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MLB Trade Rumors: Seattle Mariners Remaining Trade Chips

The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline passes this Saturday, and baseball’s buyers and sellers will be in negotiations all week over potential deadline trades.

The Seattle Mariners are undoubtedly sellers at this year’s trade deadline. At 39-60, the Mariners sit 18.5 games behind the AL West leading Texas Rangers, and have already traded away this year’s most sought after trade target, ace pitcher Cliff Lee.

Having made a clear move towards selling at the trade deadline, the pressure is now on Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik to prepare his team for contention in 2011. Zduriencik must now decide what other players, if any, he can deal at the deadline.

Here is a quick list of five current Mariners who could have new addresses by next week.

2B Jose Lopez

The Mariners seem to have a future built around LF Michael Saunders, C Adam Moore, 1B Justin Smoak, and last year’s first round draft pick, converted 2B Dustin Ackley.

Ackley was recently promoted from Double-A West Tennessee to Triple-A Tacoma, and in his first game in Tacoma, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly. Ackley is a sure bet to factor into the Mariners’ future, and if they want to get him big-league experience this year , they may try and shop Lopez for additional prospects.

The Phillies are actively searching for a replacement middle infielder, as injuries have plagued regular 2B Chase Utley and 3B Placido Polanco. With Polanco currently filling in at second base, the Phillies have the flexibility of searching for a second baseman or third baseman.

Don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a play for a middle infielder—it might turn out to be Jose Lopez.

Chance of Being Traded: Medium

1B Russell Branyan/1B Casey Kotchman

The Seattle Mariners currently roster first basemen Justin Smoak, Casey Kotchman, and Russell Branyan, and have Mike Sweeney on the Disabled List with back problems. It’s a crowded infield, to say the least.

The simple fix to this situation would be dealing one-time-starter-but-now-ineffective Casey Kotchman to a contender as a late inning defensive replacement and occasional pinch hitter. Unfortunately, his .215/.294/.654 line is uninspiring, and is unlikely to coax a contender into exchanging prospects for his services.

Seattle’s acquisition of Russell Branyan in late June was so uncharacteristic that Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times thought the initial report of the trade was a hoax. At the time, Seattle was 14 games out of first place, and seemingly out of contention in 2010.

Now, if the Mariners want to deal a first baseman, Branyan may be the most attractive trade bait. It would be ironic for the Mariners to acquire and trade Branyan within a month, but the current roster makes him disappointingly expendable, and Jack Zduriencik might make a move that is best for business, and not just fan appeal.

Here’s to hoping that a rival executive wakes up and says, “I need a .200 bat with Gold Glove caliber defense.”

Chance of Being Traded: Low

RP David Aardsma/RP Brandon League

Every year, relief arms are dealt at the Major League Baseball trade deadline. Often, closers become set-up men and specialists are exchanged as teams race to acquire quality arms (a seemingly unending race). Since 2005, notable names such as Eric Gagne, LaTroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth, Arthur Rhodes, and George Sherrill have been moved in deadline deals.

Jack Zduriencik has a malleable bullpen in front of him. Sending 26-year-old RP Mark Lowe to Texas in the Cliff Lee trade was shocking, even though Lowe was injured, because Lowe has a power arm and high potential. Now, Zduriencik must decide if he will also move 27-year-old Brandon League and 28-year-old David Aardsma.

Aardsma seems the most likely to leave Seattle. His 2.52 ERA last season is looking more and more like an exception to his career numbers, and some clubs have shown interest in his services.

League is a more complicated issue, because Zduriencik gave up former first round pick Brandon Morrow to acquire League earlier this year. Morrow’s 4.71 ERA is nothing impressive, but he has fanned 119 batters in 107 innings pitched, and is still in his mid-twenties.

If Zduriencik decides to move League, he could face criticism if he is unable to obtain at least a Morrow-caliber package in return.

Chance of Being Traded: High

It remains to be seen what the Mariners will do in the coming week, but don’t be surprised if any of these names move elsewhere as the Mariners build for 2011.

Do you agree with these potential trade candidates? Comment below with your thoughts!

