PEORIA, Ariz. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Mariners:
What I like
• Ichiro. The Japanese Wonder punched out his 10th consecutive 200-hit season in 2010, extending his consecutive-seasons record. He's now tied with Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a career after passing Ty Cobb (nine) for the AL record in 2010. Still one of the two best reasons to watch Seattle all these years later.
• Felix Hernandez almost has reached enough of an iconic status where, like Ichiro, he can go by his first name only. Felix scored a historic Cy Young award last year, becoming the first player ever to win it in either league with as few as 13 wins. He led the AL in ERA (2.27), innings pitched (249 2/3), quality starts (30) and opponents batting average (.212). He also ranked second to the Angels' Jered Weaver in strikeouts (232).
|Part of today's baseball world is this: Even after Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez signed a five-year extension, armchair GMs continue to envision ways to trade him. Read more>>|
• Defense. They can't score, but they can catch the ball. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who won his first Gold Glove last summer, is as good as it gets. Ichiro won another Gold Glove as well. Shortstop Brendan Ryan (another Hitless Wonder) can pick it and will be really good if he can ever hit.
• There's help on the way. It might not be ready as soon as Mariners fans want -- like, now -- but eight of the nine Seattle farm clubs had winning records last summer and the nine posted the best combined record ever. Within that, Rich Poythress' 130 RBI for Class A High Desert were the most by a minor league player since Ryan Howard in Philadelphia's system in 2004. Kyle Seager's 192 hits (also for High Desert) and 126 runs scored led all minor leaguers. Nick Franklin, at Class A Clinton, was one of only three minor leaguers to record 20 or more homers and 20 or more steals in 2010.
What I don't like
• The Mariners were the lowest-scoring team since the advent of the designated hitter in 1972, and it's hard to see them not having trouble scoring again in 2011. The hope is that Chone Figgins beefs up his on-base percentage, Milton Bradley hits, Justin Smoak matures and shortstop, Brendan Ryan, who hit .223 with a .279 on-base percentage for St. Louis last year, starts to hit something.
• So far so good in the Milton Bradley-Eric Wedge reunion, and a bounce-back year from Bradley would be huge for the Mariners (it is a contract-drive year for him, incidentally). But living with his volatility is never easy and if the fuse blows, last year's bad clubhouse memories suddenly will not be past tense.
• The Mariners are a lot higher on manager Wedge than I am. He was wound too tightly for the long run in Cleveland, and the Tribe underachieved under him as often as not. Whenever the Mariners do line up the players to win, I think a different manager will be needed to take them to the upper levels.