’t even Sept. 1 yet and yes, I understand. I am not a rose-colored glasses kind of guy. And I appreciate constructive criticism as much as anybody. Keep on bringing it here. And by the way, I do agree with those of you who want to see the bench used more. I do think it strange that Ben Broussard only started one game in two weeks. I think the circumstances of trying to get Sexson out of his slump dictated some of that, but honestly, I do want to see Broussard in there at least once a week (a la Mike Hargrove) moving forward. Whoever said a title is won with 25 guys was bang-on. And no, McLaren has not been perfect. I want to see him look a little more comfortable with his bullpen and pinch-hitting moves in September.
I just wanted to point out the “perspective” things to some of you. It’s been pointed out. Feel free to continue as you wish. It’s your show.
Enjoy this random sampling of negativity, compiled just for your benefit:
1. “This type of choking that involves actively giving up comfortable leads in rapid order – the quick, massive choke that reverses a game’s tempo faster than Bewitched’s Doctor Bombay reverses a spell – this is the type of late-season, energy draining, faith waning play that poisons a good team’s chances at becoming great.”
2. “This team needs to start winning some low-scoring games. They sort of did that in the finale as most of those runs were tacked on to a pitchers’ duel after the…pen came into the picture. Still, all those runs both hide faults in the pitching staff and lead to some poor performances being written off as flukes, such as…in the middle game, whether or not they really were.”
3. “We suck lately and are very boring. No personality on this team. (The GM) killed the fun team of 2003, 2004 and 2005 by bringing in emotion less, personality free players like the horrible (third baseman). How bad does he suck? Why does (the manager) — (who acts like Manager for life now) — bat (name omitted) lead off? He is terrible! Bat him 8th when he has to play. I know we are stuck with him, but put (someone else) at lead off and lets go.
We need some life, a spark……”
4. “Okay, I’m going to join the chorus … wtf is with not putting (name omitted) in that two spot. There’s no defending (the manager) when he goes against common sense, the numbers and conventional wisdom all in one shot.”
The first comment came courtesy of Halos Heaven, which bills itself as the “leading” fan site for an Angels team with the second-best record in all of baseball.
The second criticism about inability to win low-scoring games came from the fine Bronx Banter site, talking about a Yankees squad that has obliterated opposing pitchers with non-stop offense in the second half.
The third is from the Royal Rooters of Red Sox Nation site, commenting on the team with the best record in baseball.
And the fourth comment comes from the Let’s Go Tribe fan forum for the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians.
So, no, you aren’t all crazy. Just a bunch of devoted fans. Just want to make sure you all manage to have fun doing what you’re doing. Don’t forget to enjoy yourselves. Especially tonight. What could possibly go wrong for the M’s now?

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