Debacle In JapanMarch 26th, 2012 by terrybenish
Season starting in silly disarray. Exhibition games, visits to Army bases, interviews, helicopter flights, terrible baseball and charades. Two real games in next two days, then seventeen hours back on flight, some more spring training and then the remainder of the 160 game schedule. Surely it should be clear to even the most casual of Mariner fans that the executive management’s agenda is not headed with with the objective of developing a great team. There is so much “noise” surrounding this team that I actually feel some compassion for Wedge as he navigates through this turgid sea avoiding floaters and mines.
The past two years of Mariner baseball have been two of the worst seasons in Major League baseball history. I have struggled with how to describe what lays before us this year and give reasons to watch and to be excited, yet not soft soap everybody as most of the beat writers have done so far.
If one takes a bit of a long view, as this is a rebuild, it might be best to make some observations about who will be here a year from now, which will take us away from all the baloney and subterfuge about guys on contracts. So I’m going to look at it that way and walk through the line up.
Miguel Olivo is the starter this year and John Jaso the backup per se, with big Jesus Montero getting OJT for a few games here and there. Honestly, I can’t believe that Olivo will be back next year. Jaso is young enough and talented to stick as a back up, not a lot of juice though. If Montero can catch at all, he’s the guy, if not there will be somebody else doing the everyday playing there.
At first base, the team PR machine and Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik have anointed Justin Smoak not only as the first baseman, but the number four hitter. He had a bad, bad year from hell last year, family tragedy, thumb issue, broken nose. The mantra is he’s a switch hitting stud. Well they’re saying that, because he’s the only thing of substance from the Cliff Lee deal. He’s really struggled through his first two years, except for last April and two Septembers against call ups. From 10-11 his line drive percentage slid from 21% to 17%. As a switch hitter his splits as a right handed hitter are very different. He lifts the ball more left handed and hits a lot of line drives right handed, strikes out much more often left handed and walks more too.
Here is the problem, it would be great to jump on the band wagon with everybody else, but its not really clear yet and it seems like this could be a make or break year for him. Carp hit fourth last year and earned the right to do so and is probably a better first baseman.
Dustin Ackley playing second base. Looks good to me. He’s a good hitter, lets see him put some numbers up. He could be very special, or just good. Good is fine.
At third base, Chone Figgins will not be here next spring, can’t be. Kyle Seager showed a lot more juice than anybody suspected was in the package this spring. That they are cluttering up his world with this financial issue is stupid. Vinnie Catricala and Alex Liddi had great springs and Catricala looked very, very good. Liddi might be the safety net for Justin Smoak. Nothing wrong with a little competition, and all three would be good here next year.
Brendan Ryan might be the new Jack Wilson, hoping to ride the injury train back to middle America away from this rodeo. Kawasaki probably can play every day, not sure about how he survives offensively. Shortstop seems like a big void looking down the road. The bloom seems to have come off Nick Franklin’s rose a bit and Carlos Triunfel makes you remember that Jose Lopez came up as a short stop.
Left field is Mike Carp land. Think Raul Ibanez. He should hit and play hard, .280 25 dingers. That would probably work next year too.
Center field Michael Saunders and Casper Wells. The starting bell is ringing and let’s see about Saunders. Wells will do fine wherever they play him. Best outfield arm on the team, and he’s got lots of power. How he can’t start for this team this year is a travesty. Next year in right field maybe.
Ichiro is in right field and batting third. The emperor has no clothes on, whisper, whisper, pass it on.
Designated hitter is Jesus Montero. Let’s go to ripping big fellow. If he could catch, then Carp as dh and who knows in left field.
Mark Mclemore deja vu all over again position: Chone Figgins. Were Mark Mclemore still able to play, it would be good to see him this year and next.
Starting pitching/rotation survivors for next year: Felix and Beavan.
Reliever survivors: League and Wilhelmsen…who knows.
In a rebuilding thing sometimes guys show up and after a year or so get moved to another position, Ryan Braun is an example of that as his B.J. Upton and Craig Biggio. Seager, Ackley and Montero fit into that category. Don’t be surprised at seeing them moved about.
Once this trip is over, it will be time to start getting excited.