For the third consecutive season, we are proud to introduce the Deadspin Baseball Season Previews. Yes, baseball is awfully close now; it's spring training, after all.
Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The Seattle Mariners. Your author is Seth Kolloen.
Seth Kolloen is Executive Editor of Sports Northwest Magazine and blogs at EnjoyTheEnjoyment.com. As a boy he slept with a poster of Jim Presley above his bed, which may explain his eventual inability to hit curveballs.
Put away your Goonies lunchbox and your Trapper Keeper. It's algebra time.
Review this equation:
2008 Mariners = 2007 Mariners - (Jeff Weaver) - (Horacio Ramirez) + (Erik Bedard) + (Carlos Silva).
Notice that on the right side of the equation, we have four constants. Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez constantly suck. They get subtracted from the Mariner roster. Cy-Young candidate Erik Bedard and innings-chomper Carlos Silva take their places.
This is not Fermat's Last Theorem, people. The 2008 Mariners, who replace two shitty starting pitchers with two good ones, will be better than the 2007 Mariners.
Question is — and it's a question Mariner fans have been arguing all offseason — were the 2007 Mariners any good?
Last year's standings show that the 2007 M's won 88 games and finished six games back of the Angels. Measuring by wins and losses, the 2007 M's were pennant contenders.
But the raw numbers tell a different story: The 2007 Mariners allowed more runs (813) than they scored (794). The data says the M's were a sub-.500 team.
Hence the argument. You can probably already envision the battle lines.
On one side, the traditional baseball men (a.k.a. stuffed shirts, a.k.a. troglodytes, a.k.a. Joe Morgan), in whose minds the W/L record reigns preeminent.
On the other, the statheads (a.k.a. stat nerds, a.k.a. Moneyball types, a.k.a. my cousin Levi), who believe their calculators.
It's an important question. If the '07 Mariners stunk, you wouldn't want to, say, trade four of your best prospects to Baltimore for a starting pitcher who's 19 months away from free agency. Such a deal only makes sense if you think you've got a contending team that needs a nudge to put them over the top.
The Mariner front office, being traditional baseball men, looked at those 88 wins and made the deal.
Erik Bedard, comes to the Mariners in exchange for stud CF prospect Adam Jones, who falls somewhere between Jim Edmonds and Preston Wilson on the career possibilities chart, bullpen stalwart George Sherrill, and three minor league pitchers who are supposedly hot shit.
Bedard, who was 3-0 with a 2.07 ERA in five starts against the Yankees and Red Sox last year, will pair with Felix Hernandez to give the M's the best one-two punch in the American League.
Silva, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista round out the rotation. (Each of them, in one of the great economic injustices of our time, will make more than Bedard and Hernandez combined. I think John Edwards may have used this in a campaign speech. "Yesterday, while eating corned beef hash at a local diner, I met Felix Hernandez, a legal immigrant from Venezuela, who makes 1/20th the salary of his less-qualified co-worker.")
Along with the solid rotation, the M's have 6-foot-6 J.J. Putz and his hellacious splitter in the bullpen. You probably only know Putz from his shaky appearance in last year's All-Star Game (though he would've had a 1-2-3 inning if Baltimore's rangeless Brian Roberts could've managed to field a routine groundball in time to throw out noted speed merchant Dmitri Young. Sorry, I digress. But still, fuck you Brian Roberts). F-Rod bailed Putz out in that game, but the goateed Michiganiteian needed no help in the regular season, saving 40 games and blowing only two. Let's leave it at this: Putz had a 1.38 ERA last year.
The pitching staff could be the best in baseball. But, as my late grandfather would've said, a good pitching staff and $13.76 will get you a 3 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel at Starbucks. To win, the M's need runs.
The nine men the Mariners will rely upon to produce 2008 offense fall into three neat categories. I'll give each category a nautically themed name because I hate myself.
1) The Ironclads: CF Ichiro, C Kenji Johjima, 3B Adrian Beltre. Each has been predictably steady offensive contributors the last few years. We fans hold out hope that Beltre — who's only 28 — will repeat his mega-boffo performance of 2004. But we'll all be happy with 25 homers and his Gold Glove defense.
2) The Bathyscaphes: SS Yuniesky Betancourt, 2B Jose Lopez. You're probably as likely to have heard of a bathyscaphe (it's a deep-sea diving vessel) as you are to have heard of the M's keystone combination. That'll change if either matches their promise. Each have shown signs of superior offensive prowess — Lopez made the '06 All-Star team after posting 58 ribbies before the break, and Betancourt had only one less double than Derek Jeter last year. If either of these guys post a breakout year, the M's could win 100 games.
3) The Steamboats: 1B Richie Sexson, LF Raul Ibanez, DH Jose Vidro, RF Brad Wilkerson. The M's front office knows these players are verging on obsolescence, but they're hoping for one final run up Pennant Race River. Sexson may be the key to the M's season. After consecutive 30-homer seasons for last place Mariner teams, Sexson hit .205 last year, just when the M's actually needed him. Still, at age 33, it hardly seems likely that Sexson is finished. The M's will pay him $14 million this year; if he can earn half of that, they'll rejoice.
By the end of September, the argument will be settled. If the M's get back to the postseason, we'll know the Joe Morgans were correct. If they finish out of the race, or regress, it'll be my cousin Levi saying I told you so.