Been a little light on content the last couple of weeks. February, amirite? If February isn’t the God damned worst month of the year, then you live in the Southern Hemisphere and can go fuck yourselves.
I don’t know if it’s the seasonal affective disorder, mono, my nerdlinger allergies, or the cancer slowly eating away at my immune system, but I’ve been watching a lot of movies, listening to a lot of Sigur Rós, and catching up on some much-needed sleep while I slog through work week after work week, desperately holding out until the time where I can see the sun before I get to work in the morning. This post-NFL hangover has hit me harder than I thought, and I think it’s because I know what I’ve got to look forward to for the next six months until football season kicks off again.
No, I’m not dying. Like the American black bear, this is just my body trying to will itself into a hibernation state. Because who in God’s name wants to be awake for the 2014 Mariners season?
You know, contrary to popular belief, I don’t ENJOY shitting all over the Mariners all the time. If I had it my way, the Mariners would be one of the dominant teams in baseball every year. Of course, if I had it my way, I’d throw out the entire ownership group and the entire minor league leadership cadre. Because this organization doesn’t know shit about building a proper baseball franchise, and those cunts down in the minors don’t know shit about coaching up the players they’ve got. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the same teams have been winning on a near-constant basis for the last two decades? New York, Boston, Atlanta, St. Louis … they have deep pockets, they know how to build from within, and some of them manage both. Even when they have a down year like Boston did in 2012, they just come right back the next season and win it all. It’s not luck! Those people know what they’re doing, and they take advantage of the teams that don’t. Like the team we see before us.
Look at me. I’m over 350 words into this thing and it’s been nothing but negativity; God I’m a miserable prick. This is supposed to be a post about hope!
Part of my problem is, I don’t really know what a winning team looks like anymore, so my expectations are all out of whack. Even when the Mariners used to be good, their offenses were so unbelievably amazing that they’re always the benchmark I use to define success. But, this is a new steroids-free era of baseball, so I’ve got to scale that back a little bit. Yet, when you look at the Red Sox of last year, of their nine hitters who played in over 100 games, all nine had an on-base percentage of .333 or over. I don’t know how that ranks, but it sounds pretty amazing to me. If you look at the A’s of last year, among hitters who played in 100 games, only four had an OBP of .333 or more. Granted, 100 games and .333 are just arbitrary numbers, and they’re not even that IMPRESSIVE in the grand scheme of things (it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is to get on base in a third of your plate appearances). Yet, the Mariners of last year had three guys who managed that feat: Seager, Morales, and Justin Smoak of all people.
I like looking at the A’s as an example, because they kind of came out of nowhere two years ago, and yet here they are: two-time AL West champs. They strike me as the most-balanced team in the AL and they’re doing all this with a team that is far from star-laden. I’m no hardcore baseball guy by any means; I’m just your average Joe Mariners Fan who only watches the A’s (or anyone else for that matter) when they play the team I root for. Gun to my head: I’m only naming one guy on that team right now (unless Kurt Suzuki is still a thing) and I need Google to help me spell his name (Yoenis Cespedes).
So, what do the Mariners need to do to be the A’s? Well, they need one really good, Cy Young-type starter and one very good innings eater. If you believe Felix and Iwakuma can be those two guys (like Colon and A.J. Griffin were last year), then we’re already ahead of the game. Of course, they round out their rotation with three other pretty solid dudes, and right now that’s a huge question mark for the Mariners.
Best bet: James Paxton comes out lighting the world on fire, Erasmo Ramirez figures out how to not get knocked around the yard constantly, and Taijuan Walker isn’t completely shut down with these early-season arm problems he’s having. If you want the Mariners to be like the A’s, then we’ve got to get TONS of production out of our young arms.
I’m just going to put this out there, because it’s GOING to happen: Taijuan Walker is going to spend the bulk of 2014 on the Danny Hultzen Injury Train. So, don’t get your hopes up. We could have traded him for just about anything, but we didn’t, and now we’re looking at a spectacular flame-out in the making. Remember when we kept holding out for Ryan Anderson? Year after year, we kept telling ourselves that if he could only stay healthy, he was going to put it all together? Yeah, this is that. Only more devastating, because we were REALLY counting on this kid to be Felix 2.0.
Getting back to the positive side of things, we’re going to need a bullpen. We have to bank on Fernando Rodney saving the vast majority of his appearances. No more two week long meltdowns. Not if we expect to contend for the division like the A’s. We also have to bank on the rest of the bullpen fluctuating wildly to the positive. You know how bullpen arms tend to be awesome one year, then terrible the next without any rhyme or reason? Well, we need one of those things to swing the other way. A lot of these young arms got some serious experience last year, for whatever that’s worth. Here’s to hoping the most important bullpen pieces have their shit figured out.
Finally, I’m not saying we need to be the 2013 Red Sox or anything, but our hitters have to be better than they’ve been. Instead of guys hitting in the .220’s and .230’s, we need more guys hitting in the .260’s and .270’s.
Cano and Seager I have no worries about. Those guys are our rocks. They can hit anywhere and they WILL hit.
Oddly enough, I’m really warming up to Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. I don’t like them to be big producers with home runs (and I CERTAINLY don’t think they’ll be leading the league in doubles
any time soon ever), but I do like guys who can raise their on-base percentage by nearly 100 points over their batting averages because they’ve got good eyes at the plate. If they can finish the season with even a batting average in the .250s instead of the .230s, with the way they’re able to get on base via the walk, I think you’re looking at a couple of very productive individuals.
It gets a little dicey after that. Brad Miller needs to be walking more. Dustin Ackley needs to be walking A LOT more. Mike Zunino needs to be less helpless at the plate and stop swinging at so many pitches out of the zone. Corey Hart needs to prove he can stay healthy and play over 100 games. I don’t know what Logan Morrison is, but it’d be nice if he was something instead of nothing. And, for the record, I still think we need Kendrys Morales as our DH. Give him a 2-year deal already! For fuck’s sake …
If you gave me a lineup that looks something like this:
- Brad Miller – SS
- Corey Hart – RF
- Robinson Cano – 2B
- Kendrys Morales – DH
- Kyle Seager – 3B
- Justin Smoak – 1B
- Michael Saunders – CF
- Ackley/LoMo – LF
- Mike Zunino – C
I’d be moderately excited. Until they inevitably started to disappoint out of the gate. While the back end of our rotation sputters and our bullpen fails to hold the infrequent leads Felix is able to afford them. God, I hate baseball so much. I would trade all of the fond memories of this team from 1995-2001 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style – if it meant that I had the Sonics back.