Monday will mark the first game of the Seattle Mariners season, and I don’t think that I’ve ever been less excited for a season to begin. Sure, Robinson Cano, but whatever. Cano is good, but Cano’s signing really only made sense if the Mariners would actually take a shot at maximizing their win probability in the next two years.
The team – somehow still thriving with some fans and analysts as a team that can simply cultivate pitching – has question marks at four of its five starting rotation spots. They didn’t trade Nick Franklin, and only recently gave him reps in the outfield. They’ve cobbled together what looks like it could be a fairly productive trio of players at first base and designated hitter in Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, and Justin Smoak, but one of those guys is going to play outfield on a lot of days, and that is not good news – and the team is consistently rumored to remain interested in Kendrys Morales. Wherethefuckwillheplay? That’s my question.
The team spent on an overrated pitcher in Fernando Rodney, who pitches in an overrated circumstance, that being the closer position. They paid Willie Bloomquist more than he was worth, and considering the utility role that they may ask of him, they’ve probably rendered Nick Franklin redundant, and Carlos Triunfel, who is probably as good as Bloomquist with some potential upside and a much smaller price tag, essentially obsolete.
So Robinson Cano. he could be worth his contract. It’s not probable, but it’s possible, and if the Mariners are on the upswing in terms of their win curve, they’ve got a chance to receive some surplus value that WAR doesn’t capture well. If they’re just trying to get to .500 so people will quit bringing up how they attempted to block the Sonics coming back to Seattle, they’re going about being a baseball team is a really weird, wrong way.
Nonetheless, people have said that “Robinson Cano alone won’t make the Mariners a playoff team.” That’s true. That’s always true. Only in the fantasy world where in-his-prime Ken Griffey, Jr. and a series of clones of in-his-prime Ken Griffey Jr. could play every position was one player able to really make the difference. And was he really one player? I mean, I’m no expert on the ethics of cloning, but those are different guys, right? Don’t make me think about ethics, Mariners.
Since the day the Mariners signed Robinson Cano and showed ostensibly unrequited interested in what seemed like every free agent, I’ve been adamant that the Mariners wouldn’t make the playoffs on the heels of Cano, and that the largest gain would have to come from the development of young players. Sure, I want a center fielder. I would like a young powerful first baseman. I’d like to not see Blake Beavan pitch another game ever. But almost all teams have substantial weaknesses. Right now the Mariners have a lot of weaknesses, but if Kyle Seager continues to develop, Brad Miller becomes an above-average shortstop, Robinson Cano is Robinson Cano, some young starters develop and Nick Franklin figures out the outfield, they could have a lot less weaknesses. There’s a good chance that some of those things happen, and probably a better chance that not all of them happen.
Teams don’t need to be good at every position to be successful. Usually the easiest way to be successful is for teams to be good enough at almost every position, and very good at some other positions. Some of that is luck, some of it is player development, and some if it is squeezing the very most you can out of the players on your roster. No credible fan attached any value to Eric Wedge‘s ability to give a good pat on the butt, or his fiery nature. That stuff is mostly stupid and unimportant. That he made John Jaso a part-time player, leading to a ton of people wondering why the stat-aware part of the Mariners fanbase was mad when the team traded a “backup catcher,” is one of the reasons why Eric Wedge sucked.
It wasn’t Wedge’s fault that the team lacked talent, but it was his fault that he didn’t use the talent he did have efficiently. Is Lloyd McClendon better? I don’t know. Probably not. He was hired by the same front office that hired Don Wakamatsu and Wedge. He’s supposedly learned under Jim Leyland‘s tutelage, but has he learned how to turn Justin Smoak into Miguel Cabrera and make water out of wine so far as starting pitchers are concerned? Learning to coach with Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and a huge budget, and then taking the Mariners job is like taking most of your driving lessons on one of those Lexus cars that can parallel park themselves, and then being thrust into a driver’s license test in a 1992 Chevy Lumina Euro with a leaky radiator, and fucked up turn signals (I owned this car, but not at the time of my driving test. Artistic license!)
So I’m not excited for the Mariners. Maybe it’s a hangover from the Seahawks amazing run to the Super Bowl. Maybe I’m disenfranchised by more than a decade of mediocrity. Maybe I’m getting grumpy in my old age.
But being excited to watch this Mariners team is like going to a Nickleback concert in any manner but begrudgingly. It doesn’t make any sense.
Make no mistake, I’m going to watch. One Felix Hernandez change-up could send my heart aflutter. And that it won’t be caught by Jesus Montero makes it all the better. So hey, Mariners season! Watch if you don’t have better things to do!