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Winners and Losers in the Seattle-Texas Cliff Lee Trade

On Friday, the Seattle Mariners traded ace Cliff Lee and reliever Mark Lowe to the Texas Rangers for switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak and three other prospects. 

Sportswriters and analysts are split on which team came out with the better end of this trade. Several pundits believe that the Rangers won out by landing a legitimate ace atop their rotation, while only sacrificing one of two high-potential first basemen in their system (the other being Chris Davis).

Others believe that the Mariners won out by acquiring a better package for Cliff Lee than they paid for him this past offseason. 

Like any trade, several teams, players, and division races will be affected by its completion. Here is a quick rundown of the biggest winners and losers in the Cliff Lee trade.


WINNER: 2010 Texas Rangers

I put the “2010” in front of this label because the Texas Rangers certainly improved in this deal, but it might not last long term.

Considering only this season, the Rangers are guaranteed winners in the Cliff Lee trade. They currently sit 4.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, and, with the acquisition of Lee, are primed to extend that lead in the second half of the year.

It remains to be seen if trading Justin Smoak within the division will backfire on the Rangers, but in 2010, Cliff Lee gives them an even greater chance to win their first division title in over a decade.


LOSER: 2010 New York Yankees

The New York Yankees boast the best record in baseball, but last Friday they looked like fools in the race for Cliff Lee.

On Friday morning, the Mariners and Yankees agreed in principle to a deal for Cliff Lee, but the Mariners backed out of negotiations after concerns about second base prospect David Adams’ health.

The Mariners quickly partnered up with the Texas Rangers, while the Yankees watched their agreement in principle fade into thin air.

Ken Rosenthal reported that the Yankees were “livid” at the Mariners decision, and one Yankees official fumed that “You just don’t do business that way.”

However, as the gentlemen at Lookout Landing noted, business is business, and the Yankees have been on the other side of the deal at least once in the past. 


WINNER: The Rest of the AL East

Entering the All-Star Break, the Tampa Bay Rays sit only two games back of the New York Yankees in the AL East, and the Boston Red Sox are within striking distance at five games back.

Had the Yankees acquired Cliff Lee, the chances of catching New York may have grown exponentially. 

Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon said it best when he told the St. Petersburg Times that Lee’s trade to Texas was “better than the Yankees.” Maddon preferred Lee going to the National League, but, like the rest of the AL East, he was more than happy to see Mariners-Yankees negotiations falter on Friday morning. 

Regardless of remaining trades, the rest of the AL East can breathe easier with Cliff Lee in Texas. 


LOSER: The Los Angeles Angels 

Similar to Joe Maddon’s displeasure over Cliff Lee’s potential trade to the New York Yankees, Mike Scoscia and the Los Angeles Angels could not have been pleased to hear that Lee was bound for Texas.

Angels OF Torii Hunter went as far as saying that Seattle broke the unwritten rules of baseball by dealing Lee within their own division. 

On Friday morning, the Angels sat 4.5 games behind the Rangers and faced increasing speculation over potential trade deadline acquisitions. With Lee’s arrival in Texas, the Angels now face mounting pressure to respond with an acquisition of their own.

The Angels are expected to pursue a corner infield power bat to replace Kendry Morales, who is out for the season due to injury. Within the past week, the Angels have been linked to Washington 1B Adam Dunn, Milwaukee 1B Prince Fielder, and free agent 1B Carlos Delgado. 

Regardless of who the Angels acquire, if anyone at all, their path to the 2010 AL West Championship is now more difficult with Cliff Lee in Texas.


WINNER: Texas Rangers 1B Chris Davis

Two years ago, Chris Davis was supposed to be the star of the future for the Texas Rangers. In 2008, Davis was ranked as the Rangers’ second best prospect, behind only SS Elvis Andrus. 

That same year, at age 22, Davis blasted 17 homeruns in only 80 games, and seemingly grabbed control of the Rangers’ first base position for years to come.

Since his spectacular debut, however, Davis has struggled mightily.

Davis was demoted in mid-July 2009 after a horrific first half. In early 2010, following an abysmal three weeks, Davis was again demoted in favor of 23-year-old Justin Smoak.

