Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: Seattle Mariners

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-Digger's Daily-

Seattle Mariners management, players and fans thought 2010 was going to be a great season. Seattle turned heads after a busy off season acquiring prime time players. Ichiro and Figgins were to be baseball's best top of the lineup 1-2 punch. Griffey was to have one more productive season. Bradley's dugout troubles left behind. A revamped pitching staff to shut down opponents. Instead, just about everything that could go wrong did. Clubhouse fights, backstabbing comments, ineffective manager and poor team attitudes all directly led to a team full of playoff promise crashing and burning. Seattle lost 101 games in 2010. 2011 isn't looking much better.

Seattle ia an AL West afterthought heading into 2011. Division rival Texas, Los Angeles and Oakland are sporting tough playoff caliber rosters. All improved by way of off season wheeling and dealing. Seattle lost money hand over fist in '10. M's remained relatively quiet this past winter instead of chancing duplicating another year of signing non-performing high priced players.

If the Mariners were smart they would dangle superstars Ichiro Suzuki or Felix Hernandez attempting to pull off a Herschel Walker type of trade. Two players at the top of their game could land plenty of talent from draft picks to rising stars. Seattle fans might revolt at first but, in the long run, this type of deal would reap long term results if handled correctly.

What's up for 2011? Starting rotation anchored by Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Felix has lived up to all expectations and is far from reaching his prime. Tough knocks probably awaiting remaining starters. Fister, Vargas & Pauley face a daunting task of taming strong opposing lineups. No bullpen help to be found once starters tumble. Seattle's team ERA will be ugly.

It's tough to decipher how Seattle will score runs consistently from game to game. Huge question marks at every single position except for Ichiro in RF. 3B Figgins is coming off a career worst season. 1B Smoak, tagged as a future star, has struggled mightily during early stages of his career. SS is an offensive and defensive disaster with the Wilson's. Anyone's guess as to who will start at 2B. Seattle's around the horn combination is the weakest bunch of hitters and fielders in baseball. None are known for their defensive prowess. Only unproven strikeout artist Smoak offers power potential. None carry high OBA to the dish.

Ichiro's bat and absolutely stellar defense is the long bright spot. Michael Saunders figures to get opening day honors as starting LF. M's have been high on this unproductive kid. He looks lost as a major leaguer. CF sports another underachiever, Franklin Gutierrez. M's need these guys to mature quickly. Hot head locker room distraction Milton Bradley returns after a tumultuous 2010 campaign. He's competing for plate appearances against new DH Jack Cust.

Manager Eric Wedge hopes negatives turn to positives. Good luck. It's going to be a very long season. 100 losses nearly inevitable. A collectively weaker than most hitting, pitching and fielding units equates to doom and gloom. It's been a long time since predicting a team to lose 105-110 games. If ever there was a team suited to challenge Detroit's 2003 record for losses in a single season (119)... this is it.


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