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Lowell's Star Slumping


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Third baseman Mike Lowell has been to the All-Star Game for the past three years, more appearances overall than any player to wear a Marlins uniform. His streak will end tonight when the rosters are announced for the July 12 game in Detroit.

 

In a Marlins season that has been disappointing so far, the biggest underachiever has been Lowell, who had been one of the lineup's most consistent hitters since he became a regular in 1999.

 

A career.277 hitter coming into the season, he averaged 28 home runs the past three years. But today he is hitting.218 with three home runs.

 

Lowell's struggles are especially frustrating because Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Delgado, the other hitters in the middle of the order, have done well.

 

But Lowell's skid actually dates back to the second half of last year. After finishing the first half with 20 home runs, 55 RBI and a.305 average, he had seven home runs, 30 RBI and a.277 average in the second half.

 

That's 10 home runs and 59 RBI with a.248 batting average in 140 games since last year's All-Star break ? a long and mystifying slump.

 

"Everyone is trying to find the end-all, be-all reason,'' said Lowell, who was given the day off Saturday by manager Jack McKeon. "If they knew it, I'd probably listen to it, but trust me ? it's more frustrating to me than to anyone else.''

 

Some scouts who follow the Marlins say Lowell's bat speed has slowed. There has been plenty of more colorful conjecture on talk radio and Internet message boards. It ranges from speculation that he is coming off steroids to even wilder theories that he was aided in the past by testosterone or other substances used in his recovery from testicular cancer in 1999.

 

"It's all ignorance,'' said Jeff Conine, Lowell's teammate and close friend.

 

Lowell said the only medication he took during his fight against cancer was to prevent nausea caused by radiation treatments. He said he has never consumed anything to supplement the testosterone his body produces.

 

"I think it's stupid,'' he said of the guesswork. "I don't think it's funny.''

 

Conine, who broke into the majors in 1990, said it's foolish to assume that a slump necessarily has a single cause.

 

"People don't realize how tough this game really is, so (they assume) there must be some extraneous circumstance (behind the downturn in Lowell's game)," Conine said. "They think it's one little thing that turns you around, or you eat something different and boom, you start getting hits.''

 

Lowell is not the only former All-Star going through a slump.

 

Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, a career.334 hitter, was batting.265 with six home runs and 31 RBI entering play Saturday night. He is facing his first sub-.300 season since 1997.

 

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Jim Thome, who averaged 47 home runs in each of his past three seasons, is batting.207 with seven home runs and 30 RBI.

 

And Adrian Beltre began play Saturday with six home runs and 36 RBI in his first season with Seattle after averaging 30 homers in his past three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

"We're entitled to have an off year every once in a while,'' Conine said. "I came off hitting (close to).300 for four straight years (1993-96). All of a sudden I lose it and start fighting myself, and I hit.242. Any reason for that? Not that I can come up with. It just happens. You see the light, but you can't seem to find the steps to come out.''

 

Lowell arrives at the ballpark early to take extra batting practice and watch film of his swing. Marlins hitting coach Bill Robinson said his swing "isn't right."

 

"He is sort of dipping a little bit," Robinson said, "but his bat speed is still there."

 

Retired slugger Andre Dawson, a Marlins assistant, believes Lowell might not be swinging as fast as he did in the past.

 

"The ball is getting a little away from him," Dawson said. "He's having to go to right field a lot more.

 

"To me, he was always a dead-pull hitter. I kind of see him, not every at-bat, opening up and using more of his arms possibly and not really his legs.''

 

The Marlins believe Lowell will snap out of it. They are encouraged because his strikeout total is not terribly high ? 35 in 262 at-bats ? and he is second on the team with 22 doubles.

 

"We're patiently waiting for this man so we can jump on his back,'' Robinson said.

 

Manager Jack McKeon has shown some impatience with Lowell, dropping him from fifth in the order to seventh on nine occasions this season. But for the past two weeks, Lowell had been hitting his usual fifth until not playing at all Saturday.

 

"It's a long season. He will hit,'' said Atlanta Braves third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez, who coached for the Marlins in Lowell's first three seasons. "He's done it in the past."

 

Lowell's dry spell has not affected his demeanor in the clubhouse. He continues to joke with his teammates and poke fun at himself. He always accommodates interview requests, although he has at times declined to talk about his slump.

 

"If I'm not consistent at the plate,'' he said, "what am I going do? Throw a bat every time? I'd run out of bats after two games.''

 

Palm Beach Post

 

Gee, I wonder what "Internet Message Boards" he was referring to.

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Guest FishFanInPA

those idiots over on ESPN....did you guys notice they had a thread about us recently??? Didnt realize how much they hate us there...

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Guest Moneyball

those idiots over on ESPN....did you guys notice they had a thread about us recently??? Didnt realize how much they hate us there...

837689[/snapback]

They hate us? Why? :blink:

837717[/snapback]

 

Because we get some much damn publicity.

 

That and I bet that board is full of people who didn't survive here and hold a grudge against us.

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those idiots over on ESPN....did you guys notice they had a thread about us recently??? Didnt realize how much they hate us there...

837689[/snapback]

They hate us? Why? :blink:

837717[/snapback]

 

Because we get some much damn publicity.

 

That and I bet that board is full of people who didn't survive here and hold a grudge against us.

837721[/snapback]

:shifty

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Guest Moneyball

Has anyone seen those screen names on the ESPN boards?

 

Killer Dolphins

Majorball

Texan 4ever

TSwain51

gobucssteel

 

 

:blink:

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those idiots over on ESPN....did you guys notice they had a thread about us recently??? Didnt realize how much they hate us there...

837689[/snapback]

They hate us? Why? :blink:

837717[/snapback]

 

Because we get some much damn publicity.

 

That and I bet that board is full of people who didn't survive here and hold a grudge against us.

837721[/snapback]

there's a core group of 10 or so from espn over here as well

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"We're entitled to have an off year every once in a while,'' Conine said.

 

Oh, I disagree wholeheartedly, Mr. Marlin. To say you're "entitled" to an off-year, considering how much they're paying y'all per year? Come on... :nono

 

"He is sort of dipping a little bit," Robinson said, "but his bat speed is still there."

 

Retired slugger Andre Dawson, a Marlins assistant, believes Lowell might not be swinging as fast as he did in the past.

 

Interesting how these quotes were printed one right after the other, as if to show how contradictory these "expert" theories are. Do any of them really know, or are they (like Mike) just making up excuses?

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"We're entitled to have an off year every once in a while,'' Conine said.

Oh, I disagree wholeheartedly, Mr. Marlin. To say you're "entitled" to an off-year, considering how much they're paying y'all per year? Come on... :nono

 

"He is sort of dipping a little bit," Robinson said, "but his bat speed is still there."

 

Retired slugger Andre Dawson, a Marlins assistant, believes Lowell might not be swinging as fast as he did in the past.

Interesting how these quotes were printed one right after the other, as if to show how contradictory these "expert" theories are. Do any of them really know, or are they (like Mike) just making up excuses?

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I've never thought he was on roids, and i dont like it that they are telling lowell that thats what fans think, because it makes us look bad. I always thought he's swing was slowe and is just not as selective at the plate, and i dont think i am in the minority in thinking like that.

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