Patience, patients and impatience

The first month of the 2008 season for the Seattle Mariners has gotten down to three forms of the same word: patience, patients and impatience.

The first was the worst. The club’s brain trust wasted the month waiting to see what fans and competitors already had figured out: Brad Wilkerson was a dud as a left-hand-hitting right-fielder, and no amount of patience would change the fact that General Manager Bill Bavasi blew time and money hoping otherwise. Wilkerson lost his roster spot on the last day of April, but patience remained for other unproductive players such as Kenji Johjima. The light-hitting catcher actually was rewarded for sub-par offensive play by having his contract extended. Then management brought super-productive wunderkind Jeff Clement from Tacoma to see whether or not the “catcher of the future” could add a spark to a lifeless offense. Wladimir Balentien also was welcomed aboard on April 30, but even though he and Clement had hits during their first games back to the bigs, the M’s still lost their final pair in Cleveland.

Heading to New York on May 2 for three with the ailing Yankees before a home stand starting May 5, the M’s were 13-16, 4 ½ games out of the lead in the American League West.

The critical “patients” were injured pitchers Erik Bedard and J.J. Putz. Both are key to the season and both seemed at least semi-healed, based on recent appearances. Indeed, Bedard, the main off-season acquisition, was dominant coming off of the disabled list on April 26, yielding no runs to Oakland in six and two-thirds innings. Putz, the all-star closer, needed 34 pitches to close out the A’s in the ninth that night then blew the save May 1 against Cleveland. Fans haven’t seen classic Putz yet but at least he’s working in games again.

“Impatience” has been the most compelling aspect of the season. Bavasi said as April waned that the team can’t afford a wait/see demeanor this year, expressing his willingness to do anything within reason to fiddle with the line-up until team harmony can be heard. It was music to his ears, then, when flat-hitting first-baseman Richie Sexson stroked his career 300th homer over the left-field wall Thursday , May 1, to give the M’s a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. After Putz gave it back the Indians won in the 11th, taking the series 2-1.

Seattle has lost at least a half dozen games so far that would have been won with even modest offensive performances. Fans of the ’08 M’s are left to wonder which cliché applies: Is patience (and its word forms) a virtue or is it for losers?

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