1997, part 2


A team that should have won 100-and-plenty was instead staggering up to the trade deadline in a virtual tie for first place -- with a numb post-1995 Angels team that would finish only 84-78.

The problem, of course, was a bullpen that literally became the biggest baseball joke that Dr. D ever witnessed.

Norm Charlton, to whom Lou Piniella was fanatically loyal, finished with a 7.27 ERA, and it seemed much higher than that.  Norm-Norm's WHIP?  1.96, full season.  Imagine a reliever giving up an average of 2 baserunners per inning -- and your manager sticking him, game after game, into the most critical situations he can.

Bobby Ayala, by this time, had been booked to the tune of "he'll give you one centered fastball per AB.  Just wait for that," and despite stuff that fanned 92 men out of the bullpen, gave up one game-losing HR and double after another.

Scott Sanders also fanned 1 man per inning, but his 94 fastball came in centered time and again, and in between the K's he ran an ERA of 6.47.  Sanders never did come to grips with the fact that American League hitters were not reversing his high fastballs by accident.


On and on it went, with the M's HOF'ers putting up 7 runs for big leads in the middle innings -- and then the bullpen, night after night, losing despite leads of 3, 4, and 5 runs.

After a while it got so that you wouldn't even be cheering as the M's put up their early-innings 5 runs.  You simply dreaded what would come next.


We remember reading a scout at the time, reporting what an embarrassment it was to watch the Mariners' relievers come in.  They would throw 13 balls in a row, or center three fastballs in a row, or who knows what.  All of baseball was laughing at the Mariners.  B'lee Dat.  The entire ballclub was an embarrassment.


=== Ransom ===

On July 30, the day before the trade deadline, the Mariners played a very typical ballgame in Boston.  The Red Sox were a sub-.500 team that year, and despite having their #5 starter on the mound, the Mariners took a 7-2 lead going into the eighth.

Bobby Ayala came out and gave up two runs, making it 7-4 going into the ninth.  Though I don't remember it, I can assure you that I was amazed that Ayala gave up only two runs, and verrrrrrrrry fearful that three runs wasn't going to cut it in the 9th.  Lou yanked Ayala in the middle of the eighth, and journeyman Bob Wells got the routine out to end the inning.

In the 9th, Norm-Norm came out and walked three men, gave up a couple of line drives, and the M's lost the lead.  7-7 going into extras.  It would have been better to lose in the 9th, but the M's were living in a pain amplifier.

In the 10th, journeyman Edwin Hurtado replaced Charlton after a leadoff walk or something, and of course the walkoff hit occurred with two out.


Part 3

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