King Felix Leads M's to 7th Straight Win
The dog days of August are usually the time when teams with nothing to play for have shipped off any veterans with value, called up the youngsters, and begin playing out the string as a sort of disjointed audition process for next season. To a small degree the Mariners have done this, sending their most popular player, Ichiro, to the New York Yankees before the trading deadline. But the biggest move the team made was the move it didn't make. Keeping Felix Hernandez was the smartest thing Jack Zduriencik has done during his tenure as General Manager. Ichiro aside, this team was young from the get-go, and it showed. All season long there have been prolonged offensive slumps followed by the occasional outburst. The one stabilizing force has been the pitching, and it all begins with King Felix. His mere presence keeps the fans energized. Energized fans can in turn keep young players' heads in the game. There's no better example than Hernandez's perfect game last week. There's been a buzz around Safeco ever since and the team hasn't lost.
Whether the Mariners win their eighth staright today is unimportant. What will be more telling is how they finish the season. Of their final 29 games in September, 20 will be against division opponents Texas, LA, and Oakland, all of whom are still jockeying for playoff positions. They also have three games against the Orioles, another team still in contention. It would be great to see the Mariners relish the role of playing spoiler while simultaneously building on their own late-season surge. A triathlete friend of mine once imparted these words of wisdom about what to do during the final leg of a long race: "relax your hands and finish with dignity." Here's hoping the Mariners do the baseball equivalent.