No rime to these ancient Mariners
March 07, 2018 9:27 AM
by Mark Mayer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Wednesday, the Philadelphia Phillies).
Bulletin: The Seattle Mariners have just brought 44-year-old Ichiro Suzuki back. What, this team isn’t old enough!
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Ichiro is a legend in the Pacific Northwest and the M’s will benefit at the box office not to mention delight their rabid Japanese audience. But the Marlins, of all people, gave up on him.
Suzuki’s MVP rookie season in 2001 coincided with the last playoff appearance by the Mariners, whose postseason drought is now the longest of any team in baseball, the NFL, the NBA. or the NHL. Maybe the signing is psychological to get all the 30-somethings on the roster to think they are younger.
Talk about last hurrah’s – Robinson Cano is 35, Nelson Cruz is 37 and Felix Hernandez is an old 31. While Cano and Cruz remain productive, King Felix seems to be in decline and is just now beginning to throw after the M’s ace was hit by a line drive in the right forearm/elbow area on Feb. 26.
Cano slammed 23 homers, drove in 97 and makes up a stellar double play combo at second base with shortstop Jean Segura, who led the Mariners with a .300 average a year ago and is hitting over .400 this spring. Third baseman Kyle Seager hit 27 homers and catcher Mike Zunino 25 in a power-packed lineup led by Cruz with 39 plus 119 RBI as the DH.
Ryon Healy comes over from Oakland where he hit 25 homers and Dee Gordon joins Seattle to play center field. Gordon hit .308 and stole 60 bases last year.
While all of Seattle prays for a return to greatness for King Felix, Mike Paxton stepped up as a solid No. 2 off a 12-5 season. The Mariners have the ingredients to stir the pot in the AL West, but the problem is World Series champ Houston lives there and with Gerrit Cole now in the rotation look even better than last year.
The schedule is unkind at the start – host Cleveland for three then on the road for eight visiting San Francisco, Minnesota and Kansas City. If King Felix can again be a Cy Young dominant pitcher, the M’s are an above .500 team and then some. If not, then a top candidate for a total rebuild and salary purge for 2019.
Encore: This is the third season for Scott Servais as manager. He’s not the problem, but a bad season will find him as the scapegoat.
2017 record: 78-84
2016 record: 86-76
2015 record: 76-86
World Series win odds: 50-1
Odds to win AL West: 9-1 (3rd)
2018 season win total: 81.5