To get Washington fans ready for the coming baseball season, all spring (err…and Winter) I will be interviewing a blogger from each team in the league. To continue our journey I talked with Jeff from Lookout Landing, one of the top Mariners blogs on the net. The Mariners are a fascinating team who went from a cellar dweller to a winning team in just one year, using many of the same tactics the Nationals have tried to implement this offseason. Lets take a look:
The Nats Blog: In 2008, the Nationals and the Mariners were the worst two teams in baseball. In 2009 the Nationals remained the worst team in baseball but the Mariners managed a 85-77 record. What can baseball fans expect to see from Seattle in 2010?
Lookout Landing: A similar level performance, but one that this time has them contend for the division. The Mariners have replaced everything they lost and then some, and with the Angels coming apart like the Soviet Union and the Rangers still being a little ways away, the competition is wide open. It’ll be a team founded on – you guessed it – pitching and defense – but the pitching and defense look good enough to carry the M’s a pretty long way. There’s not a front office in baseball that hasn’t at least considered the nightmare possibility of facing Felix and Lee in the playoffs.
TNB: A lot of people attribute the Mariners resurgence in 2010 to a commitment to defense and the emergence of Franklin Guitierrez as a defensively dominant center fielder. Many in Washington are hoping Nyjer Morgan can be that for the Nationals in 2010. What impact could you see Franklin Guitierrez having on the Mariners last year?
LL: Franklin might’ve been the biggest reason behind Jarrod Washburn’s half-season 2.64 ERA. Guti impressed everyone. Even the guy who set out to acquire him in the first place. The numbers say he had one of the best defensive seasons of the decade, and the visuals bared that out, as his instincts and route-running more than made up for good but unexceptional footspeed. There were balls to the gap that you would’ve sworn would go for three bases until this little dot came from the bottom of the screen and closed on the fly. I think he made one bad read all season. One. I remember it.
Plus, he had a bat. Everyone knew Guti had a little offensive upside, but an above-average season? Not a lot of people saw that one coming.
TNB: Outside of Ichiro, what will the Mariners provide offensively in 2010?
LL: Some balance. It’ll probably be a mediocre lineup, but there’s a little more on-base ability in there than there was a year ago, thanks to the Bradley and Figgins additions. Bradley’s gotta be the key to whether the lineup is passable or a problem. If he hits, we’ll be doing all right. If he doesn’t, we’re in some trouble. It’s worth noting, though, that even if Bradley does have a good season, the lineup still won’t hit a lot of home runs. Kotchman, Ichiro, Wilson, Johnson, and Figgins could all end up with fewer than ten. The runs they score will be runs scored in more indirect ways.
TNB: The Mariners have seen arguably three of the best players (Griffey, Arod, Randy Johnson) in the last 30 years start their career in Seattle only to leave for greener pastures, in your opinion what effect has that had on the culture of Mariners baseball?
LL: It made the Felix extension news about a thousand times sweeter.
TNB: Speaking of Randy Johnson, if you can compare, who was more exciting to watch pitch? Him or Felix Hernandez?
LL: I didn’t get to watch Randy a whole hell of a lot, but that doesn’t affect my answer. Randy. Peak Randy was more exciting than Peak(?) Felix. When Felix is going good, he’ll strike out nine guys. When Randy was going good, he’d strike out 18. Felix has the capability to be the best pitcher in baseball, but in terms of dominance – in terms of pure, raw dominance – he really doesn’t have a prayer of ever approaching the Randy Johnson phenomenon. Randy was one of a kind, and for the sake of our sanity we all need to hold Felix up to a different standard.
TNB: What is your all-time favorite Mariners moment?
LL: I could go with the obvious and say The Double. But instead, I’m going to go with Felix’s one-hitter in Boston, because I was actually there to see it in person. I wrote it up here, if you’re curious. Edgar’s walk-off is inarguably the #1 franchise highlight to date, but when it happened, I wasn’t even ten. It’s not the same. Being able to take a day off from school, drive up to Boston, and watch Felix mow down the eventual World Champions in front of a crowd abuzz with Daisuke Fever is a baseball experience unparalleled in my memory. It was so incredible I didn’t even gloat, and those Sox fans are assholes. I witnessed the birth of a star.