Tempering Expectations For This Mariners Rebuild

What interests me most about the game of baseball is the long game. In football, you’ve got rosters twice the size of a baseball team, yet we see it every year: teams going from worst to first. You can turn around a football team in one offseason! But, in baseball, it takes seemingly forever (and, for an organization like the Mariners, LITERALLY forever).

I did a big, long post about the first successful Mariners rebuild. I originally wrote that in 2013, when we all were hopeful that we were in the middle of the next successful Mariners rebuild. There were so many moves made between the nadir of this franchise (2008) and the next time you could legitimately say the Mariners were in contention for the post-season (2014, when we finished 87-75, just 1 game back of a Wild Card spot) that it truly boggles the mind.

That rebuild was ultimately a failure. It produced three winning seasons between 2014 and 2018, and zero playoff appearances. Following last year’s collapse, Jerry Dipoto made a bunch of moves to jettison veterans and infuse the farm system with prospects. Our veteran holdovers include names like Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Roenis Elias, Dan Altavilla, and Dan Vogelbach; most (if not all) of those players will not be on this team the next time it reaches the post-season.

So, we’re stuck rooting for prospects. Rooting for potential. Rooting for the young guys to step up and prove themselves not just worthy of Major League roster spots, but ultimately good enough to get this team back to the playoffs one day (ideally one day very soon). Jerry Dipoto is staking his reputation and his job on these players. If it all falls apart like it did last time, he, Scott Servais, and a bunch of other very smart baseball men will be looking for employment elsewhere.

As I noted, we’ve been through this before. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

See, it can be fun and exciting knowing your team is out of it before the season even begins. First, there’s no expectations, so any on-field success you see is all gravy. Then, of course, there’s the factor of the unknown. New, young players you’ve never seen before are ALWAYS more interesting than old veterans who’ve been around for years. We pretty much know what guys like Seager, Healy, Felix, and Leake are; there’s nothing to learn about those guys. So, we pin all our hopes and dreams on the prospects. We want to see them in a Major League uniform right this minute, to pump them full of experience with the hopes that they’ll pan out immediately. This can lead to guys getting called up too early (a la Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Matt Tuiasosopo, etc.) or guys just being huge disappointments.

Let’s start with the 2008 season, the aforementioned nadir. That team lost 101 games and we were all miserable. Successful players like Felix, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez, and even Yuniesky Betancourt were no match for the suck-asses that were Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Jeremy Reed, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, and so on. General Manager Bill Bavasi was fired, and The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild was on!

2009 proved to be a welcome surprise. Franklin Gutierrez was brought over in a trade, as was Jason Vargas (Doug Fister was one of the rare Bavasi draft picks that stuck in the org and actually panned out). Ichiro was still Ichiro! Russell Branyan and David Aardsma were quality pick-ups. Even the return of Ken Griffey Jr. for a victory lap proved valuable. That 85-win season led everyone (but the stat geeks, who knew those wins were on a shaky foundation) to believe we were way ahead of the curve on this rebuild. So much so that Jackie Z decided to make a big push to go for it in 2010.

We traded for Cliff Lee! We got rid of Carlos Silva and brought back a useful piece in Milton Bradley! Our young core of starters (Felix, Vargas, and Fister) were bolstered with key bullpen additions like Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and Sean White. So, what happened? The team fell apart (ultimately losing another 101 games; in hindsight, a second go-around with Old Griffey proved disasterous) and shipped off anyone of value for prospects. Lee was flipped for Justin Smoak (among others). Our high draft pick was used on a pitcher who got hurt so many times he never made the Bigs. And The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild 2.0 was on.

2011 was a key year for the rebuild, as the team REALLY went for it this time. Taking a stroll through that roster is long and arduous. Ichiro, Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, and Adam Kennedy were the veteran everyday players; Felix, Vargas, Bedard, and Fister were still holding down the rotation (though Fister would be swapped for a bunch of nobodies at the deadline; yet another example of a trade that totally backfired for the Mariners); and League, Wright, and David Pauley (among others) were the steady influences in the bullpen. But, the young guys were the stars of the show. 2008 first rounder Dustin Ackley was called up midseason, as was Kyle Seager. Justin Smoak was handed the first base job. Guti started his slow descent into an injured adulthood. Then, there were guys like Michael Saunders, Greg Halman, Alex Liddi, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Gimenez, Carlos Peguero, Adam Moore, Mike Wilson and more. On the pitching side of things, Michael Pineda was an All Star, but then there were guys like Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush (remember when he was a starting pitcher?), a younger Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Chance Ruffin, and Shawn Kelley.

