What Went Right for Seattle Mariners in 2013 Season?
How many different ways can you say disappointing?
If you're a Seattle Mariners fan, you can probably think of at least 91 after this season.
Ok, maybe the Mariners weren't the worst team in all of professional baseball in terms of their record, but when it came to senseless drama they sure knew how to put on a show in 2013.
In a span of less than a year the M's...
Failed to lure a single decent free agent to Seattle.
Were rejected by Justin Upton after having traded for him with the Diamondbacks.
Filled out their roster with an endless parade of washed-up veterans.
Rushed nearly all of their top prospects to the majors to help replace the last batch of failed prospects rushed to the majors.
Saw their manager suffer a stroke only to see him come back and quit after fighting with the front office.
Had a top prospect, Danny Hultzen, who was hurt all season and will likely miss all of next year following surgery.
And finally...the owner died.
Did I miss anything?
I like to think I covered the main points of this disaster of a season last week when I focused on what went wrong, but in order to be fair, I feel it's only right to highlight what went well for the M's this year as well.
Oddly enough, this list is longer than I had originally anticipated. Nevertheless it still doesn't wash away the stink of this particularly wretched season.
Still without further ado, let's review some highlights!
Not Signing Josh Hamilton
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Talk about dodging a bullet.
After getting off to a horrendous start, Hamilton eventually rebounded this past season (ESPN) by posting a line of .250/.307/.432, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 158/47 K/BB, 151 G, which happened to be eerily similar to the numbers of the person the M's traded for as Plan B instead.
Kendrys Morales (ESPN), signed through this year at a fraction of the price of Hamilton, posted a stat line of .277/.336/.449, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 114/49 K/BB in 156 games.
What happens next year with Morales (CBSsports.com) is a whole other question, but for this year statistically speaking general manager Jack Zduriencik lucked out.
Seriously, could you imagine if Hamilton had signed with the Mariners and posted the same numbers?
Both Eric Wedge and Zduriencik would probably be gone.
On second thought, maybe that's not such a bad thing?
The only problem is that we would have to watch Hamilton struggle for at least another couple of years in the process.
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While we're on the topic of dumb luck, how about Raul Ibanez?
Going in this looked like the classic hope-for-the-best-but-expect-the-worst scenario, similar to the M's signing Ken Griffey Jr. back in 2009.
Yet oddly enough Ibanez turned out to be far more valuable to the team than anyone could have probably imagined, especially during some lean times early on this season as Ibanez, at age 41, turned back the hands of time while hitting 29 homers.
Perhaps he hit the bulk of them before the All-Star break, but still Ibanez was arguably one of the team's best offensive players for the season.
Hisashi Iwakuma Emerges
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When it comes to the Seattle Mariners, for most fans living outside the Pacific Northwest, the story begins and ends with Felix Hernandez.
While it was great that Hernandez signed a contract extension just prior to the start of this season to stay in Seattle for what will hopefully be a long time, by the end of this season one could argue that he wasn't exactly the best pitcher on the M's staff.
Last year Hisashi Iwakuma—in his first season pitching in the majors after arriving from Japan—struggled early on while working primarily out of the bullpen, before piecing together a fine second half as part of the team's starting rotation.
Going into this season my expectations for him were relatively modest, but before long it became clear that Iwakuma's success in 2012 was only the starting point for an All-Star season.
At first glance a record of 14 wins and six losses (ESPN) probably won't blow anyone away, yet pretty much each and every time Iwakuma took the mound he did an excellent job of keeping the Mariners in the ballgame.
For a team that traded away its No. 2 starter Jason Vargas at the beginning of the year, giving Iwakuma the job with only a half season of starts under his belt was a huge risk that oddly enough paid off as he would get my vote as the team's most valuable player for this year.
Kyle Seager Is Legitimate
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Of course if we're talking about the most valuable player on the Mariners in 2013, that conversation needs to include Kyle Seager.
Seager in his second full season as a starter proved that last year was no fluke as he hit .260 with 22 HR and 69 RBI (ESPN); however, those numbers could have been a bit higher as it seemed he ran out of gas by season's end.
Regardless, what makes Seager great is that even when he's struggling at the plate or in the field, he always seems to find a way to make the most of the situation, whether that's making a heads-up play in the field or laying down a bunt in the batter's box to fight off a defensive shift.
Is Seager a great player?
Perhaps not, but for the Mariners he is looking more and more to be a leader and one of the few youngsters who has made the transition from prospect to pro.
Here's hoping that rookies Brad Miller and Nick Franklin take their experience from this season and make the same leap that Seager did two years ago by establishing themselves as fixtures in the M's lineup to help solidify the infield.
Justin Smoak Saves His Job?
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With Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin all looking like potential starters as part of the M's infield next year based on their play in 2013, is it safe to consider Justin Smoak as part of that group?
To me this is a bit of a gray area that in the span of the next few months may change depending on how the situation with Kendrys Morales (The Tacoma News Tribune) plays out.
For today though, Smoak, after several false starts since coming to Seattle, finally looked capable of holding down the job this season by hitting .238 with 20 HR and 50 RBI (ESPN).
Not great, but not terrible.
The reason I'm willing to include Smoak here is that of the three young players most prominently featured in 2012, he was by far the most successful...which is sad.
Last year Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero were supposed to help lead the Mariners forward into a new era—instead it was more of a new error.
This year things went from bad to worse as Montero and Ackley both posted disappointing seasons, so to see Smoak finally improve upon his on-base and slugging percentages was at least somewhat encouraging.
Ok, I'm grasping at straws here, which leads me to my final point...
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Perhaps it was only a handful of starts during the final weeks of the season, but both James Paxton and Taijuan Walker looked pretty good in September, which—given all that we saw this season—was a welcomed sight.
What does this mean for 2014?
At this point I hesitate to get too excited, but Paxton really impressed me with his performance and could perhaps take a spot in the Mariners starting rotation.
Look, as a realist I've come to accept that we may never see Danny Hultzen pitch in Seattle, but if both Paxton and Walker can be productive in the next year or so, I'd say that might be a decent start to a rotation that already includes Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Honestly I want to believe.
I want to believe that Walker and Paxton, not to mention Mike Zunino, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, all have bright futures ahead of them in Seattle.
In many ways that requires a huge leap of faith, but right now that's the best I can offer.
Then again, no one said that being a Mariners fan would be easy.