As Season Beckons We Have Optimism for Our Mariners

Looking toward Qwest (football) Field and Down...

Baseball season starts Monday for my Seattle Mariners and after years of low or no expectations we enter 2013 with just a we-tad bit of optimism. It seems possible, even likely, the Ms will have their first winning record since 2009. And while unlikely, I think we can have a prayer that our Northwest Nine can challenge for a playoff spot. Even if they don’t make it, how exciting would it be to have our baseball team hold our interests before falling out of contention at least until our beloved Seahawks get their Super Bowl season underway in early September.

Five things of undeniable significance allow me to hold this sense of optimism.

1. The young players have all got to get better, because they couldn’t do much worse.

2. The fences are coming in at Safeco Field.

3. The Houston Astros factor.

4. Oakland and Texas aren’t as good as last year.

5. Michael Morse and Kendry Morales are the real deal and great and necessary acquisitions.

First off, Seattle fans have had to endure some of the historically worst offenses in the history of Major League Baseball each of the past three seasons. The moribund offense was made so by being turned over to a bunch of diaper wearing toddlers who

English: Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik a...

Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik at Mariners FanFest

General Manager Jack Zduriencik placed high expectations on. Some of them didn’t live up to those lofty expectations and are gone (See Mike Carp, Trayvon Robinson). And only one came in and seemed to exceed expectations. That would be 3rd baseman Kyle Seager who took over the position by default  as a rookie last year and proceeded to lead the team in home runs (20) and RBI (86). Outfielder Michael Saunders last year was where 1st baseman Justin Smoak

Justin Smoak - Seattle - 2010 Home

is this year. It was his last chance to prove he can be a solid major league slugger. Saunders came through last year after four years of riding the Tacoma Express. Like he’s done before Smoak closed 2012 with a very impressive set of numbers in September, and like he’s done before he has carried it into a very impressive Spring Training. But in his three years since being acquired from Texas in the Cliff Lee trade he hasn’t hit except sporadically during the rest of the regular season. Manager Eric Wedge and

Justin Smoak

Justin Smoak

Zduriencik believe Smoak is going to do this year what Saunders did last. There is reason to believe them…this time.

The other former babies who must learn to walk this year are Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. The 2nd baseman and the catcher both under achieved with their bats last year and since they were both labelled “can’t miss” prospects just two years ago Seattle can calculate an improvement in 2013.

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners

Second, the fences are coming in at Safeco. Changing the field’s configurations will undoubtedly allow the team to hit more home runs. Besides adding confidence to players like Smoak who will benefit by the 17 foot difference in home-plate to outfield fence in left field, you can subtract the emotionally crushing, motivationally discouraging effects on players the cavernous feeling of the previous Safeco dimensions provided. More than a few times in recent years we’ve seen players sulk over a ball they CRUSHED getting caught on the warning track. And bringing in the fences will make it easier for outfielders to play defense at Safeco. This undoubtedly gave Zduriencik freedom to go after less-than-stellar defensive outfielders like Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, and Michael Morse; all of whom broke Spring Training in Cheney with the team and are expected to see a lot of action in the field this year since Morales is expected to hold down the designated hitter position regularly.

Seattle gets to play the

Gulf Coast League Astros

Houston Astros 19 times this year, and gets to play the Angels, Rangers, and A’s 19 fewer times. Houston had the worst record in baseball last year in the National League Central and many believe they’ll actually be worse this year. And while it’s true the other American League West teams get to play the Astros 19 times too, it’s much more significant for Seattle because Seattle will play a worse team rather than better teams each of those 19 times. The Angels, Ranger, and A’s will be substituting many of their games with Astros from a schedule that had them playing Seattle more where the results would be about the same.

Absolutely nobody expected Oakland to win the division last year. Few expect them to repeat, and most expect that last year was an aberration. The Rangers just lost Josh Hamilton, their best player. And they didn’t replace him with anybody. Nuff said.

Michael Morse

Michael Morse

Morse hit his 9th home run of the Spring yesterday, setting a new Mariner Cactus League record. I liked him tremendously when he played as a rookie shortstop and part-time outfielder with the Mariners in 2008. Hitting either #3 or clean up will be such a tremendous improvement for Seattle’s offense.

