Mariners still have a manager, if not much else

The team managed to break their losing streak. And they didn't lose their manager.
The team managed to break their losing streak. And they didn't lose their manager.

Let's say you just came out of a four-month coma late Tuesday (Aug. 3). Somehow you wound up among the 23,466 at Safeco Field. You watched the entire game with the Texas Rangers and, when it was over, you said, wondering why those nearby looked at you as though you were deranged:

'ꀜYes! This is exactly how I knew the 2010 M'ꀙs would play!"

You and Jack Zduriencik. The Seattle Mariners general manager, very lonely these days and nights, thought, or desperately hoped, that after 107 games his club would'ꀙve played, say, 67 times precisely the way they did Tuesday, to wit:

They won 3-2, even after struggling as the game wore on. They got a quality start from Jason Vargas, a lefty who was iffy when the season began. The top of the order produced seven hits: two each from Ichiro and Casey Kotchman, three from key off-season acquisition Chone Figgins.

The five-hole guy? Franklin Gutierrez had the fifth-inning home run that proved to be the game-winner.

Bullpen personnel made matters interesting, with Jamey Wright and Brandon League each working an inning ("laboring" in the case of League). Then David Aardsma came in for the ninth and closed it down.

Line score for the homies: three runs, 11 hits, no errors. Yes, the M'ꀙs left nine on base. But compare their numbers to those of Texas and . . . there's no comparison. The division-leading Rangers had two runs on just four hits with no errors and five left stranded.

The once-comatose fan might have been elated until he or she picked up the latest standings today and saw that Seattle in fact isn't 67-40 but the other way around. The team, indeed, is in such desperate waters that Cap'ꀙn Jack of the good ship Mariner had to issue a Tuesday pronouncement (well, an utterance) in the wake of the recent seven-game becalming in foreign waters:

"Don is our manager."

That, of course, would be Don Wakamatsu, lately looking — perhaps even seeming — like Don of the Dead in this George Romero movie of a baseball season. The seven-day winless (and nearly scoreless) malaise, mostly taking place during a 6-22 July, has Wak awake all night and often seeming to be sleeping-Wak-ing during games. But for the all-star break, the M's might have been 6-25 last month.

But it's worse than the above numbers indicate. They may not hit 100 team home runs this year. Their remaining ace, Felix Hernandez, among the most heralded pitches of his (very young) generation, is 7-8: inexplicable and virtually unjustifiable for a guy with an earned-run average below three.

Ichiro, for the first time in his 10 years here, may not accumulate 200 hits, even though he'ꀙs on pace for 206.

Team batting average? Well, it depends on which 'ꀜteam'ꀝ you mean. So many players have been shuttled to and from triple-A Tacoma this year that it's hard to get a fix week to week (weak to weak?) on roster spots. In the murky light of dawn Wednesday, Seattle was, by a statistically significant six percentage points, dead last in batting average at .237 among the 30 big-league teams. That'ꀙs 22 points below the moribund (33-73) Baltimore Orioles. The M'ꀙs are last in doubles, triples and, as fans seem to know only too well, home runs.

Help on the way? How 'bout Justin Smoak, supposedly the Big Get in the Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers. Smoak got bounced down I-5 a week ago, presumably to work at the minor-league level on hitting from the left side.

Team officials insist that the young first-baseman is a switch-hitter, even though he hits much better from the starboard side and, in fact, refers to himself as a "natural" righty. Lost in the switch-hitting assumption is the reality (observable sometimes during the lighter moments of big-league batting practices) that a lot of major-leaguers can hit from the other side (Ichiro probably would bat .250 or better as a righty) but that doesn't mean the team has to commit to it.

For now, the Mariners seem committed to the season. Unfortunately, it's the 2011 season. Eight-month coma, anybody?


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