We were perhaps the world’s worst musicians back in junior high school.
In the two years in which music was mandatory, we were bounced around from strings (violin), to band (clarinet) to vocals (a scary thought now, never mind at age 13) finally back to strings (cello).
But it was while “playing” the clarinet when we really hit rock bottom on the musical scale, so to speak. The utterances from our instrument were so bad and so embarrassing that finally we took to “faking it” — we pretended to play yet had no reed in the instrument. Anyone who’s ever heard a wood wind instrument played without a reed knows the excruciating aural displeasure that it emits.
Well, one day there was a surprise test, and needless to say, we were found out. Shortly thereafter, we were shifted to vocals — perhaps the junior high equivalent of being sent down to Triple-A? Clearly, we were going nowhere playing without a reed.
Today, the Seattle Mariners are facing the same dilemma. Ever since centre fielder Jeremy Reed busted his thumb, the team has not been able to find a suitable replacement. And with power alleys of 390 in left centre and 387 in right centre, that’s a pretty big space to leave exposed. People are going to notice if you’re playing without a reed, so to speak. There’s no way to fake it on this stage.
The obvious answer would have been to shift right fielder Ichiro Suzuki to centre. But he’s against that idea, and the Mariners, short of giving him a majority stake in the team, are willing to do just about anything to keep Ichiro happy.
So instead, the club promoted Shin-Soo Choo from Triple-A. Well, he managed just one hit in 11 at-bats over four games and committed an error (Reed had just one in 64 games) with a zone rating of .789 (Reed’s is .863).
Next the Mariners have turned to Adam Jones. While he’s certainly been better than Choo, batting .235 with a couple of steals in 10 games, he’s also having defensive problems (one error and an .829 ZR).
The problem is Jones doesn’t turn 21 until next week. He’s a young babe in the woods and part of a splendid youth movement in Seattle. Well, the Mariners are currently dead last in the AL West, so they’re in rebuilding mode, right? Wrong. The AL West is so weak that Seattle, even at four games under .500, is just three games back of the division lead.
With another six weeks at least before Reed is ready to return, this is make or break time for Seattle. There have been plenty of players mentioned in trade rumours as possibly headed to the northwest, including: Alfonso Soriano, Jeromy Burnitz, Craig Wilson, Joe Randa, Sean Casey, Todd Walker, Phil Nevin and Jeff Conine. But none of the names we’ve heard as possibilities can man Safeco’s spacious centre field.
So unless the Mariners are planning on pulling a rabbit out of their hat, it appears they are going to be playing without a reed for most of the remainder of the season. And the problem with that strategy is that sooner or later it’s going to catch up to you.