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September 26, 2007 at 4:13 PM

Mariners vs. Indians, first game

Strike one for the kids brigade as Wladimir Balentien goes deep to left field off Fausto Carmona here in the seventh. That makes it only a nine-run gap the M’s must overcome, down 12-3. Rob Johnson just got his first major lrague hit on a bloop single to left. I won’t go in to how bad some of the previous innings looked for Seattle. Especially for Ryan Feierabend. Another lackluster performance. I spoke to pitching coach Rafael Chaves today about Brandon Morrow and he tells me the team is convinced that he can be ready for the rotation by next spring. It’s not a guarantee, mind you. What Chaves is saying is that this is not a pipe dream. Depending on how far along his secondary pitches are in winter ball, he could be a fourth or fifth starter by next year.
“Just look at the guy the (Indians) are starting today,” he said. “Look at where he was at this time last year.”
That would be Fausto Carmona, who is about to win his 19th game and had a 3.03 ERA to start the day. A year ago, Carmona was in the Indians bullpen, made two Class AAA starts and then four more with the Indians in September. Are those six starts any different than Morrow making the same number in winter ball? I guess we’ll find out. The one big difference is that Carmona had more professional baseball time as a starter in the minors before being called up to join the Cleveland bullpen last season.
NOTE: Cleveland now leads 8-2 after scoring eight in that third inning, six off Ryan Feierabend. Jorge Campillo didn’t hit anything but a bat in that inning. To “Livin in Cali” and “Allen” the point of the post below is, you can have the most-reasoned statistical arguments in the world and they won’t amount to anything if you can’t implement them in real life.
The Dodgers had the stats case on their side, got the production they needed for a while, and the whole thing came apart on them. In Seattle’s case, there was not the same clear-cut statistical case for “playing the kids” back in August and the clubhouse situation was potentially just as explosive as it was in Los Angeles. So, while yes, it may have been worth it for the Dodgers to gamble with their clubhouse dynamic, given the greater production by Kemp and Loney, I don’t see as compelling a case on the M’s side. Not sure who their “marginally competitive” players are supposed to be. Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro? Check out their numbers for August. That’s not “marginally competitive”. That’s pretty darned good production.
The “point” is to illustrate what can happen in a clubhouse when you mess with the human dynamic. On some teams, that risk may be worth it. Not on others. For those of you who say the M’s, streaking at the time, could have easily shuffled around a couple of hot hitters in favor of a Class AAA call-up, with no adverse consequences, I submit Exhibit A below. It’s not as easy as it may look on paper, even when the stats are irrefutably on your side.
On to the post…
Cleveland just put up a four-spot in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead. Jorge Campillo is now warming up. Ryan Feierabend might not be long for this one. Began this inning by giving up a solo homer to Luis Rivas, his first in two years. Not a good sign.
While we’re all killing time, waiting for this season to end, how about a glance over at the Los Angeles Dodgers, and their end-of-season implosion? The Dodgers are kind of the opposite of what the M’s were this season. They “played the kids” instead of the aging veterans who’d “been through the wars” and have crashed and burned. Now, let’s be clear. No one is saying the same thing would have happened had the Mariners gone with Adam Jones, Ryan Feierabend and company back in early July. There are differences between the Dodgers and Mariners. For one thing, the Dodger vets were not performing nearly as well as Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro have in the second-half. Richie Sexson? More Nomar Garciaparra-like by comparison. But still, the need to insert the younger players in Los Angeles was far more compelling.
And yet, the team fell apart. To read about it now, the clubhouse fell apart.
“I have to take responsibility for not managing it better,” Dodger manager Grady Little is quoted saying in today’s Los Angeles Times, speaking about the intergenerational differences on the club.
Hmmm. Sounds like John McLaren in reverse. To read Bill Plaschke’s column today, the Dodgers might even trade away young star Matt Kemp. Sounds a little extreme to me. To this blogger responding to the Plaschke column as well. But this is a serious clubhouse rift. And that’s the whole point of me writing this. Some of you shrug off John McLaren’s caution at shaking up his own clubhouse as a sign of weakness or fear. What I’ve been trying to tell you for weeks is that inserting youngsters in place of established veterans — or even younger regulars who’ve been contributing — is not as easy as it all sounds. In the real world, clubhouse politics do exist and have to be taken seriously. Maybe not by fans. But by the people in charge? You’d better believe it. After all, their jobs are at stake. On the surface, the Dodgers had a more justifiable case to play Kemp and James Loney than the Mariners did in sitting Raul Ibanez or Jose Vidro to play Adam Jones. In the end, it didn’t matter. The clubhouse went to pieces.
I’m the first to admit that there’s not proof that good chemistry in a clubhouse means success,” writes this Los Angeles area columnist, “but I’m absolutely certain that a lack of chemistry can be fatal.”
Now, listen carefully. I am not saying the M’s should never consider inserting young players in-place of veterans ever again. Or that this should serve as a cautionary tale not to do something. All I’m saying is, there is far more to be considered than mere numbers when a decision like this is made. If McLaren is eventually fired, I don’t think it should be for his handling of the Adam Jones situation. I think he handled it very well and got very good production out of Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro in the second-half. McLaren has other, in-game issues he can be taken-to-task for. Once again, if you’re going to make the “kids versus vets” argument, then you have to look at the other side as well.
Which, in this case, is Grady Little and the Dodgers.
By the way, Lou Piniella chimes in about “young kids” in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.
”Really, in retrospect, it was a mistake,” he said of leaving the Seattle Mariners to manage the low-budget Rays. ”But look, I needed to be home. I learned a lot there. I learned a lot about managing young kids. You talk about patience.
”In this business here, you learn more from losing than you do from winning,” Piniella said. “And we lost enough over there that I learned a hell of a lot.”
M’S LEAD 2-0
Mariners lead 2-0 as Jose Guillen goes deep off Fausto Carmona in the top of the first inning. Remember, the Mariners are the visiting team in the opener of this doubleheader. Hard to tell, though, because there are maybe only 10,000 people in the ballpark and they aren’t making much noise. Here are this afternoon’s lineups for the doubleheader opener:
CF Grady Sizemore
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
DH Travis Hafner
C Victor Martinez
1B Ryan Garko
RF Jason Michaels
3B Casey Blake
LF Ben Francisco
2B Luis Rivas
RHP Fausto Carmona
SEATTLE (83-73)
CF Ichiro
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
1B Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
LF Jeremy Reed
2B Jose Lopez
SS Willie Bloomquist
LHP Ryan Feierabend
HP Rick Reed (crew chief)
1B Brian Knight
2B Alfonso Marquez
3B Chuck Meriwether



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