Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FOR ANYONE WHO CARES... MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

And that means I'll be living and breathing Seattle Mariners baseball for real here soon, once they get done with Spring Training and get the regular season underway!

For better or worse, and usually worse, I have been a Mariners fan since 1977. It has been 32 long years, with few playoff appearances... but I remain steadfast. Here for your perusal is how I view the M's outlook for 2009.

After five disastrous years with General Manager Bill Bavasi making trades and signing free agent players, the team is heading in a new direction with new GM Jack Zduriencik in place. He comes to the Mariners from the Milwaukee Brewers organization, where he built a reputation as a good judge of young talent. The Mariners are in "rebuilding" mode now, hoping to acquire young players to build a consistently competitive team for the future.

RETURNING PLAYERS include:

- right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who is good for at least 200 base hits per season, good defense and good stolen base totals - rising second baseman Jose Lopez, who is gaining consistency as a hitter - shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, a good talent when he is focused on the game and when he is in shape
- starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, one of the youngest/best SPs in MLB
- starting pitcher Erik Bedard, who pitched well in 15 starts for Seattle after arriving in a mega-trade with Baltimore; he had injury problems in 2008, but if healthy in 2009 he will be a big plus for the M's
- starting pitcher Carlos Silva, signed to a huge contract last winter by the departed Bavasi; Silva pitched horribly last season, but has reported to Spring Training in much better shape and 30 pounds lighter
- young pitcher Brandon Morrow, who will either be a starter or will pitch from the bullpen; he projects better as a starting pitcher
- catcher Kenji Johjima, who had a worthless year at the plate in 2008 and who pitchers may not like to throw to all that much... and he still has a few years to go on his Bavasi-generated contract at about $10 million a year... sigh...
- young outfielder Wladimir Balentien, who struggled mightily at the plate as a rookie last year
- young catcher/designated hitter Jeff Clement, like Balentien potentially a good power hitter who has struggled so far in the majors
- Aussie pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, who showed promise in his audition as a starting pitcher last season
- Jarrod Washburn, an overpaid veteran starting pitcher who has been mediocre in his three years in Seattle after being signed to a huge deal by Bavasi
- Miguel Batista: see Jarrod Washburn
- Adrian Beltre, possibly one of the better third basemen in the game; an above-average hitter, he won the Gold Glove award at 3B in 2008
- Mike Morse, who can hit reasonably well and who plays a number of positions (but none too well); he has had a history of injury problems
- a slug of re-tread types return in the bullpen, although young Mark Lowe might be ready to assume the job of finishing games; if not, Roy Corcoran, Tyler Walker or David Aardsma might step into that job.
- last but not least, former Mariner and fan-favorite Ken Griffey, Jr. was brought back as a free agent; his presence will help put fans in the seats during what could be a grim season. He might be good for 25 homers if his body is able to handle a full season mostly as DH with a bit of outfield.

NEW FACES include:

- young outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, excellent defensively, still needs work on the hitting; acquired in a big trade in which Seattle bullpen ace J.J. Putz was traded to the Mets
- veteran outfielder Endy Chavez, also acquired in the Putz trade, is excellent with the glove but is a mediocre hitter
- Chris Shelton, Mike Sweeney and Russell Branyan are re-tread first base/DH types who are looking for a place to play; all were signed as free agents this winter
- starting pitcher Garrett Olson, acquired from the Cubs, has had problems in the majors but still has potential
- infielder Ronny Cedeno, also acquired from the Cubs, could push Betancourt for the starting shortstop job if he has a good Spring Training
- young first baseman Mike Carp, acquired from the Mets in the Putz trade; will probably start this season in the minor leagues at the AAA (highest) level
- a slug of re-tread relievers were signed, probably to create competition in the bullpen

OVERALL OUTLOOK:

For a 162-game schedule, I wouldn't bet on the Mariners to win more than 75 to 80 games... that only equals a win-loss mark of anywhere from 75-87 to 80-82 for the 2009 season. However, in June the team will have something like four or five of the first 40-or-so picks in the MLB draft of college and high-school players. Then there will be the chance to land more young players in trades at MLB's trading deadline at the end of July when the team will likely trade (or at least try to trade) some of the veterans with big contracts (i.e. Beltre, Washburn, Silva, Batista, and Johjima).

This team will be pretty good defensively, but with uncertainty about how much power-hitting they'll have, it looks like runs will have to be "scratched out", and that many will come from what is known as "small ball"... getting on base with a single or a walk, the next guy moves you to second base on a groundout, you steal third, then you score on a sacrifice fly... that kind of thing.
The starting rotation is potentially very good. Hernandez should be good, and Bedard will be if he stays healthy. Morrow and Rowland-Smith are developing nicely as SPs, and Washburn and/or Silva will be in the rotation unless traded. The bullpen is a huge question mark, but looks to be at least average.

Don't bet on them to win the World Series this season, or next. But along about 2011, look for the Mariners to rise up, on the shoulders of young talent from within the Seattle organization, and contend for the American League West Division title.

And finally... because the world ends in December of 2012 according to the Mayan calendar and because Seattle has never been to the World Series, there should be a sense of urgency. The Mariners MUST make it to the World Series in the fall of 2012! 8-)






10 Comments:

Blogger Mercurie said...

I have to sympathise with you, Snave. I root for the Cardinals, who are generally a winning team (hey, we've been to more World Series than anyone save the Yankees...), but in NFL football I root for the Rams. Not exactly a winning team there either...

1:46 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Ah, Mercurie, there were days when the Rams were good. Remember 2000? That 23-16 Super Bowl win over Tennessee was nice! And that was a pretty close 20-17 loss to the Steelers in '02... but since then they have been kind of sad.

The Mariners have won more than 90 games just four times in the last 10 seasons, with their major-league record 116 wins (but then then went 4-6 in the playoffs that year...) The M's all-time W-L record is 2232-2498, for a "winning" percentage of .472. I guess they are now only 266 games below .500! If they win at least 94 games in each of the next ten seasons, they will finally get close to cracking the .500 mark! And that is the mark of mediocrity...! Heh!

2:40 PM  
Blogger an average patriot said...

You're a loyal fan all right! Being a life long Bostonian I am a Red Sox fan but first a baseball fan.
When all is said and done I like the sporty and anyone but the Yankees.
Same with basketball but I hate the Lakers, anyone but the Lakers. Football and hockey I like them all!

3:31 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I like using the 2012 deadline as an incentive for the Mariners...whatever works!!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Ah yes, 2000 and 2002. Those were good years for the Rams. Sadly, they haven't had a good season since. )-:

5:41 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I gave up on them when they traded Moyer. They've become the farm team for the Yankees. Seems they trade all their good players near the end of the season.

10:52 PM  
Blogger DB said...

Man I miss the States. When I was in Washington DC for work training, my wife and I would hit at least a game a week (Baltimore). It was such a great time...then I got reassigned out of the country. Lame.

3:36 AM  
Blogger MRMacrum said...

As a previousy long suffering Red Sox fan, I was sure I would go to my grave without seeing them win a Series. I was wrong. Hang in there. Miracles do happen.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Miracles don't happen in Cleveland, so I, for one, welcome the return of Quetzalcoatl.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

My miracle was watching my A's beat the hated Giants in 1989. For the last 20 years, well, a few playoff duds with teams that really should have gone to the WS.

I think Ichiro is one of the greatest players of our time. He can pretty much do whatever he wants on the field and at the plate. I think if he put his mind to it he could hit 30 hr's in a season, but he chooses the higher BA and OPS instead.
And, King Felix just owns the A's.

10:26 PM  

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