I haven't been this excited about an upcoming Mariner's season in a very long time. In my last article, I begged the Mariner's brass to hire Dave & DMZ* as the new Co-GM's before it became far too depressing to write about the M's flailing on a daily, weekly or any other basis.
Well, I don't know how to put this, but apparently I'm kind of a big deal because they did the next best thing. They ended the draconian rule of Bavasi and now the shining light reflecting off of the dome of our new GM Jack Zduriencik (or Z for the tongue-tied or drunk) has begun thawing my heart.
Then they hired a USSMariner Approved Statistician** to use this amazing tool new to baseball old timers: math.
It also doesn't hurt that almost every Mariner who participated in the World Baseball Classic had a fantastic run as a preamble to the season. I mean think about it...Some Mariners have actually played in a playoff atmosphere.
What's it like?
Two of our best players now know how it feels to be champions. Real champions. I'd like to see Japan vs. the Phillies to prove world dominance and quiet the undermining voices dismissing the WBC and all it's potential.
Sure, Hamels would be a shining spot for the Phil's, but do you really believe any MLB team could stand up to Japan's Big Three (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, and Hisashi Iwakuma) in a seven-game series? Really?
Kenji Johjima had a sturdy performance during the classic. Not eye-popping, but solid. More importantly though, Ichiro worked out of his usual early slump (I wonder what he uses as a slump buster?) and delivered the biggest hit in the entire classic full of great offensive output (exception: Dominican Republic).
The Team Mariners-Tigers, I mean, Venezuela was exciting to watch. Our new left fielder Endy Chavez exceeds my expectations already. King Felix dominated. Jose Lopez started scaring people with his newly patient approach at the plate and Carlos Silva looks to have taken that extra passenger out of his fat suit.
That's what a year away from Minnesota's fine beers, cheeses and sausages can do for you, I guess.
Heck, even Phillippe Aumont, the M's skyrocketing Canadian Uber-Pitching-Prospect made his way through the heart of the mashing USA lineup without yielding a run in Canada's loss to the homeland. It was fun to watch. The kid is 20.
Between him and Matt Tuiasosopo (say THAT three times fast, or slow... doesn't matter) there is a lot to look forward to in the near future.
And yet, I haven't even brought up the Return of the Griffey. The third episode in a drama where an injured hero comes home, reclaims his form and becomes the best DH in the league. Yes, DH.
If you want to see the Griffey of old gracefully patrolling the outfield, get a highlight video because that player is gone. However, his bat is quickly becoming authoritative as Spring Training moves along making me smile a little bit more with each picture-perfect left-handed swing.
We have an improved outfield defense. We have a great shot at starting hot out of the chute thanks to the intense preparation our WBC participants endured and the Championship focus Ichiro and Kenji bring back with them. We already have momentum going into the season.
Thank you Mr. Zduriencik for restoring my hope in the Mariners.
I look forward to the many close and exciting games we will have this year, where win or lose, I won't have to hang my head in shame.
I will also heal faster emotionally knowing the likes of Carl Everett, Jose Vidro, Brad Wilkerson and Richie Sexson were just part of a terrible memory and are not going to hurt me anymore.
* USSMariner.com Proprietors
** Tom Tango-tangotiger.net