Kendry Morales

Kendry Morales

And Morales is also a huge improvement, whether he hits #3 or 4. Both players have hit 30 home runs in a season and unlike past veteran acquisitions by this franchise these guys are not so deep into their careers to be nearing their inevitable age-required decline or have it well underway. Morse is 31. Morales is only 29.

Seattle can win between 83-85 games this year. That 8-10 win improvement over last season’s 75-87 team can be mathematically expected just based on the 19 games against the Astros, all other things staying equal. But things are not equal. The Mariner pitching on paper (at least) is equal to last year, with hopeful expectations that some of their minor leagues can make late season appearances and improve the starting rotation. The offense is considerably better. Call me crazy but I’m predicting 88-89 wins and a pennant race at least into the start of September. God I hope I’m right. It would be so much fun.

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Seattle Sports Doldrums. Time to get Mad.

 

 

 

English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...

 

 

 

A weekend of ineptitude from the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners has me frustrated and wanting to take a pound of flesh from some of the teams administrators.

 

 

 

The Seattle Mariners wrap up another losing season in the next three days with a young team that has some promise, but none of it in the vicinity of an acceptable Major League offense. Our swabbies were swept in Oakland the past three games by an equally young Athletics team. The Athletics youth is just about the only resemblance they bear to our Northwest 9. Oakland will play in the American league playoffs, probably as a Wildcard entrant. But given they possess the best record in baseball since the start of June they can be counted on to make some noise.

 

 

 

The Mariner’s too have had a better second-half of the season than they had in the first half. Since July 5 Seattle actually has a winning record at 38-37; compared to a miserable 35-49 in the first half. But as reporter Geoff Baker writes in this morning’s Seattle Times the league worst offense has only gotten worse, scoring just 3.63 runs per game compared to 3.87. It’s a familiar story too many Northwest baseball fans have become used to. Seattle has been at the bottom of the Major League offensive categories for 4 straight years. Their losing record reflecting accordingly.

 

 

 

What’s sad is during this time they’ve possessed arguably the best pitcher in the American League in Felix Hernandez. During this time Hernandez has won a Cy Young Award, finished second in the voting another year, and is likely to be among the top 5 vote getters again this year. Seattle’s other pitching has been less impressive but good enough were the offense not so completely inadequate.

 

 

 

First Baseman Justin Smoak is an unquestioned failure. He has blown up his batting average over the past two weeks with some solid hitting; but for the season that’s only lifted his average to a woeful .214 with 19 home runs and 50-something RBI (no I’m not looking up the exact number. What’s the difference between 51 and 59?). My only hesitation in making this proclamation is that outfielder Michael Saunders has rectified his carrier with a .250 average and 19 homers this season. I would have written him off before the season after he’d managed more yawns than thrills during parts of four seasons with the Mariner’s prior to this season. But seriously, how excited should we be about a fourth year player who’s best season is .250 with 19 home runs? At best he’s a fourth outfielder on a good team.

 

 

 

The number of disappointing Mariners doesn’t stop with Smoak and Saunders. Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, Brendan Ryan, and Miguel Olivo arte all hitting what used to be considered pathetic offensive numbers. Seattle not only doesn’t have a .300 hitter this season. They don’t have a .290 or .280 hitter. They have catcher John Jaso as a part-time player hitting .277 as the only representative north of .260.

 

 

 

As we watch the playoffs this October with young American League teams like the A’s and Orioles competing for a championship, devoid of a Seattle representative for an 11th consecutive year, let’s forget the pathetic cliche` “wait until next year”. Next year won’t be any better if Mariner management doesn’t get its act together and throw out some of the young experiments that didn’t work. Specifically any of Seattle’s outfielders could be a solid forth outfielder. The rest can be discarded. We need a whole new outfield. One that can hit. Smoak should also be shown the door in favor of a 1st baseman that can hit for power and at-least a respectable average.

 

 

 

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

 

And Mariner management needs to do three more things unrelated to on field personnel. Chuck Armstrong needs to go as Mariner President. Outfield fences need to be moved in. And a policy to keep the Safeco Field roof closed unless it’s sunny and 60+ degrees needs to be established. Everyone from Ken Griffey Junior to Jesus Montero knows the ball carries better with the roof closed. And it’s warmer, for better fan comfort.

