Why the Mariners Will Be the Most Improved Team in the Majors
All Mariners fans know that last season was a year to remember. Not for the good, but for the lack of leadership in the clubhouse and for the mental blunders in the field and at the plate. There is a new vibe in the clubhouse, and the M’s aren’t expected to do much this season. This is the perfect opportunity to fly under the radar and make a drastic improvement over last season; much like the Tampa Bay Rays did last year.
Former GM Bill Bavasi is gone, and the new team assembled by new GM Jack Zduriencek looks promising.
Key Departures: Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Miguel Cairo, JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, Willie Bloomquist
Key Arrivals: Ken Griffey Jr., Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Ronny Cedeno, Chris Shelton, Garrett Olson, Mike Sweeney, Endy Chavez
The Mariners were expected to win the AL West by many experts last season. When you take a look at what went wrong, it’s clear that the negative aspects are greatly improved from last season assuming everyone stays healthy. Richie Sexson’s .321 on base percentage and .218 BA can easily be upgraded. Russell Branyan is a power bat that can do close to what Sexson was expected to do when he first came to Seattle, but at a much cheaper price.
With Erik Bedard, the player that was supposed to put the M’s over the top, suffering a season ending injury in July, the Mariners are hoping for big things from a guy that was once considered one of the best pitchers in the AL, and is still worthy of those considerations. The starting rotation is as solid as any other group of arms in all of baseball
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Anothers position that has been a major weakness ever since Edgar Martinez retired, has been the DH spot. The Mariners have had the worse production there than any other team during the past two seasons especially. Chris Shelton is having a nice spring (3 HRs in a handful of plate appearances) so there’s a good chance he will be sharing the DH/1B platoon with Branyan and possibly Jeff Clement. Jose Vidro, who was the DH for much of last season, had a dismal .274 OBP. He also had 6 home runs, which was a major power outage at a position that is expected to bring pop to the lineup. That’s another position that should be easily improved.
When you take a look at the youth and athleticism that’s competing for the remaining roster spots, you’ve got to be excited. Matt Tuiasosopo has been tearing it up this spring, batting .500 (7-for-14) with two doubles and a home run. This is a prospect the M’s have been waiting on for a while, and it appears that this may be his year to earn a spot on the 25-man opening day roster. Ronny Cedeno is also having a good spring batting .333 (5-for-15) so far. Chris Woodward, another pleasant surprise, is batting .500 and has 2 HRs and is hoping to revive his career and earn a spot on the team.
Competition, promising young players, players returning from injury, and the arrival of completely made over management and coaching, surely has Mariners fans building hope going into the 2009 season. Put that all together with the return of Ken Griffey Jr., and the atmosphere in Seattle is going to be exciting. The M’s marketing slogan this year, “A new day, a new way” is spot on, as every day is a day for the potential to blossom and for the M’s to attempt to be the most improved team in Major League Baseball.
By Dieter Veitenhans
Seattle Mariners Correspondent
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