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And so, after a six-month vacation, the macabre spectacle is upon us once again, with the Mariners not so much finding new ways to lose as relying on old ones that work just as well. To be sure, it was a fairly exciting game, one that provided many an outlet for our pent-up enthusiasm, but when you get so close and still fall short of the ultimate goal, it leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth that's difficult to salve. After all the buildup and all the optimism, today was a disappointment, and winning tomorrow just wouldn't be the same as winning on Opening Day (although by no means should this be interpreted as a suggestion that I want the M's to lose again). With any luck, this won't set the tone for the season.

So let's go to the one thing I know all of you missed even more than actual baseball - the win expectancy chart! All right!!

Biggest Contribution: Kenji Johjima, +15.4%
Biggest Suckfest: JJ Putz, -35.1%
Most Important Hit: Lopez single, +14.6%
Most Important Pitch: Cabrera single, -41.3%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -28.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -33.6%

(What is this?)

If you really think about it, I guess nothing that happened today should come as that much of a surprise. The Mariners are almost certainly a worse team than the Angels, so losing to them is to be expected. And losing to them in somewhat desvasting fashion is par for the course when you're playing the Seahawks' Super Bowl intro Bittersweet Symphony five minutes before the game and letting Matt Hasselbeck throw out the first pitch. Vladimir Guerrero owns Jamie Moyer like Gene Shalit's mustache owns his face, so the home run was nothing out of the ordinary. Not scoring with the bases loaded and nobody out always sucks, but it's not so unlikely when you've got the 8-9-1 hitters coming up. And the ninth inning...well, Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz are different pitchers when the game's on the line, so you can't sit there and tell me with a straight face that anything that went down at the end left you feeling particularly shocked. All things considered, one might go so far as to call this a somewhat predictable game, and although it didn't necessarily feel like it at certain points, one would not be all that far from the truth.

Predictability aside, though, this is a game that the Mariners probably should've won (and, based on the WE chart, you could say that it's a game they would've won on four occasions were it to be replayed five times). Not because they were dominant by any means, but because even the worst teams in baseball are able to convert those bases loaded/nobody out situations pretty often when they have all the momentum on their side, and because scoring a run or two there would've completely changed the dynamic. I'm not a big fan of hindsight and hypotheticals, but I think it's something worth noting in this case. That inning was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.

When it comes to gaining valuable experience, there's no substitute for actually playing in games and having to make rapid decisions on the field that influence the way the game plays out. In the first inning, Kenji Johjima decided that it'd be a good idea to have Moyer throw a pitch somewhere in the approximate vicinity of Vladimir Guerrero's bat. I'd like to think that everyone involved learned a little something from that encounter.

Of course, calling pitches is something Johjima's been doing for a decade, so there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to adapt pretty quickly. What's remarkable is how quickly he's apparently adjusted to American pitching; he worked some real quality at bats against talented power arms and managed to send two fly balls pretty deep the other way, one of them clearing the fence for a homer. Anyone who can do that to Bartolo Colon is a pretty strong guy. It'll be real interesting to watch Johjima's spray chart over the course of the season, as pulling a Boone and taking advantage of Safeco's right field power alley could do wonders for helping his SLG make the transition across the Pacific.

Even if you gave me a million years to think about it, I couldn't have scripted Carl Everett's first at bat as a Mariner any better than how it actually played out. On his first swing against his first pitch, Everett let go of the bat and sent it flying into the seats along the first base side, nearly killing a guy. Perhaps it was a tactical maneuver to awaken a fan base that had fallen remarkably silent upon Everett's introduction, but more likely it was a simple accident by a player who's probably done that on purpose more often than most players do it by mistake. What a quality guy, that Carl. If Roberto Petagine keeps smacking pinch-hit home runs, he might be liable to get a bat in the face when he least expects it. That's just the kind of fiery, never-say-die killer instinct this team's been lacking for as long as I can remember.

