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

September 30, 2007 at 5:02 PM

Another year done

Lots of smiling faces in the clubhouse after the game. Plenty of boxes being taped up and made ready to be shipped. Raul Ibanez is scrambling off to Las Vegas for a family wedding. He doesn’t gamble, but plans to take his kids to see some magicians and will take in the Celine Dion concert as well.
Jose Guillen is planning a European and Hawaian vacation.
Jose Lopez will be on the Alaska Airlines flight to Miami tonight and hopes to be home in Venezuela by tomorrow.
Felix Hernandez? He has a lot of things he wants to do, both on and off the field. His biggest wish for next year is to avoid a repeat of that elbow injury.
“I want a lot of things, a lot of things,” he said. “First of all, I want to stay healthy all year. It (the injury) was bad for me. My first two games, I was feeling great. When I came off the DL, for five or six games I was horrible. I couldn’t throw strikes.”
Hernandez completely understood why he had to come out of the game to allow J.J. Putz to collect save No. 40. Without Putz, this team might have been out of contention in July. If he needs a milestone, you give it to him.
“He owes me one,” Hernandez said.
Putz figures the team took a major step forward.
“I think everyone kind of realizes now,” Putz said, “that this is a team that can win and compete.”
Yeah, we kind of figured that one out. When you win 88, there’s little doubt about the team’s winning abilities. The streaky nature of this club, which won its final five games, also showed it could compete when it wanted to.
But it also couldn’t compete when it had to at times. Not on the mound at the start of some games. These areas will have to be addressed. Yes, it can win. Yes, it can compete. Can it contend beyond Sept. 1? Truly contend? We’ll have to wait 11 months to find out. Maybe not that long. There should be a lot going on this winter.
It all begins with Jose Guillen, who was emotionally moved by the reception fans gave him when he came out of the game in the ninth inning.
“It’s been great here,” Guillen said. “I’ve been through a lot in my career…and the fans really supported me. I’ve been through a lot with injuries and my reputation that I had around the game. But they realized what Jose Guillen is all about.”
Guillen and Adrian Beltre both remained stuck on 99 RBI. For those of you who’ve asked why the M’s kept playing the two in order to reach their milestones, the simple answer is: because that’s the way the game works.
Beltre and Guillen are two of the guys this team relied on day-in, day-out and they both delivered strong seasons. You don’t reward that by not giving them every opportunity to collect a milestone so close to their grasp. Just as the team did with Putz today. As I wrote earlier in the week, you’re not really going to make young players any more marketable by “showcasing” them for an extra day or two. Other teams already know what they have to know about Seattle’s young players. And the extra game or two, at this stage, won’t do much for their development.
The bottom line is, if you want players to go to war for you, you have to stick by them as well. I think John McLaren did an excellent job on that front over the final three months of the season. He has earned the respect and trust of his players and that can’t be underestimated.
I understand the love for the young talent on this site and, as I’ve mentioned, am very excited that Adam Jones will be up here playing next year based on what I’ve seen. I’d also like to see Ben Broussard get a true shot at playing every day even though he’s hardly a “young guy”. But I think some of the “young love” I’m seeing on the site is getting to be a bit much. It’s as if anyone over 30 on this team is guilty of something until proven innocent.
On the Richie Sexson front, zero argument from me. But not with Beltre or Guillen. Or Ibanez or Jose Vidro. They all went through slumps at various times and all pulled out of them and justified their playing time. Every single one. And if they had a milestone within reach, I’d have been disappointed to see the manager not give them every chance to reach it.
But hey, we’ll save that argument for another time, another place. I really do want to thank all of you for making this my most fun season as a beat writer. This really was the most unique of years.
All that said, this 88-win season is no cause for a parade. There is plenty of work to be done. The only other 88-win campaign I ever followed was in my first season covering the majors in 1998. And they fired that team’s manager before spring training had ended the following year. Just goes to show, nobody is bulletproof. This season was a success for the Mariners, on several fronts. But as we’ve mentioned, it has also set the bar very high in 2008 for a squad that, all the statistics seem to show, may have overachieved by quite a bit in 2007.
That has big-time comedown written all over it unless the Mariners address specific areas of concern this winter with something other than patchwork solutions.
It’s time for me to head on out into the cold, dreary night (well, it’s almost night). We’ve all built quite a place here for people to come and chat, as “Adam” mentioned in the previous thread. You don’t all have to agree with me here, or with what the folks at Lookout Landing or USS Mariner say. Just remember, none of us has a monopoly on the truth. None of us knows the right or wrong way to do things. We have our opinions, you have yours, and we’re all in this for the love of watching baseball.
If I’ve fallen short of your expectations on some fronts, I apologize. I know that I set very high standards for myself and know when I’ve hit them and when I’ve failed. We tried our best to make this the place to be for Mariners baseball fans in 2007 and I think that, judging by the numbers I’ve seen, we succeeded at that goal. It’s going to be a fun October watching the playoffs. Always is the best time of year to be a baseball fan.
Maybe next year we’ll be watching the M’s. That’s the great thing about sports, unlike the reality of life sometimes. There always is a next year…

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