Thursday, March 27, 2008

BATTER UP: SEATTLE MARINERS

It's staying light longer, the Leafs are all-but-eliminated ... that can mean only one thing: We'll soon see the first halter top of the season. OK, two things: It's almost baseball season, that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team for six months, knowing full well they won't win. Here's a starting nine for the Seattle Mariners.

  1. The question becomes: The godfather himself, Bill James, posed it in his new book, "Do teams that over-achieve their starting pitching in one year discover the next season that they need starting pitching after all?"

    The Mariners put up an 88-74 record last season with just about average everything, especially their starting rotation. That's what brought on bringing in Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva to complement Felix Hernandez.
  2. He's not in Navan anymore: Bedard (pictured) hasn't even thrown a pitch in a real game yet, but his 8.63 ERA in 24 spring training innings has people in a lather. He should be fine in the long run. Please keep in mind that Bedard didn't always have great dealings with the sportswriters in Baltimore (which was more about their attitudes than him), which could recur in Seattle.
  3. The rule of Putz: It's awfully odd and off-putting whenever a team's fans get the most jazzed by seeing their closer start to heat up in the bottom of the eighth inning. A friend who caught Eric Gagné's act during his Dodgers days rationalized fans paying more attention to his warmup tosses than the game by saying, "Hey, it's not like the Dodgers were going to score anyway."

    Mariners closer J.J. Putz throws a hellacious fastball and he's got a funny-sounding name. Still, every time a Mariners game is on and if they happen to be ahead late, the fans at Safeco Field react to him more than the pitchers who actually throw more than an inning at a time, to say nothing of the guys who are expected hit and field. It's bad, bad karma; that's why the Red Sox types play it low-key with Jonathan Papelbon.
  4. Not up to snuff: An infield, from left to right of Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Lopez and Richie Sexson doesn't exactly scream "playoffs." Betancourt does make some highlight reels with his work at shortstop, though?
  5. A redheaded guy out in left field; sounds about right: The USS Mariner is pushing for the Mariners to liberate outfielder Matt Murton, who's been buried by the Chicago Cubs. He would help them out. So would Barry Bonds as the DH; has that horse been beaten into the ground yet?
  6. Milestone watch: The incomparable Ichiro Suzuki needs 130 hits to make it 3,000 for his combined Japanese-North American career. He still won't turn 35 until after the regular season.
  7. No pennants, either: The next time some know-it-all starts bagging on the Jays like they actually care about baseball, point out that at least they're not the Mariners. They typically have a similar-sized payroll, play in a similar-sized baseball market and also never contend for much, even though they don't have to deal with the Red Sox and Yankees 36 times a season.
  8. Someone else! Someone else! The Angels have won the division three of the past four seasons has brought on a desire to see someone else and that brings on a desire to see a different AL West champion. It's not that likely.
  9. Need-to-know: The best way to look at the Mariners is that they're trying to build a winner in a way that's kind on the wane. Overpay for some free agents, trade for this veteran guy or that guy and hope none of them goes in the tank too soon. It can work out, but it can also leave a team saddled with bad contracts, like Richie Sexson making $14 million a year. At least they have some nice pieces with Bedard, Hernandez, Putz and Ichiro.

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to neatesager@yahoo.ca.

3 comments:

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Call it homerism (or maybe former-homerism?), but I think the Mariners might have more of a shot at the division title than you give them credit for. The pitching staff is looking pretty good now with Bedard and Silva added to the list. The batting order's more of a concern in my mind, but they managed to overachieve with a poor pitching staff last year, so who knows what they can do now that they have some good starters? They won't blow people out, but I think they've got at least a chance to take the division and get into the playoffs.

sager said...

Well, this ain't hockey, Andrew ... the Mariners overachieved last season. Their defence is average, their hitting isn't any great shakes and pitchers who strike out as few batters as Silva don't last.

Pete Toms said...

I predict the Mariners win the West. The West is a poor division this year. The A's have given up ( Beane still might not be finished dealing vets, Harden 9 K's in 6 IP vs. Red Sox, Blanton & Street could still be dealt ), Rangers are awful ( but at least have a plan ) and the Angels look old ( Escobar done, Lackey hurt, Anderson way past it, questions at SS ).

I think Felix Hernandez will be one of the elite starters in the AL this season.