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December 06, 2001

Better baseball through chemistry
By Dan Patrick

Things are going well for the Seattle Mariners. Despite losing Ken Grifffey Jr., the Mariners are zipping through the season with toughness, confidence and enthusiasm.

 Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez's solo homer in the seventh in Tuesday's opener with Chicago was the 177th of his career.

It would be easy to point the finger at Griffey and say the Mariners have thrived because he left. I don't see it that way at all. How about giving the Mariners some credit, from the front office to the manager to the last guy on the roster? The team has simply come together and played some good baseball, forgetting who left or who may leave next winter.

The Mariners field a nice blend of youth and experience. They finally have a bullpen to go with a nice rotation. And in Lou Piniella they have a manager who has been through the playoff and World Series wars as a player and manager. He's pretty much the perfect guy for that team and it shows.

There are questions in Seattle about next year. Will Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez be around next year? Will Alex Rodriguez be around? But the team is impervious to those kinds of distractions. They are playing for this year -- which reminds me of Wilford Brimley's line about eating Quaker Oats: It's the right thing to do. (Hey, Wilford played the manager in "The Natural". That makes him a baseball guy to me.)

Anyway, the Seattle roster has guys, in addition to Buhner, Martinez and Shea-Rod, I mean A-Rod, that just grind it out every day and play to win. John Olerud, Jamie Moyer. Even Rickey Henderson has fit right in, hustling in the outfield and, of course, on the basepaths.

Last year in the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers looked a lot like their northwest American neighbors do now. During the regular season, the Blazers played like they had a nice mix of guys and would be tough in the playoffs. But the chemistry wore off and the team faded. I am not saying that will happen with the Mariners. But it bears watching. And you can bet that Piniella, Martinez, Olerud et al will make sure the Mariners stick to baseball, teamwork and the other things that have taken them this far. They probably weren't chemistry majors but they know this: The right mix can lead to great things and just one mistake can blow the whole thing up.

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