As I strolled the traditional opening-day lap of the Safeco Field 100 level Friday (April 13), it soon became apparent that, despite what would later prove to be a 4-0 Oakland triumph over the Seattle Mariners, the biggest winner that evening might have been the U.S. consumer economy.
At 5:30 p.m. it appeared that many could offer no buyer resistance to the $9.75 price point for servings of “premium beer.” Indeed, by 5:50 some looked to have already spent, let’s see, $29.25 for three pours and the game wouldn’t even start for an hour and some.
Ennui, perhaps, will do that to a beer-drinker. By the time the A’s and M’s met for the Seattle home-opener, their pairing must have seemed as familiar to some suds aficionado’s as the feud between those perennial nemeses “less filling” and “tastes great.”
Recall, that is, that it had been more than a fortnight since the Seattle and Oakland contingents had opened the major-league campaign in Tokyo. More than a week later they’d meet again in the Bay Area for another pair before the M’s would spend (mostly misspend) much of the week losing three of four in Texas. That’s a lot of baseball and, for some, a life’s worth of travel to establish a Seattle record of 4-4 before the home start.
Surely the fan base was ready for the homies to get home. The palpable anticipation, then, must have led to many heads getting scratched, when, prior to the pre-game introduction of the 2012 M’s, the public-address-system tune selected to greet the locals was Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.”
Perhaps that song title was the whereabouts of the M's "offense," which managed just three singles. Those in the sellout crowd of 46,026 expected nothing less than a pitching gem. They got one, only it was from Oakland's Bartolo Colon.
The latter, looking as always like the Chris Christie of big-league pitchers, yielded three singles and a walk during his seven innings. M's ace Felix Hernandez gave up two runs during his seven frames, proving yet again (this is the guy who won a Cy Young Award with practically no offensive support) that you can't get a victory if your guys get shut out.
The M's offensive performance and lack thereof has posed an unsettling situation through nine games. The club has been shut out twice and also lost upon putting up a solo run March 29.
Brendan Ryan, Miguel Olivo and, most maddeningly, Justin Smoak have been slow starters at the plate. Michael Saunders, promising in spring training, lately has seen his batting average drop toward last year's woeful level.
Fans no doubt are aware, however, that manager Eric Wedge may have offensive options and certainly has little resistance toward using them. When Ryan seemed oddly distracted in game situations, Wedge benched the veteran.
If Saunders, a splendid defensive center-fielder, doesn't come alive at the plate, the manager knows that it may only be days before Franklin Gutierrez commences his minor-league rehabilitation stint. When he's mended, Gutierrez is expected to take over in center.
Mike Carp, who injured his shoulder opening day in Japan, already has started a triple-A rehab and could be back with the M's in a matter of days. With Tacoma he's in the company of several promising spring-training bubble guys with big-league aspirations.
And — hey! — there's always the possibility of coaxing Mike Cameron back to baseball. The one-time M's star tossed out the ceremonial first pitch Friday after he announced that he would "retire as a Mariner," whatever that means. Unfortunately the Jamie Moyer change-up he threw to ceremonial catcher Ichiro Suzuki missed by a few feet reaching the requisite distance of 60 feet, six inches.
For some the spectacle must've been every bit as disappointing as $9.75 beer.