M’s need to show a little more passion

  • By John Sleeper / Herald columnist
  • Saturday, June 3, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

I was thinking about this in the days after witnessing Raul Ibanez snap Tuesday night against the Rangers.

Specifically, my first thought was, “Hey, this is pretty cool!”

While Ibanez’s eruption wasn’t Piniellaesque, it was encouraging to see in this lost summer of Mariners baseball. It wasn’t bad theater, either.

Hey, if the M’s are going to be 20 games off the pace by the end of August, they might as well put on a show. If we have to watch bad baseball, maybe they could show us a little honest frustration. Right now, I honestly don’t know if the chronic losing bothers them.

Perhaps they find more than enough consolation in their ridiculously inflated pay scale.

Baseball squabbles can be the highlight of any chosen baseball game, especially if the instigator is one you’d never expect. Ibanez, one of the most congenial guys on the team, is among the last you’d anticipate to thoroughly lose it.

But lose it he did. And it was a beautiful thing.

Arlington, Texas. First inning. M’s have runners on first and second with one out. Ibanez check-swings on an 0-2 pitch from Kevin Millwood. Plate umpire Paul Nauert rules Ibanez took a full swing and punches him out.

Ibanez’s hissy fit begins slowly. He says something relatively innocuous to Nauert before walking to the dugout. Nothing strange there. Happens all the time. Umpires routinely allow players to let off a little steam, even on matters such as balls and strikes, which the rulebook says is verboten.

But then Ibanez, his anger building to a deliciously stratospheric level, yells something from the bench. Nauert hears it and tosses him, whereupon Ibanez bursts out of the dugout, sprints past an on-field microphone just closely enough so that it picks up some truly vile verbiage and, despite attempted headlocks by M’s coaches and manager Mike Hargrove, gets to Nauert and fills the Texas sky with expletives aplenty.

Before Ibanez retired to the clubhouse, he threw a batting glove onto the field.

A batting glove. Ha!

Beautiful, I thought. What took him? What’s stopped everyone else from showing a little passion?

Then Ibanez ruined it by practically mommying up to reporters after the game and apologizing for the tirade, profanity and illegal border crossings.

Besides the feeble offense, supposed superstars batting .205, fragile pitching and unexplainable player acquisitions, apparent apathy is what bugs me most about the Mariners.

It’s an utter drought in attitude. It’s a team of Boy Scouts. Even Carl Everett, formerly baseball’s Pit Bull brought here to shake up a slumbering clubhouse, suddenly morphed into Mother Teresa.

Roger Clemens isn’t making $12 million for pitching a half-season for being a choirboy. Ted Williams was an insufferable jerk. When he was playing, Piniella made up for physical shortcomings by absolutely refusing to admit pitchers could get anything by him.

For a brief moment, Ibanez showed that he cared, something rarely seen from any of the players or Hargrove. Sure, baseball’s mantra is to stay steady, to avoid getting too high or too low. But the team’s demeanor through what appears to be three straight losing seasons suggests a group yawn.

I’d give Ibanez a raise, even after the post-game sniveling request for forgiveness.

The occasional outburst won’t turn the Mariners into 90-game winners, but sports are entertainment and this team is about as entertaining as a lawn chair. We need something more than we’re getting now. Winning seems out of the question. How about a little behavior modification?

I’d give my daughter’s stuffed-animal collection to see Hargrove overturn the clubhouse buffet. The next time Adrian Beltre dribbles a weak grounder to second, I’d love to see him get on his hands and knees, dig up first base and hurl it into the outfield. Who wouldn’t love it if, the next time Richie Sexson strikes out, he breaks his bat in two over his knee?

Forget decorum. I want to see some passion. If they’re going to lose 90 again, it would be nice if they showed fans that it chaps them. Beat up the Gatorade barrel. Chew the stuffing out of the Mariner Moose’s costume. Anything.

If Ibanez can snap, so can everybody else.

Just don’t apologize later.

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