The biggest conclusion I made over the first few weeks of the season as the Mariners offense got off to a start more surprising than Bubba winning the Master (I thought he died!), was that all seasons should start with seven out of eleven games against a terrible Oakland team. The only thing that stops me from making endless amounts of jokes about the collection of nobodies on the A’s roster is that, ever since I saw Moneyball, making fun of the A’s roster in any form makes me feel like the doubting villain from the beginning of the movie. The point is that the A’s are rebuilding, or having an off year, or whatever other term you want to use to explain why they are awful. That’s the best explanation for why the Mariners are at .500. Momentum, though, can be a powerful thing. So lets look what key players need to do to continue this decent, somewhat of a hot start. (I vote we call this Kate Middleton hot). Just listing what the M’s need to do is boring though, and since I have been absent from the site for a while I want to come back in style. So let’s divide the players and what they need to do into two groups, veterans and prospects. As a reverse jinx, and since I love scandal, I will name each group after a disastrous scenario for each. Let’s name the veterans #TeamPetrino, because who’s a better example of destroying a veteran career overnight than Bobby? The second group we will name after a rookie that didn’t ever work out, #TeamLeaf. If Michael Saunders is shamelessly stealing pills out of strangers homes in fifteen years, don’t blame me. To team one!
Ichiro: Hit like he has a pair!
Not the fruit, unless meant as a double entendre, in which case just one pear would be worrisome. So if you really want to include the fruit then I guess Ichiro needs to hit like he has a pair of pears. Anyway, he needs to hit the ball with a little more power than he has throughout his career. Lost in this move to the three spot is the fact that he needs to do this anyway. The reason he needs to hit with more power now is not just because he is hitting in the third, but because he’s lost a step. This makes it harder to get on base with soft hits, as he can’t beat the throw, and it makes it harder to steal once he is on base. The move to the three hole is actually a blessing for him as it gives him some time to adjust without the fans complaining. He’s clearly older, so his average and OBP would have dropped anyway, but if he can offset those dropping with an increase in slugging and RBIs, then his value to this team will be huge.
Chone Figgins: Keep this hot hitting up.
Now, he’s only hitting .234 so lets not act too excited, his hitting is really just Kate Middleton hot.(It’ll catch on) This is great compared to last year though, when his batting average was approximately .p00p. Is it the terrible pitching, the work this offseason, or the move back to the leadoff spot that has him looking like a MLB starter again? I don’t know and I don’t care. If he has to be the first person in the lineup every night in order to get Figgie with it, well dammit put him there! He has looked pretty patient as well, although he needs to raise his on base percentage a bit. The fact that his play is just better, not light-years better, makes me optimistic he can keep this up. If he can’t, he better hope Zduriencik doesn’t handle bad investments the same way as Littlefinger on Game of Thrones. (Anybody? I cannot be the only one who watches that show.)
Felix Hernandez: STOP SCARING THE LIVING HELL OUT OF US!
In a preseason column I wrote about the nonsense, time wasting articles written during spring training because there is nothing else to write about. I think most of us dismissed the velocity loss articles as just that until the season started. Now every Mariners fan I know is telling everyone not to worry, when it’s clear they are only desperately trying to convince themselves. This topic makes me so nervous at this point that I don’t even want to say much more, but if this team is going to be halfway decent, Felix has to be a true ace.
Montero: Show power
First off, I’m really digging the new facial hair. He has been hitting the ball these first few weeks, and that’s great, but Jesus Montero was brought in to hit the ball far. Safeco is a huge park and Montero know this, he sounded nearly shocked that he hit a home run to deep center. That, though, is why the Mariners gave up a lot for someone they thought could handle a park this big. Judging from the laser he hit to the deepest part of the park, I think he can handle it too. The key is steady progression. If he has a high slugging percentage this team is a lot better.
Smoak: Needs a comeback year
Last year was a tough year overall for Smoak. It can be easy to forget athletes are people too and losing his father had to be unbelievably hard. Factor in the injuries he battled and I give him a mulligan for last year. That being said, the Mariners really need him to be who they thought he was. Don’t forget that they pretty much picked Smoak over Montero when trading Cliff Lee. That’s how much they like him. Now they have Jesus and Smoak batting back to back? Holy Smoak! (Do you like what I did there?).
Saunders: Show he is a legitimate starter:
It’s been an up and down career for Saunders, but he seems to be finding his own so far this season. He is fast, tall, and at times looks like a really good hitter. There’s going to be a lot of competition for playing time with Seager and Figgins playing so well, Carp coming back soon, and Guti hopefully coming back at some point. I still think this team is best if Saunders earns an everyday starting position. He is a better outfielder that Seager or Carp, and is younger than Figgins and Guti. If Saunders earns a spot then there is no need to talk about moving Ackley to outfield, as I’ve heard mentioned yet again recently. Seager and Carp can take turns at third and Seager can be used as a utility guy elsewhere as well. If Guti comes back he can split time with another veteran guy like Figgins. Overall I think everyone can stay in a much more natural spot if Saunders is a valuable everyday starter, but this is only good for the team if he continues to earn that.