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    The Mariners' slow start: What's wrong?

    Attention must be paid to Jack Zduriencik's four big trades, who so far are hitting .169.
    How bout them M's?

    How bout them M's?

    One problem with being Jack Zduriencik is that it’s kind of hard to hide. It comes with owning the most consonant moniker since Kent Hrbek and being the most recognizable bald guy since Mr. Clean. It also has a little to do with the idea that Jack-Z’s four greatest recent “gets” at Seattle Mariners starting positions go into the sixth game of the nascent season hitting 11 for 65: “a buck-69” in baseball-announcer argot.

    Boy, did a club ever need a Felix Hernandez start.

    Unfortunately, the way the M’s at-bats are going, King Felix could be the first guy since Harvey Haddix to lose a perfect game when Seattle meets the Rangers today (April 10) to see if they can start improving their 1-4 record as Monday’s home opener approaches.

    Already the optimism that preceded spring training has yielded to dread amid factions of fandom. The trepidation is a function of the recollection of a time — it was just two years ago, wasn’t it? — when the M’s prevailing great experiment under manager John McLaren and crew, ballyhooed during the off-season, proved to be a disaster just weeks into the ’08 campaign.

    Of course, the current M’s are just 3 percent of the way into the season. Already, however, observers can’t help but cite similarities to the under-achieving McLaren team. Worse still, whatever Don Wakamatsu says when his light-hitting team fails to score runs and win games sounds achingly like a refrain from the post-game interviews the ’08 McManager gave. Wak could aptly note that his club, after all, did finish with a winning record last season. Many arbiters figure the M’s to do so again.

    But player-acquisition can be a crap-shoot at best. Fans want to believe that Casey Kotchman is an upgrade from Russell Branyan at first base. They’d like to think Chone Figgins was a middle-infield steal or, at the very least, that he could steal on offense, which obviously is impossible if you don’t get on base.

    Milton Bradley? The left-fielder had a hit in 17 at bats as Saturday dawned. Even Jurassic Carl Everett (he doubted the existence of dinosaurs because they aren’t referenced in the Bible) did better than that; but then, so do most National League pitchers.

    The fourth big deal is Jack Wilson. The shortstop, like Kotchman and Figgins, has just three hits, leading some to wonder whether he represents much of an upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt or even that other recent M’s infielder named Wilson: Josh.

    Meanwhile, the M’s team earned-run average is 20th out of the 30 big-league teams. It would seem to promise to improve when Cliff Lee joins the rotation in a few weeks.

    Then again, a lot about this team would seem to prompt fan optimism. But if the spring harbinger of the 1-4 start is evidence of another 2008 season, at least Seattle fans will find it easy to identify the guy to blame, even if they can’t always say or spell his last name correctly.

    Since 1994 Senior Lecturer Mike Henderson, a veteran writer and editor for The Times, Post-Intelligencer, (Everett) Herald, Seattle Weekly and Crosscut, has been a member of the faculty of the University of Washington Department of Communication. He considers himself to be the only journalist ever to interview actor Gene Hackman inside San Quentin prison while wearing a pair of Hackman's pants. He can be reached at mikh48@hotmail.com.

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