Since his demotion, Davis has been hard at work, posting an impressive .354/.403/.555 line with Triple-A Oklahoma. With Smoak’s departure, the Rangers again place their faith in Davis, and he may have the job for good this time.


LOSER: Seattle Mariners 1B Casey Kotchman

Casey Kotchman is a defensive machine. He is currently working on an MLB record in consecutive games without an error, but his offensive woes have heavily contributed to a lackluster 2010 Seattle Mariners offense.

In early June, the Mariners called up Mike Carp from Triple-A Tacoma to add offensive firepower to the first base position. This move failed, as Carp hit .167 in only 30 at-bats. In late June, the Mariners acquired Russell Branyan from the Cleveland Indians to again try and add pop at first base. With Branyan’s arrival, Kotchman had lost a hold on the everyday first base gig.

After the arrival of Justin Smoak, Kotchman may have lost hold of a roster spot with the Seattle Mariners. At this point, he is not much more than a late-inning defensive replacement.

It remains to be seen if Kotchman will be dealt (not many teams will have an interest in his .208 batting average), but with the acquisition of Justin Smoak, Kotchman has clearly become expendable. 


That’s it for the list. Comment below with who you think were the biggest winners and losers of the Cliff Lee trade!

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MLB Trade Rumors: Cliff Lee for the Texas Rangers’ Justin Smoak?

Buster Olney tweeted on Saturday morning that Seattle continues to look for “big bat potential” in exchange for Cliff Lee.

He listed two potentially available prospects who fit the bill: Cincinnati’s Yonder Alonso and Texas’ Justin Smoak. 

The Mariners have made it known that they are seeking bats in return for the top-tier southpaw. They have been linked to several top catching prospects, including Minnesota’s Wilson Ramos and the New York Yankees’ Jesus Montero.

The Mariners may have now widened their scope, however, now aiming for a potential impact bat at any position. 


Texas’ Trade Priorities

Last week, the Texas Rangers acquired Gold Glove catcher Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants. In doing so, the Rangers revealed an interesting pattern in organizational priorities.

In exchange for Molina, the Rangers sent pitchers Chris Ray and a “player to be named later.” After further negotiations, Michael Main was named as that player.

Main was the 24th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft and, prior to the 2010 season, he was rated the 21st best prospect in the Rangers’ farm system.

Yet the Rangers included Main because, in the deal, the Giants agreed to eat a portion of Bengie Molina’s salary.

In this trade, the Rangers made it clear that they are not willing to absorb salary through trades. Instead, the Rangers simply included a better prospect , to induce the Giants to pay their departing player’s salary. 

This pattern could bode well for the Seattle Mariners if the Rangers and Mariners become trading partners.


How This Affects the Mariners

In a normal trade, Cliff Lee has a set value that the Mariners are seeking to acquire. If the Mariners are willing to absorb a portion of salary in the trade, however, they may be able to get a higher-rated prospect than they planned; maybe even Justin Smoak.

The Texas Rangers have two high-profile first-base prospects in Justin Smoak and Chris Davis, aged 23 and 24, respectively.

Davis began 2010 as the Rangers’ starting first baseman, but slumped out of the gate and was demoted three weeks into the season.

Through two months, Smoak has shown promising power (8 HR), but problems elsewhere (.208 AVG).

The status quo finds the Texas Rangers with two potential power bats vying for the same position on a Major League Roster.

One of these two could turn into a designated hitter, but with Vladimir Guerrero’s current production (.334/18/70), that position might not be available for a few years.

The Seattle Mariners are seeking to acquire a potential power bat.

The Texas Rangers have both Justin Smoak and Chris Davis under their control.

In the Bengie Molina trade, the Rangers have made it clear that they would rather depart with a higher-rated prospect than acquire an incoming player’s salary. 

The Seattle Mariners would most likely be willing to eat a portion of Cliff Lee’s salary to acquire a higher-caliber power bat.

If the Rangers decide to make a play for Cliff Lee, the Mariners could acquire a high-potential power bat in return, such as Justin Smoak or Chris Davis.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Cliff Lee to the Minnesota Twins?

