Perhaps Oklahoma City would also be interested in a baseball team

OK, probably not — they already have a pretty good triple-A minor league team. So what the heck is going wrong at Safeco Field?
OK, probably not — they already have a pretty good triple-A minor league team. So what the heck is going wrong at Safeco Field?

From what we understand, Clay Bennett and the Hole-in-the-Agreement Gang have no intention of moving the Seattle professional team to OkieHoma. We're waiting for assurances, of course. Maybe Bennett saddle-podner Aubrey McClendon will remind a scribe that "OK City already has a pretty good triple-A baseball team, so why would we want the Seattle Mariners?"

He makes a fine point, not surprising since McClendon has shown himself to be a "fine" guy (never so much as when he paid his $250-K fine to the National Basketball Association for having actually told the truth about his group's intentions to move another Seattle franchise to Oklahoma City, aka, a prairie dog's idea of Paris).

Jesting aside, why would anyone want a mediocre triple-A team? The answer (based on attendance at Safeco Field the past week) is that few in Seattle seem to. Attendance during the home stand that mercifully ended Sunday, May 11, has been something only a mother could love, worth noting given that it was Mother's Day when the M's won for just the second time in 12 games (6-3 over the White Sox), posting a 15-24 season's record before heading south (as if they could get much farther south) to face a veritable firing squad called the Texas Rangers. The latter took three of four from the M's during the recent week; Chicago then took two of the remaining three.

As long as we're having such fun with numbers, recall that the M's were a splendid 88-74 last season. To equal that this year, they'd have to finish 73-50: a nearly 60 percent winning clip. Yes, and that wouldn't even get them into the '08 playoffs, assuming the premier clubs in the American League continue to play at their present paces.

With all this, I haven't been able to find (and I've looked) a blogger, palm-reader, reporter, or even a bar drunk to explain to me adequately why the M's game is so lame. The only answer came from the most dubious of sources: the second paragraph of mine own humble preseason appraisal:

The "ifs," of course, include the perennials: pitching, hitting, defense, coaching and avoidance of injuries. The predominant variable, however, on the eve of the March 31 home-opener at Safeco Field against Texas, is none of the above. It's whether the promising roster Manager John McLaren has been handed by General Manager Bill Bavasi performs in aggregate at the upper end of players' capabilities. If this happens, the M's will finish ahead of the suddenly pitching-challenged Los Angeles Angels, with 100-plus wins and possibly the best prospects in the American League playoffs. If not, not: It's that simple and complicated.

And it's also that weird. How could an entire team collapse like the proverbial house of baseball cards? We've belabored the bad performances, of course, but there's also been plenty of ill timing and tough luck. The Mother's Day game is instructive. The M's improbably loaded the bases with none out in the second. Then a tap back to the mound resulted in a double play, soon followed by a ground-out to third: end of inning. In the third, Ichiro singled and stole second. Miguel Cairo got plunked on the arm: runners at first and second. Adrian Beltre hit into a double play, controversial in that the TV replay indicated he made it safely to first. Manager John McLaren argued the call but it didn't matter.

Bluster hasn't presented much of a winning strategy this season, especially when a Thursday night, May 8, fight resulted in another loss of both the game and perpetrator Richie Sexson, serving a five-game suspension for storming the mound and throwing ("like a girl," according to the above-referenced bar drunk) his helmet at the pitcher.

Mercifully, in the third Sunday, Raul Ibanez slugged one into the right-field seats, giving his club its first lead since Cinco de Mayo. It would be terrific to report that the Sunday win bodes well for the season. It also would be swell to say that the Sonics are staying in Seattle.

Long-term M's solutions have included firing, trading, benching, or banishing everybody but Ichiro and the left-field ball girl. A few enlightened minds have noted that this is Bill Bavasi's team; McLaren just tries to make it work on the field. If failure persists, canning Bavasi will take care of itself. You could send Johnny-Mac packing and replace him with third-base coach Sam Perlozzo, but the latter, as a big-league field boss (.427 during his three seasons in Baltimore), doesn't exactly have one recalling Casey Stengel.

Are the M's stuck in the league cellar this season? It could be, because, except for Tacoma outfielder Jeremy Reed and very few others, there aren't many more minor-leaguers for the club to summon. Even playing at a near-.500 pace the rest of the way, the Mariners would finish at perhaps 75-87. Come to think, though, maybe that would interest Bennett and the Boys, because it would be a helluva lot better than the Sonics did last season.


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