I wonder what Ted Miller would have to say about this. Just three days after Miller praised the Mariners' new positive attitude in contributing to their winning streak, the team has lost back-to-back heartbreakers, dropping us right back to five games out of first. Almost all of the energy and enthusiasm that had built up has drained out in less than 48 hours as the emotional rollercoaster that is the 2007 season threatens to enter the latest in a series of valleys.
Of course, I shouldn't single Miller out - lots of columnists say the same stuff about every winning streak. It's an easy story. It makes it seem like there's something special about the team, it's simple to write, it allows for painless player interviews, and it's impossible to disprove. In many respects, it's the perfect article.
But here's the problem with interpreting performance in terms of team character: it's entirely dependent on timing. Three days ago, the Mariners were a scrappy and happy bunch determined to win at all costs, fatigue be damned. Three days ago, this was the team that would bend but not break, the team that didn't know how to quit. But what if you tried to write the same kind of story today? Do they find ways to lose? Do the young players sabotage themselves with walks and errors because they're not ready to win? Is Brandon Morrow a choker, a guy who doesn't have it in him to leave everything on the field when the game's on the line?
No. Those points are unanimously stupid. However, they're the points Miller would have to make were he writing his article tonight instead of Monday. If you're going to go the chemistry and attitude route, you gotta stay balanced, right? I mean, if winning means the team has the perfect amount of drive and intensity and leadership, then doesn't the opposite also have to be true?
I know I've been talking about this stuff a lot lately, but only recently has it really started to piss me off. Who cares if various Mariners are throwing pies at each other? Here's an article from 2005 which talks about Travis Lee whacking Jonny Gomes with a pie after Gomes hit three homers in a game for the 39-66 Devil Rays. They certainly didn't seem to have a winning attitude. Were they not doing it right? Did Lee deliver the pie in an unfriendly and belligerent manner? Are there varying degrees of team celebration so nuanced that only the trained eye of a professional journalist can tell the difference between one pie deliverer who really means it and another who's just going through the motions?
If I have to launch a personal crusade against stories that focus on attitude and personality instead of performance, then by dammit, I will. They're lazy and contribute absolutely nothing to a broader understanding of the team's makeup. You could write a column praising a team's solid chemistry in December and submit it during any given hot streak without having to change more than a couple words or names, provided you wrote it properly. What does that tell you?
That we rarely see the same kinds of columns after losses like today's suggests that the writers are looking for a happy, easy story that doesn't rub anyone the wrong way. To write negative attitude stories after demoralizing losses only stands to make people upset, and we can't have that, now, can we?
The Mariners recently won nine of ten games because they had good hitting, good pitching, good timing, and good luck. They've lost the last two because they had bad hitting, bad pitching, bad timing, and bad luck. I don't know anything about the atmosphere in the clubhouse, but given that the same guy's been in charge since 2005, I can't imagine it's too different from what it's been either of the last two years. And what does that tell me? Absolutely nothing.
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +24.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Brandon Morrow, -59.6%
Most Important At Bat: Ibanez double, +31.8%
Most Important Pitch: Izturis single, -33.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -45.1%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -29.9%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +25.0%
Okay, that went on longer than I intended, so I'm going to take a breather and post a handful of observations later on. And if you need some consolation, at least the Mariners are a good enough team that we care when they lose a close game. We knew the hot streak wouldn't last forever. Now it's time we figure out how to get some separation so the games don't always come down to the ninth.
To Houston tomorrow.