Those were all the players we hung our hats on. How many of them actually panned out? You can count them on one hand. How many of them panned out for the Seattle Mariners? That number is even smaller.

2012 saw the influx of guys like Jesus Montero (swapped for Michael Pineda), Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and John Jaso. They were paired with the holdovers like Smoak, Seager, Ackley, Felix, Vargas, Ichiro (starting his decline) and Figgins (at the end of his miserable Mariners career).

Then, there’s 2013, with prospects like Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino (a year after being drafted), Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. Veterans like Kendrys Morales, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Jeremy Bonderman, and Hisashi Iwakuma saw extensive playing time, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The old guys didn’t do enough (and most were gone in short order), and the young guys (predictably) never panned out for this team.

So, please, keep all these duds in mind as we go forward. You’re going to hear A LOT of new names you’re not familiar with in 2019 and 2020. The team is going to tout these players as The Future; don’t believe ’em. The vast majority of these players will be more in a long line of losers that help to keep the Seattle Mariners out of the post-season.

Some guys will be promising, only to fall flat on their asses the following year when expectations are raised and other teams learn how to handle them. Some guys will be promising only to suffer devastating injuries that hinders their development. Some of those injured guys will be brought back too soon, only to struggle and lose their confidence. Some guys will just flat-out stink from the get-go. One, maybe two guys, will be okay. But, they won’t be enough. They’ll just embolden this organization to spend a bunch of money when the time “feels right”. At that point, some flashy veterans will be brought in to supplement our future “rising stars” and we’ll go through the process of “contending (for a wild card spot)” all over again.

The Mariners are never going to be the Astros or Cubs or Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers. They’re closer to the Athletics and Rays than anything else, just a Major League farm club for better-run organizations. The tremendous amount of luck required to turn us into one of those truly good teams isn’t ingrained in the city of Seattle and its sports teams. The best we can hope for is competent mediocrity.

The best we’re going to get is just outside, looking in.

The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part II: Hitting & Defense

Catch Part I HERE.

To be honest, it’s been two days of this and I’m already bored and frustrated by rehashing the 2013 Mariners season.  I’d quit right here, but then what kind of Seattle sports blogger would I be?  A half-assed one, that’s what!  Well, I’ll have you know that I’m determined to use my whole ass starting right now!  So, get used to it!

The best and only hitters you could reasonably qualify as “good” on this team in 2013 were Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager.  Morales, as we’re all well aware, was received in trade for Jason Vargas.  Not to get too deep into this, I’ll just say that the Mariners traded a strength to fill a weakness and essentially came out even in the deal.  I don’t necessarily know what Vargas did in Anaheim and I don’t care, because what he did there has no bearing on what he would have done in a Mariners uniform.

I like Morales.  I don’t love him.  I don’t think he’s worth $14 million a season and I don’t think he’s worth having around for more than two years (three tops, but that’s really pushing it).  Apparently, the Mariners have either extended a qualifying offer to him (for the aforementioned $14 million) or are going to extend him a qualifying offer, but either way it doesn’t sound like he’s going to accept it.  Either that means the Mariners reach some sort of multi-year deal with him, or they let him go to another team and receive some sort of first round draft compensation.

So, what does the 2013 Kendrys Morales season mean to me?  Well, if he ends up going to another team, it’ll mean absolutely nothing.  We kind of figured he’d be a one-year-and-done player anyway when we traded for him; and besides, who really wants to stay with the Mariners for longer than they have to?  Besides Felix (God bless you, sweet Felix).  And, if Morales stays around for another three years?  Then, his 2013 season showed us that he’s still got it.  What is “it”?  Well, on the one hand, you can look at him and say he’s an over-priced quasi-slugger who has no business playing in the field, and offers nothing in the base-running game, so his value is limited.  Or, on the other hand, you can look at him and say he’s easily the best designated hitter we’ve had since Edgar Martinez.

Are you a Glass Half Empty guy or a Glass Half Full?  Yeah, he’s going to cost us a lot of money if he stays.  But, he beats the fucking shit out of the Carl Everetts and Jose Vidros of the fucking world.  So, calm the fuck down.  It’s not your money.  Besides, it’s about time the Mariners start shelling out some dough so I don’t have to watch a colossal bunch of fuck-ups year-in and year-out.

