The Mariners are set to resume play after the All-Star break tomorrow down in Anaheim with a three game series against the second place Angels. Rather than doing a review of the first-half of the season I am just going to talk a little bit about the rest of the year. It seems as if this team is in the midst of an odd time period where we are not quite rebuilding and yet not in the race. Players like Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson complicate matter as they are probably not part of the long-term future of this team but they are under contract through next year and probably not high on other team’s trade list. Bradley has not played up to expectations but is not really that much worse than Michael Saunders as the everyday left fielder for the rest of the year. Saunders is young, has hit for some power and is definitely fast on the bases and in the field. Most people are saying Saunders will improve with more playing time, though we have heard the same about Rob Johnson. Traditionally players came up from AAA because they were obviously better than the other minor leaguers and once they came up they either produced or were sent down. In the case of both Saunders and Johnson they seem to have been good but not great in the minors and in the majors neither is really proving to be getting better, yet they stay on with the big club.
I have a whole separate post entitled “Who’s on first” that I wrote a few days ago so I won’t go into that debacle again except to say that the Mariners would love to trade Casey Kotchman but probably won’t get to many offers. Jose Lopez could go in a trade as well though I think his bat will improve in the second half. Gutierrez who started off hot has been fading for the last six weeks or so at the plate but he is definitely a part of the Mariners future plans. Ichiro is a fixture in right and is untouchable unless he and the mystery owner Hiroshi Yamauchi decide it is time to go. Actually if the Mariners were really rebuilding for the future rather than this in between phase, trading Ichiro and using his huge salary for younger players would be a smart move, but I just don’t see it happening.
The catcher position is goofy as well with Rob Johnson having another bad year at the plate and defensively but still seems to be another of these gray area type of guys on this club. Of course then there is Mike Sweeney due to come back from his latest DL to a team that sorely lacks veteran leadership yet has no real room for him. It is funny to read about Mike Sweeney in the media or in the blogosphere to see how even his biggest detractors have come to admit he indeed can still hit after realizing that all the youngsters that supposedly he and Griffey were blocking didn’t quite measure-up. Speaking of Ken Griffey Jr. it has occurred to me that he really has been quiet since retiring as I expected to either here him blast the Mariners and the local press on some TV show or we would have heard by now of his grand farewell day at Safeco.
The starting rotation is a bit vague as well besides Hernandez, Vargas and Fister. After that you have the ongoing Ryan Rowland-Smith saga and the ever popular guessing game over the return of Eric Bedard. And the bullpen will probably continue being shaky no matter how you juggle it. There has been rumors that some teams were interested in David Aardsma but I doubt any team in contention would be willing to part with much for him in light of his performance thus far. I will predict that another young gun will be brought into the mix soon possibly Danny Cortez who we picked-up in the Betancourt trade. Other than that I hope Brian Sweeney is given some sort of role and is not forced to languish in uncertainty like so many players on this club who seem to be moved around daily on a whim by manager Don Wakamatsu. While I understand Wak has been forced to be creative in the first half of the season, having 7 or 8 players on a team not knowing where they stand at any given time is a sure recipe for unrest on any team and is reflection on the managers ability to be decisive.
Lots of little things tend to get swept under the carpet here in Seattle as the top management knows by now that the local media and most of the fans will forget about things with time and a few good days of NW summer weather. I have been trying to block-out most of the first half of this season myself over the break as it was all just a little overwhelming on the negative side. I look for the second half of the season to be slightly better, and am hoping to get a glimpse of Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda both at AAA now, before it’s all said and done. Other than that my expectations are not too high, though I would love to see Justin Smoak produce at the plate and watch Felix kick some butt every 5 days……http://jeffsmariners.com