With an off-day today and the symbolic flipping of the calendar tomorrow, now seems like as good a time as any to reflect on the start of the Mariners' season.
So much was made of the Mariners needing to get off to a hot start, mostly because of the compelling storylines that came along with the start of the season. What will happen to this team if it gets run over by the AL West again? Will Mike Hargrove keep his job? Will Bill Bavasi keep his job?
Alas, none of those stories came to be, and today's sports pages in the Seattle area are celebrating the Mariners' "accomplishment" of finishing the first month with a .500 record, given all the "challenges" this team has faced.
I'm here to tell you, folks, that this team has accomplished very little. Finishing 10-10 against most of the worst competition the American League has to offer (with a six-game losing streak thrown in for good measure) is nothing to celebrate. Am I glad they're not already buried? Sure, being 1.5 games back of the LAAoA is a solid place to be.
But let's be real: After a two-game series against the White Sox to finish this homestand, the Mariners will embark on a 14-game stretch that could define whether this season has a prayer, or will sink like each of the last two, over before they really began. It kicks off with a road game at Boston, then moves to a four-game series at New York, then three at Detroit, then three more with the Yanks at home and, finally, three more with LAAoA at home.
For those keeping track, that's a game against the best team in the AL (16-8), seven against the best offense in the AL (5.7 runs per game), three against the defending AL champs and three against the first place team in your division that, oh by the way, swept you convincingly last week.
We'll learn a lot through this stretch. I don't think anyone thinks this is an elite team, but teams that want to contend -- even in mediocre divisions -- have to survive these stretches. If this team is still .500 after these next 16 games, and can take two of three from LAAoA at the back end, we might have something. But if they go way south over that stretch?
Well, let's just say we just might see some of those interesting storylines finally come to fruition.
Other things I noticed in the weekend series ...
- I'm still not sold on Cha Seung Baek as any kind of long-term solution, but I'm darn glad he's giving them some quality innings right now. He's doing pretty much what you'd expect out of a fifth starter -- grinding through 5-6 innings, keeping his team competitive. What scares me? The fact that he starts to get absolutely pounded by his third time through the order. Makes me wonder what's going to happen when teams see him a second or third time. But on the positive side, this is a resilient guy who, after being a top prospect, very nearly was cast aside by this franchise two years ago. Maybe I'm underestimating him. We'll find out in the next couple of weeks.
- Jeff Weaver needs to go to the bullpen now. Period. There is nothing to be gained by trotting him out there every fifth day to get blown up.
- Richie Sexson finally got a hit yesterday, and it was a single to boot. People keep saying, "Don't worry too much about him; he'll eventually do what he always does and hit .250 with 35 homers and 110 RBIs." I'm not worried about that, per se; what I am worried about is that it's going to take until June or July for it to happen, and the team will be out of contention by then. The guy has got to start producing in critical situations, something he seemingly hasn't done since the first game of the year.
- Speaking of Sexson, check this out if you're in the mood to be depressed -- courtesy the good mates over at U.S.S. Mariner.
- Q: How stupid does Adrian Beltre look every time he points to the first base umpire after his own check swing?
- A: Almost as stupid as he looks when he's swung at a low-and-away slider in the dirt for the 1,387th time this year.
- Disturbing stat of the day: Three players are tied for the team lead in home runs -- Jose Lopez, Beltre and Sexson. They each have three, meaning each is on pace for 25 home runs. Solid production for Lopez. Not so good for two guys making about $30 million combined.