Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Mariners & Field of Hopeless


Mariners spring training started a week early! Feel good stories pour out of Peoria, lots of come from behind or overcoming adversity tales. The famous Mariner commercials have not yet surfaced. I understand that the sun actually shines in Arizona, unlike Seattle. Normally springtime harbingers hope and renewal. I know I experience it every year and usually write rhapsodically about it. So why does it already feel like autumn ripened endings fill the Seattle air.

Why?

Because we already know that the Mariners will finish last again. We already know they will have one of the worst offenses in baseball, again for four years running. This is not spring, rather it feels like the aborted and endless repeated cycle of spring in Bill Murray's Groundhog Day movie.

I am feeling flashes of PTSD from my years of watching the Kansas City Athletics (not so fondly known as atheloosems) stand as the worst team in baseball for 13 years running.  Flashbacks are one thing, but reliving it in HD is another.

I would like to blame this upon the unfair economic distributions of baseball, but cannot given the spate of recent wins by midrange budget teams like the Giants and Cardinals. No this grows from the amazing ineptitude of the Mariners. One of my favorite sites Fangraphs along with USS Mariners reviewed the drafts for the last ten years valuing them by WAR or wins above replacement level. The resounding conclusion: the least successful drafters and traders in baseball, hands down are my Mariners. How would you like a team that has  .45 WAR per year or total of +8 over 10 years. We make Pittsburgh and Baltimore look good.

Welcome to our team. The team’s big controversy focuses upon whether to start 10 million dollar a year bust Chone Figgins, once a good player until he arrived here, as third baseman and lead off hitter despite the last two year’s of 188 and 259 BA and 306 and 243 SLG. The hope is that this will somehow help him regain the √©lan and drive that made him such an effective lead off player for the Angeles.

The great hope is that the team can turn into the Florida, sorry Miami, Marlins (is it still the Marlins?) Or Devil Rays or Rays? I get very confused by Florida baseball; anyway, the team’s utterly non-existent offense depends upon four untested minor league players learning to play professionally OJT. Could be fun or it could be just time for NCIS reruns, unfortunately I have already seen most of them five or six times.

I guess watching Felix Hernandez keep growing will provide moments of baseball joy, although I still miss the Cliff Lee’s sojourn. Watching him pitch live was like watching clean, clear and crisp masterpieces air painted before your eyes. Felix may become an artist, but is not yet there.  But the team really has no places of grace such as that.

For me the anchor will be hoping that Ichiro Suzuki possesses one more brilliant year. He has labored so long and gloriously here on the moons of Jupiter in media land. His presence and performance provided a quiet place of grace and excellence year in and year out, day in and day out. Last year the cumulative impact of age and a frazzled culture unsure of what it wanted of him or its team took their toll. He had career lows of 272 BA and a career low of 184 hits.

Sabermetric projections suggest this is the beginning of the end of his phenomenal hitting and fielding. He may face a cliff drop off, not a slow decline like that afflicting Alex Rodriquez. Although, I must admit that actually watching Alex flounder will be another pleasure for the year.

I am relying upon Ichiro to defy the odds and the projections provide a ray of luminosity amid another squalid year of hopelessness.



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