Help Us Smoak, Ackley, Montero and Saunders. You’re Our Only Hope.

Last year’s Seattle Mariners team was forgettable. Or at least it’s a team that I want to forget. Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans and Jack Cust were starters on the Mariners 2011 Opening Day roster. Milton Bradley! It really isn’t a surprise that team went 67-95. But when I saw that Sports Illustrated predicted the Mariners to finish 64-98, I was outraged. The Mariners got rid of Milton Bradley, I promise! Spring training is the time of year where I can be ridiculously optimistic for the regular season. It’s a time where I want to read that the Mariners have a team that can win 95 games, not a team that is going to lose 95 games. And from what I see, the 2012 Mariners look more like the 2001 Mariners than the 2011 Mariners.

2011 was a year where everything that could have gone wrong for the Mariners did go wrong. Well, everything except Carlos Silva returning from Chicago to murder Felix Hernandez in attempt to absorb his superior pitching ability. That would have been the worst. But Justin Smoak’s injuries, Chone Figgins being Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez’s mystery illness, Ichiro not being Ichiro, and that whole Anthony Vasquez thing was almost the worst possible scenario. Did I mention that Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans and Jack Cust were starters on the Opening Day roster? Milton Bradley!

In comparison, everything that could have gone right for the 2001 Mariners did go right. They won 116 games, and you can’t do that without some luck. I certainly don’t think the 2012 Mariners will win 116 games, but I could see them being closer to winning 95 games than losing 95 games. The 2012 Mariners starting nine will consist of some combination of the following 10 players: Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Chone Figgins, Brendan Ryan, Ichiro, Casper Wells and Michael Saunders.

Is this finally the year Saunders learns how to hit? We can only hope.

While no one on this year’s Mariners roster will reach the 37 home runs Brett Boone hit in 2001, they have some hitters with real potential. Something that has been missing the past few years. If everyone plays at their “best-case scenario” level, the Mariners could see Smoak hit .270 with 20 home runs, Ackley hit .300 and 15 home runs, Montero hit .280 and 25 home runs and Saunders hit .290 and 17 home runs. The great thing about prospects is that there is still hope they could be really good. The 2012 Mariners are a team built with a lot of potential. A lot of players that are still young enough to potentially be really good. Saunders still could be really good. Ryan Langerhans will never be really good. The combined age of the Mariners 2011 Opening Day hitters was 31.6 years old. This year’s team is a full three years younger.

If the Mariners were to have a team that ended up being surprisingly good, this would be the year. But, as always, prepare for the inevitable disappointment that comes with being a Mariners fan.

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