 

 

 

Speaking of missed opportunities. We’re watching a big one with the Seattle Seahawks this season. The Seahawks possess a championship-caliber defense, running game and special teams. All three of those areas of the team have performed spectacularly in the teams first four games. And yet all the team could manage was a 2-2 record that’s one controversial call away from being 1-3.

 

 

 

An active volcano, Mount Rainier is one of thr...

 

It was acknowledged by everyone that the choice to go with Russell Wilson at quarterback to start the year would require some sacrifice while the young player grows into an NFL caliber QB. Coach Pete Carroll was and is enthralled with the potential of his 5′ 10″ third round draft choice. But here is one thing Carroll seems to have ignored, Matt Flynn is young and loaded with potential too. But Flynn has something Wilson doesn’t…four years in the NFL. Flynn also has a Super Bowl ring, and an NCAA National Championship. Put those two together, along with some other factors, and what do you have? A WINNER. Matt Flynn is a proven winner. Having him stand on the sidelines while Wilson slowly learns his craft is a waste of the other very talented aspects of this Seahawk team.

 

English: Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback...

Quarterback Matt Flynn 

 

The argument that Wilson gives Seattle a better chance to win in the long run is simply stupid since Flynn too possesses plenty of attributes that would lead a reasonable football fans to conclude his growth is currently ahead of Wilson’s and could potentially be great too.

 

 

 

There is no question Wilson is an outstanding young man worthy of respect and praise. But with the worst passing attack in the NFL, a-quarter of the season is long enough to determine that the Seahawks need better play at quarterback right now or they could blow a season the is rife with promise and potential. Flynn is just as capable of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch as Wilson, he can see and read the field better, and he CAN throw the ball extremely accurately according to most observers.

 

 

 

Please Pete Carroll; make the change. Install Flynn as the starter this week against Carolina. A trip all the way across the U.S. is tough enough. Tougher still, when you’re a rookie. It’s time to see Matt Flynn.

 

 

 

Thanks. I had to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

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Mariners Breaking My Heart

Safeco Field

Safeco Field 

 

We’ve reached the Major League baseball All-Star break and I’m overwhelmed with one recurring thought regarding my beloved Seattle Mariners…when does Seahawks Training Camp begin. This season’s Mariners season might be the most disappointing for me to date.

As I wrote in this blog before Spring Training, Really Looking Forward to Mariner Season, I wasn’t expecting a playoff team. I was expecting a team that would show considerable improvement over the debacles of the previous two seasons. So far, what improvement there has been, if any, has been so slight it doesn’t merit booking playoff dreams in 2013, 2014 or any time in the foreseeable future. And the future is never foreseeable.

 

Seattle enters this four day break with the worst record in the American League, fifth worst in baseball. Their team batting average is .230. For a whole season that would be the 2nd worst in franchise history, topped, or bottomed, only by last year’s .224 average. The lone bright spots are outfielder Michael Saunders and 3rd baseman Kyle Seager.  But after 3 years of failing to make a good impression at the Major League level and his teammates ineptitude Saunder’s .257 batting average and mere 25 RBI is inflated in the eyes of media and fans. Should we really be THAT excited about an outfielder that at best projects to a 50 rbi-guy in his 4th year of MBL service? And Seager wasn’t expected to make the team in Spring Training, did well, opened the season strong but has fallen off to a .243 average. His HRs and RBIs, 10 and 52, still project well. But it remains to be seen if he can pull himself out of his current long slump. And like Saunders, we’re all way to excited about a guy with a .243 average only because it exceeds what was expected and looks so favorable compared to teammates.

Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak remain the biggest disappoints, given the franchise’s future high expectations were largely built on the 1st and 2nd basemen. Ackley can be sent down to AAA Tacoma for some more schooling. But other than Smoak there is no other full-time first-baseman on either the Mariner’s roster or Tacoma’s. So sending down Smoak isn’t an easy answer. Who’s going to replace him?

