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

September 30, 2007 at 12:42 PM

Wrapping it up

Mariners have a 2-1 lead after two innings, scoring a pair in the bottom of the second on a Jamie Burke home run and a throwing error by first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia on an Ichiro infield hit. I thought I’d post an audio clip of John McLaren’s answer to a question about his need to get tougher with players. It goes on for nearly four minutes and is worth listening to right here.
MAC TALKS TOUGH
Seems like just yesterday we were starting this blog off down at spring training. A much different format back then. Can’t say I liked it much. I think we’ve improved things in the interim. Thanks for checking in “Anna” — I wondered where you’ve been. And “Merrill” and “Adam” and “ScottM” and “Kyle from Illinois” and “Oregongal” and “Nat”. Then, there’s “Resin” and “Ricofoy” and “Donovan” and “Ebenezer”, “Maui Mariner” and “Mr. X”. Not to mention “Shimon” and “Scrapiron” and “KBD” and “AKMarinersfan”. And that transplant from Chicago? What was his name again? I think he likes the Cubs.
Anyway, I feel like I know a lot of you. It’s been a very interesting year, to say the least. Very informative for me. And a different experience from working in isolation here in the pressbox. We’ve obviously scaled things back a little as the season winds down and many of you turn to football and other pursuits. But we got some some good ideas on how to run with things next season.
It’s been a good year for the Mariners. I don’t think anyone can argue otherwise, with a second place finish and either 87 or 88 wins. It’s also been a disappointing season, no question. A season of streaks. This team simply waited too long to go on that one final winning roll after losing 15 of 17. Having a good year and having one in 2008 are obviously two different things. We’ve talked plenty about next year and all the warning signs of a comedown if this club does not make some needed off-season moves.
I worry that, just as Miguel Batista has done in winning 16, the bar may have been set a little too high by some overachievement. We’ll see. One thing’s for sure. Anything less than 90-to-100 wins next year is going to be viewed as a disappointment by a majority of M’s fans.
John McLaren gave his final pre-game press conference within the past hour and was asked about Jose Guillen’s comments on him needing to be tougher on players. McLaren responded that the particular conversation he’d had about that subject with Guillen pertained specifically to younger players, especially Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez.
“That conversation with Jose was actually totally about some young players and keeping them in line,” McLaren said. “Make sure that we made them do the right things and know that there’s a right way to do it.”
McLaren said people should not be fooled into thinking he can’t be tough.
“There’s no problem with my toughness,” he said. “That much I can tell you.
“Don’t ever take kindness for a weakness because I’m fine, but I can be mean too,” he added. “I keep a lot of fire inside of me, but it’s there.”
All that said, McLaren absolutely loved having Guillen around this year and hopes his contract talks with the team take care of themselves and that he’s back. Guillen was one of the clubhouse policemen this year and frankly, from what I saw, the team was better for it. Took him a while to make that presence felt, which is typical of a new player, but the Mariners needed it. They need Guillen going forward. This isn’t strictly about stats, though a 100-RBI season coming off major elbow surgery isn’t bad. There are a lot of “nice” guys in that Seattle clubhouse. Maybe too many. Guillen brought some attitude to the team and backed it up with his on-field play. You don’t need an entire roster of such guys, but a handful never hurts.
Bottom line? This team won 88 games with a starting rotation that was below average. Something had to have gone right and it says here that Guillen was a big part of that. As was J.J. Putz from the pitching end. You need the performance to back up the mouth or else bringing down a hammer means nothing to your teammates. Kind of what part of the problem was in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. Every team has veterans who try to teach and police younger players when it comes to doing things right. But the young players won’t always listen to you if the numbers aren’t there. Some guys just command respect regardless of numbers, but it’s also a different game today than it was 20 years ago. Many of today’s younger players think Ty Cobb grows in stalks in a field and wouldn’t know Babe Ruth if they didn’t have to unwrap it first. So, the respect isn’t always there.
All that said, I really don’t think what happened in Seattle this year has anything to do with a generational rift. The only clear-cut case where one player sat at the expense of another who wasn’t doing anything to justify the time was with Richie Sexson and Ben Broussard. And both those guys are of roughly the same generation. Adam Jones will get his playing time next spring. But the two guys who kept him on the bench these last two months, Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro, both produced.
This season ended without a playoff berth because the starting rotation — young guys and old — could not go seven decent innings when they had to. It ended because a bullpen, anchored all year by J.J. Putz, Geroge Sherrill and a flock of inexperienced arms, began breaking down in the second half. The biggest breakdowns came from the younger arms, lacking both the innings endurance and pressure experience to get it done. Did one factor outweigh the other? Can’t say. But it would be foolish to believe that neither played a role. In fact, just about anyone in that clubhouse would tell you it did.
Why try to argue otherwise? Go ahead if you’d like. But the difference this season wasn’t Jones sitting on the bench. Sad to say, the season was likely decided before the first pitch of the year was even thrown. Next season, the bullpen will be a little older, a little wiser and have more of that needed endurance. Whether or not the starting rotation is any better will depend on Bill Bavasi.
McLaren said he’s noticed one big difference between being a bench coach and a manager.
“When you make the final decision it’s a lot different than being a bench coach,” he said. “When you make a decision and it doesn’t work out, you can just go home and not have to read about it in the paper the next day.”
Bet on that.
McLaren has yet to make a final decision on the team’s coaching staff. He and GM Bill Bavasi are to meet in Arizona later this week and expects to announce something soon after.
Big day for team trainers and clubhouse attendants. Players usually tip them on the last day and it’s not the usual buck or two you leave the breakfast servers. Most players were leaving about $700 for the trainers and $350 for the clubhouse attendants.
Here are today’s lineups:
TEXAS (75-86)
CF Freddy Guzman
2B Ian Kinsler
LF David Murphy
DH Jason Botts
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia
C Guillermo Quiroz
3B Travis Metcalf
SS Ramon Vazquez
LHP A.J. Murray
SEATTLE (87-74)
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Mike Morse
2B Jose Lopez
LF Adam Jones
C Jamie Burke
SS Willie Bloomquist
RHP Felix Hernandez
UMPIRES
HP Bill Miller
1B Marvin Hudson
2B Ed Montague (crew chief)
3B Jerry Layne

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