Kyle Seager, on the other hand, is our little third base pride and joy.  He’s steady as the day is long.  30+ doubles, 20+ homers, solid defense.  He’s a true middle-of-the-order (anywhere from 2-5 in the lineup) hitter and best of all:  he’s actually someone we drafted and cultivated from our very own farm system!  I’m starting to doubt that he’ll ever be that perennial All Star, but I’ll tell you what:  I’d give anything to have eight more hitters just like him at all the other positions.  And, you gotta figure that sooner or later he’s going to really pop and have a year where he bats .330 with maybe 40 doubles and 30 homers.  Wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.

Of course, it also wouldn’t shock me if he just fell off the face of the Earth, because that’s what everyone else does in this organization.

Dustin Ackley had something of a bounce-back year, at least at the plate.  I’m not ready to start sucking his dick and writing him in as an everyday player for this team going forward, but let’s just say I’m cautiously encouraged.  He absolutely stunk through the first two months of the season, somehow batting even worse than he did in 2012 (which I didn’t think was physically possible for him).  The Mariners finally had to send him back down to Tacoma because, Jesus Christ, he was batting .205 again!  In Tacoma, he proceeded to fuck everyone’s shit up and found himself back in the Majors by the end of June.  Of course, at this point, Nick Franklin had usurped his job at second base, so the organization converted him back to a center fielder.

His defense wasn’t the worst I’d ever seen, but he was clearly the team’s third best center fielder (behind Guti & Michael Saunders), and maybe even the fourth best (behind Endy Chavez).  Whereas his second base defense was quite solid, his center field defense was doing his WAR no favors.  And, when he returned to the Mariners, his batting average cratered to a season-low .194.  He more-or-less struggled through July and everyone thought he was done.  Too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  Just another Jeremy Reed.  Then, something happened.  He caught fire in August with this line:  .390/.420/.597/1.017, raising his season average to .258 in the process.  He coasted on that hot August through September to finish the season with a .253 average.  Rubes have hope for the future of Dustin Ackley.  The rest of us jaded fucks have our doubts.

Justin Smoak was similarly interesting, in that he started shitty, missed some time, came back, and peaked somewhere in July.  He tailed off at the end of the year leaving us all to believe this is just who he is.  A .240-ish hitter with minimal pop and okay defense at first base.

Michael Saunders was more distressing than anything.  Everyone thought he had turned a corner in 2012 after fiddling with his batting stance in the off-season.  For him to take a step back the way he did in 2013, you can’t help but think he’s a fourth outfielder at best.  Essentially, 2014 will be his last shot, but who knows if he’ll even HAVE a last shot?  The team seems pretty set on going full-boar in finding some new outfielders to replace the gaping holes we’ve had for the better part of a half decade.

Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino were three call-ups in 2013 who were all probably rushed into starting Major League jobs before they were ready.  Miller acquitted himself well, though his propensity for defensive blunders are a little nerve-wracking.  Franklin started off a house afire, but he really struggled the longer he remained in the starting lineup.  I know when Ackley was on his torrid streak, people were calling to move him back to his old second base job, but at that point you can’t start jerking people around (especially when there was nothing to play for this season except for experience, which Franklin got in spades).  Zunino gets an incomplete because he broke his hamate bone and missed a bunch of time.  His leadership and defensive abilities are a welcome addition.  But, he’s still pretty raw at the plate.

In a nutshell, this season was defined by the veterans and how they failed us.  I already went over the veteran starting pitchers who totally stunk up the joint.  Well, they were joined by guys like Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan, Endy Chavez, Kelly Shoppach, Henry Blanco, Robert Andino, and of course, the oft-injured Guti. All brought in (or retained) with the intent to add “leadership” to our young core.

Ibanez tied the record for most home runs by a senior citizen with 29.  That was good for a lark, especially when he managed to bash 24 of them before the All Star Break.  Hell, we all thought he was going to SHATTER the record.  But, of course, what happens when you let a 41 year old play every fucking day?  His production goes down the shitter.  5 more homers the rest of the way.  And, if you think I’m talking about Ibanez’s home runs too much, that’s because his homers were literally the ONLY thing he was bringing to the table.  We couldn’t play him at DH where he belonged, because that’s where Kendrys Morales belonged (and, truth be told, it’s also where Mike Morse and Jason Bay belonged, but they can’t ALL be designated hitters).  So, we got to enjoy Raul’s baffling defense in left field on a near-everyday basis.  Lucky us.