For much of ST we got to hear about how Hargrove wants the team to become more aggressive on the basepaths. Perhaps the guys were paying attention, because between Betancourt getting to third ahead of Guerrero's throw, Reed taking third on a risky wild pitch, and Lopez getting tossed out at second after looping a single, they were pretty ballsy today. Which isn't to say that this is either a good or a bad thing, because we have no way of knowing that yet, but this is a team with a fair amount of speed that looks like it's going to try and use said tool to its advantage. Expect to hear "pressure on the basepaths" and "forcing the defense to make a play" at least a dozen times each week over the course of the season. Me, I'll be keeping an eye on whether or not the coaching staff is able to instill the idea of "disciplined aggressiveness" into Betancourt's head before he runs himself into too many rally-killing outs.

Recently I've begun to notice that nearly every manager in baseball has his own fixed and distinctive facial expression that would allow you to pick him out of a lineup including five otherwise identical twins. For Mike Scioscia, it's the look of a guy who lives in constant fear that something horrible is going to happen sometime in the near future, but he doesn't know when. Mike Hargrove has the blank stare of someone who's vaguely preoccupied with his own thoughts that are without question way more important than whatever you're talking about. Bobby Cox looks like a guy who farts all the time, and who's man enough to own up to it. It's borderline uncanny, and it makes you wonder whether or not that's the kind of thing that a GM looks for when he's interviewing managerial candidates.

Bullpen today: George Sherrill hit 93(!) and only walked a guy because what had been a strike all game long was suddenly nothing of the sort, and Rafael Soriano topped out at 96 on a fastball to Vlad. These guys are going to be fine, and they're going to be good.

Hands down, my favorite part of today's game was getting to hear the broadcasters chat between innings when they thought that no one could hear them. Some of the things that came up:

  • Dave Niehaus asking for tissues and blowing his nose

  • Fairly asking Dave "What's new?" in response to Guerrero's first inning homer

  • Dave and Ron exchanging thoughts on the NCAA men's basketball championship game, with Ron wondering if UCLA can score enough, but Dave putting considerable trust in their good team defense

  • Hendu saying that Bartolo Colon cut through the Mariner lineup "like silly puddy and butter"

  • Dave reading the Aflac trivia question to himself about three times and asking someone else what it meant by "post" when it said "can you name the three lefties to post double-digit wins at 42 years or older since 1900?"

  • Rick Rizzs totally flipping out, employing a southern accent for no apparent reason before the top of the sixth and later switching to some white guy's bastardized version of ebonics in repeatedly saying "yo" and "you da man" to other people in the booth and later pointing out that Sherrill came after a hitter with "a little sumthin sumthin"

  • Rizzs singing along with Zombie Nation
I'd talk about these things individually if I thought I could improve on their hilariousness, but I can't, because they're all hysterical by themselves. What's sad is that I'd much rather listen to this stuff than their actual attempts at in-game analysis, because a lot of it is just totally wrong.

Hendu (on Moyer): "When you throw 200 innings, no one remembers how old you are."
Me: "Actually, as far as Moyer is concerned, I think that's the first thing anyone ever talks about, and it's usually something like 'he's 43 years old, he couldn't possibly throw another 200 innings.'"

Or, more annoyingly:

Hendu (on Beltre): "When he hits foul balls like that it means he's waiting on the fastball so he won't be so out in front of the breaking ball."
Me: "Nooooo, God dammit, that's exactly the problem he had all of last year!! Curses!"

If you're one of the people I sold on, I apologize, and I promise that it can only get better. In case you missed it, online viewers of today's game got to sit through a choppy broadcast, routine audio and video blackouts, a random switch to the Houston Astros pregame ceremony, a dual feed of the TV and radio announcers, and a simulcast of the game and a Tacoma-area traffic report. You'd think would be on top of this kind of stuff in time for Opening Day, but you'd be wrong, because the people who work at hate us and want us to suffer.

John Lackey and Joel Pineiro tomorrow night at 7:05pm PDT. Let's get a win.

(Note: recaps for most 7pm games will be posted the next day, since they sure as hell don't start at 7 for me.)