Late during what would prove to be the Seattle Mariners' seventh-straight loss on Monday, March 26, second-sacker Jose Lopez seemed to amble toward first base to cover a throw. It was hard to tell for sure from where I was. Maybe he actually moseyed, or sauntered.
"Nah, I had a good sight-line," reported my cyber buddy. "Lopez clearly sidled to first."
In any case, Lopez didn't arrive in time to make the play. It was the second straight game in which such an "effort" at first base would cost the club late in a game.
Costlier still amid fielding heroics from Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre was what didn't happen: Manager John McLaren didn't pull pitcher Felix Hernandez after seven innings. No one can know, of course, whether yanking the youngster at that juncture would have prevented the Boston Red Sox from pounding out five runs in the eighth inning of their 5-3 win. Pondering the non-decision, though, would seem to contradict the recent claims by high-level M's execs that McLaren isn't part of the problem with a club that lugs the Marley's chains of an 18-34 record into a May 28 game featuring the M's fifth starter, Miguel Batista. The Red Sox thrower? Daisuke Matsusaka, he with numbers (8-0, 2.40 earned-run average) among the best in baseball.
In his defense, the McManager did pinch-run for Richie Sexson when the one-time power-hitter had an improbable infield single during the seventh. The trouble is that Johnny Mac didn't think to use Willie Bloomquist as the new base-runner, reasoning, one imagines, that if he subbed with Miguel Cairo, the latter could stay and play first base, as he did.
At least McLaren made a player move (or "managed," which is the preferred verb), unlike the time a few weeks ago when he left in Jose Vidro to "run" for himself after the glacial-gait DH wound up at first late in a game.
Team general manager Bill Bavasi as good as said, as the Mariners were losing again to the Yankees in New York, that McLaren's job is safe right now. Bavasi didn't say that his own job shouldn't be. Other clubs, either by luck or design, piece together "teams" that actually meet the definition of the term. The Oakland A's, Arizona Diamondbacks — certainly the reigning world-champ Red Sox — play well with admirable cohesion (and less on-paper talent, it often seems). For most of the decade, the Seattle Mariners have been pieced together as though Bavasi were a blind man working a jigsaw puzzle. Pulling Felix an inning early certainly could have helped. That still leaves you, though, with an offense that always seems to need five runs but gets three or needs two and gets none.
It's terrific to note that Ichiro literally threw himself into a wall for his club, thereupon finding the wherewithal to throw the ball back after a catch for the ages. It's wonderful to observe that Beltre essayed another brilliant double-play. But neither player had the key hit that night when it was needed, and without timely hitting you get 18-34.
The '08 M's, then, are considerably less than the sum of their high-salaried parts. Unfortunately, observers of yet another lost season may easily be saying the same in late September, when M's execs saunter into an office to find out what Bavasi has in mind for 2009. Or maybe they'll mosey — or amble.