On Sunday, I participated in my first fantasy baseball auction draft. My plan was to write a running diary from the draft. However, after some technical issues, such as ESPN.com not letting me save our draft conversation, I have been forced to take a different route. Sticking with the baseball theme, I’m breaking down 10 things that excite me about this year’s Mariners season and 10 things I’m worried about.
This time last year I was excited for the Mariners coming off an 85 win season. A one-two punch of King Felix and Cliff Lee looked to carry them to the playoffs and there were hopes in Seattle that Adrian Gonzalez would be a Mariner by the trade deadline. This year, Felix is the reigning Cy Young winner but Lee is back in Philly and Gonzalez landed in Boston. Coming off a 101-loss season, there isn’t much to be hopeful for, but being the eternal optimist that I am, I’ll start with the things I like.
1. King Felix
He was the best pitcher in the AL last year. What’s not to be excited about? I know you’re going to say that he’ll get traded to the Yankees but let me just shoot that down right now. Like Cliff Lee, he kills the Yankees. All the Yankee fans are nodding in agreement. The Yankees were the best offensive team in baseball last year, yet Felix still went 3-0 against them and had a 0.35 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. So why would Felix want to play for a team that he easily dominates? And yes, it would be his choice. He has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to ten teams. One of those teams? The New York Yankees. If that’s not enough to convince you, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has made it clear Felix is staying by most recently saying, “He’s not going anywhere. We’ve got him. We’ll keep him. We’re not going to move him.”
2. Justin Smoak
I’ve been up and down on Smoak. Loved him in Texas and then was disappointed in his initial stint with the Mariners. What I failed to recognize is what he did after coming back from Triple-A Tacoma. In his final 14 games last year, Smoak managed to hit .340 and three home runs. He also decided to heat up right at the end of Spring Training, hitting .500, with two doubles, a home run and 2 RBI in his past three games. Smoak could have a big season this year and become the power hitter the M’s desperately need. For what it’s worth, the Mariners could have traded Cliff Lee to the Yankees and got Jesus Montero, who struggled this spring and got sent back down to Triple-A. I had previously criticized the trade and thought Montero was better than Smoak. No more waffling, I’m backing Smoak 100%. And it’s not only because he’s on my fantasy team.
3. Garlic Fries
Have you had the garlic fries at Safeco? They’re legendary! If (or when) you make it to a Mariners game this year, do not skip the garlic fries. Nothing is better than watching a baseball game with garlic fries, a hot dog and a $10 beer. Nothing. Well, nothing except ten cent beer. I believe Cleveland tried that once and it didn’t work out too well for them though.
4. The Mariners are good every other year
This trend is a stretch because it has only been going on for four years but bear with me. I think the Mariners are in line for another 80+ win season. Okay, so I may be crazy but let’s jump back to 2007. That year, the Mariners went 88-74. The next season, putting it nicely, they struggled. In 2008, they went 61-101 and became the first team to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll. Surprising everyone, they bounced back in 2009 and went 85-77. They slipped again last season dropping to 61-101 again. Following this trend, they’re good for at least 82 wins this year. Lock it down.
5. Eric Wedge
Mariner fans have to put their faith in Wedge. He has been in this situation before and proved that he can rebuild a team. He took over a Cleveland Indians team in 2002 that had 88 losses and in three years, had built a 93-win team. He helped develop C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee in the all-stars they are today. Luckily for him, he has a young star pitcher in Hernandez and a top pitching prospect in Michael Pineda. He’s also added a sweet mustache since his last time on the bench. You can tell he’s ready to go!
More to come tomorrow!