Seattle's surprising Mariners

First base and batting coach Vada Pinson has this simple explanation for why the Seattle Mariners, who began as an American League expansion team in 1977, are having their best year ever.

''Anytime you've got a bunch of fringe players who aren't under any pressure to produce, because they know you don't have anyone in your farm system who can replace them, it's hard to create any momentum,'' Pinson explained. ''Six years ago that was probably the Mariners' biggest problem. But now that our farm system is starting to turn out quality, we're in a position to build a winning attitude that can last. Good trades and a strong bullpen have also helped tremendously.''

During the first half of this season, when rookie Seattle Manager Rene Lachemann went to his bullpen an average of twice a game en route to a 45-41 record, the Mariners had the most active relief corp in the American League. In fact, fireman Bill Caudill's 10 wins, 18 saves, and 2.06 earned-run average through July have made him All-Star material.

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