Recently dubbed the “rock-solid, no-questions-asked, No.1 trade target in baseball” by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, Cliff Lee has done nothing but improve his trade value every time he takes the mound.

Last week, I discussed where the Mariners could send Cliff Lee as a second half rental. The consensus leading contenders in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes are the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins.

The Mets recently stated that they are interested in acquiring starting pitching more than any other position, and Cliff Lee is reportedly fine with playing in New York. The Mets, however, may not be able to match the Seattle Mariners’ asking price. Any of Ike Davis, Jenrry Meija, or Jonathon Niese could catch the Mariners’ attention, but the Mets are unlikely to include any of them. 

The Minnesota Twins, however, may be willing to part with enough talent to strike a deal.

The Twins’ starting rotation has had issues over the past month. Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Scott Baker have posted only two quality starts over their past nine combined trips to the mound; and Francisco Liriano has lacked the consistency of a true ace. 

Additionally, the Twins own coveted-but-blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos, who became instantly available when Joe Mauer signed an eight-year contract extension.

Ramos, a unanimous top 100 prospect for 2010, has been pegged by Peter Gammons as the best minor league catcher who could be traded.

Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire recently said that the Twins are not the type of organization that pursues half-season rentals at the expense of their farm system. Gardenhire stated that the Twins are more interested in developing their own prospects than selling them off for established players such as Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. 

This philosophy is driven by the desire to turn Minnesota prospects into Minnesota major leaguers. The Twins may make an exception to this; however, when a prospect’s path to the Major Leagues is blocked by, say, an MVP-caliber catcher, that mantra becomes hard to preach.

At this point, the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners are near-perfect trading partners. The Twins need starting pitching, and the Mariners have the best pitcher on the market this year in Cliff Lee.

The Mariners are seeking a long-term solution at catcher, and the Twins are holding onto a top-100 caliber prospect in Wilson Ramos. 

The Mariners have not explicitly placed Cliff Lee on the trade market. General Manager Jack Zduriencik has been non-committal, but only the naive would believe the Mariners have not been feeling out potential trade partners.

If and when the Mariners trade Cliff Lee, the Minnesota Twins, and Wilson Ramos, might be the best match.

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Where the Seattle Mariners Could Trade Cliff Lee as a Second Half Rental

If the Seattle Mariners trade Cliff Lee before the 2010 trading deadline, he has made sure that the Mariners will get top value in return.

Lee has posted an historic start to his 2010 campaign. Over his first 10 starts, Lee has 67 strikeouts and only four walks. Since 1900, no pitcher has posted as many strikeouts with as few walks over his first 10 starts. Additionally, over his last five starts, Lee has put in five quality starts, three wins, two complete games, and a tidy 1.75 ERA.

With Lee pitching in top form, and the Mariners delving ever-deeper into the AL West basement (ignoring an unusual current three-game winning streak), it seems that Lee’s days as a Seattle Mariner are numbered.

As the Mariners enter trade negotiations (either publicly or privately), they need to decide when they will trade Cliff Lee and how much they will ask for in return.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, Cliff Lee’s contract expires at the end of 2010, making him a “rental” for the remainder of the season wherever he lands.

Lee’s rental status does not cripple his trade potential. As the 2008 C.C. Sabathia trade taught us, a team can acquire exceptional value for an ace even if his contract expires at the end of that year. In that trade, Cleveland acquired highly touted prospects Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in exchange for a half-season of service from Sabathia.

The Mariners enter this year’s trading market seeking top prospects in return for Cliff Lee. Last December, the Mariners traded away former first round pick Philippe Aumont to acquire Lee from Philadelphia. Ideally, the Mariners would acquire top-tier talent in return for dealing him away.

Speculation runs rampant over Lee’s possible destinations. Here is a quick list of potential buyers, and why each team could make a play for the crafty lefty in the coming weeks.


New York Mets

The Mets haven’t been shy about the fact that they want to acquire a top starter before this year’s trade deadline. Injuries have thinned out the Mets’ rotation. Kelvim Escobar suffered a season-ending injury, Oliver Perez created an injury to avoid walking batters, and John Maine recently headed to the disabled list with rotator cuff tendonitis.

