The Seattle Mariners still have a bit of work to do if they are going to finish the 2012 season at .500 or better.
In fact, after losing 4-2 to the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 9, the Mariners are a subpar 67-74. For those of you scoring at home, that means the team would need to go 14-7 over the last couple of weeks in order to finish at .500 for the year.
It is hard to get excited when this is the best possible scenario for your team.
Let us look at how the Mariners have finished over the last few years:
Assuming the Mariners go 11-10 over the final 21 games, they will finish 78-84 for the season. This is obviously a statistical improvement, but is it progress?
A better record compared to last year does not necessarily mean that the team is moving in the right direction.
I like some of the young hitters, and I see a promising future for players like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager.
Of course, there are others for whom the future is not quite as clear. Is Justin Smoak a future star or not? What about Michael Saunders? He was red hot in spring training and is now on pace to hit .250 for the season. Is that progress?
What about John Jaso? Statistically he has one of the best averages on the team, but he plays the same position as Jesus Montero. If Jaso keeps hitting, where do you put him?
There are a number of players that have not been on the field enough to evaluate, and it is hard to know if they will blossom. Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson and Alex Liddi come to mind.
What about players like Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez that have been fighting injuries all year? Gutierrez has hit the ball much better of late, but will he actually play a full season next year?
Why does it still feel like we have a team full of prospects that all hit around .240? Where is our Mike Trout?
So many questions. And that is just the hitters.
The pitching staff still looks very good, and hopefully we will soon see one or two of these minor league gems that everyone keeps discussing.
Are the Mariners making progress? Honestly, I am not sure. If they are, it does not seem like they are moving forward at a particularly swift pace.
As soon as the free-agent period begins, there will be speculation as to whether Seattle is finally going to go out and get a marquee bat for the lineup. I wonder if that is actually the plan, or if management hopes for a measure of maturity to arrive in 2013, as the youngsters get more comfortable.
Unless they go on a dreadful losing streak, the Mariners will finish the year with more wins than last year. However, I am not quite sure where this team is going.
Will next season be a breakout year? Or will Seattle fans again be fortunate to dream of a .500 team?