The Long, Cold Winter: Seattle Mariners

Ya’know, this team isn’t that bad. At least, not as bad as their 2011 67-95 season would make them look. Although there has not been an extreme makeover from 2011 to 2012, the changes being made in Seattle will make more of a difference than some of the obnoxious trades and free agent signings of the larger-market teams this offseason.

The Mariners have had a rough go of it in recent years. Win 90 games, Oakland wins more. Then lose 101. Then win 88, twice, and lose all the other games in between. Being a Mariners fan must be a constant roller coaster ride – but even I, born and bred into east-coast megafandom, can see the shape of the Mariners taking place in the West, and I see something wonderful.

No, the Mariners (and Athletics, for that matter) will not compete in 2012. Or 2013. They’ll get better every year, but do not expect them to compete for real until at least 2014, or make the playoffs until ’15.

Zduriencik (which I spelled right, first try) is not building this team to win now, simply to just be better now, and get through the next few years until their top prospects can blossom as big leaguers.

Pineda was great, but the M’s needed a batter. Chances are, Seattle saw something in Pineda no one else saw. Some sort of flaw. Z took this as an opportunity – take a strength (well, sort of) and fix a weakness. Pineda and Campos are gone, which yes, is a big hit now and likely could be in the future, but Montero and Noesi are in. Compare Noesi’s and Pineda’s numbers in August. I assure you, you may be alarmed.

Montero is not el tercera llegada. He might not be a true catcher, but he’s going to mash for a while, get figured out, and mash again. Noesi is a very solid option in a rotation featuring Felix, Vargas, Iwakuma and…someone.

Figgins played the game, got paid, and hasn’t played since. It is now the first Italian-born MLB player’s time to shine. Expect Alex Liddi to light up the west soon enough. Liddi, Smoak and Ackley are a hell of a infield. Brendan Ryan, not so much. If Jack Z has any assets at the deadline, M’s should address this hole at SS.

Given proper health from Frankie Gutierrez and Ichiro rebounded from a mediocre 2011, the Carp/Wells/Saunders/Robinson platoon in LF; their outfield really isn’t that bad.

Yet, the two monster in the room remain. The Angels and Rangers will be strong for a while. But give them three years, and they’re the Phillies. I see all the stars, but they’re squandering. Aging. Backs breaking from too much money, too much stress from expectations and falling short in the playoffs and World Series.

Give it time, Seattle. The West will be your’s again.


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