Is It Crazy To Think The Mariners Can Contend?

Short answer:  fuck yes!

Long answer:  still yes, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’m not saying the Mariners are going to contend.  I’m generally in the market of making outrageous statements, but I gotta draw the line somewhere.  This is still a team that’s 29th out of 30 teams in runs scored.  This is a team that regularly trots out either Jack Cust or Miguel Olivo on an everyday basis as its Cleanup Hitter (in spite of the fact that they’re only even remotely capable of “Cleaning Up” my vomit after I watch them try to hit with runners in scoring position).  This is a team with more black holes at the bottom of its lineup than a (edited for inappropriate, mildly racial, and overt sexual content).

But, you know what?  Call me crazy, but I really like this team right now!

What’s wrong with me?  Have I been slipped some narcotic that’s giving me such a rosy outlook in times of … well, “despair” is too strong a word, so I’ll just say “inconsistency”.

Anyway, you can’t argue with the Scoreboard.  And right now, the “Scoreboard” is saying that we’re only 3.5 games out of first place, and here we are on the 20th of May.  That’s something!  Do you know where we were as of May 20, 2010?  We were 15-26 (as opposed to today’s record of 19-24), and still in last place in the division, except that meant we were 8.5 games behind Texas.

After our initial swoon where we started out 4-11, we’re 15-13 (thanks in large part to two rainouts in Cleveland last weekend).  Nevertheless, over the last month’s worth of games, we’re a team that’s over .500.  Heckuva deal.

So, the team as a whole is playing better; obviously, that’s always going to be a source of optimism.  But, what about the individual players?

Well, first and foremost, the dark cloud of angst and failure that was Milton Bradley is officially gone.  Not having to watch him struggle mightily 8 out of every 10 at bats is pretty satisfying.  Likewise, not having to watch him have some small modicum of success (or, even a large, game-winning amount of success) followed by seeing the sourpuss to end all sourpusses on his face is quite the relief.  There’s nothing more aggravating than watching an athlete get paid millions of dollars to play a game NOT enjoying himself when he does something good.  For Christ’s sake, crack a smile when you hit an RBI double, you miserable fuck!

Anyway, THAT’S gone.  And, in his place, we have two young kids doing fairly well.  Mike Wilson and Carlos Peguero are mixing it up, batting in runs, looking nothing less than overjoyed to be on a Major League ballclub.  Refreshing!  So very refreshing.

We got Guti back as of Wednesday, and he’s one of my favorite players on the team!  So, that’s two bits of goodness for the price of one, because I was getting sick and tired of watching Michael Saunders suck dick at the plate night in and night out.  Yes, Saunders was a wonderful centerfield defender while he got the chance, but if I had to watch him fall behind in the count thanks to him taking strikes right down the middle ONE MORE TIME …

Whoa, easy tiger.  This is supposed to be a Positivity Post.

Speaking of our middle of the order (OK, so I wasn’t speaking of them per se, but a guy’s gotta transition anyway he can), while Miguel Olivo has been pretty much the waste of fucking life we’ve all expected, at least Eric Wedge isn’t INSISTING that he stick as our Number 4 hitter just because.  And, even though Cust has yet to homer, as I mentioned earlier this week, his hitting has come alive.  If I can’t have a homer-slugging DH, I guess I’ll take a doubles-slugging DH.  It’s better than what we were getting in the month of April.

And, to wrap things up, Smoak has been better than expected, Ichiro has been as expected, and Figgins has been worse than expected, but not a total waste.  No, he’s not worth the $9 million he’s making this year (and probably never will be worth it for the duration of his contract), but he’s raised his batting average about 80 points in the last month.  It’s not incredible (considering how poorly he started), but it’s something at least.

When you account for all the hitting I’ve outlined above, yes, it’s insane to think about contention.  But, then again, what is “contending”?  Is it a reasonable, rational run at a division title?  Or, is it just hanging around, 3-5 games back for most of the year?  When you look at it like that, it’s not BATSHIT crazy.

Our starting pitching is among the best in the American League.  From 1 to 5, we’re solid every step of the way.  Our bullpen has settled into a nice little rotation of Pauley, Laffey, and Wright (who all have amazing ERAs).  And, aside from the nuclear holocaust that was last week (which, mind you, happened to him a couple times last year), Brandon League has been pretty kickass.  Rare is the closer who’s perfect for a whole season.  Rare is the reliever period who’s rock solid for six straight months.  I would look for League to come back strong for a solid run through the summer.

With those arms, if they’re able to keep it up, I argue that we’re closer than we think.

I’m not saying we should sell the farm to trade for some hired guns for a pennant run (too many holes to fill along our offense; besides, we’re not at a point where we can take on a bunch of contracts), but I do think if some of our younger guys continue to develop (Smoak, Guti, Ackley, Wilson, Peguero) and gain some quality big league experience – all the while playing for a team that’s hovering right around .500 and right around the AL West leader – maybe we’re not that far off.  Maybe, instead of 2013 or 2014, we can seriously contend in 2012!

Of course, 2011 is out of the question.  One of these teams – likely Texas – will figure it out.  One of them – again, likely Texas – will make a blockbuster trade at the deadline for a big piece that helps them make a huge run in the last two months.  A baseball season is too long for a team like the Mariners to hang around forever.

Still, a girl CAN dream, can’t she?

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