Now I’m worried about the Mariners. The Mariners officially have a challenge on their hands, and I don’t mean the anemic offense.
Dan Wilson is out for the season with a knee injury and his loss may have a bigger impact on this team than a three-week hitting slump.
If there is a heart and soul to the Mariners, Wilson is it.
“He is the kind of guy people want to be around,” said former catcher Tom Lampkin, who played for the Mariners – and with Wilson – from 1999-2001. “Players want to be around him when they’re struggling. They want to be around him when things are going well. They want to be around him when they’re going through problems off the field.
“He’s the kind of guy you want to share things with. He is very non-judgmental and he will help any teammate at any time.”
It’s hard to be that kind of friend when the team plays in Boston and Wilson stays behind in Seattle preparing for surgery on his ACL.
It’s hard to offer advice when Wilson’s everyday presence suddenly has been yanked away. An injury like this will require more of his time be devoted to rehab than the daily process of playing a baseball game.
Lampkin went through it after his own knee surgery in 2000.
“You definitely don’t feel as much a part of the team when you’re not playing,” he said. “You’re there, but the other players have a job to do and you don’t have the stress and strain of having to turn it on.”
Lampkin stayed involved by attending the pitchers’ meetings before the games and traveling with the club while he rehabbed.
“But sitting in the clubhouse while they were on the field playing, I still felt I was a little bit removed,” he said.
If they’re smart, the Mariners will make sure Wilson stays involved. They need him to take part in the team meetings before the games and be in the dugout during them.
Wilson isn’t just the Mariners’ final link to the 1995 division championship team. He’s the last true leader from a roster full of them with Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Norm Charlton.
“He’s one of those guys who knows how to lift spirits,” Lampkin said.
Wilson’s playing days are over for this year, but the Mariners – especially this team, with a mix of youth and new players who are struggling – need him. They need the toughness he showed on the field and his tender willingness to listen when someone had a problem.
The Mariners need Wilson to share the knowledge of catching a game, calling a game and handling a pitching staff that he unselfishly passed on to Miguel Olivo.
“The club is definitely going to miss him,” Lampkin said.
Rx for an anemic offense: Everyone keeps waiting for the Mariners’ hitters to break out of a slump that has lasted five weeks. Surely Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson will soon start belting the home runs that the Mariners are paying them to hit.
Maybe they will. But maybe they won’t, and that would be no surprise.
It has become obvious that Beltre is playing under intense pressure, a lot of it self-induced, to live up to not only his $64 million, five-year contract but also the monster 48-homer season he produced last year with the Dodgers.
Manager Mike Hargrove, who said he prefers not to juggle the lineup, may have no choice but to give Beltre a day off to clear his head.
Sexson’s .233 batting average (entering the weekend) is a disappointment, but he’s giving the Mariners most of what they are paying him $50 million to produce the next four years.
With seven home runs and 20 RBI, he was on pace to hit 45 homers and drive in 130 runs. Any hitter would take those numbers.
But Sexson also is striking out at a pace greater than even he has ever managed. At the current rate, he’ll whiff 194 times this season.
The problem with this offense runs deeper than some slumping hitters who are sure to break out soon.
The Mariners haven’t done the little things necessary to score runs when the power game fails them, and that’s a trait a team either has from the beginning or it doesn’t.
The M’s haven’t shown an ability to bunt, to advance runners by hitting to the right side, to hit-and-run or even steal.
Entering this weekend’s series at Boston, the Mariners had swiped 17 bases but they’d been caught 10 times, some of those on botched double steals. They were successful on just 63 percent of their attempts, one of the worst success rates in the league.
Hargrove needs to manage an aggressive game to spark the offense, but even that phase isn’t working.
And finally…: Every year in June, reporters working on Father’s Day stories often approach Bret Boone. He’s a natural, being the son of former major leaguer Bob Boone and grandson of the late Ray Boone.
What about Mom?
Today, Mother’s Day, Sue Boone is on Brett’s mind. She was there for the family’s three kids – Bret, Aaron and Matt – when Bob Boone wasn’t during his 19-year playing career.
“The women in this game get a lot of perks and we give them a great life,” Bret Boone said. “But they’ve got a tough job. The husband is on the road half the time and it’s the wives who are running the kids to practice and to school, making sure they are clothed and fed, doing everything. It’s not a bed of roses and it hasn’t changed over the years.”