As soon as Mike Sweeney said it, you could see several writers lower their heads and begin scribbling furiously in their notebooks.
No, he was challenging his teammates to another fight. No, he gave the money quote, the one that everyone was going to use in their stories.
Sweeney can be many things, over the top, too earnest to be believable and at times too ridiculous to take seriously. But he can also be quite engaging and perfect at summing up the mood of the team and the season at that very moment.
So when Sweeney said: “We really needed a defibrillator to come in here and give us a shock because we didn’t have a heartbeat for quite some time. We lost some tough games that zapped some of it out of us, but the last couple of games have been huge for us.”
Everyone used that line, because he was right.
Those two come-from-behind wins against the Detroit Tigers were big for the Mariners. Of course any win is a big for a team that’s 10 games under .500 and in last place in their division by 7 1/2 games.
But it was how the Mariners won those games – getting some timely hits to finally complement the typically strong starting pitching – that gave the Mariners a feeling that things might finally be going right in a season that started off so wrong.
So according to Sweeney, the Mariners have a heartbeat. But does that mean they still have any life left in the 2010 season? Well, mathematically they do. It’s beyond the point where players or management can say, “It’s early.” But it’s not quite to the point, where you can rule it over.
So when do we reach that point? There is no universal drop dead date. But you could look at Thursday, June 17 as that point.
What’s the significance of such a date? Well, besides the fact that such dignitaries like Barry Manilow, Newt Gingrich and Joe Piscopo were born on that day. It’s the day the Mariners wrap up a stretch of 20 games in 20 days – starting today – with a much-needed off day.
But it’s not just an ordinary stretch of 20 games. It is 20 games – 12 on the road – featuring 10 games against division opponents, including four against first-place Texas and six against the Angels. The other 10 come against teams in first place in their respective divisions with Minnesota, San Diego and St. Louis.
It’s a stretch where we should find out plenty about the Mariners team.
We will also find out if this team can beat quality teams with an offense that even at its best moments could still be labeled anemic. The Mariners can’t simply play .500 baseball over that stretch. They are on pace to win 64 games. Realistically, they need to win 13 or 14 of the 20 to have a glimmer of hope, and that’s with the Rangers and A’s taking a few steps back.
We will find out if Sweeney can keep up his Herculean offensive production (.441 with six home runs and 14 RBI since May 11), but we will also see if he and his problematic back can stay healthy over that stretch.
We will find out if starting pitchers Doug Fister and Jason Vargas can continue to be perhaps the best No. 3 and 4 starters in the American League or if they will “regress to the mean” as sabermetric fans love to say.
We will find out what Ken Griffey Jr.’s role with the team will likely be for the remainder of the season.
We will find out whether Chone Figgins has figured out what’s wrong with his swing, or if he’s doomed to the worst offensive season of his career.
Most importantly, we will find out what exactly is Cliff Lee’s future with the Mariners. Because if they are still in last or more than eight games out, general manager Jack Zduriencik will begin taking serious bids on the former Cy Young winner and free-agent-to-be, if he hasn’t already.
If Lee is available, he will be the most coveted pitcher for contending teams before the July 31 major league trade deadline. And Zduriencik will be looking to bring back plenty of talent in return.
But if Seattle is struggling, Lee won’t be the only one available. The same could be said for all non-essential players to the Mariners future with value to other teams that could bring back talent, specifically offensive talent. Players like Josh Bard, Casey Kotchman, Ian Snell, even closer David Aardsma.
The next 20 games will likely define many of the decisions made for the rest of the 2010 season.
The next 20 games could take the Mariners from hopeful to hopeless.
On June 17, after the next 20 games, we will know if the Mariners still have a heart beating or if the season has flat-lined.
- 5/28 – at ANGELS
- 5/29 – at ANGELS
- 5/30 – at ANGELS
- 5/31 – TWINS
- 6/1 – TWINS
- 6/2 – TWINS
- 6/3 – TWINS
- 6/4 – ANGELS
- 6/5 – ANGELS
- 6/6 – ANGELS
- 6/7 – at RANGERS
- 6/8 – at RANGERS
- 6/9 – at RANGERS
- 6/10 – at RANGERS
- 6/11 – at PADRES
- 6/12 – at PADRES
- 6/13 – at PADRES
- 6/14 – at CARDINALS
- 6/16 – at CARDINALS
- 6/16 – at CARDINALS
6/17 – Off Day