It absolutely sucks being a Mariners fan. This team has either been terrible or mediocre every year since the 2003 season came to a 93-win playoffs-less end. I haven’t had much opportunity to write about the M’s this offseason, because they haven’t done much this offseason; it’s very un-Jerry Dipoto-like, someone should check and see if he’s still alive, or if all these podcasts he’s doing are like a Wolfman Jack situation. The last time I wrote about the Mariners, I wasn’t very happy. That should be nothing new, of course, but specifically I wasn’t very happy because the starting rotation this year looks like complete and utter shit. And, that’s the thing about the Mariners: timing isn’t their strong suit.
How many years did we slog through a lineup that couldn’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag? How many elite Felix years did we squander? Remember when we had both Felix and Cliff Lee in their primes, together, on the very same team? Want to feel old? That was 46 years ago.
Anyway, this year, it’s the flipside: the pitching stinks, but the hitting is kinda, sorta okay. Or it isn’t, I dunno.
I’m going to try to look on the bright side here, and give you some reasons to live. MIND YOU, don’t try to twist this into some ill-conceived belief that I think this team has something to play for. In this division, as this team is constructed, the playoffs are not in our immediate future, so go ahead and cast those thoughts right out of your head.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you some reasons to maybe check in on the Mariners once in a while 2018:
Mike Zunino is coming off of his very best season as a professional baseball player, which is VERY exciting to me. I know it could very well be an aberration, and he could turn right back into a pumpkin this year, but I like to believe he’s really turned a corner in his career, and will be a reliable player for us for many years to come. Probably not a superstar, but if he can keep it up and get hot at the right times, I could see him making an All Star Game or two.
As long as they’re healthy, guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager are always worth watching. Sometimes they run into horrendous cold streaks, but when they get going, they’re pretty fun.
I’ll be curious to see how Jean Segura looks, fresh off of his mid-season contract extension last year. He finished the season pretty cold from a power perspective, but he still hit .300 and played some solid defense.
Of course, the biggest story as we head into Spring Training (and on into the regular season) is how Dee Gordon is going to look as this team’s starting centerfielder, making the conversion from middle infielder. I’ll be as interested in his hitting ability as I am in his defensive ability, since so many times you see a drastic reduction in offense when a player makes a Major League position switch.
I’ll be curious to see if Mitch Haniger blossoms this year, after an injury-plagued 2017. He has all the tools to be a great one, now he’s gotta stay healthy and put it all together.
I was surprised to see Ben Gamel featured pretty prominently in the 2018 promotional give-aways, as those were announced very early on in the off-season. That was a big indicator that he was going to remain on the Mariners, and not traded for pitching help like a lot of us thought. I’m torn, because this team absolutely NEEDS pitching help, but I don’t think Gamel alone gets us the quality starter we need, in which case I’m glad he’s staying. He made a huge leap in 2017, and I’ll be curious to see if he can continue that upward trajectory.
Guillermo Heredia figures to platoon with Gamel in one of the corner outfield spots (or give Dee Gordon an occasional day off), and he too made a nice jump in his production in 2017. He’s always fun to watch, and seemingly does something amazing almost every time he’s out there, either in the field, at the plate, or on the basepaths.
While the pitching as a whole is pretty suspect, the bullpen has the potential to be pretty awesome. It’s going to have to be, if this team wants to be a winner. It’ll require no less than being one of the three best bullpens in all of baseball for this team to simply contend for a Wild Card spot, so there’s your glimmer of hope if you were looking for one.
- Can Edwin Diaz continue to stay healthy and dominate?
- After a shaky September, will the Good Nick Vincent return?
- Will David Phelps be healthy and return to form?
- Will newcomer Juan Nicasio be our 8th inning lockdown reliever?
- Will lefties Pazos & Scrabble continue to be reliable?
- Will we get anything out of Tony Zych or Dan Altavilla?
Finally, I’ll be interested in how this team is managed. There’s talk of a 6-man rotation. There’s talk of an extended bullpen. There’s talk of really limiting the number of innings per start – even more than we’ve already done, out of necessity, thus far in Servais’ Mariners career, because our starting pitching has been so mediocre – and having the bullpen do all the heavy lifting. What will that translate to? Seems to me, at the very least, we’re in for more of the same when it comes to shuttling guys to and from Tacoma on the daily. But, going into the season, with the bullpen knowing it’s going to carry more of the load, how will they respond?
I think the game of baseball is really on the brink of a revolution. Starters are pitching fewer innings than ever before, and that number might continue to fall. How will that affect roster construction? Will the game adapt and finally increase roster size? Will there be 6-man rotations? Or, perhaps 3- or 4-man rotations (pitching 3-4 innings per start), with extra long relievers in the bullpen? The way guys are getting injured every year, this might be the way to limit those arm injuries and keep guys fresher throughout the season. Essentially, treat the pitching staff like you do in the World Series, all year long.
Everything is on the table. I don’t expect it to be to that extreme, of course, but it’ll be interesting to look at the trends the Mariners start to implement. If they can somehow “hide” their rotation by limiting its importance on the game, maybe they can get something going. Or, maybe they’ll tire out their bullpen and flame out after a couple months.
The 2018 Seattle Mariners: come for the toasted grasshoppers, stay for the trainwreck!