It was no better with Morse in right, but at least he was injured for most of the season.  His first couple of weeks were pretty intense; it looked like he might mash 50 homers.  Since this is Morse we’re talking about, you had to figure his body would break down.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re no longer free to take steroids as much as you’d like.

I refuse to acknowledge the presence of any of the other veteran hitters on this team because each one is worse than the last.  I’ve already blown through way too many words on this group of hitters as it is, so I’ll cut this short and save some stuff for tomorrow when I look at what the Mariners should do this off-season.  If you catch me writing anything other than “Blow the whole fucking thing up,” then I encourage you to write your congressman and have me put in prison.

The Major Moves Of Jack Zduriencik

On October 22, 2008, Jack Zduriencik was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their General Manager.  Here are the major player personnel moves the Mariners have made in that time.

For the 2009 Season:

12/3/2008 – Signed Russell Branyan to 1-year contract
12/10/2008 – Traded J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and others for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp and others.
1/20/2009 – Traded for David Aardsma
1/29/2009 – Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
2/18/2009 – Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
7/29/2009 – Traded for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell

For the 2010 Season:

11/11/2009 – Re-Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
12/8/2009 – Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year contract
12/16/2009 – Traded for Cliff Lee
12/18/2009 – Traded Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley
12/23/2009 – Traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League
1/7/2010 – Traded for Casey Kotchman
1/21/2010 – Re-Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year extension
1/29/2010 – Signed Eric Byrnes to 1-year contract
2/6/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
2/12/2010 – Re-Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
6/27/2010 – Traded for Russell Branyan
7/9/2010 – Traded Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan & others

For the 2011 Season:

12/2/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
12/10/2010 – Signed Jack Cust to 1-year contract
12/12/2010 – Traded for Brendan Ryan
1/3/2011 – Signed Miguel Olivo to 2-year contract
1/10/2011 – Signed Adam Kennedy to 1-year contract
7/30/2011 – Traded Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, & others
7/31/2011 – Traded Erik Bedard & others for Trayvon Robinson & others

For the 2012 Season:

11/27/2011 – Traded Josh Lueke for John Jaso
12/8/2011 – Claimed Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 Draft
12/21/2011 – Signed Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year contract
12/30/2011 – Signed George Sherrill to 1-year contract
1/5/2012 – Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year contract
1/18/2012 – Signed Oliver Perez to 1-year contract
1/23/2012 – Traded Michael Pineda & Jose Campos for Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi
1/24/2012 – Signed Kevin Millwood to 1-year contract
7/31/2012 – Traded Steve Delabar for Eric Thames.  Traded Brandon League for others

For the 2013 Season:

11/2/2012 – Re-Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 2-3-year contract
11/3/2012 – Re-Signed Oliver Perez to a 1-year contract

These by no means comprise ALL of the moves, but if I tried to list ALL the moves I’d be here all fucking month.  These are the guys who, more or less, made some kind of an impact on the major league ballclub.  I left out anything related to the draft, because it’s not draft season and that’s not really the point of this post.

What has Jackie Z done to improve the Major League ballclub?

You can see on the timeline where it all went awry.  Just about all of his major moves before the 2009 season were solid gold!  And, of course, what happened in 2009?  The Mariners ended up with 85 wins and somehow found themselves contending to the last month (or so).  It was only natural to think, given a few tweaks here and there, the 2010 season could be pure magic.

So, what did Jackie Z do?  He brought out the whuppin’ stick.  Within a 10-day period, we had our first MAJOR major signing of the Jack Zduriencik era:  Chone Figgins, 4 years.  No one at the time thought that was a stupid idea.  Piggybacking on that, in the aforementioned 10-day period, we brought in Cliff Lee to have one of the better 1-2 punches of all baseball starting rotations; and THEN we traded the dead weight of Carlos Silva for a possible reclamation project in Milton Bradley!  Hell, a bag of turds would’ve been better than Carlos Silva, so either way, there’s no losing THAT deal, right?  To top off his offseson, Jackie Z traded for League (to bolster the back-end of our bullpen), Kotchman (to give us some defense and decent pop at first base), and re-signed Felix to a 5-year extension.