The Mariner’s offensive ineptitude is particularly acute at home, at Safeco Field, where they collectively bat .197 for the season, and mustered only 1 run per game during their recent 10-game homestand. Talk of bringing in the fences continues to be thrown out for discussion by restless beat writers. But a simple and available partial solution continues to be ignored by the Mariners management. Closing the Safeco Field roof more frequently is an advantage to the home team offensive that mysteriously gets no discussion. Miller Park in Milwaukee and Toronto’s Roger’s Centre (formerly Skydome) regularly keep their roofs closed, even on clear-sky days. Doing so warms the air and allows the baseball’s to fly better off the hitter’s bats. But Seattle fans continue to shiver during 40 and 50 degree nights while watching the most offensively inept team in MLB since the advent of the Designated hitter.

Seattle’s refusal to make tough decisions on veterans infects this franchise like no other I’ve ever seen. Ichiro is clearly not the spectacular hitter he once was. He hit .271 all last season and is hitting only .261 this season with an on-base percentage of less than .300, worst in the league. And as mediocre as those numbers are for most major-leaguers they’re made absolutely pedestrian by the total lack of power from the Japanese future-Hall-of-Famer. Manager Eric Wedgefinally moved Ichiro from the lead-off spot he is no longer suited to hold, and batted him #2 for the last two games against Oakland before the break. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent move. Ichiro should be allowed to finish his season here in Seattle. Then let him drift away back to Japan for an honorable retirement. His weak bat an 39 year old age make him no asset to a Mariner team seemingly more interested in nostalgia than winning.

English: Ken Griffey in June 2009.

Ken Griffey Jr

Ken Griffey Junior being the most recent previous example of this franchise holding too tightly to a star’s past glory long since vanished.

Chone Figgins

Chone Figgins 

And Seattle’s unwillingness to cut Chone Figgins is understandable, given his contract, but unforgivable given the team’s poor play and the fact that other younger more capable players are being deprived learning experiences every time Wedge marches Figgins out onto the field with his pathetic .186 average. Seattle needs to eat the remaining 1 1/2 years on Figgins contract and call it what it is, a failed free-agent signing. Then move on with the younger guys. I’m fairly confident Tacoma’s AAA outfielders Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero, or Mike Wilson could manage a .186 average while having more HR pop than the diminutive Figgins. And being career minor leaguers thier MLB minimum salaries shouldn’t be a money concern like Figgins’ contract.

And speaking of Tacoma, Seattle’s highest level minor league affiliate is currently 38-51 on the season, last in their division and 4th worst in the entire Pacific Coast League. So much for building the franchise through the minor-league system.

English: Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik a...

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik at Mariners FanFest 2011. 

So a couple of things are clear for the remainder of the Mariner season. One-hitting coach Chris Chambliss has to go. I’m not saying the poor offense is his fault. But given such limited options for fixing the problem, and given 2 seasons of the worst offense any where at any time some new ideas wouldn’t hurt. Second- General Manager Jack Zduriencik may need to start polishing up his resume. He’s had nearly four years to make the team better. It isn’t working. My patience is through. I’m really disappointed. And I can’t wait to see Matt Flynn throw the football.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

 

Leave Safeco Fence Alone- Close the Roof

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

With continued offensive struggles from the Seattle Mariner‘s bats when playing at Seattle’s magnificent home ballpark, Safeco Field, talks have begun again about the wisdom of moving in the fields fences in order to make hitting home runs easier. But moving in the fences is not the answer. But an answer is available.

This topic gained lots of momentum when big Justin Smoak,

Justin Smoak

Justin Smoak

the Mariner’s leading home run hitter, connected on two blasts in one game one week ago. Both shots were run-down and caught by the outfielders on the warning track in right and left-center field. After the game Smoak said he hit those balls as best he could. His exact quote was “That’s all I got”.

Also, last week Baltimore Oriole’s All Star Adam Jones appeared on CNN as part of a story discussing the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards. The CNN anchor asked the former Mariner if the Oriole’s home ballpark was the most beautiful stadium in the Major Leagues. Jones said yes, but that he also really liked Safeco Field “Except it’s just a grave yard there. It’s just a grave yard”. Shaking his head he must have repeated that the Mariner’s home field was a grave yard 3-4 times.

The fact that the Mariner’s returned from their last road trip having averaged over 7 runs per game, while scoring barely 2 runs per game at The Safe adds to the fire.

