What will it take to get the Mariners out of their current slump?
Mariners Manager John McLaren seems to have tried everything, from assorted line-up changes, to altering the team practice routines in an assortment of different ways, both offensively and defensively. Yet he seems to be out of ideas.
General Manager Bill Bavasi has made some roster moves, trying to shake things up with fresh blood from the minors in the form of bringing up Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien, two of the organization's most highly-prized prospects. Yet, the team still struggles.
Frustrations are running high in the Mariners clubhouse, and the recent brawl started by Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson during Thursday night's game is probably the best outward expression of the building tension on the team. Pitching is struggling. Team defense is struggling. The hitters are struggling. On paper this team should be contending, if not leading, the American League West, not exploring the depths of the division cellar. The M's are facing possibly the worst breakdown of all the different types of breakdowns a team can face during a season. They suffer from a team-wide mental breakdown.
Many in the Seattle baseball community and elsewhere feel that this brawl could ultimately be a good thing for the team. Some have described it as a kind of low point that the Mariners can only build up from, giving the Mariners motivation to redeem themselves from their struggles from the beginning of the season.
This made Friday night's game agains the Chicago White Sox much more interesting, as the White Sox have been struggling on their own, with Chicago Manager Ozzie Guillen and his team facing almost identical struggles as their Seattle counterparts. While some of Guillen's soulutions for ending his team-wide mental breakdown have been, admittedly, much more unique than McLaren's (the blow-up doll incident comes to mind), he and his team are essentially is in the same boat as their Seattle counterparts.
During Friday night's game, the Mariners arguably played better than they have recently (i.e. they actually scored runs), they still struggled. The only thing that prevented the Mariners from setting a new record for consecutive scoreless innings was a wild pitch from White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras, which allowed Ichiro Suzuki to score in the third inning. The Mariners did not score their second run until the 9th, when Balentien hit a home run. Chicago won the game, 4-2.
So things are still the same for the Mariners, except that now they will lose Sexson for a six-game suspension at some point later this season. In contrast, the White Sox have won three of their last four, and have climbed back up to the .500 mark.
Perhaps the Mariners need to get themselves a blow-up doll of their own.