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August 30, 2007 at 9:29 PM

M’s lose, bloggers go insane

I was warned when I moved to Seattle that the fan base here takes a little getting used to. Something about massive doses of caffeine being consumed at roughly the same time other matter drains from ears when losses by the home team occur. I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for stuff like this. For the venom. Can’t say I like it to this extreme. I understand it, having been a sports fan myself growing up and rooting for the home team every night, like it was life or death. I’ve seen some extremely knowledgeable baseball fans in Boston and New York go apoplectic when their teams lose. But rarely do these fans exercise the level of “group think” that I’ve seen around these parts of late. It’s as if there is one right idea out there and if this idea isn’t shared by all, then the entire season will be spent hounding those other people into submission until they cry “uncle!” Be they your fellow bloggers, myself, or the bloggers on other sites.
So, now I’m being called an “idiot” for having an opinion. When I was calling for Adam Jones to replace some anemic hitters in early July, I was a hero, but now that I suggest those same two guys, hitting around .380-.400 for the month, heading into the stretch run, should be the ones playing over a rookie, all of a sudden I’m a moron.
I see that someone hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard is asking whether I will show any “guts” (a charitable substitution) and crucify the manager? Interesting. So, going after the GM and veteran players this year wasn’t enough? Now you want more, right? I see. So, you’re more like a “What have you done for us lately?” crowd? I’ll make note of that.
It’s OK, I understand. You’re all fans. Some of you love to debate. Some of you are just angry people. I get it.
Am I going to let myself be bullied by an angry mob into changing some of the things I’ve said about John McLaren these past few weeks? No. If that’s the kind of thinker you want running your blog, then you should probably go elsewhere. I don’t want you here. There are plenty of blogs in this town where angry people run to vent and attack others 24/7. My goal this year was for this to be a place for intelligent dialogue, where people — be they stats-lovers, or traditionalists — could come to argue baseball passionitely and with respect for others. Where you can come to vent with reasonable intelligence. Where you won’t get chased off the site if you like numbers, or if you’re turned off by them.
Yes, I know you have passion. Though, I must admit, I haven’t always seen this level of passion at Safeco Field, where opposing teams’ fans often outcheer the home side supporters. But I understand: sometimes going nuts in public isn’t the same as doing it from behind the keyboard. Believe me, I’m a terror with words.
Anyway, on to tonight, I will admit that I was surprised to see Rick White come out to pitch that inning. I’m not a fan of using the closer in non-save situations. But J.J. Putz was rested. He’s sat idle, as some of you have mentioned, in key situations before during this losing streak.
Could McLaren have been a little less conservative and gone with Putz there? Probably. Was Mike Hargrove doing that earlier this season when he ran Julio Mateo out there instead of using other relievers a little earlier? No, Hargrove wasn’t doing that. He did the same thing. He liked roles.
My view now? Rick White hasn’t shown he can get out of these innings yet. That is worrisome and the M’s don’t have time to mess around with any more experimenting. If this situation happens tomorrow night, you go to Putz for the multiple-inning job and use your longer relievers later on.
What we’re seeing now is McLaren feeling his way as a manager. He’s used a lot of tradition, he’s used some riverboat gambling, and he’s used some numbers in limited samples to back up some decisions. No, he hasn’t always done the thing that’s going to win him games. Lately, many of the losses can bew traced back to growing pains and some decisions he’s made.
Can the entire loss be pinned on him tonight? The end result can, but only to an extent. As I wrote at the top of this blog, I didn’t think White had pitched all that poorly in high leverage situations before. I do think he pitched poorly tonight. Yes, he didn’t get some close calls, but, bottom line? You can’t walk the bases loaded and walk home the winning run after that. You just can’t.
And right now, he hasn’t shown he can be trusted with the game on the line. But if we’re going to criticize the M’s for using White, or Richie Sexson, where is the consistency? Are there other areas of the team slowly coming undone? Like a once-impenetrable bullpen now giving up hits and runs with greater frequency? There were two big no-nos committed tonight. The biggest was Eric O’Flaherty hitting the guy on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth. O’Flaherty isn’t supposed to be working in such tight spots and we saw the reason why tonight.
Did Brandon Morrow get the job done? No, he didn’t. That’s twice in a row. Does the team get criticized for sticking with him? Or do all the young guys get a free pass? You tell me.
Another no-no? Geroge Sherrill walking lefty Grady Sizemore. Can’t do it. It cost the team a big run. Are these guys wearing down? Probably just a bit. The whole bullpen is being overworked (save, J.J. Putz, ironic isn’t it?) because the starters again are not going deep enough.
Before the trade deadline, I identified my two biggest areas of concern. One was adding another starter who could go deeper into games. Failing that, adding another hard-throwing set-up type, preferably a veteran, to make the games “shorter”. The team chose to do neither.
Picking up other teams’ waiver castoffs isn’t what I had in mind. So far, Rick White isn’t the answer, though the team is clearly looking for one. Looking a little too late, if you ask me. The good news? The club will still have Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien to trade this winter. I know that’s what many of you argued for on this blog and you will now get your wish.
I’m not going to tell you that you were right or wrong. Only that you can’t have it both ways. In many ways, this was the price of seeing those prospects kept.
And this now is the price of seeing Mike Hargrove go, something a lot of you wanted. I have seen and worked with a lot of managers in my time, some good, some bad, some experienced, and some lousy. None of them ever walked into a new situation and performed the job perfectly. Some were terrible at it. None ever had to manage under the strain of a pennant race, or deal with a situation as explosive as the Adam Jones situation was in the clubhouse.
Did McLaren’s call lose the game tonight? Of course. Was it the “wrong” call to make. In his mind, it was the only call. He is feeling his way. I’ve already told you that I think he may do some things a little differently down the road, once he gets burned by some of these decisions a few too many times. That’s life. You can fire McLaren after this week if you want, bring in a new guy and then what happens next? What happens when his first moves don’t pan out? You going to keep on firing and hiring?
Remember all the predictions the M’s might be in for some rough times swapping managers mid-stream? We’re seeing them right now. Nobody said the transition would be completely smooth. It’s rough right now, I know. McLaren is trying to be true to his sense of what is right and wrong and learning on-the-fly. It’s not a permanent excuse. It can’t be. The object of the game is to win. Six games ago, he was winning. Not anymore. And your patience is running out, I understand. But what I said this morning stands. McLaren has only had two months on the job. He has to get a full year. It’s a tough pill to swallow, I know. The good news? This team is very streaky and is due for a hot streak after this latest cold one. It’s going to be a rough ride, that’s for sure. It will be easier to get through if we all don’t blow a gasket and run collectively amuck whenever something bad happens.
To summarize: I think McLaren has to show more flexibility throughout a game. And from everything I’ve heard about him, I’m sure he will once he gets his feet completely under him. He hasn’t yet. And the losses are piling up at a really bad time.
Get some sleep. I know I have to go. It’s 1:30 a.m. here in the pressbox, I have to wake up at 5:45 a.m. for my flight and I’m as tired as all of you are after another long, draining game. I like doing this with you, having these dialogues. But I have limited patience for people who go off half-cocked. It was a tough night. Get some sleep and we’ll go over this tomorrow.
By the way, be sure to catch USS Mariner guru Dave Cameron’s segment on KJR tomorrow. I’m sure McLaren will come up and have no doubt it will be interesting.

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