I was intending to write something up about the home opener. However, I didn't get back to Portland until 1, and even having been at the Safe to watch them firsthand, thedidn't really give me anything to write about. So here we are. Before the game, FSN ran a poll asking fans what they were most excited about in the afternoon. 45% said "Randy Johnson's first pitch." 21% said "the game." I made a crack about the results when I saw them, but it turns out the people were right. Wisdom Of Crowds, I guess.
It's one thing to get owned by Brett Anderson, but when you're getting two-hit at home by Justin Duchscherer, that's when things get uncomfortable. All game long there were statements being made about how awful this team looks, and while any team would look awful going 2-6, and while the Mariners are better than this, there's no questioning that they have a certain feel about them when they get in these slumps. Maybe it's the same feel that any team gets when it sucks, but when this team's at the plate, there's a feeling of hopelessness, and when this team's in the field, there's an air of inevitability, especially when the other guys get runners on. The only thing more predictable than the M's stranding Franklin Gutierrez in the fourth was Gabe Gross not stranding his two runners in the seventh. Randy's pitch and flashy infield defense aside, that was a miserable game, and what's worse is that it blended in so well with all the others.
Do we panic? You don't need me to tell you that it's still early, that it's only been eight games. Of course the team isn't this bad. Nobody's hitting their averages, and even if Griffey "looks finished," you can't dogpile on him, because he's just one of a number of guys not doing what's expected. Things will even out, and as they do, the team will score more runs. Of that there's no question.
Consider what you think about the. The Angels are 2-5, have a worse run differential than we do, and are well on their way to their sixth loss right now as they've blown some glorious run-scoring situations in New York. A lot of Angels fans are probably freaking out, but you expect them to get a lot better, as you should. The Angels are a pretty good team, and the Mariners are a pretty good team, and pretty good teams don't lose 75% of their games.
Here's the problem, though - at the start of the year, we told you time and time again that the West would be a tight division, and now that we're about a week into the year, the M's are four games out of first place. Meaning they need to be that much better over the remaining 154 if they want to make the playoffs. A four-game deficit over five and a half months can seem like a lot or a little depending on how you look at it, but it's a clear disadvantage. Our postseason odds might be half what they were last weekend. Half! It's both a surmountable deficit, and a significant one.
So the Mariners need to shape up, and they need to shape up soon, because no matter how long the baseball season may be, a bad start can torpedo a team before it so much as moves off the shore. Tonight would be a good time to start. A win tonight pulls the M's a game closer. A win tomorrow draws them closer still. It's too early to care about the games back, but it's also never too early to care about the games back, because games back mean everything. The M's can't afford to fall many more games back. They can't afford it, because they aren't good enough to crawl out of a big April hole.
The Mariners are a talented team, and from this point forward, I expect them to play like it. And they better. There is no panic threshold, no single game on which everything rests. Every additional loss, however, makes things just a little more bleak, and it's too early for bleak. It's April 13th. So with that in mind, I would like no more of this poor performance, no more of this losing. No more of it, indeed.