Seattle Mariners Whiff at Win Opportunity in the Bronx

Bill DowSenior Analyst IMay 25, 2008

Just a week ago I thought I had given up on the Mariners. Call me a fair-weather fan, call me a quitter, but spending a couple of hours to watch a game would only pan out in disaster.

But on a Sunday afternoon, with nothing but a Biology lab to complete two days before school resumes, I figured I would give my poor old M's one last shot to shoot my heart down, and give up a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

They did.

Jarrod Washburn had pitched a hell of a game, the Mariners bats came alive, and Arthur Rhodes held off the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh. Sean Green came in, gave up a hit, and was then yanked, pardon the pun.

But when J.J. Putz came to the mound, no outs in the bottom of the eighth, I felt a twinge of happiness, of hope, of despair. Putz had been the icon of success for the 2007 Mariners. He was the save artist, who's first blown save opportunity of the season came during the All-Star game, and who was at this point only five for seven this season.

As we have learned in Seattle, good things never last, much like how the 5-2 lead did not, as Putz gave up four runs (three earned) in one inning of work.

The stars didn't align defensively; Ichiro misplayed an easy flyball in center field to let the game-winning run score, but the feelings aligned perfectly, as no realistic Mariners fan ever considered that they would pull out this win.

The first run Putz gave up was on a misplayed ground ball, in which the pitcher dived while attempting to throw the ball to first base. Instead, he lost a grip and eventually looked like a sprawled Mariner yanked from the sea, lying on uncomfortable sand after a miserable week stuck at sea. Coincidentally, so did McLaren.

After a long road trip through offensive powerhouses in Detroit and New York, the Mariners have not only dropped eleven and a half games back in the American League West, but they have solidified themselves as the worst team in the Major Leagues. The team got shelled in each game, minus the last, in which they gave up four runs in their last defensive inning to lose the series.

The fans at home are calling for McLaren's dismissal, but GM Bill Bavasi seems to believe that the blame lies solely on the unproductive players. One the first day of the road trip, Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker proclaimed on 950 KJR that he would see a manager firing likely if the club was being consistently blown out by their opponents.

Thus far, they have lost by a combined 34 points in six games, and with two home series against the Red Sox and Tigers ahead, there is no way that differential is lower than 50 by the end of the week. On an reader's poll, 35 percent of people believe that McLaren will be the first of all managers fired this season; higher than any other candidate.

So as I sit here, grieving in a state of despair, I find myself wondering what exactly Bill Bavasi will do. He dumped an under-performing Bob Melvin a couple of years ago, who right now is leading the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. But for some reason, Bavasi seems smitten with McLaren. Maybe it is his passive personality (the first time the press reported he chewed out his players was earlier this month), or is it because he is a lasting member of the Lou Piniella legacy (McLaren was the bench coach). Regardless, it is a time for change, whether the Mariners' organization likes it or not.

I personally believe that the team needs to have a complete overhaul. Dropping Bill Bavasi after countless managerial errors (unless you like Scott Spezio and Carl Everett as premier free agents), releasing consistent under-performers (like Richie Sexson, who has crippled the team with a .200 batting average the past two seasons), and cutting McLaren as a manager, promoting somebody like Norm Charlton, a former M's pitcher, who the town respects and expects to not only fill a couple more seats, but to change the atmosphere of the clubhouse.

There is no easy solution, and as I stated in my most recent article, the Mariners' last realistic opportunity to win a World Series has now blown by the wayside as the top players are getting up in age, and the team doesn't have a solid enough farm system to back up the soon-to-be senior citizens.

Much like the annoying Price is Right-demographic commercials, the team has fallen, and it cannot get up.