And this debate has been raging since the Mariner’s left the Kingdome in July 1999. Safeco is hugely responsible for driving away Seattle’s two biggest Stars of the 90s. Ken Griffey Jr.

English: Ken Griffey in June 2009.

Ken Griffey in June 2009.

played half-of-a-season at Safeco in 1999 and hated it.  Alex Rodriguez was equally miffed at the difficulty in hitting home runs in Seattle. Griffey demanded and was granted a trade to Cincinnati following the ’99 season. A-Rod left in free agency after 2000. Neither giving the stadium much of a chance.

What’s misunderstood about Safeco is that it’s outfield walls are not that deep compared to other Major League fields. In left field is 331-feet, Center field is only 405 feet from home plate, and right field is just 327. By comparison Detroit’s Comerica Park is 345 down the left field line, 330 down right, and 420 to center field. Clearly the fences aren’t the issue.

Any meteorologist could tell you what the problem is. It’s Seattle’s thick wet air. When it’s cold and wet in the Northwest, as it is from the time the season starts until early July a hit baseball just doesn’t carry as far as in places where people don’t have webbed feet and rust under their arms. And last I checked early July is halfway through a Major League baseball season.

Safeco Field

I have two arguments against moving in the fences. First- when Seattle teams were good it was far less of an issue. Brett Boone, A-Rod, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner hit plenty of bombs in The Safe. And the opponents have to hit in the same field dimensions. So Seattle is not at a competitive disadvantage.

Second, a big part of the solution to the heavy air and the lack of home runs already exists and could be put in place tomorrow. Close the Safeco Roof. Griffey was known to scream furiously for the roof to be closed in his short time here (Yes…he was THAT spoiled). Mariner TV commentator Bill Krueger offered this idea during a radio interview last week. He pointed out that other moveable-roof domed stadiums keep their roofs closed a majority of the time for this very reason.  And since the roof is so high and since the left-field open air view of the Seattle skyline still exists patrons are not losing much. Let’s face it, we’d all rather be a little warmer on a cold damp Seattle Spring night watching a more offensively exciting baseball team with the roof “extended”, than shivering in 40 and 50-degree weather with night-time stars covered by clouds and a team that averages only 2 runs per game.

This needs to happen immediately. Mariner management needs to make a command decision. New rules for the Safeco roof go into effect immediately. Except on days when it’s over 60 degrees, and only on clear nights the roof goes over the playing field. That way we all get more home runs, and happier young ball players.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Seattle Mariners: No Hit.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the 21st time in the 120 years of Major League Baseball history a pitcher threw a perfect game Saturday in Seattle at Safeco Field. Chicago White Sox pitcher Phillip Humber (pronounced um-ber) threw only 96 pitches to go through the 27 outs without allowing a single runner on base necessary to record a nine inning perfect pitching performance. It’s instructive to note who it is that did the pitching, and who this amazing feat was accomplished against. In summary it marked the death of my optimism for an interesting season of growth for my home town Mariners who I no longer feel are “up-and-coming”.

Humber should be lavishly praised for inserting his name into the same pantheon of pitchers to record such a day’s performance. Most of the 21 perfect games were accomplished by pitchers of significant career achievement. The list includes John Montgomery Ward, Cy Young, Don Larson, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Dennis Martinez, Kenny Rogers, David Cone, David Wells, Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson.  All Hall of Famers or NEAR-Hall of Famers. Humber is 29 years old and has an 11-10 career record. And while he may yet develop into an All-Star caliber pitcher he is already past the age when most pitchers establish the arc of their careers. And his arc is decidedly mediocre at best.

The Mariners who ignominiously inserted themselves into the loser side of this historic story included not one hitter with a batting average above the pedestrian level of .275.

Miguel Olivo

The nine man lineup included two, Miguel Olivo and Japanese Rookie Munenori Kawasaki, hitting well , well, well below the long-established “Mendoza Line” for offensive futility. And first baseman Justin Smoak at .203 and Michael Saunders at .209 are just above the .200 level Hall of Famer George Brett named for the former Mariner shortstop Mario Mendoza 30 years ago. To say the Mariner lineup was and is weak is equivalent to saying Tom Brady is a good quarterback. It’s an obvious understatement.

