Like the Warbucks mansion at the end of Annie, Seattle was praising its "New Deal for Christmas" during the 2007-2008 offseason. It was the year the hometown club would rise to 2001- or at least 2002-like glory.
The town buzzed for the start of the season, thinking the team would jump to an early division lead while the Angels were hurting with the loss of Lackey and Escobar, and ride that success into the postseason.
We couldn't have been more wrong.
We all bought into the fact that the improvement of the starting pitching would push Seattle over the Halo Hump in the AL West. At the time, the $48 million addition of SP Carlos Silva was cautiously hailed; and once Erik Bedard was enrolled as the lead dog in the Mariners' rotation, the city started to believe in what could be.
We were so wrong.
It was now-or-never for the Mariners, it was a do-or-die situation. They traded away their key prospect, 21-year old OF Adam Jones, who is now starting for the Baltimore Orioles; and they traded away stability in their elite (as far as the season went) bullpen in RP George Sherrill, who is now the closer of the Baltimore Orioles. With success from young guys like Brandon Morrow, Eric O'Flaherty, and Sean Green, we felt as if there was no reason to worry about whether or not they could close out games.
We were undoubtedly wrong.
Now, sitting about a third of the way through the MLB Season, all you can do is wonder. What would it have been like to see your team last through late May? What would it have been like to wait a couple years and see Adam Jones become the next Ken Griffey Jr.? What would it have been like to ride the Jose Guillen growth-hormone train? All we can do is wonder.
The Mariners were victims of hype. Nearly every analyst gave them a shot at the playoffs; they seemed to have it all worked out. They had an experienced manager whom the players respected. They had power bats that, when turned on, could add the explosiveness the team lacked in 2007. They had a dominant rotation and a solid bullpen, which, even if the team only scored a couple of runs, would be able to allow just a few less. We thought it would be perfect.
We were naive and wrong.
The one thing GM Bill Bavasi and Mariners' management underestimated during the offseason was an aging lineup. Sure Betancourt and Lopez still dance the tango pain-free, but the same could not be said the same of Ichiro or Sexson. In 2007, the 88-win Seattle Mariners, although third in the MLB in hits, ranked twelfth in batting average and 20th in home runs. Not exactly the stats of a championship-caliber club, and the 2008 Mariners' 22nd run ranking drives that point home (if only the team could follow suit).
And the one guy that came in and made a consistent offensive difference in 2007, OF Jose Guillen, went by the wayside after a .290 season composed of 99 RBIs. Sure he had a fondness for the juice, but it isn't like that stopped the Kansas City Royals (who have a better record than the Mariners at the time of writing). And for a team that had given up its only truly talented young star (who was trying to get time in the team's outfield late last season) and was on a win-now mentality, starting from scratch after releasing one of your most productive players probably wasn't the smartest idea.
Yet we carried on, like soldiers in the wind, believing that although the going got tough, better things would come along, like Brad Wilkerson. The oft-hyped, never-promising Wilkerson stuck to his roots, and fooled the organization out of several million dollars after being designated to the AAA club a month into the season.
We were unsurprisingly wrong.
Everything just seemed to be ready to fall into place; the town was just about ready to see some production from the other stadium south of downtown. Yet, any hope of a playoff berth now is desperate, any chances of a Griffey becoming a playing member of the organization are slim, and any chance of seeing the 34-year old Ichiro come close to a World Series berth are fading away like evaporating froth in nearby Elliott Bay.
We were wrong.