Monday, June 30, 2014

Mariners, Playoffs and Sorry Doubters

The 2014 Seattle Mariners are a surprise to many in baseball. A surprise to Seattle fans for sure, even more so around the league. A team that has all fans in the Pacific Northwest on an emotional roller coaster of emotions as they scratch and claw their way through series after series. On any given day one may see an electric All-Star pitching performance by Felix Hernandez and the very next see the offense trying desperately to not make a highlight reel on the opposite end of a no hitter. Sometimes these things can even happen on the same day. There is a lot to be excited about as fans, but the days when offense is obsolete it turns fans into naysayers really quick.

There are a lot of Mariners fans on Twitter these days. After all, if you want the latest updates and you're really a fan, you already know that's where you need to be. It is an interesting place to be simply for the vast array of fans and the difference of opinions that you will receive when posting anything at all about the M's. We all ride the roller coaster, we've all been a part of the Fernando Rodney Experience and we have all watched the dreadful past decade and have hoped, have screamed, have cheered and maybe even cried over this teams inability to make the postseason or even have a winning season. We all understand what it is like to lose and we all have visions of grander when it comes to the Mariners. Now that we sit at the halfway point of the season, it's time to decide: are you in, or are you out? Simply put, if you cannot buy in as a fan, what's the point?

To the countless fans that constantly bad mouth Jack Z and the job that he has done with this ball club, it's easy to understand the frustration as things have not worked out as planned. Not by our standards, not by his standards. To the numerous fans that complain about ownership and get so fired up about the belief that the ownership group only cares about money and knows nothing about baseball, your voice is heard. Nobody is blind to the problems and everyone in baseball can attest to the fact that those problems are magnified when the team is not winning. To the hundreds on Twitter that constantly curse the team in a season where we are finally winning, it's all understandable.

BUT, is it worth it?

Is it worth grumbling and complaining about all the way through September? Does it change anything when you sit in your living room and complain to the Mariner Nation on Twitter? Would it make you feel any better when September rolls around if the Mariners fall out of the Wild Card race and miss the playoffs? Would you be vindicated if the Mariners fell below .500 and never rallied out of a downward spiral? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

As of today the Mariners are 6 games over .500 and in sole possession of the second Wild Card spot. In the month of June we are 17 and 10 and continue to win series after series. No Mariners fan or player knows the outcome of the season and that is the pure beauty of the sport. That is why we love the game, that is why we hope.

Wouldn't it be far more exciting as fans to join in? When September rolls around and the Mariners are in the race all the way to the finish line as we all sit on the edges of our seats at Safeco Field hoping, praying for a shot at the postseason. Wouldn't it be a lot more magical to be a believer rather than a naysayer? The only difference is how one responds at the end. Naysayers will say their I told you so's if the Mariners don't hang on and believers will start their hope all over again through the off season. If the Mariners continue their winning and make it to the postseason, we're all going to celebrate the same. Some fans will look back and remember the journey as an exciting roller coaster ride and some will look back and just simply know they doubted the entire time and then act as if they never did at all.

It's almost July. Time to start enjoying baseball. Time to start believing. Lay aside your concerns about the front office and enjoy what happens on the diamond because as this team stands today whether it has glaring holes or not, they are a playoff team. This team has one of the best rotations in baseball and can top our division rival Athletics any day of the week. As it starts to warm up here in Seattle hitting trends at Safeco will begin to change for the better. Whether we believe or not, as our team gets healthy, we will get better. It may not always look like a playoff team, but they are in the thick of a season where there are only two or three teams that are playing like playoff teams consistently.

Wake up! Put on your 1995 Ken Griffey Jr. jersey and get out to the ballpark. There's a lot of baseball left to be played and it's been a really fun season so far. Believe today, you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow!

True To The Blue!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mariners Making Statements To Start Year!

The question for most Mariners fans coming into the season was whether or not our starting pitching was going to be able to keep the team relevant long enough to get injured starters Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker back. Jack Zduriencik had tried to add depth to our starting rotation with veteran pitchers Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, but as Spring Training went on, I think it was clear to everyone that these pitchers were not going to be needed past April. The writing was on the wall and both Baker and Wolf knew it. Both veterans walked off the job and decided they would be better suited as free agents than ride the bench with the Mariners.

With newcomer Roenis Elias making the team out of AA ball and James Paxton returning to the rotation after his September call up last year, there were really only questions on two spots. When healthy, those spots belong to Kuma and Walker. Until then, the Mariners decided to go with Erasmo Ramirez and also signed veteran right hander Chris Young.

We have yet to see Young pitch after Friday nights game was cancelled due to horrible field conditions at the O.CO Coliseum. Felix resumed after the normal 5 days of rest and the rotation will follow suit. Which means, we won't see Young for almost a week. Currently, Young would be the odd man out at the end of the month but it will be a battle over that 5th spot. Every start by the Mariners has been fantastic thus far, with Felix clinching his second victory of the year today. In the five starts, the Mariners have not allowed over 3 runs in a game. I'd say, things are looking pretty promising for our starting rotation.

