First I would like to start out by saying that the frequency with which Stanton or myself have been posting new stuff lately has been sub-par. For those of you that enjoy what we write we apologize that we have both been too busy to get stuff up with both of our college situations needing a lot of attention. But Seattle S&O doesn’t take breaks and so we will be posting as much as we can from here on out. Alas, here is your article.
There are only a few left standing. No, not fans of the Eragon series, but Seattle sports fans who would also call themselves Mariner fans. There is certainly cause for the apathy growing around the Mariners fanbase. The team is well on its way to another irrelevant September, the Mariners are 30th (out of 30 teams) in runs scored, team batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. Attendance at Safeco Field reflects the team’s awful play with the worst per-game attendance in Safeco Field history at 23,254 fans a game. On paper, the 2011 M’s squad inspires less hope than those Animal Cruelty commercials. At one point this season at a game I attended with my dad, a beligerent M’s fan suggested that the team change its mascot to the Mariner Goose.
How does a team get so bad? With a substantial payroll, rich baseball history, and a beautiful city to lure free agents to, there appears to be no reason that the M’s could be so bad for so long. Many point to the very top, accusing ownership of being too focused on the game experience for fans; making sure that a family of four can have a fun time watching the dancing groundscrew rather than focusing on putting together a winning baseball team. I agree to a certain point, mostly because I puke off the third deck every time I go to a game and see the groundscrew dance, but there also seems to be a lack of focus on winning from the M’s brass. But the point can be made that the Mariners have spent plenty of money on players to try and build a winning team. If Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Carlos Silva, and the countless other free agents the Mariners have brought in the last 10 years hadn’t flunked out, this might be a very different article. But regardless, the team is bad and has been for quite a while. The future is bright though. Not in 2011, maybe not in 2012, but in a few years you are going to see a very competitive baseball team.
The youth movement that Seattle Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik has put together is the best shot that the Mariners have. And it is a good shot. The current M’s roster features plenty of youth that gotten plenty of experience this year. 23 year old Dustin Ackley, 25 year old Mike Carp, 23 year old Kyle Seagar, 24 year old Justin Smoak, 24 year old Trayvon Robinson, 24 year old Michael Saunders, and 26 year old Casper Wells have all been given opportunities to start and gain crucial experience this season. Age is just a number, and it is more than possible to be young and still suck at the same time. But the point is that this is a young team and by the time that all of the above offensive players hit their stride, the M’s offense could be dangerous. That is the hope anyway. Youth does not translate to wins but it is much better to have young players learning on the job than awful veterans as the Mariners have had for so long.
Until the young players come into their own offensively, the strength of the team has got to be the pitching staff. The pitching staff will be anchored by 25 year old ace, Felix Hernandez, and 22 year old phenom, Michael Pineda. Pineda looks to be an absolute force with his overpowering stuff and Hernandez has proven himself as one of the best pitchers in the game the last three seasons. The problem is neither has been in a meaningful game to the date. Felix has never had a chance to pitch on the big stage. Pitching wins championships, and as we saw with the San Francisco Giants a season ago, strong starting pitching with an adequate offense can go a long way.
The real source of hope for this team comes from the minor leagues. The dream pitching staff as it has been called comes from the minor leagues. The rotation would be as follows:
and in some order
20 year old James Paxton (1.85 ERA, 11.8 K/9 innings in AA Jackson)
18 year old Taijuan Walker (2.89 ERA, 10.5 K/9 innings in A Clinton)
and 2nd overall draft choice Danny Hultzen out of the University of Virginia
Obviously this rotation coming together is a few years out, but that is such with the entire M’s squad. Have hope. Don’t look at the record next year or this year. Just watch the young players grow. Because I promise you, in 2013, you will see a division winner.