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August 26, 2007 at 8:25 AM

Resting players

A whole lot of hand-wringing going on this morning over the Mariners resting Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt for last night’s game. Not sure what all the fuss is about. They didn’t lose because of replacements in center field or shortstop, they lost because Adrian Beltre couldn’t throw straight — or hold the ball when he had to.
Guess what? Adam Jones just got called up from Class AAA. The odds always were that he was going to need time to find his stroke. Time the team had if he’d he’d been called up in, let’s say, late June. Not in late August. Jones is going to be a part-timer the rest of the way and his bat last night reflected the bat of a part-time, Triple-A call-up.
But you can’t argue both sides of the coin. Jones is up here and yes, he’ll have to play at times. But no, odds are he isn’t going to hit three home runs in games when he helps give players a rest.
And yes, the Mariners have to rest their regulars ahead of the September stretch run. Think of it as a pit-stop with 100 laps to go in a 500-lap car race. Sure, you may lose a little ground, but in this case, it’s hardly been lethal. The M’s are still only a game out of first place and are two up on the Yankees in the wild-card hunt. We’ve still got nearly a week to go until Sept. 1.
Would you have prefered to see Ichiro and Raul Ibanez out of the lineup? Or Ichiro and Jose Vidro? There is no true palatable combination. If Betancourt tells the manager he can use a day off, who’s to argue. There has been much hay made about the nine guys with at least 50 RBI in the Seattle lineup. Well, I can tell you, they didn’t get that way by players being worked to the brink of exhaustion.
I asked John McLaren whether there will come a point when he can just ride his regulars the rest of the way without a day off. He assured me that, yes, there will come that point, but that we aren’t close to it yet. My guess would be within two to three weeks of the finish. Halfway between now and season’s end. Until then, regulars have to get a rest.
Why weren’t the M’s bunting in the ninth inning last night? Well, McLaren stated a month ago that he doesn’t play for ninth-inning ties on the road. It may be a cliche, or old-time baseball, but that’s the way he does it. What do I think about that? There is a reason why old-time baseball sayings have endured. Had the M’s tied the game, they would not have the final at-bat. And bunting runners over gives up a valuable out against a bullpen in trouble. In this case, the plan didn’t work. But most of the time, if I have a pitcher on the ropes, I’m not giving an out away. In the situation we were referring to, two on, no out in the ninth, if you bunt the runners over, it is possible for the defending team to escape the situation by not allowing a hit the rest of the way.
If the lead runner was the tying run in that situation, yes I would bunt the runners over because the run that you need to stay alive could then score without a hit. In that case, you sacrifice an out. But not when it puts you two outs from defeat when the best hope it brings you — other than a three-run homer — is to tie the game with an error or another hit. I don’t like the percentages of that.
Bunting in the fifth inning? I don’t like that either. You’re up 3-0 and playing the Texas Rangers, not the Angels with Kelvim Escobar or John Lackey on the mound. Runs are not supposed to be at a premium and the offense has been getting 10 or more hits per game. You assume you’ll get more runs by swinging away in such situations. This time, it didn’t work. If this left-on-base thing becomes an epidemic, which it isn’t quite yet, then maybe I’d do something differently. But this isn’t at that stage yet. Not even close.
One game is not a place to panic. For “John” or whoever it was that wrote that I approved of the Horacio Ramirez home run given up, I didn’t. Ramirez has to pick his guys up better than that. But considering what he’d offered up earlier this year — and what’s out there on the open market — I’ll take the outing he gave. The fact remains, if Beltre makes that throw, he’s through a scoreless five innings. He likely gets a “quality start” which is the best any team hopes for from a fifth starter.
So, that’s all I’m saying. Yes, he gave up the home run. He’s Horacio Ramirez. But if he holds the Rangers to three runs through six, the M’s should win most of the time. If you think that means I don’t know the game, then I’m not going to convince you otherwise.
One more thing: the Mariners are going to lose games from here on in. The question you should ask yourselves is, when was the last time the Mariners dropped two in a row? Can any of you even remember that? I’ll give you a hint: it came against the Twins about 10 days ago. If the team goes every 10 days without dropping consecutive games, it should be OK.
But it has to start today. If the Mariners split a series against the Rangers, I’ll be a lot more concerned than I am right now.



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