Today is going to offer a bit of a different read. On any normal occasion, I would take something I believed I was seeing or noticing and research the data and statics to preform a sanity check on myself. Rather than going about this in what has become my “norm”, I am just going to focus on the visual, what I have perceived with my mind and my eyes.
The last decade has provided a multitude of disappointment, sorrow, and an October void of Seattle Mariners baseball. The Mariners have been predictable; having only finished the season out of the basement 3 out of the last 10 years. But finishing the season in last place wasn’t the only thing you could count on watching the Mariners year in and year out.
Early Season Drought
It’s one thing you can always count on. The Mariners don’t necessarily start slow, as they usually have a pretty decent record during the first 2 weeks of the season. However, it always seems that there is an annual early season slide. This season it came in the form of a 17-game losing streak. Prior seasons haven’t discriminated either, finding new and exciting ways to throw away the season with a extended streak of terrible baseball. Perhaps it has to do with pressure, as it seems to be that once the season is a lost cause, the team starts playing decent baseball. How this translates into a need: the Mariners must acquire a first half performer. If the Mariners have a team full of players who don’t pick it up until later in the season–as it appears they do– then they have to go out and find that bat that is capable of carrying the team on his back for the majority of they first half. With the winter weather’s effect on SafeCo field, it somewhat limits the options for first half monsters. The hitter should preferably be left handed. He must have power, but gap power as the ball is only going to get entangled in Seattle’s thick marine air. The hitter must be capable of line drives, but mustn’t rely on them as it has the tendency to lead to streaking. As you can see very few players fit the mold, and SafeCo further complicates the issue. Some potentially available players with first half high OBP, doubles and homers include: Carlos Gonzalez, Billy Butler, Justin Morneau, and Jed Lowrie. Other options are out there including Chris Davis, Jay Bruce, and Colby Rasmus, but their ability to carry a team is doubtful.
Momentum at the All-Star Break
More often than not, it seems the Mariners are red hot going into the All-Star Break. Then, a four day break swallows their momentum whole, leaving behind not even a scrap to take with them into the second half. The team has to start all over again, building up the momentum that it took them most of the season to acquire. This ties into the first bullet, the Mariners have to find a way to build sustained success in the first half. If the Mariners can eliminate ever being ice cold, the momentum will have been built long before the ASB, and they won’t have to spend another month afterwards trying to reacquire it.
The Mariners are one of the better teams in baseball when it comes to building a cost effective bullpen. They always have options when it comes to filling in bullpen roles and therefore they don’t necessarily worry about the closer position. The teams hasn’t had a continuous closer in ages, and while I don’t think it effects the team drastically, I do believe it does have an effect. In concurrence with the early season recipe for continuous defeat, it usually includes a tablespoon of imploding closer. At which point the team finds someone else who clinches the job and once again we have a revolving door at the position. The teams needs a consistent face in the ninth, one that has build a comradery and trust with not only his teammates, but the fans. Tom… time to step it up.
A Shorter Leash for Under-Performers
Often coinciding with losing comes several under performing players. Jose Vidro, Chone Figgins, Scott Spiezio, Carl Everett etc. These players are signed to major league contracts and the organization feels they should be given every opportunity to prove the signing wasn’t a mistake. Too bad. No GM is perfect, he is going to trade for bust every now and then, and he is going to make signings that may look good, but as it turns out they just aren’t going to work. You cannot hamstring the teams chances of pushing for the playoffs, or even a winning record by running these mistakes onto the field day in and day out. There is this stigma about “admitting defeat”. I don’t buy it. If you are defeated, then that is what you are, denying it doesn’t change a thing. Continuing to have these players take up space on the roster and on the field when a more valuable players could be out there has got to stop. A good team is built with good players, the Mariners have got to have a shorter fuze when saying “enough is enough”.
There is no guarantee that the Mariners will preform well in 2013. There is no guarantee for any team. However, the Mariners are not maximizing their chances at this time. It’s hard to believe that this organization isn’t close to being a contender again. The Mariners have played extraordinarily well this second half even with poor performances by some of the cornerstones of the future. Build upon what you have, acquire some of these irregular needs and put the best product possible on the field. It’s time to make a push for this thing. Finally and at long last, the Mariners appear close.