You don’t want to read about the Mariners every single day. It’s not good for your health. For the same reasons, no one really wants to write about the Mariners every single day, either. Frankly, if someone were to chronicle their thoughts on the M’s on a repeating 24-hour basis, the log of emotions would read like a crazy person’s diary. For evidence of this, go scour my Twitter account at any point in time.
To combat the daily bipolarity of the baseball team you and I choose to both love and hate, we here at Seattle Sportsnet have decided to bring you a comprehensive week-to-week recap of the 2014 Mariners experience, which in itself is sure to be a roller coaster ride of emotional proportions. While we’ll fill the remaining days of each week with more pointed discussion of the M’s – trade suggestions, Hector Noesi minor league updates, Top 11 lists, half-brained promotional ideas, et cetera – you can count on this weekly look at the team to quench your thirst for all things Seattle baseball.
Without further introduction, let’s get to the update.
Win-Loss Record: 4-2
Winning Percentage: .667
Division Standing: First place
Week’s Opponents: Los Angeles Angels (3 games) – Road; Oakland Athletics (3 games) – Road
Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated
Team Morale: Decent
What the hell is going on? That’s a question many of us were asking ourselves on Wednesday evening, shortly after the Mariners completed a season-opening three-game sweep of the Angels. The Angels were supposed to be okay. The M’s were supposed to be less than okay. All things considered, a trio of wins for the boys in blue was wholly unanticipated.
All of a sudden, we were three games into a potential (COULD IT BE???) World Series season. Robinson Cano was a difference-maker. Justin Smoak was smashing baseballs like Ron Jeremy smashing punani. Brad Miller was a future Hall of Famer at shortstop. Abraham Almonte had turned center fielder-turned-serial cripple Franklin Gutierrez into a distant memory. This was it! This was the team! This was the year! THIS WAS EVERYTHING WE HOPED IT COULD BE AND MORE!
In a daze, we took to social media and hashtagged the crap out of Russell Wilson’s famous catchphrase, “Why not us?” If it worked for the Seahawks, it could work for the Mariners, too. Why not us, right? Just a few days prior, this was the question for which we seemingly had at least a dozen answers. Any fan could have ticked off a laundry list of reasons why it wouldn’t be us. The starting pitching is suspect, there’s no one to protect Cano in the batting order, the outfield is a complete joke, the leadoff hitter is a rookie, and oh yeah, the team has sucked for quite some time. But in a mere matter of days, everything had suddenly changed.
These are the Mariners. This is their schizophrenic experience. This is what they do. Every single year. They have their ups, they have their downs, and through it all the fans spend nary a day emotionally stable. Why must we remain so invested in a team that proves itself across three-game spurts, then proceeds to undo all the magic of the recent past over much lengthier spans? The real question, it seems, is “Why us?”
Since last Wednesday came and went, the M’s have looked a bit more like their usual Marinery selves. They dropped two of three to the vaunted Oakland A’s, yet could have possibly salvaged a split had Oakland’s grounds crew done its job on Friday. In an interesting turn of events, the A’s field staff neglected to tarp the Oakland Coliseum infield following Thursday’s game, thus turning the already-soft surface into something resembling the setting from Swamp Thing. The contest went into the books as a “rainout,” but perhaps “human incompetence” would have been a better designation. Either way, the M’s were outclassed – though not by extreme fashion – in all but one of the remaining contests.
Heading home for their first series of the year at Safeco Field, the M’s sit in sole possession of first place (!!!) in the American League West at a robust 4-2. Despite the standing, though, we’re still left with more questions than answers.
For starters, the Mariners offense has been on fire, ranking fourth in Major League Baseball in runs scored and third in slugging percentage. But all those runs and hits have come beneath the California sky, largely cloudless and with a big yellow orb warming the bats and bodies of the men circling the basepaths below. Will the hot start continue in chilly, damp Seattle, where the team’s arch-nemesis, The Marine Layer, lurks?
At the same time, the pitching has been surprisingly stout. Mariners hurlers rank first in batting average against and third in ERA among all their MLB peers. With uncertainty surrounding a revamped relief corps and question marks alongside the names of four of the rotation’s five starting pitchers, few could have foreseen such lofty numbers for the team’s arms in the early going. Transitioning to the pitching-friendly confines of the home park, one could logically expect the trend to continue into the season’s second week. With both the Angels and A’s flying in for their second look at the Mariners’ staff, however, it’s anyone’s guess as to how their hitters will adjust to Seattle’s pitchers and vice versa.
Finally, how will the ballclub’s key offensive contributors fare as they settle into the new year? Just a couple days ago the team had a bevy of players with batting averages over .300. As of right now, only Robinson Cano and Willie Bloomquist (all three at-bats worth of Willie B.) can lay claim to averages that don’t begin with a “0,” “1,” or “2.”
Justin Smoak began the year looking like a new man, tearing the cover off inside fastballs that used to give him trouble, a reported result of his Spring Training work with Cano. Stumbling through a 1-for-11 performance in the Oakland series quieted any talk of Justin Smoak, Future All-Star, however. Likewise, shortstop Brad Miller, who raised eyebrows in the opening series, experienced the same up-and-down kickoff to the 2014 campaign as Smoak, thriving in Anaheim, then floundering to the tune of a 2-for-13 mark in the Bay Area.
Perhaps more concerning than the volatile starts of Smoak and Miller is the club’s designated hitter tandem of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Acquired to act as stabilizing forces in the middle of the batting order – despite a plethora of evidence suggesting that would never, ever occur – the pair has combined to produce a .161 average en route to one home run, one RBI, and just five runs scored. A cold start in warmer climates bodes poorly for a quick rebound in the land of Evil Marine Layer. Should Hart and Morrison continue to plod their way through the month of April, they may ultimately go the way of so many Mariner DHs who came before them, the likes of whom we won’t name beyond the restrictive protection of parentheses (Jack Cust, Jose Vidro, Carl Everett).
To reference one of the greatest songs of the nineties, it’s been one week. And while we won’t know for sure what this team will become as the year transpires – nor busting rhymes like Leanne Rimes or watching X-Files with no lights on, for that matter – we can draw one distinct comparison between the 2014 Seattle Mariners and the Barenaked Ladies’ greatest single: we won’t be getting out of this crazy relationship anytime soon.
Here’s to a new season, M’s fans.