The Mets’ greatest asset may be their ability to absorb a target’s salary. This leans towards the Mets signing Roy Oswalt, another free agent pitcher with a much higher contract than Cliff Lee, but the Mets have stated that they prefer Lee to the Astros ace.


Minnesota Twins

At 39-29, the Twins sit atop the AL Central, and all signs indicate that trend will continue. The Twins are dominating the AL Central, putting together a 17-9 (.654) against division opponents. Despite this success, the Twins still have holes to fill. The Twins’ most pressing need seems to be at third base, where the combination of Nick Punto and Brendan Harris is hitting .255 and .157 respectively. The Twins also seek to add another starter.

Luckily for the Twins, Target Field has been full this season, generating enough revenue to provide Minnesota with financial flexibility. It may not be enough flexibility to fill holes at starting pitching and third base, but if the Twins seek out a starter, Cliff Lee could be the choice.


New York Yankees

The Yankees are reportedly interested in Lee. Why? Well, why not? The Yankees are always major players, albeit their impact usually comes via free agency. The Mariners are asking for bats in return for Lee, and the Yankees feature top prospect catchers Jesus Montero and Austin Romine as trade bait.

The Yankees can undoubtedly absorb payroll, and depending on the volatility of implosion-waiting-to-happen Javier Vazquez, New York could make a move for Lee. Ideally, Major League Baseball would block this trade from happening. Why? Because a rotation featuring C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettite, and Phil Hughes should be illegal.

Cliff Lee’s most likely destination, if the Mariners put him on the market, appears to be the New York Mets. Nearly pronounced dead in mid-May, the Mets have surged into contention in the NL East with a recent eight-game winning streak.

The Mets want to add starting pitching, and have the financial flexibility to consider any possible acquisition. The question is whether they pursue Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, or another available starting pitcher.

Cliff Lee has shown he can dominate the NL East in both the regular season and postseason. The Mets have voiced a clear preference for his services, and now face the difficult task of working out a deal with the Seattle Mariners if Lee is made available.


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Story Time: Sharing Your Ken Griffey Jr. Moment

Last Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr., one of the greatest baseball players of all time, hung up his cleats, capping a historic career, both on and off the field.

Much has been made of his 13 All-Star nods, 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and one American League MVP Award, but lost in the fray of statistics and record books (in which Griffey certainly plays a dominant role), are the little things that made Ken Griffey Jr.’s career so great.

Growing up as a Mariners fan 1990s, I had the pleasure of witnessing the most epic moments in Mariners history. I saw the Kingdome, the Unit No-No (and the lesser-remembered Bosio No-No), Jay Buhner Hair Nights, and of course, the Ken Griffey Jr. Era of Seattle Mariners baseball.

As Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing wrote, “The experience of watching Ken Griffey Jr. rise in Seattle just seems like one of those things every Mariner fan should have in common.” Jeff was lamenting his long-distance admiration of Griffey in the 1990s, and eloquently explained a perceived Mariners fan rite of passage. Of course, Jeff Sullivan is one of the greatest Mariners’ minds in the business, and he has more than compensated for being far away from The Kid in the 1990s, but I found his statement concerning the Griffey Era remarkable.

Everyone knows about The Double, the Father/Son Homers, and The Wrist-Breaking Catch. What made Griffey’s run in Seattle so epic, however, was the little things like grinning, shimmying, shaking, and play-making.

So here is your forum, baseball fans, to share your Ken Griffey Jr. story. I encourage each reader to comment below with their “Ken Griffey Jr. moment.”

Here is my Ken Griffey Jr. moment:

I grew up in Bellingham, Washington, about 90 miles north of Seattle. Naturally, I grew up a Seattle Mariners fan, but being 90 miles from the Mariners had its drawbacks. 90 miles is close enough to go to games every now and then, but getting home after a 7:00 p.m. game was a task (midnight at best), and it took our best persuasive techniques to get my parents to take us down to the ballpark.

