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May 24, 2008 at 1:03 PM

McLaren safe; Bavasi rips into players

1:01 p.m.: New York scored five more runs in the seventh inning off the bullpen to go ahead by eight runs. Richie Sexson then blasted a two-run homer in the eighth off Kyle Farnsworth after Jeremy Reed drew a 13-pitch walk. Remember folks, the Mariners have shown all week they are the league’s most dangerous team when trailing by eight or more. I’m sure Mariano Rivera is getting nervous.
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Now the news of the day…
The guesswork is over. John McLaren is staying put as manager. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi stepped up moments ago, in a conference call with reporters, and blasted his team’s players for a lack of clubhouse leadership and inability to police themselves.
Bavasi left no doubt that it’s ”beyond frustrating” for him at the moment. He described the team’s clubhouse as “a group of individuals.”
“We’re ending up with a man on second, or a man on third, or men on second and third with nobody out and they stay there. And then we may run into a period where we can’t get out of the first three innings without giving up 20 runs.
“Unfortunately for us,” he added, “we don’t have on this club so far, that player, or players — it takes more than one — that has enough in his gut to take care of himself, with enough left over to take care of somebody else, and help somebody else do his job. We don’t get a runner over, we don’t get a runner in and as a group of individuals, the players tolerate it. And good teams just don’t tolerate that.”
We’ve been trying to point this out to all of you, on this blog, for the past couple of weeks. There are things that teams do internally, to enforce a level of conduct on and off the field, from one player to another, that just is not being done by the Mariners. You need guys who can get into the faces of their teammates when they mess up on the field. When they make others come out and face the music for them in post-game interviews. When they see a level of pre-game preparation that is not being carried out. I mentioned Raul Ibanez taking extra BP yesterday after slumping for a couple of game. He’s this team’s best hitter. There are several other guys who could follow his lead on a regular basis. But if no one is making demands of them to do this, who’s going to? The coaches can’t, because of contractual things and such. Extra BP is extra BP. A late bus from a hotel is a late bus. There is no contractual obligation to be on the early bus. That’s something players can police themselves, without the union getting involved.
“The best teams take care of stuff in the clubhouse,” Bavasi said. “They make demands of each other and I’m not sure that’s going on right now.”
Bavasi said McLaren has done his job and that there’s only so much any manager can do in a clubhouse where no (or not enough) players are truly being held accountable by peers for their play.
“This is not a field managerial issue,” he said. “John is doing a good job. Our performance is not related to his work. It’s purely related to player performance and underperformance and underachievement. Nobody had the nerve to pick us less than second place in our division. We were picked anything from first to second to wild-card. You name it. The expectations were a heck of a lot higher than this, based on any analysts’ evaluation of out players’ individual track records and their age. Their ages are such that they’re not all young guys that they’re inexperienced. But they’re not too old to believe that they would backslide. So, I think those expectations are realistic. They were and they are.”
He said he’s in constant communication with other teams and on the lookout for deals. But it’s early, he said, before the July 31 trade deadline and there aren’t a lot of clubs looking to make deals.
“I don’t know that that’s something that we want to react to right now,” he said. “If we had a magic bullet, we would fire it. I think we have to, from our point of view as a staff, in the office we have to keep looking for player personnel, deals, but like I said, we’re going to be hard-pressed to find somebody better right now than what we have. We have to keep looking for those guys. It doesn’t mean you stop looking.”
Bavasi said his front office always takes character issues into consideration when trading for, or signing a player. Or while they are developing.
“Every club pays close attention to the character of guys,” he said. “But you never know what their character is truly like until they get into the heat of battle.”
McLaren and his staff have been identifying problems on a daily basis, he said, and trying to keep on guys to up their level of play. “But again, at the end of the day, the players have got to go out and do those things.”
Bavasi insisted he doesn’t want his words to be construed as a “sole attack on the players” who he still feels are working hard and trying to improve. But perhaps, he said, they have to be smarter in how they work and look after one another.
“I take it to heart in that it’s my responsibility,” he said. “The buck stops here. This is a club that we all had higher expectations on.”
And in the end, he is the guy who put this roster together. If it has character issues, the fault ultimately lies with Bavasi and not McLaren. Bavasi is in Seattle and isn’t planning to speak to the players as a group. He and McLaren have discussed the situation and both feel it’s McLaren’s job — as the guy in the clubhouse — to relay any such messages.
But if Bavasi’s tough talk is to carry an impact, or ultimately have meaning, he has to be prepared to make an example of a player or two if this type of on-field performance continues. You’ve all asked me this question and this is how I feel. I wrote yesterday that the organization had to step up and clarify McLaren’s status. It has done so in timely fashion.
Now comes part two. Backing up words with action. Demanding accountability of others, namely the players, and then being accountable yourself. If the clubhouse lacks leadership and doesn’t change on its own, go out and do something about it. That’s the only way anyone, be they fans, the media, or the players in that clubhouse, will take an organization seriously.

12:01 p.m: Jose Lopez just cost his team two huge runs in the sixth inning, committing a two-out error on a routine grounder that should have ended the frame. Instead, Bobby Abreu his a two-run homer to make it 7-4 for New York. This is what Bill Bavasi is talking about below. About accountability. In a winning clubhouse, a guy like Carlos Silva, who was furious as the ball left the park, gets in Lopez’s face after the game and tells him this kind of stuff can’t keep happening. Lopez made a nice play a couple of innings earlier, diving to his left to save a run. He’d been 3-for-3 at the plate. But it’s all out the window now.
11:54 a.m.: The New York Yankees have a 5-4 lead on Seattle as we enter the bottom of the sixth inning. New York went up 4-0 in the second on a three-run homer by Jason Giambi, then a Robinson Cano double and an RBI single by Melky Cabrera. But the M’s tied it on a three-run homer by Jose Vidro — of all people — and an ensuing blast by Adrain Beltre.
New York regained the lead in the bottom of the inning on a Melky Cabrera single with the bases loaded.



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