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Major busts:
Mariners look very ‘ancient’

May 18, 2004 2:07 AM

There’s been plenty of focus on the competitive play of the Detroit Tigers, the continuing strong play of the low-payroll/defending champion Florida Marlins and the Texas Rangers improved pitching. Less attention has been paid to the busts.

These are the teams that have perplexed and disappointed prognosticators. Here’s a look at some teams that have struggled and what has gone wrong.

SEATTLE: No team has won more than the Mariners the last three seasons. The franchise that won a remarkable 116 games in 2001 was expected to contend again, with quality veterans such as Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, John Olerud, Ichiro Suzuki, Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer. After 32 games, however, the Mariners had a -26 return on investment percentage if you had wagered on them every game.

Nothing has gone right. The pitching ranks ninth in the American League with a 4.74 ERA, while the hitting is 12th with a .255 BA. They are last in home runs. The pitching staff went with just five starters for the entire 2003 season, which is quite rare. Perhaps that workload is catching up, as only Garcia is pitching well this season. Last week the M’s had a 6-0 lead on the Yankees and a 6-2 eighth inning lead on the Twins and lost both games. That certainly can’t help their already shaky confidence.

OAKLAND: Small market teams live year to year knowing star players may leave via free agency. The A’s have stayed very competitive the last few seasons, even when losing stars like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon, Ray Durham, Jason Isringhausen and Keith Foulke. The last four seasons, the A’s have won 96, 103, 102 and 91 games, but the exodus of stars may have finally caught up with them.

Oakland’s hitting ranks 11th in the AL, the bullpen has struggled badly and aces Mark Mulder and Barry Zito have yet to find a groove. The A’s lost six in a row to the Angels and Yankees, highlighted by blowing an 8-4 eighth-inning lead at New York. The A’s later had an 8-3 lead at home over the Yankees and collapsed in a 10-8 defeat. It doesn’t help a team’s confidence (or playoff chances) to play their worst against the best.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Giants made the playoffs last fall and appeared in the 2002 World Series, but that may seem like decades ago to Giants fans. This year, the Giants lost 10 of their first 18 home games. Their pitching staff is just ahead of the Colorado Rockies for last place in the National League, a mark no team would admire.

In the first 16 games that SF was the favorite, the record was 6-10. Talk about money-burners! San Francisco’s hitting has been poor, as well, ranking 11th in the NL. Barry Bonds has no one around him so he’s being walked often. After 33 games Bonds had 51 passes, which projects to around 250 for the season. He already holds the record for walks with 198 in 2002. After 33 games the 39-year old Bonds is hitting over .500 at home and just .250 with one home run on the road.

KANSAS CITY: The small market Royals weren’t expected to make the playoffs, but remember last season’s 83-79 mark and strong showing in the AL Central. This season the "over/under" projection for wins was 79½ and the preseason odds were a respectable 3-to-1 to win AL Central, just behind the White Sox and Twins. Yet, the Royals are smack in last place, even trailing the Tigers who were 20-1 to win the division.