I mean, my GOD, if Jackie Z wanted me to suck his dick after that string of moves, I gladly would’ve closed my eyes and opened my mouth.  THIS is exactly what we’ve been missing out of our baseball GM all these years!  He was doing it, he was really doing it!  There could be no downside to these moves!

Except, Figgins turned to crap.  Kotchman continued being crap.  Bradley continued being crap.  Griffey fell off the map.  Cliff Lee was hurt for the first month of the season.  League was nothing special (and Morrow still might be for someone else).  Byrnes was a fucking disgrace to the game of baseball.  We eventually had to bring back Branyan in a mid-season trade (and even THAT couldn’t prevent our offense from being the worst in the modern era).  And, since we weren’t contending, there was no point in holding onto Cliff Lee; we traded him for what looks like utter shit and disappointment.

Every move for that 2010 season (save re-signing Felix) COMPLETELY backfired.  And yet, at the time, every move was completely defensible!  The only thing you could possibly argue is:  the Mariners didn’t go far ENOUGH.  Of course, that’s the story of this franchise (see:  1996-2003).

After that, the organization put a total and complete halt on trying to contend whatsoever.  Going into 2011, the Mariners signed two veterans at the minimum (Cust & Kennedy), traded for a defense-only shortstop (Ryan), and their only major signing was Olivo on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd (that has since been denied, because Olivo).  That was it!  Four guys!  One of which was released before season’s end!

2012 was no picnic either.  Three more veterans at the minimum (Millwood, Sherrill, Perez), a backup shortstop (Kawasaki) who was somehow worse at the plate than Ryan, a Japanese pitcher coming off a major shoulder injury (Iwakuma), a Rule 5 reliever (Luetge), a backup catcher who somehow turned into the cream of the crop (Jaso), and another backup catcher in trade (Montero) who will hopefully be a future designated hitter for years to come.

It’s been two straight years of sifting through a muddy river of shit hoping to find a few tiny flecks of gold.

Now, with enough money off the books, and with the fanbase completely up in arms over all the losing, the Mariners are ready to spend money and hopefully try to compete once again.

Which got me to thinking.  Well, this blog post by Geoff Baker got me to thinking.  The money quote:

Towards the end of the call, I asked Zduriencik about the Chone Figgins experience and whether it caused any hesitation for him going forward when it comes to this winter’s crop of free agents — especially when it comes to inking longer-term deals of more than three years. I wasn’t doing it to rub his face in the Figgins mess — which no one really could have seen imploding as badly as it did — but rather to gauge whether this current administration is prepared to go longer than three years on any deal this winter.

The two biggest free agent acquisitions of the Jack Zduriencik era (not counting Felix, since he was already under contract) before this offseason’s Iwakuma deal have been Chone Figgins (4 years, $36 million) and Miguel Olivo (2 years, $7 million).  That’s IT!  The rest of his moves have either been in trade or of the bottom-feeding veteran minimum variety.

Obviously, this has been by design.  The organization wanted to rid itself of burdensome contracts.  The organization wanted to let some of the young kids play, to see if a “youth movement” could jumpstart things.  But, also, the organization was patently unwilling to increase payroll for the types of free agents that were becoming available the last two offseasons.  Let’s call a spade a spade here; the Seattle Mariners were pushing the Reset Button on this whole thing and starting over from scratch.  I don’t mean that literally, of course; it’s not like they could just waive everyone they didn’t like and bring up all new guys.  But, essentially, the Reset Button is what they did.

Up until now, I would say that the Figgins contract had little to do with the Mariners’ overall plan (except, obviously, they needed to fill their third base position with a rookie).  I don’t think being gunshy about Figgins’ 4-year deal prevented the Mariners from signing other guys to long-term contracts.  I think it was all the reasons I stated above.  That having been said, though, if the Mariners don’t sign someone to a long-term contract THIS off-season … then I’d have to say the Figgins deal is weighing on them.

It would only be natural, after all.  I mean, who WOULDN’T be gunshy?!  From the day Jackie Z took this job, give me the names of the free agents who have worked out beyond even a decent first season?  Yeah, the answer you’re looking for is ZERO.  Hisashi Iwakuma would be the first, if he comes back in 2013 and does well (which is no guarantee, let me tell you).

