Cheney Free Press -

 
 

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Mariners' start gives cause for hope, maybe perchance to dream again

Crunch Time

 


Yes, I know there are 162 games in a Major League Baseball season.

Yes, I know that at 4-2, the Seattle Mariners are in first place in the American League West Division for all of 3.7 percent of that season.

Yes, I know, it’s not May yet, or June – let alone July – which is typically when the M’s have at least begun to swoon if not having completely faded away from any discussions about playoffs (“Playoffs?!”).

But so far after six games, you have to be encouraged by what you see in this year’s Mariner’s team. At least encouraged enough to believe this will be a team that will be competitive and vying for a playoff spot right up to the final regular season horn – if there was such a thing in baseball.

Having watched several of the games in the Angels’ and A’s’ series, my first impression is this Seattle club is more able to take the fight at the opponents. Not that they weren’t in previous years, but the aggressive approach of new manager Lloyd McClendon is much more visible than that of past managers.

Getting Yankee free agent Robinson Cano in the off-season for a cool $240 million for 10 years created a lot of stir in the baseball world, and some controversy given past perceptions of his work ethic, i.e. running all the way to first on obvious groundouts. But I’ll settle for a lackadaisical leg out now and then if more often we get what he did in the finale Sunday in Oakland.

That was a third-inning hit Cano turned into a double by making a wide turn at first, and realizing centerfielder Coco Crisp was waiting on the ball, making a beeline to second instead of playing it safe and returning to first. Cano eventually scored, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.

Then, there’s relative newcomer Abraham Almonte. You gotta’ like a guy named Abraham, and Almonte has also shown aggressiveness on the base paths.

In the second inning last Thursday, Almonte reached first on an error by A’s first baseman Alberto Callaspo. Not stopping there, Almonte kept hopping around so much that he drew a throw from second baseman Nick Punto that skipped passed Callaspo for another error and gave Almonte second, and he eventually scored.

There’s also Seattle’s aggressiveness at the plate, exhibited by fast starts from hopefuls Justin Smoak – batting behind Cano – and Dustin Ackley. Both Smoak and Ackley are hitting well ahead of where they were this time last year, .292, with Cano leading the team at .391 and Almonte at .280

As a team, the M’s are batting .250, 13th overall in the Majors. If players like Kyle Seager can regain his traditional .280-form over the last couple seasons, and Brad Miller can gain another 30 points on his .250 average, Seattle’s offense might be in pretty good shape.

Yes, I know it’s a long season and guys like Smoak, Ackley and Cano are bound to go through slumps. But at least their start over the first six games can give them a barometer for what they can do should they have to battle out of dry spells.

Add into the mixture two of our projected starters, the MLB-tested-proven-gem Hisashi Iwakuma and high draft pick Taijuan Walker, should hopefully return soon from early season nagging injuries, along with a pretty decent bullpen, and maybe, finally, there’s hope.

Hope that come September, the Mariner’s might be at least safely above .500, something they haven’t attained since 2009. And maybe, just maybe, possibly, hopefully, with a little outside luck, Seattle baseball fans might once again have dreams of playing into October.

Yes, I know, there are 156 games left to go.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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