Well, We’re Here: The 2014 Mariners May Begin

I suppose now is as good a time as any.  Get some predictions out in the ether, give an overview of the team as it stands now and the team as it may prove to stand at season’s end.  But, look, you know the score.  I don’t need to sit here and tell you what to think about the Seattle Mariners.  It’s pretty obvious.

Felix is great.  Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton are young and have promise.  Taijuan Walker is on the 15-day DL, is younger, and has even more promise.  Hisashi Iwakuma is on the 15-day DL, is going to miss maybe twice that number of days, and is better than everyone but Felix.  This rotation could be pretty rock solid, or it could turn into total crap.  There’s been more growing pains with the youngsters in this organization than actual episodes of Growing Pains!

The bullpen just looks terrible.  Outside of Danny Farquhar and maybe Yoervis Medina, I’m expecting a whole lot of crap out of this unit.  On the plus side, we appear to have guys waiting in the wings.

Prediction #1 – Tom Wilhelmsen won’t make it into the month of May.  I don’t know if he has options, but I assume he does.  Either way, I think he’s finished as a Major Leaguer.  Which makes him the third of three consecutive closers we’ve used (to go along with Brandon League and David Aardsma) who we should have absolutely traded at the peaks of their abilities.

There are a couple guys in Tacoma who are ready to play in the big leagues right now.  And Stephen Pryor isn’t far away from a return as well, as he also starts the season on the 15-day DL.  I expect A LOT of turnover out of this bullpen, because I just don’t trust most of the guys we have (the less said about Hector Noesi the better; the fuckin’ guy “earns” a 25-man roster spot even though he has no business even earning a paycheck in the game of baseball, just because he’s out of options, the fucking prick).  Fernando Rodney strikes me as the type of guy who is going to come in here and be a complete disaster.

Prediction #2 – Fernando Rodney will lose his job as this team’s closer at least once this season.  I think Farquhar is going to kick off this season like a man possessed and ultimately save us a lot of games (not literally, of course, but the term “save” is mis-used in the game of baseball anyway) by coming in during high-leverage 7th & 8th inning situations and generating lots of strikeouts with inherited runners on base.  I also think that Rodney is going to start off very up & down, then he’s going to go through a huge slump where he can’t find the strike zone, necessitating a “temporary demotion”.  The only way he gets his closer’s job back is if Farquhar has to go on the DL or something.  Let’s call Fernando Rodney:  Jose Mesa 2.0.

Unfortunately, as seems to always be the case, the hitting doesn’t inspire any more confidence than the pitching.  If you’re a Glass Half Full type of guy, then you like our chances with players like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Brad Miller.  You probably feel like it’s only a matter of time for Corey Hart to regain his feel for the plate and start mashing again.  You’re probably encouraged by Dustin Ackley’s newfound stroke at the plate and are confident enough in his left field defense.  You likely think we have something pretty great in Mike Zunino (and feel he will take a big step forward this year).  And, you might even buy Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders being competent role players (as opposed to being guys who are supposed to carry the load, which we thought they should have been early in their careers).

If you’re that Glass Half Full guy, you’re probably feeling pretty confident, and obnoxiously so.  At the first sign of success out of this team, you’ll be there with your “I Told You So’s,” and your “I Believed In Justin Smoak All Along; Where Were You’s?”.  If you’re the Glass Half Empty guy, then you probably like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and no one else.

Brad Miller is supposed to break out this year, but when has that ever gone our way?  Mike Zunino is supposed to cement his position as the Catcher of the Future, but when has THAT ever gone our way?

Prediction #3 – Mike Zunino is going to struggle with injury again and we’re going to get MUCH more of John Buck than we would like.

Dustin Ackley had a good second half to last season and has carried that over into Spring Training, but we’ve seen that out of him and Justin Smoak every fucking year, and when has that ever panned out into a successful full season in the Majors?  Michael Saunders?  Please.  Corey Hart?  Yeah, that’s a bust waiting to happen.  Logan Morrison?  I don’t know him, but I’m sure he’s a jerk.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m much closer to the Glass Half Empty guy than the Glass Half Full guy.  If you twisted my arm, I’d probably tell you I’m a little excited to see what Brad Miller becomes.  But, I just find it difficult to see this lineup being all that effective.

I do think Abe Almonte will be better at the plate than his Spring Training numbers indicated.  I also really look forward to Stefen Romero and hope he earns some additional playing time in right field.

Overall, what do I expect out of this team?  Shit man, I dunno.  Last year we were hovering right around 10-under .500 for most of the year until September when we completely fell apart and ended the season 71-91.  This year, if everything that can go wrong DOES go wrong, I would expect that very same record.  On the plus side, if everything that can go right DOES go right, I would expect something along the lines of a 91-71 record.

Now, a lot of things would have to go right.  Felix would have to be his usual Cy Young self.  Iwakuma will have to make it back by month’s end and return to his last year’s form.  Paxton, Walker, and Ramirez will all have to be great right out of the gate.  Fernando Rodney won’t necessarily need to be what he was two years ago, but he’ll have to be somewhere between that level and the level he was last year (or, in other words, he’ll have to be BETTER than he was last year), while the rest of the bullpen (once Noesi is shit-canned and Wilhelmsen makes Tacoma his permanent home) starts to gel as the season wears on.  And, of course, all the young-ish guys – Miller, Zunino, Ackley, Smoak, Saunders, Almonte – as well as one of either Hart or Morrison at DH, will have to be better than we could reasonably imagine.

It sounds like a lot, because it IS a lot.  It’s too much to ask of a roster.  Can you ask all 25 guys on a baseball team to just, “Hey, BE BETTER!”?  I doubt it.  That’s why we’ve got:

Prediction #4 – The Mariners will finish 76-86.  Instead of taking a steep nosedive in the final month of the season, the Mariners will kind of hold their own.  Which, in turn, will knock them out of the protected Top 10 draft pick, and will be a minor annoyance to all.  This leads me to:

Prediction #5 – Jackie Z will be kept on as the General Manager of this team, because … he’s earned it?  Yeah, let’s go with that.  Rather, I like to think of it as punishment for a job poorly done.  In my twisted little mind, I like to imagine Jackie Z really hates his job.  He hates getting up in the morning, coming into the office, reading all the hate out there.  He hates being terrible at his job, but the team JUST WON’T FIRE HIM, so what’s he going to do?  He’s heard about all of these guys who left the organization and went on to bigger and better things, and he wants that, he really does!  But, it doesn’t happen unless the Mariners let him go.  He can’t quit, because that would make him a quitter and would ruin his chances elsewhere.  But, if he’s fired, then he can say, “What could I do?  They were too far gone when I got there!  AND, they didn’t give me enough time to turn it around.”  So, every day he trudges in to work, hoping for the pink slip that never comes.

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