Three months ago after the Mariner’s failed to sign Prince Fielder and instead traded for catcher Jesus Montero to bulk up their impotent offense I wrote of my optimism for an interesting season. A season that wouldn’t rise to the level of the Mariners being a playoff contender but would feature a lot of up-and-coming young stars who would forge a better season than either of the past two years and establish a strong foundation for winning seasons in the near future. But what has Manager Eric Wedge done since then? He inserted Chone Figgins into the lead-off spot in the lineup where he is currently hitting .226 after slapping a measly .180 last season. He has continued to use Olivo as his primary catcher though Olivo is only a .241 career hitter who hit only .224 last season and led MLB in pass-balls. This in spite of the Mariner’s acquiring not only the 23-year-old Montero but also veteran catcher John Jaso. Jaso started over 130 games for the playoff contending Tampa Rays over the past two years and in limited duty has been among the Mariner leaders this season in RBI and batting average.

Michael Saunders

Michael Saunders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fact that Michael Saunders in flounder in replacing the injured Franklin Gutierrez is no surprise. I question why he was on the roster at the start of Spring Training to begin with. This is Saunders 4th season with Seattle. He hit .149 in 2011 and a career best .221 way back in 2009. While Saunders continues to flail Casper Wells sits on the bench, presumably counting empty seats at Safeco Field. Wells is only 27 years old and has a career .264 batting average in just two Major League seasons. And he also plays above average defense.

I strongly suspect Wedge is getting strong encouragement from Mariner General Manager Jack Zduriencik to play Figgins, Saunders and Olivo in a desperate hope of letting these players revive or kick-start their careers or in order to justify Z-Man’s decision to acquire these flops. What other explanation could there be? To continue to play players with a long history of poor performance over other young players with a history of far superior performance doesn’t make sense.

Furthermore, to allow 1/3 of your lineup to be devoted to last-chance reclamation projects that appear to be failing while other parts of your lineup also continue to under perform is criminal. Smoak has started the year worse than the .234 season he posted during an injury filled 2011 campaign. 38-year-old Ichiro is hitting only .266 and showing that last seasons fall to .272 was not an anomaly, but a trend. Starting short-stop Brendan Ryan pinch-hit as the final out in yesterday’s historic game. He was being given the day off to contemplate his .200 batting average and erratic defense. And youngsters Montero and 2nd baseman Dustin Ackley  still show promise, but have started the season slowly.

All these players are hurt by two-thirds of the Mariners projected starting outfield being on the disabled list.

Mike Carp

Mike Carp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mike Carp injured his shoulder in the opening game of the year. And Gutierrez injured a pectoral muscle in Spring Training. Carp has begun a re-hab assignment in Tacoma. Gutierrez has not started any re-hab and the time of his return is uncertain, though easily weeks away. Nonetheless, neither Carp nor Gutierrez were sure bets to be strong performers this year. In their careers both have longer stretches of poor-to-mediocre play than good-to-great performing.

It’s time to start wondering whether Zderiencik’s plan is working. Seattle baseball fans haven’t seen playoff baseball in 11 years, and won’t see it this season. But after two seasons of historically weak offense little has been done to make the team more capable of scoring runs. I had put my faith in the fact that Zderiencik and Wedge knew more than I did and the younger players and weak performing veterans would HAVE TO do better this year than last. Here’s the crux of this blog. I can be wrong, and few people care. After more than a decade of mostly bad baseball Zderiencik and Wedge can’t be. Certainly not when their “Plan” involves a slow, patient re-building that isn’t working.

Perfect pitching performance? Sure. Congrats Phillip Humber. Pathetic sub-Major League caliber offense? Definitely!

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Really looking forward to Mariner season.

The Mariner Moose, mascot of the Seattle Mariners.

Mariner Moose

Don’t be misled by the headline to this blog. I’m not delusional about my home town team’s chances in the coming 2012 Major League Baseball season. I realize the Seattle Mariner‘s are a young and flawed team and they aren’t likely to go anywhere but home when the 162 game schedule wraps up October 3rd. But I predict the Northwest’s baseball fans will embrace these kids and make Safeco Field a fun place to go again.

I’ll admit that I was disappointed when it was revealed this week that

English: Prince Fielder doing pre-game stretch...

