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Seattle Mariners: 2013 Season on the Brink of Disaster

As of June 27, the Seattle Mariners are 12 games out of first place. In this case, 12 is not a particularly good number. One could argue that 12 is a number that is too high to realistically overcome, even with months to go in the season.

Is the 2013 season on the brink of disaster? Will fans already be forced to start looking forward to 2014?

Numbers are a funny part of sports, particularly since they can change so quickly. If the Mariners were to go on a nice winning streak of six to eight games and the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers were to struggle, the landscape could look very different. Realistically, that is not necessarily going to happen. For Seattle to contend, they would likely need to chip away at the lead over a period of months and maintain a pattern of sustained winning.

It may be fair to suggest that confidence in such a scenario is weakening by the day.

As the Mariners approach the trade deadline along with the rest of the league, there will be the inevitable question of whether this team is a “buyer” or a “seller.” Interestingly, ESPN currently has the Mariners listed as “Buyer or Seller.”

Exactly. The Mariners are on the brink of…disaster? A dramatic turnaround? Your guess is as good as mine.

Fans that were hoping to see some of the hot young prospects make it to the show have not been disappointed. Nick Franklin has arrived, as has Mike Zunino. Franklin, in particular, looks like he belongs. The latest promotion is Brad Miller, who has been hitting very well (.356) in Tacoma. Management obviously hopes that Miller’s hot bat can infuse some life into this lineup.

Keep the prospects coming. Will we have a Taijuan Walker sighting soon?

Speaking of lineup changes, did anyone predict this lineup (provided by Greg Johns of in spring training or at the beginning of the season?

There are fans that obviously want to stay optimistic. The season is not lost just yet, and this team still has a lot of potential. Truthfully, there is a very nice mix of veterans and youngsters in this lineup. They just need something. A spark. Some momentum.

A belief that this team can win?

If the Mariners do fall further behind, the trade talk is really going to heat up, particularly as it pertains to players like Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Hisashi Iwakuma. As much as media outlets will find it logical for the Mariners to continue being the farm system for big market teams, there really isn’t a great incentive to make certain deals.

Unless the Mariners get an overwhelming offer for someone like Morales, it makes more sense to keep him, utilize his bat, make a qualifying offer at the end of the season and get a draft pick when he signs a lucrative deal somewhere else. Of course, could it possibly be that this team could actually come back and make a run at the division?

The future is really starting to arrive in Seattle. Let’s see what they can do. If the Mariners don’t heat up soon, this season could be completely lost and success might need to wait.

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Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino Is Now the Man Behind the Plate

The Seattle Mariners appear to be confident that Mike Zunino is ready to be their everyday catcher. Whether or not the youngster is up to the challenge is yet to be seen.

Look at what has unfolded over the last few weeks. Jesus Montero gets demoted. Jesus Sucre gets hurt. Brandon Bantz arrives, but is soon designated for assignment.

And then…welcome to the show, Mike Zunino!

Some of these circumstances just happened, while others were obviously orchestrated. But wait, the youngster is going to share time with Kelly Shoppach, right? The rookie is going to back up the veteran, correct?


Kelly Shoppach has been designated for assignment, according to ESPN, and the Mariners have signed Henry Blanco. Now, the Mariners have essentially traded one poor-hitting veteran catcher for another.

That may be the point.

The path has clearly been for Mike Zunino to become the man, the myth and the legend. Now is the time for the Mariners to see whether Zunino is really ready for the big leagues.

Obviously, Zunino does not have to turn into an immediate All-Star from the very first day. If that did happen, fans wouldn’t exactly complain. Zunino may struggle, have setbacks or ultimately need to be sent back down to Tacoma for some extra seasoning.

Perhaps Jesus Montero may eventually return.

However, the decisions of late suggest that management believes that Zunino is ready. Or, it may be that Seattle is desperate for anyone to come in and give this offense an extra boost.

Is Zunino actually ready? He didn’t exactly hit for a high average at Tacoma, as Zunino compiled a .238 average in 47 games. Zunino did hit 11 home runs and drive in 43 RBI in 185 at-bats.

Zunino is going to be scrutinized heavily over the next couple of weeks. In fact, every at-bat and play may be critiqued until Zunino establishes himself or proves to be ineffective. As noted by Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times during a game against the A’s on June 14:

Of course, with every 0-for-4 game there will be fans who suggest that Zunino is not ready and that Seattle rushed one of their top prospects. We shall see.

The path has been cleared. It is time for the Mike Zunino era to begin. At least, fans hope that there will actually be an era.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Picking the 2013 Overpaid Team

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are spending a lot of money in 2013 and not seeing expected results. This is, unfortunately, an obvious and frustrating reality for fans in the City of Angels.

However, consider the makeup of this roster. Some players are not performing to their ability. Others are simply overpaid, either because they have aged or because they were given too much money  compared to their actual production and value.

Picking an overpaid team is obviously tricky because there may be some players that are doing “well” but are still compensated above what they should be paid. For better or for worse, the new ownership group has given plenty of people generous contracts, as well as traded for some guys that others teams were happy to shed from a financial standpoint.

