Notebook: Mariners manager nearing wit's end
McLaren unhappy with inconsistent play out of gate
By GARY WASHBURN
Friday was not the first time Mariners manager John McLaren acknowledged the heightened expectations of his club. It is, however, the first time that he admitted his patience is beginning to dissipate.
After dropping the opener of this weekend's important series with the A's on Friday, the Mariners are 11-13, four games behind Oakland and Anaheim in the American League West. Seattle is 12th in the AL in batting average, 12th in on-base percentage and eighth in home runs. Meanwhile, the club passed on an opportunity to boost its lineup with free agent Frank Thomas, who batted fourth for the A's on Friday.
McLaren said Friday that he will soon address his team about the urgency of the season, as a means of erasing the inconsistency. Of course, the Mariners have been bothered by injuries while a handful of players -- Kenji Johjima, Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson -- have struggled at the plate.
"We need to start playing consistent baseball," McLaren said. "I am going to get them all together and tighten some things up. I think everybody knows the bar has been set higher for everybody, and we had some challenges with J.J. (Putz) out and we handled that, and now we need to start playing a good all-around game. We can't play it in segments."
One position of concern is designated hitter, where the Mariners are 10th in the AL with a .209 average and 12th in slugging percentage. There had been speculation that the club would consider bringing in a big bat to replace Vidro, who did deliver a two-run double in Thursday's 8-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
One eventual candidate could be Ken Griffey Jr., who is batting .256 with four homers and 15 RBIs for the Reds, who may begin a roster overhaul with the hiring of former St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty to replace the fired Wayne Krvisky. Cincinnati appears stuck in the middle of rebuilding with new manager Dusty Baker and attempting to compete in the wide-open National League Central.
Griffey is in the final year of that seven-year deal he negotiated with the Reds after his trade demand from Seattle. He is scheduled to earn $12.5 million this season and has a $16.5 million option for 2009 that can be bought out at $4 million.
The Mariners just invested $24 million over three seasons for Johjima, who has been slumping this season. The question is whether the Mariners want to pay a potentially hefty price for Griffey to return or if they will wait until later in the season.
McLaren said he wants his players currently in the clubhouse to produce and begin their run toward the AL West title.
"We're at the point in the season now where we've got our feet on the ground, and now we need to start running," McLaren said. "I've been happy with the effort, and the execution I have not been happy with. I just think a little better concentration, a little better participation and we'll be a lot better off. That's the message I'd like to send. I am ready for us to put everything behind us and just take off and play winning baseball."