5 Things to Take Away From 2009
With the 2009 season winding down, and the long, cold off season approaching, as Mariners fans we are yet again forced to take solace in what the future brings. This was no ordinary dreary Mariners season, though, there were probably more bright spots in 2009 than there have been in the last 5 years combined. The Mariners aren’t going to the playoffs this year, but we have nothing to be sad about – there are countless positives to take away from this season, and here are a few of them.
5. Felix is the ace we hoped he would be.
We’ve been waiting for King Felix to realize his potential for years now, and we can finally relax. Despite battling early season struggles and a nagging ankle injury, he’s managed to put up near Cy Young numbers on team with virtually no offense. He probably won’t win the award, and he doesn’t deserve to, but at the ridiculously young age of 23, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the league. It should absolutely be this team’s #1 priority during the off season to re-sign Felix, at whatever the cost, and if I know that, you can bet Jack Zduriencik knows it.
4. Defense is important.
This one can’t be overstated. Taking on a defense first strategy was able to turn a 101-loss team into a + .500 team, despite having an abysmal offense and a below average pitching staff. The Mariners are set to have one of the best defensive teams in baseball for years to come, which will be anchored by their incredible defensive outfield of Michael Saunders (9.1 UZR/150), Franklin Gutierrez (24.7 UZR), and Ichiro (8.4 UZR).
Not only has good defense saved runs and therefore won games for us, but it also managed to convince most of the sports world that Jarrod Washburn is a great pitcher. I love me some good defense, but anything with that much power scares me.
3. Franklin Gutierrez is going to be a star.
I don’t think anyone, aside from maybe Jack Zduriencik, had any idea how good this kid was going to be for us. At 26 years old, not only has he had one of the best defensive seasons of all time, but he’s also been a consistent contributor at the plate. I think a lot of people could tell that his power was eventually going to show up, and it certainly did – he has 16 long balls on the year, despite only hitting 3 in April and May combined. As Dave Cameron has pointed out, it would be foolish to expect him to repeat this season’s defensive performance, but even if this season does end up being an outlier, he is an incredible player who’s going to be one of the brightest lights in Seattle for a long time.
2. Ichiro will probably play until he’s 50.
Ichiro just never ceases to amaze me. He’s closing in on 36 now, but any Mariners fan will tell you that he’s shown absolutely no signs of slowing down. I would be absolutely shocked if I were to find out that he isn’t the oldest player to ever lead the league in infield hits for a season(and it’s not even close). We’ve got him locked up through 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if by that time we’re celebrating his 12th straight 200 hit season.
1. We’re in good hands.
For a good long time, it was tough to get really excited about anything as a Mariners fans, as there was always the nagging feeling that Bill Bavasi was going to find a way to ruin it. Thankfully, it appears that those days are finally over. Granted, Zduriencik has made a few moves that have seemed questionable to me, Don Wakamatsu even more so, but overall they’ve both done excellent jobs. Just think back and compare the 2008 team to this year’s team, and that much will be obvious.
This new regime has built a foundation, one strong enough that with the right additions, could produce a perennial contender as soon as 2010, and that’s something to be excited about.
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