Mariners Thoughts 2011

We’re almost 2 and a half months into the 2011 season and there are some rhetorical questions and thoughts I’d like to jot down about the Mariners. I didn’t expect this team to be over .500 at this point in the season. They had the worst offense in the DH Era of baseball. The law of averages confirmed to me they couldn’t be that bad again, but I knew they were going to struggle to score. That is still the #1 problem for me as a fan: this offense.

It’s easy to be an armchair manager and say “this is what you do to fix it”. However, there comes a time when you just have to be a realist, whether you’re a huge stathead or not. Eric Wedge will be a better manager than anybody who ever reads this blog post. No offense to you dear reader, but let’s be real. Jack Zduriencik as a GM in the same fashion. They’re real baseball people and they know best.

With that being said, I now want to fire off a few things I’ve been thinking about with this team. Here goes a list (with explanation following. Follow the numbers.)

1. How much more Ichiro?
2. When the starters ERA rises
3. Chone Figgins, Jack Cust, and Jack Wilson
4. When is “Ackley Time”?

(#1) Is LAI (Life After Ichiro) coming faster than we all expected? He will be a free agent after the 2012 season. He’s making 18 million dollars per season. He’s been our biggest star for the last 10 years. I will not become a Ichiro-hater now or ever. He has impressed me more than I could have ever expected.

But we need to be realists (the word of the day/this post). He’s not the same player we can count on anymore. But isn’t that expected with age/long careers? We all want to see him reach 3,000 MLB hits… but that’s becoming more bleak as the weeks roll by. I believe the “on-pace date” is June 5, 2014. The real question as a follow-up is this: Will Ichiro be a Seattle Mariner after 2012?

(#2) How many fans will go back to saying “this team sucks” when our starting pitchers abide by the law of averages and their ERA goes up. I’d love to think they could maintain a great overall ERA for the whole season, but it will still rise from where it is at right now, right? The Mariners are the only team left in baseball that has used only 5 starters.

We know Safeco Field will always be a pitcher’s park with the current configuration and obviously our staff will be rewarded for this. But the last 5-6 weeks this staff has been surreal. It has been a treat to watch. Unfortunately, currently hovering at .500, when the pitching fizzles, the likelihood of slipping under .500 becomes highly likely. If this offense can only score 2-3 runs a night for a majority of the time this season, a lot of close losses will occur. Those nights when “the pitching was great but we were shutout” are the ones I grow way too tiresome of.

What does that really mean though? It means the team will have more losses than wins and fans (definitely the fair-weather type) will whine and start bashing the team again. If this team wins over 70 games in the 2011 season, I will be HAPPY.

(#3) How long will Chone Figgins, Jack Cust, and Jack Wilson be along for the ride? The only way I see Figgins being tradeable is if Jack Z. finds a move similar to Bradley-for-Silva. Trading one team’s problem for another team’s problem. I guess the other way (which I see unlikely) is if the Mariners paid something like 16 of the 18 million remaining on his contract for 2012 and 2013. Technically, it’d be better than flatout releasing him, but I don’t think they would cut him.

Remove Figgins from being a starter? Yes, I can totally see that. He then becomes an extremely expensive backup/pinch-runner. When Dustin Ackley comes up, I see Kennedy moving to 3rd base. I really like Adam Kennedy this season. He’s been clutch, his defense has been solid, and he’s a true veteran (and not playing with an outrageous contract). This Figgins problem could be altered in the next week, if say, Figgins learns how to hit again. I would very much like that. C’mon Chone, do something!

Jack Cust? Thanks for the walks. Thanks for proving to us you could hit a HR and weren’t going to go all 2010 Griffey on us and hit zero home runs as our DH. But you’re not long-term, Jack. You were signed as a stopgap and now you’re actually taking at-bats away from players who could factor into our long-term success and growth (Mike Carp, Carlos Peguero, etc.)

At a salary of 2.5 million for the season, I doubt any other A.L. team will trade for you… so that means a release is likely. Maybe you can do just enough to stay on this team, but come the end of July/early August, when (if) the Mariners fall 12 games back of first place, your services will no longer be needed.

Jack Wilson. I can’t wait for him to go. I never liked Jack Wilson on this team. The final straw for me as a fan was the first week of the season when he flopped/faked/pretended an injury and pulled himself from the game. Wedge tried to cover for him and he made things worse and made Wedge look bad/like a liar. It was a bonehead move from Jack and it rubbed me the wrong way.

He’s never done anything for me to warrant my support and once he’s gone, I won’t care. I’m hoping the Mariners can flip him for something because when he’s healthy, he’s an incredible fielder and he can bunt like one of the best. I’d be shocked if he was on the team after July 31st. His short lease will continue to seem longer than it is as long as Luis Rodriguez is on the team (I think Luis is the next to go) and as long as Dustin Ackley is off the team (that won’t be for much longer).

(#4) When is Dustin Ackley coming to town? I think it’s on Monday when the Mariners come back home to the friendly confines of Safeco Field. I think the powers that be want his debut to be at home. I think he’ll be in uniform on Monday and make his starting debut on Tuesday. He’s done more than enough for me down in Tacoma and I’m ready to see the goods.

Also, we’re past the mythical “Super 2 Status” timeline that is early June. If that was one of the big reasons, I’m glad it’s now dead. He’ll probably bat 9th and excel to batting 2nd by the end of August. I can’t wait to see this kid up here. He’s a stud and we shall rejoice!


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