This being the case, most of the landmark Seattle Mariners’ moments came were viewed though my television, including all of the above-mentioned events (Unit No-No, etc.). It was not until I moved to Seattle in 2009, that I began attending Mariners’ games on a regular basis. Luckily, in the last year of Ken Griffey Jr.’s career, I witnessed what I consider my “Griffey Moment.”

On June 19, 2009, the Seattle Mariners hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks at Safeco Field. Entering the eighth inning, the Mariners trailed 3-0. Following a Russell Branyan solo home run, the Mariners sat trailing by two, with two outs and a runner on third.

As if from a movie script, Ken Griffey Jr. stepped into the on-deck circle to pinch hit for Wladimir Balentien.

Safeco Field erupted.

I, caught amidst the nostalgia, joined the resounding chorus of Safeco field, and participated in a standing ovation for The Kid. Concurrently, I leaned to my wife and her friend and said two things. First, that I had never heard Safeco Field so loud, and two, that it was a damn shame because Griffey was probably just going to strike out.

I was so delightfully wrong.

First pitch. Boom.

Tony Pena delivered a belt-high four-seam fastball, and Griffey sent it four hundred feet into right-center field. Safeco Field erupted, I was jumping up and down, and in an instant, I witnessed the charisma, nostalgia, and greatness of Ken Griffey Jr.’s Seattle Mariners career.

In an uncharacteristic moment, I almost teared up at a baseball game. It was uncharacteristic because I’m not a crying kind of guy. Not out of any attempted stereotypical manliness, but out of genuine physical inability. There are moments when I feel like crying, but it just doesn’t happen. Those moments, to me, are the same as crying is to other people. This was one of those moments.

I wasn’t there for The Double. I wasn’t there for a breath-taking Griffey catch. Instead, I was there for Griffey’s return. Ken Griffey Jr., and all his greatness, warranted a standing ovation nearly every time he was a late game pinch hitter. In this moment, he fulfilled every expectation in the stadium.

In this moment, Ken Griffey Jr. achieved greatness, both to the fans and the game.

Click Here to see the pinch hit home run , and tell me it doesn’t send shivers down your spine.

That is my Ken Griffey Jr. story.

Please share yours below.

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Mike Sweeney Makes a Case To Be the Seattle Mariners’ Designated Hitter

As a lifelong skeptic, I am the first person to downplay a small sample size of excellent statistics.

When Mike Sweeney tore through spring training and earned a roster spot with the Mariners this year, part of me said ‘good, I’ll take an able bat on the bench,’ while another part of me said ‘why are we wasting a roster spot on a non-fielding designated hitter and pinch hitter when we already have Griffey filling that role?’ I was skeptical, but willing to give Sweeney a few weeks to prove me wrong.

When Mike Sweeney went 1-14 to start the season (a tidy .071 batting average), I was one of the first to demand he be sent out to pasture. As previously mentioned, we already had Griffey to fill the “veteran leader slash clubhouse presence slash non-fielder slash decent pinch hitting option slash past-his-prime hitter” on the roster, and an older Mike Sweeney who couldn’t even bat the Mendoza line had no spot on the team in my opinion.

Not even two months into the season, Mike Sweeney is starting to prove me wrong.

It all started last week, when a friend and I had a discussion over who we would rather have as the everyday DH, Sweeney or Ken Griffey Jr. The nostalgic part of me leaned towards The Kid, but I was arguing in favor of…Mike Sweeney. 

This was before sleep-gate , before Griffey’s silent demotion from the DH role, and before Sweeney strung together a few starts at DH this week, but I still endorsed him over Griffey. Why? Because, unlike Griffey, Sweeney seems to actually have some pop left in his bat. 

As I mentioned before, I am generally skeptical of small statistical samples. That being said, it is interesting to look at Mike Sweeney’s statistics both after his 1-14 start (April 25 to present) and starting at DH this week (May 13-15). 

Since his 1-14 start, Mike Sweeney is 10-31 (.323) with 3HR/5R/5RBI. In three starts at DH this week, Sweeney is 5-11 (.455) with 3HR/3R/3RBI. 

