It was a glorious day in June when I made a bet with my math teacher that the Mariners would return to the playoffs for the first time since their unforgettable yet increasingly distant season in 2001.
As a math teacher, he appropriately played the odds, knowing that the Mariners' playoff chances were at the time only 10 percent.
Fast forward about a month, and his side of the wager is still looking safe.
The All-Star break has arrived and the M's, although in prime position to pounce the Angels and take our rightfully deserved seat in 1st place, are still looking at under 20 percent odds.
But for me, it is not about the odds.
And the game of baseball is not about number crunching or endless formulas. It is about taking money away from the man that tortured me with hours of pointless algebra homework. I don't really care if the Mariners make the playoffs or not. I just want my five dollars.
Just kidding...but really,
Let me lay down a scenario for you. Let us say it was sometime in April, and you and I were eating ice cream cones at the local Creamery, when all of a sudden you have the audacity to tell me that come Trading Deadline, time the Mariners would be buyers.
Well, let me tell you that there would be so much Pralines 'n Cream on your face that you would no longer feel bad for forcing me to order Pralines 'n Cream in the first place.
But here we are in mid-July, and the Mariners have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, standing only four games back from the LAA Angels. It has been a painful eight seasons since we last experienced the post-season.
So it would be foolish to throw in the towel, right?
There are some who justifiably say no, as many fans and writers have cautioned against the Mariners investing too much in the "now" and losing out in the future. Who can blame them? The last time the Mariners went in that direction, this happened.
And who says the Mariners cannot be both buyers and sellers? There are some players the Mariners can afford to go after who will still help this team. Zduriencik, who has already displayed this strategy, as seen in the Langerhans and Hannahan deals.
Not much was given up, and yet the roster was strengthened. There are plenty of opportunities for little doses of improvement within the team that will help sustain its performance for the second half.
There are also some clearly expendable Mariners *cough* Miguel Batista *cough*, that other teams would be willing to trade for. After the Betancourt trade, I am truly convinced that this front office could somehow get some value in return for any below average player in the organization.
(The exception may be Carlos Silva and his fat contract, but I have a feeling that he is being held onto for the much needed moral support.)
So what will it take to help the Mariners orchestrate a run at the AL West title? The most glaring vulnerability is the shortstop position.
Ronny Cedeno may be an improvement over Betancourt, but he still is not viable enough to be an everyday player. He should definitely be considered more of a band-aid situation for any team legitimately considering themselves a contender.
Cedeno cannot hit the ball nearly well enough to be starting. I know it, the fans know it, Wakamatsu knows it, and Cedeno himself knows it (do not worry though, this is where Silva steps in with his new found role).
Ronny Cedeno would much better serve the Mariners right now as a utility player.
I would like to say the Mariners need another hitter, more specifically a patient hitter in the lineup. But right now by looking at the roster, I am content going forward with what we have, save the shortstop position.
So what's the solution? JJ Hardy.
USS Mariner goes into great detail on how this deal would help the Mariners. Simply put, the Mariners should trade Bedard and Washburn in exchange for the shortstop.
It seems a little unbelievable that the Mariners would still be able to compete without two of their best pitchers on a staff that deserves credit for getting them where they are today.
Read USS Mariner for the rationale. Brandon Morrow and Ryan-Rowland Smith are both waiting in the wings to replace Bedard and Washburn. I fully endorse this deal.
The Mariners also need some reinforcement in the bullpen. As the season goes on, the Mariners strong rotation will start to grow fatigued. I am not emotionally stable enough to endure a repeat of 2007, where the Mariners' entire pitching staff collapsed in the second half of the season.
Preferably, Zduriencik should have his eyes on some cheap left-handed pitchers, because currently, Garret Olson is our only left-handed option in the bullpen.
It would be downright silly not to mention the possibility of getting some help from Tacoma, as there are a couple of live arms that could have an impact right away. Jason Vargas and Cesar Jimenez are two guys that could fill in as a lefty arm in the bullpen.
As the trade deadline approaches, I have full faith in this front office. They have been nothing but terrific so far.
Even if there is a questionable move made, they have earned the benefit of the doubt, because right now it is awesome to even think we have a shot at making the playoffs.
Do not get too worked up at what this front office has in store for the next couple of weeks, as long as it is not stagnation, Zduriencik has proven to be creative and has been excellent at finding diamonds in the rough (see Russell Branyan and F-Gut).
Let's wish this team and front office the best of luck, as they enter a period that will decide if the Mariners truly are contenders.
Because let's face it—In this economy, I cannot afford to lose those five dollars. All it will take is a couple of key moves that will propel us to the front of the pack.
So what say you? Trade Washburn? Trade Bedard? Trade Both?