Cecil Fielder

Cecil Fielderwas not going to hit for the M’s. The 275 pound slugging first baseman inked a 9-year $214-million deal with the Detroit Tigers. The Mariner’s weak hitters and inept offense over the previous two years made an acquisition of a power hitter like Fielder mandatory for the team to avoid another boring season of 2-1 losses stacked on top of each other. But can you really blame General Manager Jack Zduriencik for exercising some fiscal responsibility, and not acting desperate by giving in to super-agent

Scott Boras

Scott Boras

Scott Boras’ demands for a long and extraordinary contract with a player whose physical build may have him breaking down than most other chiseled athletes who make up professional baseball today. Don’t forget, unlike the NFL, baseball contracts are guaranteed. Fielder will be collecting his $20+ million each year until 2021 even if by 2016 he can’t waddle down the first base line fast enough to beat out a throw from the parking lot. To have gotten the former Milwaukee power hitter Jack Z would have had to commit to at least as many years and probably more dollars. Maybe as much as $230-million.

It became fairly evident the M’s were out of the Fielder sweepstakes last week when we heard about the team’s trade of its number two pitcher Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda

to the New York Yankees for catching and designated-hitter prospect Jesus Montero. In many evaluations Montero is the best prospect in all the Major Leagues. And by giving up a proven front line pitcher like Pineda, he better be. A team doesn’t usually part with a number 1 or 2 pitcher without getting a player at or near All Star caliber. With Montero we only have his experience with the Bronx Bombers last September to evaluate what his power bat will do in the Major Leagues. His only month of Major League experience proved mighty tasty though. Jesus (pronounced Hay-Zeus) hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBI in just 61 at-bats. He’ll hit. I’m confident. Whether he’ll be a liability behind the plate remains to be seen. But my view is he couldn’t be much worse than we’ve had in recent years. Miguel Olivo was set to be the backstop going into this year. And while his ability to throw out runners is top-notch, and his calling of the game appears to serve Seattle well; Olivo also led the Majors in passed-balls and only hit only .224 and dropped off steadily as the year wore on. Great guy? Sure. But Montero can do better.

Now look at what else came Seattle’s way late last year and turned a record-paced piss poor offense into something a little better than awful. Former number 1 draft pick Dustin Ackley

Looking toward Qwest (football) Field and Down...

It'll be fun at Safeco again.

played a solid 2nd base and hit .273 with 6 homers. Mike Carp was hitting as well as anyone in the big leagues for most of July and August before slowing somewhat finishing with a .276 average and 12 homers, many of them very well-timed. Casper Wells came from Detroit and showed flashes with the bat and a very dependable glove. If Franklin Gutierrez doesn’t have a bounce back year, which he should, Wells could be an adequate Center Fielder.

Then there’s Justin Smoak, the switch hitting powerful first baseman we got from Texas in the Cliff Lee trade. In his first full season in the Major’s Smoak (I just love his name) hit only .234 with 15 HRs. But folks…his Dad died in April and in August he was hit in the eye socket by a pitch. For those who have never lost a parent let me tell you it doesn’t leave you at your best in terms of work performance. Work just seems all-together unimportant for an extend period while you grieve the loss of someone you were very close to, as Smoak was with his father. Smoak has shown enough of what it takes to continue to believe the forecasts for his Major League stardom are still possible.

And even with the loss of Pineda the Mariner’s have a solid core of pitchers led by All Star and 2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.

The M’s play in the same division as two-time American League Champion Texas, who just signed Japanese pitching ace Yu Darvish; and the Los Angeles Angels who not only have MLB’s best Manager in Mike Scoscia but also picked up Albert Pujols in free-agency…only the best player in baseball for the past ten years. Seattle can’t compete with these teams. Not in 2012. But won’t it be fun watching a team of young 20-somethings fight and claw and scratch and improve and give us some legitimate promise in years to come. Just remember the old franchise slogan “Ya gotta love these guys” was created for a team built around

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the star of the 1995 Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson, Tino Martinez, Randy Johnson, Joey Cora, Alex Rodriguez and others. Back in the early to mid-90s they were all together and they were all young at that time. And as they grew so did the team’s success and the fun. I think we’ll love these NEW guys.

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