And so, with the hiring of Mike Hargrove as manager, thus begins Chapter Two in that great Mariners history book, "Life Without Lou."
Chapter One ended like this: Ichiro Suzuki was the best hitter in baseball, Edgar Martinez retired the best DH ever, and despite its talent the team, under recently departed manager Bob Melvin, was about as bad as it's ever been - 63-99. Only Kansas City (58-104) was worse in the American League.
Dudley Michael Hargrove (a.k.a. The Human Rain Delay) compiled a 721-591 record in Cleveland from 1991 to 1999. For the last four years he's been the skipper of the Baltimore Orioles, going 275-372. The problem Mike had in Cleveland is that, despite winning the AL Central five years in a row and going to two World Series, he never brought home the bacon.
The problem he had in Baltimore was two-fold: not much to work with and one year shy of making something happen. It took four season for Hargrove to turn the Indians into annual contenders in the 90s. He's got so much more to work with now that he's in Seattle. Here's to Mike getting a chance - at least three seasons. It really should only take him two to get the Ms back into the playoffs.
Ichiro, Brett Boone, Raul Ibanez, Randy Winn, Bucky Jacobsen and Jeremy Reed provide plenty of pop.
The pitching was stupendously awful, especially out of the bullpen, with the exception of Eddie Guardado, before he got hurt. As for starters, there's Bobby Madritsch and a head-screwed-on-right-again Gil Meche. If Ryan Franklin and Joel Pinero can pull it together, the Mariners should be OK. Not brilliant, but OK.
Memo to Mike on job security: get a reliable setup man (sorry, Shigi) and a healthy closer NOW.
Alas, Wally Backman, we hardly knew ye...
No sooner was Prineville's (in)famous resident hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, than he was let go 96 hours later.
It appears that the Diamondbacks didn't look at Wally's whole record. Yes, he was the Sporting News' minor league Manager of the Year, but there was more than wins and losses in his record ... like his criminal record. Guilty of DUII and on probation for harassment after a fight at his home involving his wife and a friend, the 'Backs initially backed Backman, but then backed down.
Way to go, Arizona - you forgot to do a standard criminal background check. But then again, when you've gone 51-111 in 2004, maybe anything looks like an improvement. I'm betting that Melvin, who didn't get the job after an interview with his ex-team but took the job subsequently offered by Arizona, will at least show a 12-game improvement in 2005.
And now, finally, on to Boston. Well, it had to happen sooner or later. But it's wonderful that it happened the way it did: an eight-game run to take the Series title. This is even bigger than the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs being down 0-3, because they were supposed to win the Stanley Cup that year. Boston, second only to the Cubs as lovable losers, made the whole country happy - with the exception of the state of New York and less-livable parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
It's intriguing that Boston General Manager Theo Epstein - just 30 years old, a wunderkind - had the nerve, guts, etc., to trade away Nomar Garciaparra, the most identifiable guy in town after Cam Neely, in mid-season. Maybe it took that kind of dangerous move, even though Nomar wanted a trade. Maybe it was the trade that didn't happen, Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez, that was more important.
Whatever. Because in the end, what matters is a bunch of guys who didn't know any better just kept going out and playing ball, whether it was the Yankees or the American Legion Tase-T-Freez team. They didn't care what the score was, what the standings were; inning after inning, day after day, they played ball. It just goes to show that when put your whole heart into what you love, play the game "the right way," that good things are bound to come to you.
I knew it was so. Boston just reaffirmed it.