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49-76, Game Thought

Driving around Portland and listening to the game on the radio, I heard Doug Fister get himself into trouble. In addressing the situation, Dave Niehaus noted that Sean White was warming up in the bullpen.

He didn't say it like that, though. He didn't say "Sean White is currently warming up in the bullpen." He said "warming in the bullpen right now: Sean White."

Those are, for all intents and purposes, the same sentence. They share the exact same meaning. But the way they're put makes all the difference to the listener on the radio. The first hits you over the head immediately. Sean White. Sean White what? Sean White is warming in the bullpen.

The second is packed with suspense. The second one builds. Warming in the bullpen: Who's warming in the bullpen? The Mariners are going to take out their starter? Who's coming in next?

The suspense only lasts a fraction of a second. It's fleeting, and if you aren't paying close attention, you'll miss it completely. If you're locked in, though, it lasts long enough for you to run through all the possible conclusions to the sentence in your head. Warming in the bullpen: David Aardsma? Brandon League? Jamey Wright? Sean White? Chris Seddon? Brian Sweeney? Garrett Olson?

During that fraction of a second, you run through all the possibilities, and you pick the one you like the most. If you're listening to a Marlins game, you're hoping for Warming in the bullpen: Clay Hensley. If you're listening to a Giants game, you're hoping for Warming in the bullpen: Brian Wilson, or Sergio Romo. And then there's still enough suspense left over for you to cross your fingers. Man, I hope it's Clay Hensley, or Brian Wilson, or Sergio Romo. Then we'll be in good hands.

In the seventh inning this afternoon, with Doug Fister getting into trouble, Dave Niehaus began a sentence with Warming in the bullpen:. And I, in turn - awaiting disclosure - ran through the possibilities. And that's when it hit me how little I trust anyone in this bullpen.

In fairness to Aardsma, he's been pretty good of late, that humid game in Baltimore notwithstanding. I don't love the guy to death, but he's a fine enough reliever. But Aardsma wasn't a possibility. Not there. Not in a tie game in the seventh. And he still isn't a guy I trust very much. So I moved on to the middle guys and the setup guys, and none of them excited me. Not one. League has the stuff, but not the brains, nor the results. And who among the remaining five would you ever want to see on the mound with a game on the line? Those five pitchers have 2276.2 big league innings to their names. Over those 2276.2 innings, they've allowed 1415 runs, for an RA of 5.59. They're replacement-level relievers, and the thing about replacement-level relievers is that they scare the living crap out of you. Over a suitable amount of time, this bullpen would spark more rallies than the Japanese dolphin hunt.

Dave Niehaus said Warming in the bullpen:, I considered the options, and I came away disappointed. The suspense - the brief, transient blip of suspense - is almost cruel. It tricks you into believing that things might get better. Warming up in the bullpen: do we have a good bullpen? Who are our best relievers? Who's the most likely fit for this critical situation? You need a moment to assess the possibilities, and before you assess, there's a glimmer of hope. Standing on deck: is it a great hitter? Is it a Triple Crown candidate? Jack Wilson. It doesn't matter how familiar you are with a team; nothing comes automatically. You always need that split second to work things out for yourself.

Warming in the bullpen: well, it could be this guy, or this other guy, or...oh.

Sean White. Oh no.

From this point forward, whenever one of the current Mariner relievers is warming in the bullpen, I hope Dave just tells us, hey, this guy is warming in the bullpen. If only for a moment, I'm sick of getting duped.