So, yeah, they SHOULD be apprehensive!  They SHOULD do as much due diligence as humanly possible on this offseason’s free agent crop.  Because it’s fucking NASTY out there!  You’ve got lemons and land mines all OVER the place!

Mariners Call Up Dustin Ackley

FINALLY!

It’s always exciting when new players are promoted from the minor leagues, especially when you’re a Not Very Good Team.  While the Mariners are currently 1 game over .500 and 1 game behind first place Texas, they’re still a Not Very Good Team.  They’re GOOD, but not Very Good.  Good teams don’t make the playoffs.

It’s even more exciting when new players are promoted from the minor leagues and start to show signs of real Major League success.  ESPECIALLY after a long string of failures (of which I’ll list but a few):

  • Michael Saunders
  • Matt Tuiasosopo
  • Wladimir Balentien
  • Jeff Clement
  • Bryan LaHair
  • Mike Morse
  • Jeremy Reed
  • Justin Leone
  • Bucky Jacobsen

This year, I would argue, we’ve promoted guys who are ALL better than the chumps I’ve just listed.  Guys like Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, Michael Pineda, and I would even include Justin Smoak in that list, since he played primarily in Tacoma last season after we traded for him. 

The jury is still out on Peguero, but I think it’s very telling that he’s played in 30 games already and doesn’t look TOTALLY overwhelmed.  Granted, his batting average is only .223, and he’s averaging a little over a strikeout per game, but he doesn’t inspire the same sense of doom that guys like Balentien and Clement once did.  I honestly believe that on any given pitch, Peguero could hit one out of the park.

As for Halman, you’re looking at an even smaller sample size of 9 games, but the kid is showing an uncanny ability to hit the ball up the middle and the other way.  For a right-handed hitter in Safeco, that’s CRUCIAL to making it.  I hope he gets a chance to continue this run he’s on; I’d rather see Halman patrolling left field than Carp or Peguero.  And if that means Cust continues to ride pine, then so be it.

Mike Carp hasn’t made a tremendous impression since his call-up last week, but he’s limiting mistakes and that’s just as good for now.  I’d be more worried if his batting average were under .100 and he was striking out 2 of every 3 at bats.  But, he’s not doing those things, and the power will come as soon as he’s comfortable.  Or, it won’t, and he’ll be sent down; either way, he deserves at least a small modicum of our attention.

Justin Smoak, obviously, is our first baseman of the future, and he’s shown it this year.  For a guy who’s not quite a rookie anymore, but is still getting his first full season as the established first baseman under his belt, I’ll take .250/.350/.450 every damn time.  The sky is the limit for this kid; I firmly believe it’s only Up from here.

Of course, aside from Pineda, the most anticipated call-up of 2011 has surely been Dustin Ackley.  He hit .303, with a .421 on-base percentage and an OPS of .908 down in Tacoma.  That’s as a second baseman!  I’m not expecting him to do that for the Mariners this year, but I’m also not putting it past him.  Either way, I have to expect those are the kinds of numbers he’s CAPABLE of producing, at some point in the future.  And now, FINALLY, we get to see him in action.  Real action.  Life or death action.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see this lineup:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Ryan – SS
  3. Smoak – 1B
  4. Peguero – DH
  5. Olivo – C
  6. Kennedy – 3B
  7. Gutierrez – CF
  8. Ackley – 2B
  9. Halman – LF

That’s what I want to see, at least once this weekend.  And eventually, if everything I wish for turns to gold – with every single one of these prospects realizing their full potential – I’d like to see THIS lineup:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Ackley – 2B
  3. Halman – LF
  4. Smoak – 1B
  5. Peguero – DH
  6. Olivo – C
  7. Gutierrez – CF
  8. Ryan – SS
  9. Figgins/Kennedy/Other – 3B

Wouldn’t that be somethin’?  Huh?  Ackley lookin’ like a left-handed Derek Jeter.  Halman lookin’ like A-Rod with a personality.  Smoak lookin’ like a switch-hitting Mark McGwire (minus the bacne & ‘roid rage).  Peguero lookin’ like a left-handed Jay Buhner.  Olivo, Ryan, and Figgins/Kennedy down in the order where they belong …

I love days off after a thrilling win.  I love days when hot shot prospects are called up and let us dream about a future filled with World Series banners.  I love living in total and complete denial, if only for a few hours before reality comes crashing down.