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September 26, 2007 at 7:16 PM

Mariners lose 12-4; second game tied 2-2

Jeff Clement just gave the Mariners quite the surprise, getting all of a Joe Borowski pitch with two out in the ninth to tie this game 2-2. Yet another blown save by Borowski, the weak link of this Indians team heading into the playoffs. You’ll remember that Borowski also blew the lead last night and back in Cleveland on Aug. 30 (the Rick White disaster). Huge night for Clement, who had his first big league hit back in the opener.
Jarrod Washburn pitched decently and held the ferocious Indians attack to just the two home runs, by Ryan Garko and Kelly Stoppach, over six innings. But Seattle didn’t get on the board until some singles by Ichiro and Willie Bloomquist off Rafael Betancourt and a sacrifice fly by Jose Guillen in the eighth.
I hate to keep arguing the Adam Jones thing, but a lot of you seem very interested in the topic and the subject of McLaren. Frankly, there’s nothing all that great going on to get wound up about otherwise. Believe me, I appreciate the passion you all have for this debate on either side.
“Adam”, you’re not seriously about to blame the veteran hitters for the collapse, are you? I mean, you sound like you are. Maybe not. Maybe you’re as tired as I am with all of the back and forth and no headway. But the team barely had a starter who could get them through four or five innings in late August and early September. That’s what drives me nuts about this whole Adam Jones debate. It had absolutely nothing to do with what ultimately killed this team. I know there’s a cadre of fans out there who want to push the theory that John McLaren got “lucky” with a couple of guys who hit the ball well — as well as the team had hoped for in the second half — but I mean, seriously. If that’s the case, then two thirds of the managers in the game who make calls that work out are probably just as lucky.
I’ll argue that McLaren was “lucky” his clubhouse didn’t implode the way it did in Los Angeles. That club made, as you’ve pointed out, the “right” stats-based decisions and the team still folded when it counts. Sometimes, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
But I find it just a little too simplistic to look at Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro doing what they were paid to do as “lucky”. And I understand the whole random variation argument. But if we’re going to deride a manager as “bad” when his decisions don’t work out and “lucky” when they do, unless they subscribe to your statistical formula for guesswork, then none of them will ever have a chance in this town. Believe me, McLaren has made enough questionable moves on his own without taking away the ones that actually went right for him.
“Resin” please, Melky Cabrera was called up when Hideki Matsui broke his hand and a bunch of other Yankee outfielders got hurt at the same time. Alex Rios was promoted when the Blue Jays were going through their worst injury stretch in 20 years. The M’s did not lose a single position player to the DL this season. There is no comparison between those teams and this year’s M’s squad. The reasons for inserting those youngsters were different than what faced the Mariners, who were healthy, winning and going for the playoffs, back in August.
It fell apart because this team saddled itself with a mediocre rotation that helped burn out the bullpen. Because this team’s general manager traded his top set-up man for a lefty starter who’s been terrible — hurting the rotation and bullpen simultaneously. That’s why this team lost 13 of 14 and will have trouble winning 85 games this year. Why confuse the issue? Though I admit, the Adam Jones discussion is a great tempest in a big blog teapot. Great for side debates when there’s nothing going on. Great for driving up my hit counts and those of the USS Mariner. Ultimately, though, proving absolutely nothing. Jones will be a starter next year. Ibanez and Vidro both finished strong. Adding Jones would have proved a marginal upgrade, if any, at its absolute best. And risked disrupting clubhouse harmony as it did in Los Angeles — without solid reasons for taking the risk (i.e. terrible performances by regulars) as existed on the Dodgers.
M’S ROUTED IN OPENER
Not much to write home about after a 12-4 loss by Seattle to the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the doubleheader. Mariners manager John McLaren felt that Ryan Feierabend struggled with his changeup. When I asked Feierabend whether bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen was impacting him, he told me he didn’t want to make excuses. Then he agreed that, yes, it was probably having a negative impact on him. The guy we saw the last two outings against the Angels and Indians isn’t the same pitcher who was here this summer.
