The Mariners' defense of their division title has been a disaster
This is an article from the Sept. 14, 1998 issue
David Segui is no dummy. After missing out on postseason play in
the first eight years of his big league career--the last 2 3/4
of which were spent in the small-market hell of Montreal--the
first baseman became a free agent last fall. He signed with the
Mariners, who had just made their second playoff appearance in
three years and who would have seven recent All-Stars on this
year's Opening Day roster. Plus, because the team is scheduled
to move into a state-of-the-art, retractable-roof cash cow next
summer, Segui figured he wouldn't have to worry about ownership
unloading players to cut payroll. "I came here for a chance to
win," Segui says, then pauses. "We had the chance. We just
That might be the understatement of the year. Seattle's quest
this September isn't the playoffs but merely to avoid becoming
the third American League team to go from first to worst in its
division in one year. At week's end the defending Western
Division champs were 64-77 and battling the A's, a far less
talented club, for third place. Unlike the world champion
Marlins, the Mariners don't have the excuse that they traded
away all their talent.
So what happened? Centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. made a modest
run at Roger Maris (and will almost certainly become the third
man in history to have back-to-back 50-homer seasons), shortstop
Alex Rodriguez is two homers short of becoming the third player
to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases, and Segui has been solid
offensively and defensively (a team-best .308 average and one
error). Seattle leads the majors in home runs and became the
first team in history to hit 200 dingers in three consecutive
seasons. Despite the power, Segui says, "there are so many areas
we need to address--bullpen, leadoff hitter, defense, you name
In recent years Seattle has been plagued by those shortcomings
but has always found a way to win. This season, though, a lot of
bad mojo caught up with the club. Ace Randy Johnson spent much
of the spring voicing his discontent with team owners for not
having traded him after talks on a long-term contract extension
broke down last fall. He then spent most of the season pitching
like Lady Bird Johnson. Many of his teammates took management's
refusal to re-up the Big Unit as a sign that ownership wasn't
committed to winning.
As upset as the players were, the fact remains that they had all
but played themselves out of the race by the time Johnson was
dealt to the Astros. The bullpen set the tone for the season by
blowing a three-run lead on Opening Day, and less than two weeks
later it gave up seven runs in the ninth without retiring a
batter to turn a 7-2 lead into a 9-7 loss to the Red Sox. That
defeat dropped them 2 1/2 games out of first; they haven't been
that close since.
The Seattle offense couldn't pick up the slack this time. In
games in which the Mariners didn't homer more than once, they
were 29-51 at week's end, and when they scored fewer than four
runs, they were 9-42. They were hitting .274, but their
performance in the clutch was abysmal--.252 after the sixth
inning and .263 with runners in scoring position.
The good news for Seattle is that the team will be in position
to get help in the off-season. Nearly all the players they want
back next year are under contract, while most of the flammable
bullpen and a few peripheral position players are free to walk.
Last winter free agent Randy Myers expressed interest in
pitching in Seattle, but the Mariners didn't pursue him. The
team can ill afford a similar lapse while addressing their
bullpen needs this off-season. Other items on their wish list: a
No. 1 starter, a leftfielder (the Mariners have used 59
alongside Griffey over the past 10 years) and a leadoff hitter.
Celebratin' in '98
How the Bash Begat the Bone
"I'm no pioneer," insists the Blue Jays' Jose Canseco. "Guys do
what they want to do because they like it, not because I did it
first." It's true, most players don't let fly balls bounce off
their noggins for homers.
But Canseco should relish his well-deserved reputation as a
baseball innovator. He, along with former A's teammate Mark
McGwire, is a spiritual forefather of the latest, greatest
celebratory rage--the fist-to-fist congratulatory gesture known
as the Bone. "Man, that's all Canseco and McGwire," says
Baltimore catcher Lenny Webster. "Nine or 10 years ago people
were slapping high fives. Then those guys started doing their
Their thing, the bashing of forearms after a homer, has evolved
into today's Bone, a simple touching of fists, coupled with a
Tupac-esque look of intimidating indifference.
Who boned first? Nobody seems to know for sure. Baltimore's
Brady Anderson claims he was the originator, back in '89, in an
effort "to combat the Bash Brothers," he says. But White Sox
catcher Chad Kreuter, an 11-year vet, thinks it was pre-Bash
Brothers. "Guys have been bumping fists in the dugout for a long
time," he says. "Maybe we're just doing it more in the open now."
There's no doubt about it. Once the universal sports
celebration, the high five is "totally dead," insists Webster.
"It's hard to look tough slapping hands with another guy."
Everyone bones. Even old school Mo Vaughn, a staunch high-five
proponent, knows the complete boning of baseball is inevitable.
"The fist is it now," the Red Sox slugger says. "You either do
it, or you're on your own."
Run, Rickey, Run
Henderson Grows Old Fast
Rickey Henderson is not merely the greatest leadoff hitter of
all time, he's a geriatric marvel. This season the A's
leftfielder could steal 70 bases, something never before
accomplished by a 39-year-old major leaguer. He could also
become the oldest player to score 100 runs since 40-year-old Sam
Rice of the Senators scored 121 in 1930 and is the oldest to
walk 100 times since Detroit's Darrell Evans, 40, drew 100 in
1987. (Through Sunday, he had 58 steals, 110 walks and 91 runs.)
Alas, Henderson, the runaway career stolen base record holder,
with 1,289 through Sunday, has developed a chink in his
offensive armor this year: his batting average.
A career .286 hitter entering the season, Henderson was at .230
at week's end, his lowest ever. If his average doesn't improve,
yet he reaches 100 runs or 70 steals, he'll join a group of
high-low performers whose members include:
-Minnesota's Mike Marshall, a former Cy Young winner who in '79
became the only pitcher to save more than 30 games (32) while
suffering 15 losses.
-Boston's Tony Armas, who in '83 had the lowest batting average
ever (.218) for a man with more than 100 RBIs (107).
-Houston righthander Nolan Ryan, who in 1987 had the most
strikeouts (270) by anyone with 10 or fewer wins (8).
-The hero du jour, McGwire, who in '95 had the fewest hits ever
(87) of anyone with more than 30 homers (39).
Still, Ryan and Big Mac will wind up in the Hall of Fame, a less
dubious club that will, of course, also include Henderson.
What were they thinking?
When the--c'mon, you can say it--world champion Marlins started
dumping players like overweight prom dates last off-season, fans
went ballistic. Owner Wayne Huizenga was destroying a
championship club. How could he? Why would he?
Well, according to Huizenga, for all the games his team won last
season, they also lost a staggering $34 million. This season
Florida (48-95 through Sunday) will almost certainly finish with
the worst record in the majors, but at least the club will rake
in some coin. The Marlins, whose payroll went from $52 million
to $13 million, are expecting to generate $2 million in profits
despite a drop in attendance of 7,804 per game through the