Proof Positive

With a couple of exceptions, the Mariners are in exceptionally fine form.

JUST AS SURELY as the sun rises when Karl Rove tells it to, the Seattle Mariners answer negatives with positives. Wed been grousing about the dearth of run production during last weekends series against Minnesota, when the Ms tortured Twins pitching with eight whole runs in three games. So Tuesday night the Ms cross the plate 16 times on 20 hits against Kansas City, adding five more runs Wednesday. Results: Mariners 16-7 and 5-2. Wed regretted an Edgar Martinez mini-slump until Gar started the Tuesday marathon with a pair of pops out of the yard and five RBI. He still moves liked the minute hand, but how fast does a home-run trot have to be? My wife asked me not long ago how Edgar could possibly hit 30 doubles this year. My answer (after much thought): By hitting 30 triples?

Then there was the ongoing Freddy fret. For much of the past week, most of the TV-owning world apparently was watching as Annika Sorenstam proved and disproved absolutely nothing. Closer to home, we seemed content to watch Freddy Garcia prove and disprove everything. The improbably paired sports superstars actually had a little in common (money aside, as Freddy makes about thrice what the world's best woman golfer earns in a good year). Sorenstam missed a cut at a golf tournament because she left a few putts short; Freddy is missing out on an otherwise-superb Seattle Mariners season by leaving his pitches long. In fairness, though, quite a few of those Freddy-generated home runs to right field would have been routine fly-ball outs if only Ichiro were 10-feet-five instead of five-feet-10.

Garcia mainly had been proving that, if most of the 25 roster members are having good to great years and one (Garcia) or two (Jeff Cirillo) aren't, a ball club can be (and is) on pace to win 100-plus games and make it to the postseason. Garcia also was disproving the notion that a handsome arbitration-aided salary makes you a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, but then, plenty of other overpaid prodigies have done the same.

Then Garcia came out Tuesday and threw more like the guy who was among the leagues best prior to last years All-Star Game. Truth to tell, with a lead of a touchdown or two, your neighbors daughter could have tossed underhand and finished off the Royals. Still, many take it as a harbinger of a hot summer for the home nine if Freddy (and maybe even Cirillo some day) contribute.

SO LET'S BE (Freddy will pardon the expression) homers here for a moment and dwell on the positive as May winds down. First of all, it doesn't require a savant to know that the club's success owes to just two simple words: dee-fense. The M's regular outfielders, while not 10 feet tall, are playing as though they were. Poor Bob Melvin is hard-pressed during the obligatory post-game manager interviews to find time to describe and praise properly the heroic plays that have helped win recent games. Friday night, Mike Cameron covered territory roughly bordered by Royal Brougham Way and Spokane Street. The TV stations should be paying him royalties for the air time he's eaten with replays of a home-run-robbing grab reminiscent of the early Griffey years.

Of course, he ain't alone. No one can know how many runs never happened because of: a Bret Boone glove-hand flip to nail a base-runner flying by at first; an Ichiro throw that showed up at second to greet an astonished Mike Sweeney seemingly steaming in for an easy double (then he did it again to nail a player at home on Sunday); a Randy Winn sliding snow-cone grab for an out, embarrassing a radio announcer who already had declared it a base hit.

With "dee" of this caliber and pitching to match (with one glaring exception), the offense usually doesn't have to do much more than bunch a few runs once or twice a game and refrain from cussing out the plate ump. That's good because, despite a team batting average rapidly becoming the envy of the league and a pair of wins going into a Twins series, the club still lets down with runners on base. The odds say this should change. Then again, the odds also suggested that Carlos Guillen could never be the best-hitting shortstop in the American League; when I saw "Guillen" listed fifth in league hitting Sunday morning, I thought maybe I'd died and gone to the World Series.

AS TO THE LATTER, maybe these guys will go there. Theyll need to continue to avoid serious injuries. It also depends on whether Freddy Garcia can keep making his starts worth the $220,000 he gets for them. Can he, in others words, follow a positive with a positive?

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