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July 8, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Eric Wedge on most positive thing about this year’s first half versus last season? “This is real”

Felix Hernandez pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Lucas Luetge finished off the eighth with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Chris Carter (walkoff hero from Game 1) with two men on. So, we’re still tied up 1-1 heading to the ninth.
Unless Seattle scores this inning, Hernandez will head to the All-Star Game with another no-decision under his belt after pitching the kind of game that usually results in a win for the starting pitcher.
12:07 p.m.: Gotta hand it to Mariners manager Eric Wedge. He somehow managed to find a positive about this first half of the season for a ballclub where he’s now musing openly about sending some of the core pieces back to Class AAA. About a team that sits 15 1/2 games out of first place, owns the worst record in the AL, the worst home record in the majors and is seven games behind the next closest team in the AL West.
But, when asked what he found positive about this 36-50 start to the season, Wedge reached back into the reservoir and came up with this.
“I think that the most positive thing about the first half this year versus the first half last year is, this is real,” Wedge said. “Last year, in the first half, it wasn’t. What I mean by that is, we’ve got players here that are here because we feel they have a strong chance to be a part of a championship future. We feel strong about their ability and their talent. I trust in the intangibles, that are an important part of a ballclub. And the experience they’re gaining — whether it be success or failure — it’s going to be part of their DNA. So, we’re getting something out of every day. As tough as some of these days are, we’re getting something out of it.
“Because they’re getting something out of it as a ballclub and they’re getting something out of it individually too. Everything that you go through is ultimately going to be a part of who you are in the end. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”
At least, we can all hope. We’ve heard this type of thing before, about a shared learning experience and building towards a championship.
I think back to this team’s first year under GM Jack Zduriencik, a 2009 season in which the M’s won 85 games and finished in third place. That team balked at making any moves designed to stay in contention in July and instead made trade deadline moves geared more towards the future.
The day the season ended, first-time closer David Aardsma spoke optimistically about what was in store for the team in years ahead.
“We’re not done,” Aardsma said. “We want the playoffs. We want the ring. Wak told us all in spring training this season would be about learning to believe in ourselves, learning to win again.”
The guy he called “Wak” of course, was widely heralded first-year manager Don Wakamatsu. Here’s what Ichiro had to say about Wakamatsu that final day in 2009.
“It started with the skipper. He was balanced, calm,” Ichiro said. “If you have a shaky manager, the team feeds off that. This skipper was never shaky. He was as calm in September as he was in spring training.
“He was focused and we were focused.”
So, for many players, young and old, that 2009 season was “real” as well.
And then it all went “Poof!”
Wakamatsu didn’t even last another calendar year before being fired, along with most of his coaching staff. Aardsma is long gone. The only players remaining from the dozens who spent any time that season on the 25-man major league roster are Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Shawn Kelley and an oft-injured Franklin Gutierrez.
Was it real? Nope.
Is this latest version of the team going to be real? Only time will tell. But any skepticism out there can obviously be understood and forgiven. This team has to start showing. We’re all getting used to the telling part.

Jesus Montero is again not in the lineup. He took batting practice yesterday and was fine, then got dizzy taking infield work. He’ll do the same workouts today and see whether he can be used as a pinch-hitter, but I wouldn’t bet on him being cleared. He’s going to get looked at again by the medical staff over the break and I just don’t see the benefit running him out there right now.
The lineups:
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro
CF Michael Saunders
DH John Jaso
3B Kyle Seager
LF Casper Wells
1B Justin Smoak
C Miguel Olivo
SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Felix Hernandez
CF Coco Crisp
2B Jemile Weeks
DH Josh Reddick
LF Yoenis Cespedes
RF Seth Smith
1B Brandon Moss
C Derek Norris
3B Brandon Inge
SS Cliff Pennington
RHP Bartolo Colon

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Jesus Montero


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