The Backward Mariners

The starting rotation is hot, but the bats suddenly are cold.

ALL RIGHT, SO the Mariners flubbed a couple against Anaheim and San Diego and now risk failing to eclipse the 1906 Cubs. We'll get to that in a moment, but suffice it to say, as Joel Pineiro might, that grabbing all seven recent games from the Angels and Padres instead of just four should've been like taking baby from the candy.

See, Pineiro gets things backward. That with problem gotta? The Mariners' bulldog right-hander rolls out of bed, gets dressed, and takes a shower. He has a nice dessert then eats his breakfast. After watering his lawn, Orienip mows it, then rakes the leaves.

He doesn't? Then why does Pineiro work games backward? He uses a few dozen pitches to give up a few runs in the first. By the seventh he's got three guys out on five pitches. Imagine Pineiro's folks looking at his report cards every year and reading, "Joel eventually completes his work but is not a strong self-starter."

But we're not the least bit worried about Pineiro, the one starter to get consistent run support in the two series that ended Sunday, June 22, because his record is 7-5, not 5-7. He won't make the All-Star team, but what difference does it make when you play all year for a pretty fair reckoning of an all-star team (defensively, anyway)?

OK, BACK TO Anaheim and San Diegoin due time. Right now, the baseball world is going positively Katie Couric about All-Star balloting. You'd think maybe Americans would be more concerned with, say, the notion that a third of the electorate believes that weapons of mass destruction have been found. Instead, we seem to be saying that it would be a travesty rivaling Roman Polanski over Martin Scorsese if Troy Glaus "beat" Hank Blaylock for American League third baseman.

Grant me just a modest proposal before my Angels-and-Padres take. As it is, the "All-Stars" (or "some-stars," as we say at my place) now are decided as follows: A third of the votes come from Philly and/or White Sox hooligans who use their body-piercing studs to hang their ballot chads; a like number (the well-informed ones) are from Japanese schoolkids; the final third are from those deemed as ethnic undesirables and are thrown out by Florida officials. Why not take the "fan" out of this nonsense? At the end of June, let every active player on every Major League roster cast one vote for every position in his league, with the stipulation that the vote recipient is (a) on an active roster and (b) not a member of the voter's team.

Of course it would never happen, because this is "the fans' game," translating to: Pay a coupla hundred for Ma, Pa, Bart, and Lisa to go to a ballpark, and we'll let everybody vote with patriotic zeal (this is the national pastime, after all), saving your having to bother with the elections in the fall. ("Did you vote this year, Mr. Simpson?" "Thirty-seven times, and boy, am I pissed that Glaus beat what's-his-name.")

OK, SO THE ANGELS and Padres: Much has been made of the M's hitlessness. It's been Ichiro, Bret Boone, and the seven dwarves. Randy Winn was zip for 17 after Sunday, while John Olerud, Mike Cameron, Carlos Guillen, Mark McLemore, Dan Wilson, and Jeff CirilI can't even bring myself to type his full name anymorehaven't been much more productive. M's partisans have looked away as one pitching marvel after another ends in a loss or no-decision. About the only way Jamie Moyer or Gil Meche can hope to win now is if they play in a National League park and drive in their own runs.

Hitting coach Lamar Johnson says to worry not, because the ground balls will eventually get through the infield. This is the same club, after all, that put up seven straight hits to start the June 1 tiff with the Twins. Saving any one of those magnificent seven for the past week might have broken open a game, but sometimes a management decision inadvertently keeps the big hit from happening. Starting the fourth last Thursday, Seattle placed runners on all bags with nobody out and a 3-0 count on Cameron. This is the same big-moment guy whose value to the club in great grabs and improbable long balls contradicts his prosaic stats. So this being the situation (with it being virtually impossible to not score), management has Cameron take the fourth Ramon Perez pitch. Of course, it crosses the plate precisely where Cameron's bat likes to collide with the ball. Why not let Cameron swing? If he still strikes out too much, then let him swing at the one pitch likely to be hittable. Instead, the M's come away empty on the way to dropping three out of four.

The fix? A few 12-2 laughers would help. Otherwise, about all we can do is wait for Pineiro to take the mound at Safeco Friday night and back his way into an 8-5 record.

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