Our bullpen is the only reason we lost a game at all. Spoiling the MLB debut of Elias, our bullpen allowed 2 runs through 7 innings after heading to the 12th inning and handing the ball to Hector Noesi. In just two pitches we watched Coco Crisp circle the bases with a walk off homerun and the M's were handed their first loss. The following day, Noesi was handed his walking papers as he was designated for assignment. To date, no team has picked him up and may very well be pitching in Tacoma by next weekend.

Tom Wilhelmsen has been the other question mark in the bullpen. Nobody can deny that he has complete nasty stuff, but finding the mojo that he once had as our closer has been the struggle. He's been hit and hit hard, especially in close games. We'll just have to wait and see how short the leash is on 'The Bartender".

Offensively, the Mariners poured in on in Los Angeles. With a total of 26 runs over the course of three games, it seemed as though the Mariners were never going to lose a game. Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak looked like perennial all-stars and Brad Miller and Abraham Almonte set the tone early and often for the team. Since coming to Oakland, things have been a tad bit quieter due to the Athletics pitching staff but the Mariners have been doing enough everyday to put themselves in position for the win.

In each of the first 5 games I have watched the offense really learn from their at bats. The second and third times through the lineup is when the M's seem to pour it on and really start crushing the ball.

It's not just their hitting that has been getting it done either. The Mariners have been aggressive on the base paths as well. Stretching singles into doubles, advancing on throws and trying to steal bases. It's not just an improved offense, it's an offense that is putting a product on the field that is fun to watch.

After 5 games we look at a 4 and 1 record with a starting rotation that is 4 and 0. We look at an offense that is much improved and for more reasons than just Robinson Cano. Were looking at a manager in Lloyd McClendon that isn't just sitting around hoping that guys like Noesi fix whatever they need to fix. It's a brand new feeling. A feeling that Mariner fans have not felt in a long time and we can only hope that this same type of atmosphere will continue.

I don't want to be a total homer and say that the Mariners are going to the World Series because we've had a great week, but maybe I can take a saying out of the book from a well known Seattle favorite and ask; "Why not us?"

Our rotation will and maybe already does surpass most in baseball and if our offense can continue to do what they have done in this first week then we would be a lock to win the division. We just have no idea if our offense is going to sustain this level of play or not. If were even remotely close to it, then we as fans are in for a ride. For now, I'm just happy that baseball is back! True to the Blue!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Opening Day Brings Victory to Mariners and Hope to Fans

Opening Day! A special day in the life of most baseball fans, but to those die hard fans out there, it's a day that is anticipated with every off-season trade rumor. It's a day that you look forward to from the last World Series game, through the Winter Meetings and on into Spring Training. Now, here we are. Day one of an 162 game season and your Seattle Mariners start their trek with 22 of 25 games versus their American League West rivals.

Tonight's game against the L.A. Angels was an amazing start to what we hope to be an amazing season. Felix Hernandez took the hill against Jared Weaver of the Angels and in the bottom of the first, after just two hitters, the Mariners and Felix were down 2 - 0. Mike Trout hit a bomb to left field and showed the world that he's worth every penny the Angels gave him this Spring when they renegotiated his contract. It was a rough start but the Mariners would fight back.

After a Michael Saunders sac fly the Mariners pulled within a run but the Angels snatched that one right back on an error and a bad read on a ball in left field off the bat of Albert Pujols. The M's put another run on the board but were still down 3 - 2 when Felix came out of the game at the end of the 6th. As is customary for Felix starts, the Mariners do not score runs when Felix is on the hill, but tonight would prove to be entirely different.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Mariners offense went to work. With one out, Dustin Ackley singled and was followed by Mike Zunino who hit a triple off the wall on a poor defensive play by Josh Hamilton and the game was tied at 3. Abraham Almonte came to the plate and facing new pitcher Fernando Salas, ripped a double in the left center field gap that scored Zunino and put the M's up for good.

In the ninth, the M's would add another 6 runs on a three run homerun by Justin Smoak and a bases clearing triple by Dustin Ackley after the Angels bullpen walked the bases loaded. The final score, Mariners 10, Angels 3. Felix Hernandez took home the win for his seventh consecutive opening day start and for the first time in a long time the Mariners can boast about being in first place atop their division.

Many fans will look at the success of Opening Day and revert to the Mariners history of winning on this day but flailing much of the season after, but some of us get a horrible sense of hope that grabs hold of us and wont let go. In recent years that hope has clung on until late June or so before prying itself loose with a 16 game losing streak or a couple of series sweeps at the hands of our division rivals. We all understand that this season may not be any different for us this year but to not hope at all is to not love the game. It's only one game in a trend of seasons with one theme, losing, but it's one game of an 162 game season that started with a win.

I'm not counting us in as World Series contenders or even playoff bound, but it's the same every year. We root and cheer, we complain and whine, we scratch and claw with the hopes of continuing to play come October. It may not be likely, but in baseball it's never impossible!

Mariners - True to the Blue!