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Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Over the weekend I was prepared to write a column on the subject of whether or not the Seattle Mariners were for real. After watching them play this week against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I decided on writing a eulogy for them instead, because they are done.
And so are the Milwaukee Brewers over in the NL Central, for that matter.
I know the Mariners are still a game up in the wild card as I write this, but after wrapping up their series with the Angels on Wednesday, they will embark upon a 10-game road trip that will likely define their season. The trip starts with a makeup game in Cleveland for the epic four-game snow-out earlier in the year, then they will make stops in Toronto, New York and Detroit.
If the Mariners are still standing at that point, they will have a shot, but I am betting on their season falling apart during that stretch. I am not knocking them. Looking at that starting staff, it is hard to believe they have hung around this long.
Jeff Weaver, Jarrod Washburn, Horacio Ramirez...are you kidding me? Miguel Batista leads the team in wins. What does that tell you? Of course 21-year-old flamethrower Felix Hernandez is the exception, but he hasn't been the same pitcher since his injury early in the season.
Seattle has gotten to where it is on two things: a pretty solid lineup and an unbelievable season from closer J.J. Putz. I must admit I do like the makeup of the Mariners lineup. Ichiro is as good as it gets at the top, and the middle of the order (Jose Guillen, Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre) is fairly strong. Jose Vidro has also given them much more than I thought he would.
Everyone is throwing Ichiro's hat into the ring as an AL MVP candidate, but he is not even the MVP of his team. That honor goes to Putz, who has been lights- out for Seattle this season. The right-hander has converted 37 saves and is pitching to a sparkling 1.35 earned run average.
Putz is the reason Seattle is where it is.
This week the Mariners had a chance to prove to everyone around the league they were for real, instead they continued the lackluster play they showed at the end of their series with the hapless Texas Rangers, as they were completely outplayed in their first two games with the Angels.
Now, provided they win Wednesdays' finale at Safeco Field, they will hit the road trailing the Angels by three games in the West. If they get swept, though, they are looking at a five-game deficit in the division with a tad over a month to go.
I know, I know. They still have a one-game lead on the Yankees in the wild card. But you tell me which team you see faltering down the stretch. The Yankees, who have found a way to the postseason in each of the last 12 seasons, or an upstart Mariners' crew that has probably played above their heads for most of the year?
Yeah, me too.
Now as far as the Brewers go, they have been done for a long time now. Nobody seemed to take notice, though, since the NL Central is so pitiful. Now that the Chicago Cubs have Alfonso Soriano back, I fully expect them to start to pulling away.
Sorry Cardinals fans, there will be no repeat champion in St. Louis this season. They have gotten everyone in the Gateway City excited, and still have four games with the Cubs, but like the Mariners, they just don't have the pitching.
I was out at some festival over the weekend and there was a Cardinals fan there telling me how Jason Isringhausen was going to be the difference down the stretch. Jason Isringhausen - really? If that is what you are hanging your hat on I have news for you, you are in some trouble.
But what happened to the Brewers? Simply stated, their starting pitching is atrocious. Ben Sheets is back, but it is probably too late. He has been out since the middle of July with a injured finger and has not won since June 30. But you know what? He has as many wins in that time as the Brewers' other top two starters' combined. Jeff Suppan is winless in his last 12 starts, and Chris Capuano has not tasted victory since May 7.
Don't be surprised if Ned Yost loses his job over this. A 7-17 August is not something your owner wants out of a team in the playoff race, especially in what is widely considered the worst division in all of baseball to boot. Whatever team comes out is going to have a hard time cracking the 83-win mark the Cards posted a year ago.
I don't want to hear any of this Prince Fielder-for-MVP talk, either. If he is so valuable, how come his team has been a disgrace in the second half? Granted, I have no idea who is going to emerge as the NL MVP, but I am pretty sure it is not going to be Fielder and his whopping 10 home runs since the All-Star break.
If I had to pick I would probably give it to either Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley or Alfonso Soriano. One of them is going to have to have a big September, though. That award is totally up for grabs. But that is neither here nor there, and probably the topic of my column next week.
- Start the watch on Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. He is tough to take when his team is winning, and now that the Sox are a laughingstock it will make Kenny Williams' decision all that much easier. His team did not even show up against the Red Sox at home over the weekend.
- Nice job by the Orioles. They give an extension to interim manager Dave Trembley and his team rewards him by losing every game since, including a historic 30-3 shellacking at the hands of the Texas Rangers. Way to go guys!
- Pedro Martinez is getting closer to returning to the New York Mets. Martinez had his third straight solid rehab start and will probably pitch one more before returning to the team for a few September starts. If Pedro can be a glimmer of what he was, the Mets could be a lock for the NL pennant.
- As one pitcher in NY gets close to returning, another is on his way out. The Yankees have removed right-hander Mike Mussina from the rotation and will give yet another rookie a shot in last year's first round pick, Ian Kennedy. Kennedy is 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 26 games in the minors this season. Hard to believe the high-priced Yankees will have a 21-year-old and a 22-year-old in their rotation, and a 21-year-old in their bullpen.
- Gary Sheffield recently went on the DL with a shoulder problem. If I were a fan in Detroit I wouldn't count on him the rest of the way. No way Sheff is going to watch his numbers drop anymore than they already have, in that this is a contract year for the slugger. In case you didn't get my drift, yes, I think Sheff cares more about his numbers than winning.
Don't forget to check out my blog at http://ruddickmlbblog.blogspot.com/.
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