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McLaren's attention remains on winning

McLaren's attention on winning

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SEATTLE -- Manager John McLaren doesn't believe that his job status is a compelling concern among Mariners fans.

"At this stage, the fans could care less about any of that," McLaren said. "All they care about is wins. That's all they care about."

That's all McLaren and his staff care about, that's the outcome they prepare for every night, yet victories have become an infrequent visitor this season. Seattle, which opened a nine-game homestand Monday against Boston, is coming off a 0-6 road trip. The Mariners have the worst record in the American League at 18-33.

But general manager Bill Bavasi said over the weekend that the cause of the club's problems "was not a managerial issue." That meant that McLaren's job, as well as his coaches' jobs, were not in jeopardy at this point.

"It's something I appreciated, but I really didn't need," McLaren said. "I don't need it. If they pull the plug, they pull the plug. I'm a fighter. Every day, I come to ballpark with enthusiasm. We have a staff meeting to line up our ducks and do what we need to do. We've gone through a rough stretch here."

That stretch, six straight losses and just six wins over their past 24 games, has dropped the Mariners to 11 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West. It's not even June yet.

Bavasi put the blame on the players, most of whom are hitting well below their career averages. He added that he notices a lack of clubhouse leadership. McLaren said there is leadership, but perhaps manifested in different ways.

"I think everyone's a leader in their own right," he said. "We just don't have a Jay Buhner in the group. That's not a knock on anybody in that clubhouse, because there's not many Jay Buhners running around baseball. He's an exceptional type guy. We had other guys besides him.

"It's a touchy subject when you mention that. Some guys are quiet and do things their own way. They'll take a young player aside, mentor him, talk to him, and no one ever sees it."

McLaren added that incidents where a guy throws bats around the clubhouse, dumps the table spread or gets into a teammate's face, "those days are past a little bit. I think we have passionate guys. We can debate that a long time. What I like to see is everyone at the end of the day look in the mirror and go from there."

What McLaren sees that no one else sees is his players' behavior and attitude in the dugout and clubhouse on game days.

"You can see the pain in some of their eyes. They play this game with passion," he said. "You see [Adrian] Beltre and some of these guys. You can tell if has an effect on them.

"When you're going good, you take everything in stride. When you're not going good, small things seem like mountains. It's been a challenge for them as it has been for our staff. We believe in each other. No one's pointing any fingers. It's going to take a lot of hard work. We need to improve all the way around."

McLaren is an natural optimist. No matter what happened the previous day, he comes to the ballpark upbeat and expecting to win. He has said repeatedly that he thinks a surge is just around the corner. But it's been a long unwinding road.

It was anticipated that the Mariners could have had some success against Detroit last week because the Tigers had been scuffling. But Detroit took all three in lopsided fashion. New York also wasn't so hot when the Mariners arrived, but the Yankees pounded them the first two games, then came back with a late rally Sunday to win a heartbreaker.

"We've played teams that are on the slide, then all of a sudden, they come out sweep us and they're on their way," McLaren added. "That's where we want to be. We need to get on a run somewhere.

"Every game we're playing, we need to play like it's our last game."

For a while, at least, there won't be any last game. McLaren's been given more time to crack the code.

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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