September 13, 2002 12:00 am
Not only is Lou Piniella the manager of the Seattle Mariners, he is the emotional weather vane of the Pacific Northwest regarding the state of his ballclub. He provides his forecast after every ballgame to a horde of media fishing for clever quotes on the team's performance that day. The scene is not unlike a boxing mismatch where tomato can reporters throw tentative jabs and hope to not be clobbered by a Piniella roundhouse right.
From April of 2001 through this July, the local scribes had little to fear. Last year's record-setting 116-win campaign was followed by this season's hot start, which quickly vaulted the Mariners to the top of the AL West. As recently as the first week of August, Seattle was 3 1/2 games up on Anaheim and 5 ahead of Oakland. The manager's office was a safe and happy place, with Piniella tossing out forecasts as sunny as the region's sparkling summer. However, since August 8th, Seattle has struggled with a 13-18 mark, while the Angels have gone 24-8 and the Athletics 25-6. Mount Piniella, long dormant, began rumbling a few weeks ago. Through the haze of his post-game smoke, the vile invective spouting from his mouth has Northwest natives very nervous.
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