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It took 120 games, but the team is finally beginning to get as frustrated with itself as we've been all season. After the first inning, Ryan Franklin, powered by a potent combination of belligerent arrogance and cattle-grade steroid withdrawal, threw a tizzy and, in Jamie Moyer's words, "got up in BP's grill," ranting and raving until Adrian Beltre grabbed him by the collar and threatened to deny Franklin of his tractor privileges. Mike Hargrove downplayed the whole situation after the game, saying that it was a "one" on a scale from 1-10, but we've managed to obtain a transcript of the incident that serves to shed a little light on how some of the players are feeling at the three-quarters point in the season:

Franklin: "God damn motherf*cker!!" :throws glove at ground:
Dugout: :stares:
Franklin: "I just deren't GET it! Sumbitch!"
Hargrove: :looks at Price:
Price: :rolls eyes:
Franklin: "I'm just fixin' to throw a good game but...but, well, y'all dun seed what happened!"
Price: :sighs: "Don't worry about it. Calm down."
Franklin: "Too much! This here happens too much!"
Price: "Everyone makes a few bad pitches. It's not a big deal."
Franklin: :pause: "Bad pitches?"
Price: "Er."
Franklin: "Shoot, I din't make no bad pitches, I felt good for every last one of 'em out there."
Price: :furls eyebrows:
Franklin: "It's this jackbag lineup that can't git 'er done when we need it."
Sexson: :rising: "Okay, that's it-"
Price: "The lineup?"
Franklin: "Seed'n these guys try and hit every day is disco'aging, I can't pitch 'thout no runs."
Ichiro: :under his breath: "Like ten friggin' runs a game would do you any good..."
Franklin: "What?"
Ichiro: "I hit singles in mine. All the time."
Franklin: "It's part your fault too, y'know."
Ibanez: "If someone hit you in the balls, would your voice get lower?"
Beltre: :gets up: "Sit down before I cut you."

The clubhouse these days is visibly unstable, as the tension grows thicker with each ugly loss. One can only hope that, when it inevitably comes to blows, the younger guys are able to strike first and do away with some of the worthless vets, and that Moyer is wise enough to hide in another room until the fury dies down.

Biggest Contribution: Ichiro, +12.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Ryan Franklin, -26.4%
Most Important Hit: Bloomquist DP, -28.4%
Most Important Pitch: LeCroy homers, -16.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -28.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -13.3%

(What is this?)

Despite Ryan Franklin's best efforts, the Mariner bats kept this one moderately interesting for a while, as it wasn't until Shannon Stewart's RBI single in the eighth that you knew the game was over. This despite turning two bases loaded situations in the first two innings into only a single run, something that only happens when Franklin or any Washington National is on the hill. You're tempted to say that the offense should've done a better job of supporting Franklin - and, really, that's true - but it was Franklin's fault that the Mariners had to rally back from an early defecit in the first place, so place most of the blame on the latter.

Coming into the season, I thought that Franklin would be able to put up an ERA in the mid-4's, given a favorable home park and team defense. Nothing great, considering that Franklin himself would be doing little of the work, but enough to have some value, provided he soaked up 200 innings. This hasn't happened, though, as Franklin's ERA has soared well beyond the league-average despite a near-ideal pitching environment. The reason? His peripherals have regressed from an already dangerous level to one best described as "impossible to have success at." While his strikeouts are down 5%, his walks are up 10%, meaning that (A) more batters are putting the ball in play, and (B) there are more men on base when that happens. The end result is that a bunch of guys wind up crossing the plate, even when your home runs are down significantly. That's bad.

Another part of the problem is that, for whatever reason, the defense isn't exactly holding up its end of the bargain - despite Franklin's being an extreme flyballer, 29% of his balls in play are dropping in for hits, pretty close to the league average for that kind of pitcher. So what we're seeing now is Ryan Franklin without one of his favorable variables - he's still got the home park, but the defense hasn't been anything special. The result has been a disaster, albeit a quiet one, overshadowed by Pineiro's implosion and Meche's insistence on maintaining his reputation as a troubled young ace.

At this point, you have to wonder if the Mariners aren't looking at an offseason in which they'll have to replace three-fifths of their starting rotation. Felix and Moyer are locks for 2006, but each of Meche, Franklin, and Pineiro has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and the front office will have to determine if, in the case of all three pitchers, the risk is worth the cost. A lot of it will depend on available replacements - the free agent market is thin, and the in-house cupboard is pretty bare - but it's not very hard to find guys capable of posting 5.00 ERAs over 30 starts, so the Mariners might just cut ties with each pitcher and worry about filling in the gaps afterwards. The only problem with that approach that I can see is that I can't imagine Mariner baseball without heated debates regarding Gil Meche's potential every five days, so it would be unfamiliar territory.

Matt Thornton, Brian Bruney, and Russ Springer. What do these three guys have in common? They're the only pitchers in baseball with ERAs in the fives despite striking out more than a batter an inning (minimum: 40 IP). Players who accomplished this feat in 2004: Brian Fuentes, John Grabow, and John Patterson. Today's brief appearance aside, Thornton has been a special kind of suck.

How much does middle infield defense mean to this team? A comparison:

Yuniesky Betancourt, ML career: .254/.277/.365
Jose Lopez, ML career: .231/.257/.350

Betancourt: uniformly praised.
Lopez: unceremoniously demoted.

Really makes you wonder what they were thinking with the whole Aurilia thing a year ago.

Player A entered today batting .043, but a pinch-hit blooper into right field upped that figure to a much more respectabe .064 - a 49% increase because of a single hit. Just for fun, the following is a list of just how many consecutive hits certain other Mariners would have to put together to improve their current batting averages by 49%:

Betancourt: 14
Bloomquist: 44
Morse: 48
Reed: 77
Sexson: 85
Beltre: 92
Ibanez: 115
Ichiro: 139

Back to work tomorrow at 5:10pm, as Gil Meche goes up against the irritating Carlos Silva.