Sunday, June 05, 2005

Winnie the Pop?

It wasn't all that long ago when we were rubbing our hands with glee at the results of the Lou Pinella "trade" that brought Randy Winn (officially, Winn for Antonio Perez) to Seattle. And why not? Left field has been a black hole for the Mariners pretty much throughout their entire history ... in fact, this blog commemorates one of them: Kevin Mitchell. Winn came reasonably well credentialed: just 27 when he joined the M's, he had hit .298 with the D-Rays and swiped 27 bases. For a 2003 Mariners team that didn't have the most pop on paper, his 39 doubles, 9 triples, 14 homers and 75 RBI's for a bad 2002 Tampa Bay team seemed pretty attractive as well. And remember, he was on the upswing. A 20+ home run season and near-.500 slugging didn't seem to be that out of the question for the 6'2", 195-pound Winn.

Two years later and the long-dormant catch-phrase "Where's the beef?" comes to mind. Granted, Winn hit 25 homers in his 2 combined seasons with the M's. He also averaged about 35 doubles per year. However, in the "what have you done for me lately?" department, Randy Winn has hit exactly zero home runs this season. Zilch. Zip. Nada. He's poked a few doubles, sure, but without any real power (no triples either, incidentally), his slugging percentage has drifted below that of Jeremy Reed, the punch-and-judy rookie center fielder. To be fair, so has Adrian Beltre's to this point, though one could argue that he's still making the adjustment to the American League. Winn's hitting the ball well, stealing his usual 20-ish bases and isn't as brutal in left as he was in center. He just has absolutely no pop to his bat.

How is this important on an M's team that features Adrian Beltre, Big Sexy and Bret Boone as its main theoretical sources of power? Obviously, when one or more of them are struggling, the team's lack of ancillary power is magnified. At best, the M's already have four spots in the batting order that are essentially power vacuums as it is: catcher, shortstop, center field and right field (yes, Ichiro is God, but despite the Fairly-esque assertions that "he could hit 20 homers if he wanted to", he has been in single digits in dingers three out of his first four full major league seasons, with slugging in the .450 range). They could sure use their possible-20 homer left fielder to show more power than just dinking singles left and right, and they could certainly use more than his 0 HR, 15 RBI stat line to date. One Jeremy Reed in the outfield is enough.

Despite the M's ridiculous lack of power, they won again tonight, 6-5. It was bad enough that they allowed Tampa Bay to notch just its fifth road win of the season against them in game #1 of the series ... losing the series itself would have been devastating, considering that they had played reasonably well in the previous two series. Thus, going down 4-0 early may have been a pivot point for this season. Had they failed to come back, their recent momentum would have come crashing down in a firey maelstrom. Instead, they rallied, thanks in part to Mr. Popgun's 4-5 day (three singles and a double, of course). I watched the 8th and 9th innings. After Beltre chopped his excuse-me single to right and Sexson came to bat, I just knew something good was going to happen. This type of moment is what M's fans expected to see time and time again this year: the big two, delivering with the game on the line. When Sexson smashed the ball, I figured it'd go off the wall and then -- blessedly -- Crawford misplayed the carom and Beltre was able to steam home all the way from first base. Now winners of 7 out of their last 10, the M's will take 'em any way they can get 'em.

The M's still have a pulse at 24-31. They have a tough interleague road trip coming up in Florida and then against the now-first place Washington Nationals. For whatever reason, the M's have generally fared pretty well in interleague play. If they can continue their recent hot streak on this trip, they then have three beatable opponents in a row at home: Philadelphia, the Mets and Oakland. By early July there could be a possible showdown with the Los Angeles Angels of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim or whatever the heck they're now called. Just a few baby steps needed to get within about 4-5 games of the Angels by that series and make things potentially very interesting.

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