Obviously, Mike Sweeney’s recent numbers will not continue all year (Sweeney’s last .300+ season was in 2005), but he has shown promising results for a team desperately lacking power. His most important statistic may be his four extra-base hits (three home runs and a double) over his past four starts at designated hitter. It should be noted that since April 25, a stretch where Mike Sweeney is hitting .323, Ken Griffey Jr. is a miserable 6-35 (.171) with only one extra-base hit.

As the baseball world speculates over whether the Mariners will pursue a better designated hitter via trade, one must wonder whether Don Wakamatsu is willing to let Mike Sweeney have the job for the time being.

If the last three games are any indication, the job is Sweeney’s to lose.

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Seattle Mariners-Texas Rangers: The Importance of One Series

Turning the Tide

Less than three weeks ago, the Seattle Mariners were in a proverbial free fall. The Mariners dropped consecutive series at Oakland and Texas to start the season and lost the home opener to Oakland to open a nine-game home stand.

Sitting at 2-6, the Seattle Mariners were down, but not out. Many fans wondered, however, if the Mariners’ 2010 season had died in early April.

Now three weeks later, the Seattle Mariners have proverbially gotten back on their feet. Since the 2-6 start, the Mariners have won series against Oakland, Detroit, and Kansas City and completed a three-game sweep against the Baltimore Orioles. Despite falling victim to a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, the Mariners now sit on an 11-11 record near the end of April.

Had you talked to any Mariners fan after the home-opening loss against Oakland, in which the Mariners offense managed to produce just two hits, they would been ecstatic at the potential of an 11-11 record. After all, the prospects at that time were far worse.

After the home opener, Cliff Lee was both injured and facing a pending suspension, Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins were a combined 14-for-59 (.237), and cleanup hitter Milton Bradley was a preposterous 1-for-22 on the season (.045).

Since that loss to Oakland, however, the Mariners’ fortunes have changed. Lee progressed through rehab in time to make an April return, Ichiro is 22-for-55 (.400) over the last 13 games, and Bradley is 10-for-31 (.323) over the last 15 games, slugging .452 in that stretch.

Of course, several other players have factored into the Mariners’ success. The starting pitching has been markedly better, surprisingly led by Doug Fister, and Franklin Gutierrez and Casey Kotchman have been phenomenal so far this season.


The Upcoming Series and Its Implications for the Seattle Mariners 


Having reversed a downward spiral from the first few weeks, the Seattle Mariners now enter what could turn out to be the most important series of the 2010 series.

At 11-11, the Mariners sit a half game back of co-division leaders Texas and Oakland. This weekend, the Mariners have a chance to jump the Texas Rangers, and with a little help, they could jump the Oakland Athletics as well. It’s worth noting that the A’s have cooled off substantially over the past few weeks, dropping seven of their last 10 games.

Aside from division standings, this game also marks the season debut of heralded free agent acquisition and former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. As previously mentioned, Lee’s 2010 season has faced numerous obstacles, but he is prepared to make his season debut tonight in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field.

The Mariners have their best arms guiding them in the upcoming series. Lee takes the mound tonight, Felix Hernandez is on the hill tomorrow, and Fister, who is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA over his last three starts, is scheduled to pitch on Sunday.

The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, have recently faced a series of obstacles. Within the past week the Rangers optioned 1B Chris Davis to Triple-A Oklahoma City, placed All-Star OF Nelson Cruz, who was top-five in the American League in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage, on the disabled list, and watched RP Neftali Feliz throw four innings to earn a 13.50 ERA, a loss, and a blown save.

On a positive note for the Rangers, All-Star 2B Ian Kinsler returns from the disabled list this weekend. He returns from an ankle sprain suffered in spring training, however, and skeptics have questioned whether he is ready to play at full strength.

With a division up for grabs, a division rival in town, and the debut of the much-anticipated Lee-Hernandez pitching duo, the upcoming series against the Texas Rangers may provide a glimpse into the Mariners’ 2010 chance of success.

Yes, it is only one series, but this series has implications that could stick with the Seattle Mariners for the rest of the season—for better or worse.

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