Grover, Wake Up!

You can get fired for oversleeping, you know.

Some may have wondered why the recent Sabbath was christened Little League Day at Safeco Field. Hadn't, after all, the big-league residents of the local yard themselves been looking like a peewee team during a 13-20 start? Actually, that's not quite fair to the kids. A day earlier, as my dog and I passed our neighborhood diamond in Magnolia, a diminutive hitter smacked a line-drive home run well beyond the left-field fence, and my mutt looked up at me as though to say, "Would that Richie Sexson still did that."

Sexson, of course, hasn't been doing much, meaning he's fitting right in with his teammates. The Seattle Mariners haven't been bundling much offense. During the fourth inning Saturday night, May 6, they finally put together three straight hits, which you seldom even see them accomplish in batting practice anymore. It led to the only runs Seattle would need in a 4-1 win against Cleveland, but the next day the M's were back in their comfort zone, losing 2-0. That day Ichiro led off the first with a sinking single to left. He stole his 200th career major-league base but died at third when—take a guess—Sexson looked at a called third strike. Sexson and Adrian Beltre like to take strikes and swing at balls, perhaps explaining why the megamillionaires have combined for the same number of 2006 hits as Baltimore's Miguel Tejada has amassed by himself.

It's tempting to blame management for the collapse of its infield corner guys. One notes, though, that first-sacker Sexson did, after all, have 39 long balls last season. Beltre, with the Dodgers two years ago, had a better season hitting and fielding than any put together by the best third basemen in Cooperstown. More to the point: Even if it were possible to move Seattle's high-profile unproductive players (including Jeremy Reed and his .188 average), recent history says they'd return to form somewhere else (check the current stats of Messrs. Winn, Guillen, Cirillo, etc., to verify).

One change is possible and perhaps even probable. Without much fan sadness or financial pain, limp-lipped field boss Mike Hargrove could be excused from duty, though before the brass canned him they'd have to rouse him from slumber. Grover actually got tossed from the Saturday-night game, not so much for what he said about the plate umpiring, evidently, but for the way he whispered it. The next day he seemed to remain in a dugout daze rather than arguing a third-inning call that looked (live and on replay) as if a Jose Lopez fly ball dropped fair in left. Lou Piniella would've thrown such a spit fit that it might've taken the cops to restrain him.

Hargrove's a nice guy, but the late character arbiter Leo Durocher long ago correctly observed that last place is where such exemplary men finish. The cellar yet again seemed to be the eventual resting place as the M's failed to take advantage of a marvelous start by lefty Jarrod Washburn, getting skunked by Cleveland on Little League Day as Beltre/Sexson went one for eight. During postgame fan chatter, even M's organization loyalists conceded that Hargrove's and/or General Manager Bill Bavasi's days might be numbered. Where Hargrove would be headed, as Porter Goss might say, remains as much of a mystery as why he's stayed this long. My dog and I are just glad he probably won't be coaching Magnolia Little League.

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