The Seattle Mariners are arguably making progress, albeit slowly.
Though the M’s finished with eight more wins than 2011, there is still a general sense that the team is not necessarily on the brink of being a serious threat in the American League.
Certainly any team can come out hot and make a leap to that elusive “next level” when they start a new season. However, it is unclear if 2013 will be that year for Seattle.
Part of the problem is competition. Every division has tough foes, but the AL West is arguably a stacked division. These rivals are not going away. Two teams in the West made the playoffs, and it could easily have been three.
You start with the Oakland A’s, who are quickly turning into the feel-good story of the year around the league. Their success is good news for Bud Selig, as they are the poster-child for small payroll success. Perhaps Moneyball really does work.
Then there is the Texas Rangers, who would have won this division had the A’s not gone on their amazing run. The Rangers may lose Josh Hamilton to free agency in 2013, but they will arguably remain a very potent offense that will challenge the Mariner pitching staff.
Is the third-place finisher in the AL West a team that the Mariners will track down with ease in 2013? Not necessarily. On paper, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had the talent to make the playoffs. If the Angels had started the season with better than a 6-14 record, we might be talking about a very different postseason schedule.
The Mariners may get better in 2013. Some of the young hitters may become true threats at the plate. We may see prospects like Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Perhaps Seattle will build a level of sustained momentum next season.
Then again, progress may still not be enough to catch the divisional competition.
Hey, at least the Houston Astros will be joining the AL West. Maybe playing a 55-107 team will help boost Seattle’s confidence.