We used to be in there, now we’re out here
We didn’t want it to end this way. We wanted Junior, The Kid, The Man Who Saved Baseball in Seattle. We wanted one more laser-fast whip of the bat, sending a shot into the right field seats. We wanted one more ear-to-ear smile. We wanted one more moment that we could treasure. We wanted the [...]
The Seattle Mariners sent me an email the other day that featured this headline: VOTE ICHIRO AND GRIFFEY TO THE 2010 ALL-STAR TEAM. Wha? I understand that PR is a hard job, but the poor flack who wrote this deserves some kind of medal for being able to press “send” on this with a straight face. This [...]
It wasn’t all that surprising when the news came down that Ken Griffey Jr. was going to be returning to the Mariners for his 22nd season (!) in the bigs – for all the hand-wringing about the Griffey experiment last year, it, much like the rest of the Seattle season, turned out to be a [...]
This is the lineup the Seattle Mariners ran out for Thursday’s game against Detroit: Ichiro .359 Russell Branyan .271 Jose Lopez .265 Mike Sweeney .258 Wladimir Balentien .213 Ryan Langerhans .241 Rob Johnson .205 Jack Hannahan .191 Ronny Cedeno .186 Yes, despite a lineup that, after the first two or three hitters, wouldn’t scare a [...]
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that at the all-star break, the Seattle Mariners would be 46-42 and four games out of first place with noted baseball luminaries like Russell Branyan, David Aardsma, Rob Johnson and Chris Shelton playing key roles, I’d probably still be laughing. But that’s where we [...]
As we approach the halfway point of the season, the Mariners find themselves in a strange position – too good to start having a firesale, yet not good enough to consider taking on salary. Quite simply, the M’s have been paralyzed into inactivity by their own modest success. At 37-35, Seattle has exceeded all expectations [...]
The first month of the baseball season is in the books, and the Seattle Mariners are among the league’s biggest surprises, sittting on top of the AL West with a 13-9 mark.
It’s a record that seemed highly unlikely given the M’s 101-loss campaign in 2008, the complete overhaul of the team and the fact that their April schedule included matchups with the Angels, Rays, White Sox and Twins.
Are the Mariners a better team than most of us suspected? Or are they doing this with smoke and mirrors, only to level off once we get into the dog days of the season?
The answer, as it usally turns out to be, is a little bit of both. Remember, people expected big things from the Mariners last year, and some of those players are still around, living up to last year’s expectations. So, there’s some good. But there are also some red flags that could bring the good ship Mariner back down to earth.
Starting pitching: What was supposed to be a strength last year has finally materialized, with Felix Hernandez leading the way. For all his accolades, Felix has been just an OK pitcher (43-36, 3.73 ERA entering 2009). But so far this year, he seems to have put it all together, jumping out of the gate at 4-0 and working on a scoreless streak of 19 innings. If Felix maintains his ace-like pace, the M’s will be in good shape.
Erik Bedard caught a lot of flak last year for being a surly bastard who ran out of gas after six innings, but the dirty little secret is that he had put up some decent numbers before going on the DL. While he’s still not reliable for more than six innings, he’s become the solid No. 2 pitcher the M’s brass hoped for. Jarrod Washburn has been the biggest surprise, but was his last (horrible) start against the Angels a sign of things to come? Even rookie Chris Jakubauskas, who was thrown into the fire, has pitched well save for one start.
Russell Branyan: I didn’t think much of this offseason acquisition, because it felt like the M’s were getting a cheaper Richie Sexson. However, Branyan has been the team’s most consistent offensive threat (.333, 4 HR, .415 OBP). Branyan has never been an everyday player, but if he continues to produce, the Mariners will have gotten the steal of the year.
Endy Chavez: Another questionable offseason move (he came over the in the J.J. Putz deal), Chavez was brought on to bolster the M’s outfield defense. Whatever he could bring to the plate would be gravy. Well, bring on the potatoes, because he’s hit .305 and stolen five bases to help spark the Seattle offense. He’s only hitting .179 in his last seven games, however, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
The bullpen: While the Mariners pen has been poorly constructed (no lefties!), you can’t argue with the results, as Seattle ranks No. 5 in bullpen ERA (3.23) and No. 2 in saves (eight). Brandon Morrow has been sharp as the closer, and David Aardsma is proving to be another savvy Jack Zduriencik pickup.
Ken Griffey Jr.: As a Mariner fan it pains me to say this, but it’s been the worst-case scenario thus far for Griffey. He’s hitting .200, his bat looks slow (15 Ks in 60 ABs) and aside from 15 walks, hasn’t brought much value to the Mariners’ offense. As long as the team continues to do well, most folks will be fine with letting Griffey hang in the lineup, but if the team starts struggling, will Don Wakamatsu be ready to sit The Kid?
The offense: Griffey’s not the only one who’s been struggling. Adrian Beltre, Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez have also gotten off to slow starts, a big reason why the Mariners rank near the bottom in nearly every statistical category (26th in HR, 20th in RBI, 21 in runs, 28 in OBP/SLG and 29 in OPS). They’ve scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their 22 games, but due to their pitching they are 4-6 in those contests.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s plate approach: This is a recurring problem that seems to be getting worse. Yeah, he’s hitting .303, and yeah, he may not be up there always hacking at the first pitch, but go beneath the surface and the numbers are disturbing: 76 at-bats without a walk, most in the majors, and an average of three pitches seen per plate appearance. Nobody’s asking this guy to take the Oakland approach, but how about a little discipline?
Can the Mariners keep it up? They’ll have to continue to take advantage of the injuries that have crippled the Angels to try and get as much distance between the teams until L.A. gets back on its feet. With six games against Oakland, five against Texas and sets with Kansas City and San Fran this month, they’ve got a shot to do just that.
Whatever happens over the long haul, Mariners fans can be thankful for one thing: at least the season’s not over by May 1.
Since when does the signing of a 39-year-old, semi-broken down, somewhat cantankerous player lift the spirits of an entire organization and send its fanbase into paroxysms of joy? When the player is Ken Griffey Jr. and the team is the Seattle Mariners.
The last few years have been brutal down in Sodo, and getting rid of ineffective GM Bill Bavasi and his overmatched staff wasn’t going to be enough to sate the masses or get the turnstiles spinning. Quite frankly, this was a deal the Mariners HAD to make happen in order to have any semblance of breaking through to a jaded fanbase.
Two former sports reporters freed from the constraints of traditional print media write about the hot topics on both the Seattle and national sports scene. No deadlines, no word count, no press box decorum — we're Outside The Press Box.