This off-season The Nats Blog will be holding weekly interviews with blogs for all thirty teams. One site a week leading up to the start of the 2011 baseball season. This week I spoke with Jeff Sullivan from Lookout Landing, one of the top Seattle Mariners blogs on the net, to talk about the teams Cy Young Award winner and the hopes for a team turnaround.
TNB: What are the expectations for new manager Eric Wedge?
Lookout Landing: What people are looking for out of Wedge is for him and his coaching staff to instill some team-wide discipline. The clubhouse kind of got away from the manager(s) a year ago, and Wedge is a hardass who isn’t going to allow the same kind of behavior. Wedge isn’t going to be the key to any Mariners turnaround, no. But he should help, and after the Mariners have wandered through the years without a real ‘strong’ manager, Wedge should make for a nice change.
TNB: Ichiro has been Mr. Consistent since he first stepped foot in the United States. Believe it or not he’s already 37-years old. How many more years does he have with his high level of play?
Lookout Landing: If there’s one thing we’ve learned with Ichiro, it’s that it’s best not to try to forecast his decline. Sure, his numbers last year were down from his career averages, but he was also one of the lineup’s only regular threats, which put a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Each time his numbers have dropped in the past, he’s come back with a big year. Obviously, he’ll reach the end eventually. At some point he won’t be able to compete at the same level, and it’ll be reflected in his statistics. But I don’t think that’s going to happen in 2011. It might not happen this decade. Who the hell knows?
TNB: Chone Figgins was a disappointment in his first year with Seattle. Will we see the Figgins of old in 2011?
Lookout Landing: We can’t guarantee anything, but Figgins has two things going for him. For one, he was much stronger in the second half last year than he was in the first, which bodes well. And for two, he should return to his natural position at third base, which may make him feel more comfortable. People are less enamored with Figgins now than they were when he was signed, and for good reason, but it’s too early to write him off completely, and he should end up much closer to his career averages in 2011.
TNB: Dustin Ackley is considered to be the second baseman of the future and was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League thanks to an incredible .424 batting average. When should we expect to see him on the big league roster?
Lookout Landing: There have been rumors that Ackley could break camp with the roster in April, but I wouldn’t count on that happening, primarily for service time reasons. That said, he isn’t far off, and if everything goes well then Ackley should be up for good by the beginning of June. He’ll take over at second base, and the likelihood is that Brendan Ryan will shift over to short. It’s important to recognize, of course, that Ackley didn’t exactly light Tacoma on fire last season, but he did quite well for someone his age against that competition, and he should only continue to develop.