July 31, 1997 in Sports

It’s Woodward’s Turn To Pick Up A Save For M’S

Dave Boling Tacoma News Tribune
 

So, Woody Woodward, I think you’ve done a pretty good job running the Seattle Mariners.

I don’t care what Ken Griffey Jr. says.

But I kind of hope you’ve got plans for today.

Maybe I’m not the first to mention this, but it seems as if the Mariners could benefit from the addition of a pitcher who could appear during the late innings and discourage opponents from scoring.

Really, it’s just a part-time position. But still kind of important. Something that might be addressed before the trading deadline tonight.

I wouldn’t be surprised if manager Lou Piniella has even lightly broached the topic.

Some might suggest that you need a closer worse than Shawn Kemp needs an alarm clock.

I would imagine, though, that everybody’s price went up Wednesday afternoon as the Mariners’ bullpen - you probably heard about this - blew another game that appeared in the bag.

What’s that, 15 blown saves this season?

Sorta makes that half-game cushion over Anaheim look a little skimpy, eh?

The word is that a deal for the White Sox’s Roberto Hernandez is simmering.

That’s good. This will be a big day for the M’s if you somehow land a guy like him without sacrificing the talent on the major league roster that is crucial to making this pennant run.

But any developments much short of that, frankly, will probably get you pounded in the press Friday morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no major complaints so far.

You’ve kept the studs in the stable, and you didn’t fall for any of those Jose Cruz Jr. trade inquiries.

I think this kid is too valuable, as a young, bankable star on an aging team, to deal away prematurely for short-term gain. He’s strong at the plate, a blur on the basepaths. And you’ve got to figure he’ll scrape that Teflon off his glove soon.

You realized that and didn’t fall for any get-rich-quick personnel moves.

You also did a great job buttressing the starting rotation this year.

You’ve had a few hiccups, but who hasn’t. Hey, into each life a little Jeff Manto must fall. And, supposedly, you were bullied into that blunder last year.

And you know, in some ways, I think closers are overrated.

Texas forked over $23 million for John Wetteland, the best in the business. And they’re out of the A.L. West race.

At the start of the season, Texas manager Johnny Oates talked about how happy he was to have Wetteland, but reminded reporters that he wouldn’t do his team much good “if we don’t have the lead in the ninth.”

Great point.

But the Mariners have had those late leads many times this season.

Wednesday, the Mariners’ bullpen put forth another collaborative effort, with Bob Wells, Bobby Ayala and Norm Charlton letting the Red Sox push the game into extra innings (an error by Alex Rodriguez further betrayed them - as if they needed help).

In the 10th came a sad occurrence about which singer Gordon Lightfoot once sang in his classic “The Wreck of the Edwin Hurtado.” (“The bullpen, it’s said, never gives up its dead … etc.”)

How badly losses such as the one Wednesday damage the Mariners’ confidence cannot be measured.

Several of the starting pitchers, who have left games with leads only to see them squandered, have been tactful. But one can only imagine their frustration.

I fear that if relief help is not found today we might witness this scenario: Lou Piniella heads to the mound to take out a starter in the eighth inning, but the starter will not relinquish the ball. “No, no, no, I’m not coming out,” the pitcher screams. They struggle with each other, rolling around on the mound until catcher Dan Wilson pries them apart.

This would embarrass all involved.

And nobody wants to see Randy Johnson endanger his back in a wrestling match with his manager.

This week, Anaheim upped the ante a little bit by picking up Ken Hill from the Rangers. But, frankly, Hill is a guy who has gone 1-6 with a 6.78 ERA in his past 11 starts.

It’s not that impressive, but perhaps enough to close the gap if the Mariners have to stand pat.

So, Woody, good luck today.

It’s the ninth inning, don’t blow the lead.

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