If you had to sum up the 2013 Seattle Mariners in one word as we approach the end of June, which one would you choose?
For a team still searching for answers, it's hard to stay positive these days.
Beyond the M's one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of their starting rotation and the promise of recently promoted rookies Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino, is there anything or anyone else worth rooting for as we inch towards the halfway point in the season?
Rather than lament the Mariners misfortunes, I figured it might be nice to take a break and focus on one of the few positive developments that may have fallen through the cracks during this season so far.
To anyone who knows and loves the M's, third baseman Kyle Seager is arguably the team's best offensive building block. What's funny is that depending on your point of view that's either good news or a sad commentary on the current state of the franchise.
For today, I happen to take it as a positive, as Seager continues to grow on me with each passing game.
Perhaps what's most impressive about him is that he continues to thrive under some pretty trying circumstances in Seattle. No matter how poorly the M's are playing, Seager just keeps doing his thing.
Move him up in the order. Move him down in the order. Play him anywhere in the field. He always gets the job done, while hustling every step of the way.
Fact is, it wasn't supposed to be this way.
Last year, Chone Figgins was supposed to finally earn his keep at third base, while Seager would fight for playing time as a utility player.
This year, veterans Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse were supposed to help spur an offensive renaissance, while Seager would serve in a complementary role.
Meanwhile, college teammate Dustin Ackley was supposed to emerge as the face of the franchise among a crop of young prospects the organization trotted out not only this season, but last season as well.
Instead, Seager, the proverbial runt of the litter, a guy who I'd imagine quite a few people still see as miscast at third base—not to mention within the top half of the batting order—continues to quietly carry on while leading the M's in several offensive categories again this season, according to ESPN.
While one could argue that Seager has benefited because so many of his contemporaries have given us an endless stream of doubts, is that really fair to him and what he has accomplished?
Couldn't one argue that he deserves even more credit given the circumstances?
At this point, I think it's safe to say that you can pencil in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma as the Mariners representatives at the All-Star Game in roughly a month's time.
But is Seager also worthy of a trip to New York's Citi Field?
If so, he has a lot of ground to make up based on the current vote, via MLB.com. Miguel Cabrera is running away with the voting at third base. Sadly, Seager doesn't even show up in the top five as Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and Oakland's Josh Donaldson round out the voting.
For now, I suppose it's hard to argue about any member of that quintet as all of them are worthy candidates, especially Cabrera, who is once again posting MVP-worthy numbers.
Hopefully over time, though, Seager will continue to develop his game and begin to make a dent in the voting process. Yet, even if his popularity never really expands beyond the Pacific Northwest, I like to think that the M's have someone in Seager worth building around over the next several seasons.
Crazy as it may sound, who else would you propose the M's hitch themselves to starting tomorrow?
Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders may rebound, but only Ackley and maybe Saunders strike me as capable of being solid contributors at this point.
As for Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse, I'm hesitant to place too much stock in them long-term given their age, durability and potential contract issues.
Finally, as we learned all too painfully with Ackley, Montero and Smoak, it's much too soon to attach such lofty expectations to Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. Right now, let's simply enjoy watching them cut their teeth as pros before putting them front and center with the task of saving baseball in Seattle.
Right now I'm simply trying to hang on to the hope that a few of the players we are seeing now will eventually become every day fixtures, with Seager, over time, becoming the most "senior" among them.
In an ideal world, three years from now I'd like to think that Felix would still front the starting rotation with some help from the likes of Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer. While I doubt all of them will make it, at least two of them should be solid major league starters.
Beyond them, Seager will still be at third base, Franklin at second, Zunino behind the plate and perhaps Brad Miller at shortstop?
First base could go to Kendrys Morales if he opts to stay at the right price, but would also be happy seeing the recently drafted DJ Peterson or maybe even Dustin Ackley nail down the job?
Where things get really cloudy is in the outfield, but, hopefully, candidates will emerge between now and then to fill the void through both the farm system and in free agency.
The point I want to drive home though is that whether or not Kyle Seager becomes an All-Star this year is irrelevant. What's more important is that he continues to cement his spot within the M's lineup as the team continues their endless quest out of the wilderness.
Seager is the hustling, gritty and high-energy player this franchise desperately needs. Someone who can withstand the highs and lows, while steadily making a positive impact both on the field and in the clubhouse.
If he can continue to bring that kind of effort to the good folks in Seattle, eventually the time will come where he will become an All-Star.
Until that day, I feel we owe it to Seager to give him our support—both at the ballpark and at the ballot box. Maybe he won't catch Miguel Cabrera this year, but that doesn't mean we should ignore or under value the M's most valuable every day player.
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