About 10 minutes after the Mariners' 5-4 loss to the Rangers on
Sept. 9--the team's 13th defeat in 21 days--a group of Seattle
veterans, including second baseman Bret Boone and centerfielder
Mike Cameron, called a players-only meeting in the clubhouse. For
nearly half an hour they spoke about what the team, which had
fallen into second place in the AL West behind the Athletics on
Aug. 28, needed to do to avoid a repeat of last season's
meltdown. In 2002 the Mariners led the division by two games in
mid-August but finished six games out of a playoff spot.
Among those who spoke was DH Edgar Martinez, who told his
teammates that they appeared to be pressing. (After batting .278
in the first half of the season, Seattle through Sunday had hit
.259 since the All-Star break.) "Edgar talked about having fun,
about relaxing and not trying to win two games in one day," says
closer Shigetoshi Hasegawa.
The powwow had a positive effect: After the loss to Texas,
Seattle won four straight until Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Angels.
Despite the end of the streak the Mariners still trailed the Red
Sox by only a half game in the wild-card race and Oakland by 3
1/2 games in the AL West.
If Seattle reaches the playoffs, it would be a dangerous team:
The Mariners have the best bullpen among AL playoff contenders
(3.38 ERA); were outscoring opponents by 149, the best
differential in the league; and were 31-25 in games against other
AL contenders (tied with the Yankees for best record in the
league). --Albert Chen