"Good" Not Good Enough

It seems like the same scenario plays out every year at the July 31 baseball trade deadline. The Mariners find themselves in the playoff hunt, have only one or two holes to fill on their team, and fail to do anything while other teams bolster their roster with big-name stars. This was the year that trend should have changed. It was the year for the M's to bring excitement to the city, make believers of the fans and add energy to the veteran team. Again, that didn't happen.

No one will ever make the mistake of calling Pat Gillick sexy. Solid, thoughtful, hard-working - all are better adjectives to describe the Mariners' General Manager, not sexy. Now, let's get this perfectly clear, I'm not talking about physical attractiveness, I'm talking about baseball sexy. I'm talking about big-name players and blockbuster deals sexy. I'm talking about last-minute, behind the curtains, cell-phones and million dollar banter sexy. I'm talking about Moneyball. I'm talking about Brian Sabean and Billy Beane. I'm talking about getting it done.

I'm not talking about Pat Gillick or the Seattle Mariners.

For the fourth consecutive July 31 trading deadline, Gillick and the Mariners failed to make a sexy, headline-grabbing, morale-boosting trade that could have sent this city into an intoxicated swoon that would make Justin Timberlake envious.

Last year, the Mariners reached 108 game mark with a record of 66-42, the same record they have this year after sweeping the Tigers. Last year, after talking about adding someone to the roster to help stave off the on-rushing A's and Angels, the Mariners did nothing.

Departed Mariner skipper Lou Piniella was publicly furious with the front office for not getting him a hitter to help down the stretch. His bitterness over the Mariners' inaction may have been a large factor in his desire to leave Seattle in the offseason. In any case, the Mariners ended up limping and grumbling their way to 27-27 record over the final two months, good for third place.

But, hey, 93 wins is still a pretty good season. The Mariners were competitive, staying in the race until the final days of the season. But they weren't in the playoffs and they certainly weren't sexy.

In 2003, the Mariners look frighteningly similar to the team that all but collapsed during the previous pennant race. They look tired. They look like a team that is staring at themselves in the mirror and doesn't like what they've become.

Gillick, in a radio interview after last night's game, kept repeating how he still liked our ball club the way it is, but that he tried really hard to get a deal done. Well, trying really hard doesn't get you to the World Series, which the Mariners have yet to do, despite being "competitive" almost every year since 1995. Trying really hard doesn't inspire your veteran team or your skeptical fans.

Gillick maintains that his most important job is too keep the team "competitive" for years to come. The problem is this Mariner team is ready to win now. Yes, they are in first place. Yes, they are in an elite class of upper-echelon teams that has the potential to win the championship. But no, nobody believes they are going to win the World Series or even the League or Division series. And no one believes because everyone knows the Mariners aren't sexy and therefore aren't scary.

See, you have to be sexy in order to be scary. First, you get sexy by trading for Jose Guillen, hitting .337, with 23 home runs two days before the deadline. Then you get scary by adding him to a line-up that includes Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez and a pitching staff that now includes phenom, Rich Harden (2-0, 0.86 ERA in two starts) to go along with the Big Three of Mulder, Zito and Hudson. The A's have underachieved all year and they just received the shot in the arm needed to elevate their play.

The A's, White Sox, Red Sox, Twins, Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Yankees all made dynamic, interest-stimulating trades that put them in a better position come September.

The Mariners did nothing.

Apparently, the Mariners agreed to deal Freddy Garcia, Rett Johnson and 1.25 million in a three-way trade that involved the Red Sox and Reds. In exchange, the Mariners would get third baseman, Aaron Boone. Bret's younger brother would have provided a hard-nosed infielder with middle of the lineup power and RBI potential. Imagine a Boone to Boone to Olerud double play. Imagine back to back Boone bombs.

Now that is downright sexy.

Instead, the Yankees crashed the family reunion, essentially offering the Reds more money than the financially stingy, Mariners. They didn't really need a third baseman, but why not get a slight upgrade from Robin Ventura and, with the same iron fist, ruin their rival's deadline deal. Damn Yankees!

Besides Jeff Nelson (one of the only Mariners with a World Series ring), the players and Bob Melvin tried to be politically correct about the lack of a trade, but you could sense their disappointment.

As a fan, I would have loved to add Aaron Boone, but really, I would have settled for Tony Batista or Jeff Conine or even Aramis Ramirez. Anyone.

I just want to be excited about the Mariners and not so realistic. I want to believe in the Mariners. I want to fantasize about the possibility of winning a World Series. I want the Mariners to be sexy again, like they were in 1995 when they added Andy Benes and Vince Coleman. I want to be wooed. I want to be wined and dined. Right now, I feel like the Mariners have been building us up, just to buy us another happy meal at McDonalds.

Of Seattle, Oakland, Boston and New York, one team is going to be left out of the playoff picture. One team is going to be left scratching their heads, wondering when and why it all went wrong.

The Mariners already have the answers to both of those questions: July 31 and the inability of our front office to get any help.

Alex is the newest columnist for InsidethePark.com. He lives and dies Mariners baseball, and vows to take a trip to a remote island next July 31. He welcomes your feedback at adkratz@yahoo.com.

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