One inning into the second game of this doubleheader and the Mariners have already been victimized by an umpire’s call. Brian Knight just blew it at third base by calling ichiro out on a steal attempt. The replay clearly showed Ichiro getting his foot on the bag ahead of the call. An ensuing single by Willie Bloomquist would have scored a run, but, alas, Ichiro was no longer on base.
On to more fun topics involving umpires who were wrong and the players who love them: how about that Milton Bradley? Out of the season with a torn ACL and now the umpire who baited him into that weekend confrontation, Mike Winters, gets suspended for the rest of the year. Bradley gave a phone interview today , just before surgery, to FSN’s Best Damn Sports Show Period. Here is the audio link to that. Bradley sounds ticked. Then again, what else is new. Have fun. If you’re an M’s fan, you aren’t having much these days I gather.
Lineups for Game 2:
CLEVELAND (94-63)
CF Franklin Guttierez
1B Chris Gomez
SS Jhonny Peralta
DH Ryan Garko
LF Jason Michaels
RF Trot Nixon
C Kelly Stoppach
2B Josh Barfield
3B Andy Marte
LHP Jeremy Sowers
SEATTLE (83-74)
CF Ichiro
SS Willie Bloomquist
RF Jose Guillen
DH Adrian Beltre
3B Mike Morse
LF Jose Vidro
RF Adam Jones
C Jamie Burke
2B Nick Green
LHP Jarrod Washburn
UMPIRES
HP Tim Timmons
1B Alfonso Marquez
2B Chuck Meriwether (crew chief)
3B Brian Knight
For “Adam” from the previous comments thread, I understand what you say about making the team better. The point of the Dodger posts is that a team does not get “better” by falling apart in the clubhouse. Maybe the Dodgers were going nowhere anyway and it was worth the risk by playing the two youngsters who, demonstrably, outplayed the vets and made things better until the entire team fell apart. But in Seattle’s case, you just can’t make the same argument. Even Adam Jones posting an OPS of .850 would not have provided superior offensive production than Jose Vidro and Raul Ibanez gave over two — not one — months since August 1. Vidro has been producing since early July, so that’s half a season.
You can keep making defensive arguments for Jones, but again, the left field defense is not why this team fell out of the race. The defensive projections and statistics cited are just that. Numbers and formulas on a paper for a guy who has never played major league ball full-time. Over a short term, you have no idea how many actual games would have been won or lost by Jones over Ibanez in left. It’s just guesswork over a very short two-month stretch, not a full season. Too much room for random variation, if you will. And if you’re running a team, you’re going to need reasons to take that kind of a risk given how Ibanez and Vidro were playing well, the team was winning without Jones and the potential for a clubhouse disruption with a new manager in charge was very real.
Ibanez’s bat (and Vidro’s) kept this team in it longer than it should have been with this starting rotation. I’ll submit, again, that bumping either vet (both of whom were producing far more than the older Dodgers players) in favor of Jones would have been asking for clubhouse trouble. This is not an excuse for John McLaren, simply stating a reality that what he was trying to avoid is exactly what happened in LA. Turns out to be moot in any case, since the pitching fell apart and doomed this team.
But it’s difficult to see people continuing to call for McLaren’s head based on what I perceive to have been his biggest accomplishment: navigating that clubhouse minefield just weeks after taking over mid-season. If you, or any of the others disagreeing on this site, want to make a case for McLaren’s dismissal based on the lack of runners put in motion, the use of multiple relievers per inning at times, some pinch-hitting decisions, or — and this is big for me — an overall failure (let’s call it what it is) to halt a stretch of 13 losses in 14 games, I’d be far more inclined to agree.
So, disagree if you want. I’ve presented you the biggest reason as to why Jones wasn’t used. Cited an example of how clubhouse chemistry can disrupt a team if not handled delicately (regardless of whether the moves made were statistically “correct” ones or no). If some of you you choose to pooh-pooh it and believe that major league teams are avoiding the statistically proper moves simply because they hate “stats guys” then I suppose you’ll believe what you want to believe.
No one is arguing McLaren should be kept on. Just trying to show you a different way of thinking about things. The way that some major league teams do think. There are real life consequences to every decision. Heck, if a clubhouse can blow up over guys who’ve produced like Matt Kemp and James Loney, then believe me, no clubhouse is safe. And to ignore that potential problem, if you’re running a team and your job is on the line, would be foolish. Doesn’t mean you don’t do it. But you have to understand the risks going in a whole lot more than some of the folks on this site are willing to admit even exist.
Anyway, the Indians are up 1-0 on a solo shot by Ryan Garko in the second inning off Jarrod Washburn.

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