After Brendan Ryan got shipped off from Seattle to the New York Yankees recently, it seemed like a perfect time to reflect on the season it’s been for the Mariners, or rather, the season it hasn’t. Upon arriving in NYC, the shortstop relayed his excitement to be playing for a team that’s in the playoff race, even though, he’s ineligible for the post season. That’s right. Just playing in a game that has playoff implications is a thrill for the defensive wizard. Considering the way things have been going in Seattle, that’s pretty understandable.
Of course, there was some palpable buzz in Mariners Nation when the season began. Sure, none of us northwest coasters were really thinking playoffs (unlike say in Toronto, where the Jays only have a couple of more wins than Seattle currently), but the hope / theory was the team would be better.
The team friendly narrative was that long hyped prospects like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero could finally have breakout years. Michael Sanders appeared to be emerging as a pretty good outfielder with some pop (after a 2 plus WAR campaign in 2012). Tom Wilhelmsen had destroyed in the closing role to finish out last year, and Seattle also had power arm prospects like Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor waiting in the wings.
In terms of starting pitching, the Mariners’ rotation had some question marks, but reasons to be optimistic. In addition to the “King” himself, Felix Hernandez, Seattle fans were hoping that Hisashi Iwakuma would continue to be awesome, and Brandon Maurer would continue to be lights out like he was in the preseason. No one knew for certain how Joe Saunders and Blake Beavan would pan out, but all in all, if everything fell into place just right, the Mariners might make some moves right? Wrong.
Not long into the season it became apparent that Maurer and Beavan were not ready to be big league starters. Aaron Harang was brought in as a band aid solution, and although he had some memorable outings for the right seasons, there were many that weren’t.
Montero struggled big time, as did Ackley, and eventually both men were sent down to Triple A. Although Raul Ibanez torched plenty of home runs over the first few months of the season, the aging vet eventually came back down to earth. While Kendry Morales has lived up to ‘big bat’ narrative that accompanied his arrival, Michael Morse struggled with injuries and was eventually sent to Baltimore. Wilhelmsen butchered the opposing batters early on, but eventually fell apart and was replaced by Danny Farquhar. In a nutshell, the Sabermetric critics and baseball pundits who never bought into what the Mariners were cooking, have proven to be right.
So, here we are, with a couple of weeks left to go, and the ‘next season’ talk has already begun for Mariners fans. Of course, there has been some glimmer of hope. Although the jury is still out on infielders Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, they have shown signs that something good might be happening up the middle. 2012, third overall pick Mike Zunino is already up in the bigs, and catching for the club (although it remains to be seen if that was the right move). Ackley has rebounded at the plate and has shown some versatility by playing in the outfield, and while Smoak hasn’t been launching bombs left, right and center, his offensive numbers have certainly improved.
The team’s number one prospect, Taijuan Walker, has looked good thus far since being called up recently, and could produce some much needed excitement next season. Especially since Hernandez and Iwakuma continue to provide a nasty one, two punch at the front of the rotation. Kyle Seager? Well, he’s just demonstrated once again that he’s really, really good.
Now does any of this mean that the Mariners could make a push in 2014? And possibly even play .500 ball? Maybe, but more than a few ‘if this happens’ will have to go down first. Sound familiar?