The Mariners...Seattle's sports entertainment alternative to the Seahawks since 1977.
Sadly, with the regular season of the NFL now underway, I'd imagine the better part of the Pacific Northwest has pretty much packed it in for the Mariners.
For those of you still hanging on to the M's as they fight for a .500 record in hopes of building up momentum for next year, I figured I'd put together a short list of 5 reasons why the Mariners will not be at bottom of AL West next year.
In case you haven't heard, the Houston Astros" href="http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/hou"> will be joining the division.
Quick, name one player on the Astros?
And I'm afraid Roger Clemens doesn't count...yet.
Unless the Astros finish the season on a winning streak, they will most likely lose 100 games this season.
If the Mariners are rebuilding, I'm left to think the Astros are starting from scratch.
You never know how things are going to play out, but if the M's can't beat out the 'Stros in 2013, the M's might be the team needing to start from scratch.
Sure Felix can only pitch every five days, but for a team looking to get out of the cellar, it can't hurt to have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball at the top of your rotation.
This season we've seen Felix continue to do great things and so long as the team doesn't ship him off for a package of prospects he should be back in 2013 as a Mariner helping provide leadership and confidence.
Like I said, Felix can't do it all by himself, but in 2013 he should have some help in addition to Jason Vargas.
Right now the M's have three pitchers with big league experience in Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, and Hector Noesi; however, that's not to say any of the "Big Three" should be excluded from the conversation come spring training in March.
Imagine for a moment a starting rotation including...Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, and Danny Hultzen to start next season.
Meanwhile, the bullpen anchored by closer Tom Wilhelmsen has proven a pleasant surprise during the course of this season with guys like Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge and Shawn Kelley all making meaningful contributions to help bridge the gap.
It may not make for the most impressive staff in all of baseball, but it's one that should help keep the Mariners in games all season.
This is about the time where the wheels start to fall off.
For most of us the idea of the pitching staff holding their own is plausible, but the idea of the once promising youngsters such as Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak taking a meaningful leap forward is another story.
At the same time Nick Eaton at seattlepi.com perhaps put it best when he wrote last week after the team matched their win total for 2011...
"While still not playoff contenders, the Mariners are much improved this year. They may have not been able to translate their improvements into better statistics, but they have been able to translate their improvements into wins.
And wins are what count."
Wins do count and seeing what Oakland is doing down the coast as a team that at one time looked just as downtrodden as the M's leaves you to wonder what could make the difference in taking a team from also ran to wildcard contender?
Did we set our expectations too high or too low for this group?
At the end of the day I still have some hope for the likes of Ackley and Montero to do great things and a spot for a potential long-term role for Kyle Seager, but beyond them I have a hard time selling myself on who or what's left from an offensive standpoint.
Unless that is you really want to take a leap of faith?
For a city that woke up Monday morning still smarting from bumps and bruises in riding the Russell Wilson Bandwagon, this might be the last thing anyone wants to hear.
But the good folks over the U.S.S. Mariner are believers in Zunino and put together an interesting read on his performance since being drafted...
"Don’t count on Mike Zunino breaking camp with the Mariners next spring. That’s likely too aggressive, and the organization doesn’t have to push him. But given what he’s done in Everett and is doing in Jackson, don’t be surprised if Zunino turns out to be better than that high floor/moderate ceiling “safe pick” we were told the team was getting back in June. Right now, Zunino looks like a potential star in the making."
I'll confess, back in June I didn't care for the M's selecting Zunino at all, but am more than happy to eat crow if he wishes to prove me wrong by winning Rookie of the Year and helping the Mariners inch closer to contention/respectability in 2013.
In a division with the Rangers, Angels, and A's, let's face it, the Mariners have a tough road ahead of them in 2013 and pretty much for the foreseeable future, but with Felix, some decent pitching, and a few young capable hitters...well we should be able to beat Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros.
If not...I cringe at the thought of what might become of the Mariners.