Athletes rarely engage in the prediction business, leaving that to oddsmakers, sports writers and broadcasters, and anyone else who cares to opine. But Felix Hernandez this week joined an expanding chorus of professional pundits who believe that the Mariners are the chic pick to win a wide-open American League.
“Close is not good enough anymore,” Hernandez told Yahoo Sports. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and win the whole thing. We’ve got the pieces now.”
The “pieces” to which Hernandez specifically referred are leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, acquired last July from Detroit; Seth Smith, brought over in a trade with San Diego during the off-season as a gap hitter in front of Robinson Cano; and Nelson Cruz, hired as a free agent to provide power between Cano and Kyle Seager.
“Listen, we’re good,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And barring injuries, we’re going to be very competitive. Where that’s going to take us, I don’t know. We’re like everybody else: We know what we hope to be, and if all goes well, we have a good chance to get there.”
The key, as always, is scoring. The last time the Mariners scored more than 700 runs in a season, Mike Hargrove was manager. That was 2007. The Mariners have had seven managers since, including McClendon.
In the last seven years, the Mariners have ranked 11th (2014), 12th (2013), 14th (2012), 14th (2011), 14th (2010), 14th (2009) and 13th (2008) in AL run production.
Hernandez, along with Cleveland’s Corey Kluber (last year), is the only Cy Young winner in the past 10 years to pitch for a team that failed to score at least 700 runs. Hernandez, the 2010 recipient, is also the only Cy Young winner in the past decade to earn the award while receiving fewer (3.06) than four runs per start. Five of the last 10 Cy Young winners received more than five runs per start.
The Mariners are paying Cruz $58 million to fix that.
Angels 5, Mariners 0
A second-inning error by Willie Bloomquist led to four Los Angeles runs, two of them earned, and the Angels defeated the Mariners 5-0 Monday in Cactus League play in Tempe. Erasmo Ramirez, making his fourth start of the spring, retired the side in order in the first, but Bloomquist’s miscue enabled the Angels to score all the runs they would need.
The Mariners (9-9-2) scratched out just two hits, a one-out double by Mike Zunino in the fifth, which was followed by Logan Morrison’s base hit. But the Mariners stranded both runners.
After Ramirez departed, Seattle reliever Grady Wood, who played last season at High-A High Desert, allowed a run in 1.1 innings before the rest of the Mariners bullpen threw zeroes the rest of the way. Jordan Pries allowed two hits in three shutout frames, before Charlie Furbush (7th) and Yoervis Medina (8th) closed out the loss.
LHP J.A. Happ will receive the start Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. when the Mariners face the San Diego Padres at Peoria . . . Taijuan Walker, the favorite to win the No. 5 job in the rotation, pitches Wednesday, against the Chicago White Sox. McClendon said this week that he probably won’t decide on the fifth starter until the final week of spring training . . . Hernandez makes his next start Thursday, in a 1:05 p.m. contest against the Kansas City Royals . . . Dustin Ackley has hit safely in his past six games, driving in seven runs . . . After starting the season 0-for-8, Seth Smith has reached base safely in his past six games . . . The Mariners have hit 11 triples, tied for the most in the Cactus League. Nine Mariners have tripled . . . LHP Tyler Olson has not allowed a run in his past six appearances, spanning nine innings. In that stretch, he has 11 strikeouts . . . Thirteen Mariners have collaborated for 19 home runs this spring.
Could this be the Mariners’ year? ESPN says that their fans are not only optimistic, but justifiably optimistic, citing the acquisition of Nelson Cruz as a game changer.
The shift of Rickie Weeks to the outfield, where’s he’s likely to platoon with Dustin Ackley, has been seamless so far, reports Greg Johns of mlb.com.
Dustin Ackley says he is beginning to feel like a veteran in left field, The Seattle Times reports.
Depending on how they do, they might need another SP and another decent bat but they have some good pieces and a heckuva opportunity. Darvish is out for the year, Hamilton is most likely going to be suspended, the A’s have done their every 3 year recycling of their roster and the Astros are a year or two away from putting it all together. With the Yankees most likely in transition and the Red Sox not having a true ace the time really has to be now. Hoping Mariner brass realizes this because opportunities like this might not happen again.
Good analysis, JA. These guys have to stay healthy, the offense in general has to hit better while the pitchers keep getting opponents out. In other words, a lot of good things have to happen at the same time and that’s a lot more obvious than it is easy.
I’ve said in the past that the Mariners reminded me of the 1968 Mets: Even when they were losing (and the Mets finished ninth that year), you could see something there: Ackley, Seager, Miller, Zunino, Paxton and Taijuan along with Felix and Iwakuma (the Seaver and Koosman of the M’s). Picking up Cano has been huge because while the kids could play, he’s the one who’s taught them how to win. At the very least it should be an entertaining year.
IMO the Orioles, Tigers, Royals and Rays also didn’t get better in the offseason. The Indians and White Sox are the ones to keep an eye on. If the M’s can do an equivalent of an Andy Benes and Vince Coleman pick up then things will get really interesting. Hopefully the current roster will make having to do such deals moot.
not sure mariners can match last year’s magic w/o the chemistry created by chris “what am i doing here?” young and joe “the beard” beimel. was hoping for the second coming of jesus (montero) but mcclendon hates him. i’m seeing more runs scored and more runs allowed. fan frustration factor high.