With that in mind, here are a few players that fit onto the overpaid team for a variety of reasons.


Josh Beckett

Salary: $17 million

Stats: 0-5, 5.19 ERA 

Beckett is the poster child for an overpaid former star who is an eyesore on a roster that is not producing. Truthfully, the Dodgers should not have taken Beckett from the Boston Red Sox. Why do I feel like the Dodgers had to take Beckett if Boston was going to do this deal?


Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier

Combined Salary: $33.8 million

Stats: .270/2/17 (Kemp), .264/4/15 (Ethier)

Matt Kemp is just not producing up to expectations. Andre Ethier was rewarded with a contract that was not a wise choice by management. Perhaps Kemp will rebound and live up to the hype, but Ethier is unlikely to produce $85 million worth of offense in the next five years.


Hanley Ramirez & Zack Greinke

Combined Salary: $36.5 million

Stats: Four games (Ramirez), Four starts (Greinke)

Call this the all-injured section of the all-overpaid team. You don’t necessarily blame a guy for being hurt, but when there is this much money on the disabled list, it is hard to ignore. Perhaps Ramirez will return and start producing. Now that Greinke is back, maybe the investment will start paying off. We’ll see.


Adrian Gonzalez & Carl Crawford

Combined Salary: $42.7 million

Stats: .309/4/30 (Gonzalez), .302/5/13 (Crawford)

I know what you are going to say. Why am I picking on the two guys that are actually hitting? Simple. They are still overpaid. No, I am not just making a philosophical statement about salaries in professional sports, though with these guys I could. The Dodgers are just paying almost $43 million for nine home runs. Crawford isn’t getting the RBI and Gonzalez isn’t putting balls in the seats.


Total damage

I could go on. Ted Lilly. Chad Billingsley. Brandon League. Juan Uribe. It is not hard to find guys on this roster that are making good money but not producing.

According to, the Dodgers are actually committed to paying over $232 million in 2013. At the moment, there is almost $47 million in payroll on the disabled list.

$232 million for a last-place team.

Again, you can’t blame guys for getting hurt. However, in the long run that trade with Boston along with the generous contracts that have been handed out by new management have created this situation. The payroll number is very large, and obviously aspects of this team are simply underachieving.

However, when you dig a little deeper, it isn’t hard to figure out that certain parts of this team just aren’t that good. There is a correlation between teams that spend a lot of money and playoff appearances. Perhaps this team will build some momentum and start winning.

Unfortunately, we already knew this simple reality: Money cannot buy championships.

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Seattle Mariners: Offense Struggling Again in 2013

The Seattle Mariners are in a familiar position. They aren’t hitting.

Haven’t we seen this movie before? As tweeted by Greg Johns of

No offensive help. Shall we all utter an audible sigh?

When are the Mariners going to start hitting on a regular basis? The team is ranked 29th in the league with a .220 team average. Unfortunately, this is a familiar statistical position.

The Mariners have been here before.

Michael Morse started out so hot. So did Franklin Gutierrez. Morse has cooled off and is now hitting .230 for the season. Gutierrez is starting to struggle with injuriesagain.

Audible sigh.

There are also the hitters that are really struggling:

Brendan Ryan: .152

Dustin Ackley: .153

Justin Smoak: .200

Jesus Montero: .217

The young core of hitters that was supposed to be the future of the Mariners is not necessarily coming together in 2013. Seattle is second in the league in one category: strikeouts.

Not exactly what the fans were hoping for this year.

Two straight games without a run. Only five runs in five games.

The Mariners have now scored the fewest runs in the American League West (58) and they are tied for the fewest in the American League with the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

Only three teams in the National League has scored fewer runs than the Mariners. Not good.

The season is still very young, and the Mariners have not fallen too far behind in the division. However, this season could get away quickly if the M’s are unable to start swinging the bats.

As tweeted succinctly by Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times:

Indeed. Time to start hitting.

Follow @tpheifer

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5 Lessons Learned from Mariners-Athletics Opening Series

The 2013 Major League Baseball season is finally underway, and the Seattle Mariners have one series under their belt. In the first two games of the opening set with the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners looked like the hot team of 2013.

In the second half of the series, fans were reminded why this team has struggled over the last few seasons.

It is obviously difficult to make an extended judgment on a team after one series, but there are some things that immediately stand out about this squad. Some results from the series were positive, while others are reasons for concern.

This team may look very different after a month of play, but here are five lessons from the opening series between the Mariners and the A’s.

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Seattle Mariners: Will Jason Bay Contribute in 2013?

The Seattle Mariners have not made a decision on their final roster spot, but as noted by, signs point to Jason Bay winning the job. Casper Wells may still be in the running, but in this case, Seattle may go with the veteran presence of Bay.

A tweet from Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times suggests that Bay may be the guy:

Assuming that Bay does make the team, it will be interesting to see what role he plays for the Mariners. Will he make a solid contribution, or will he simply occupy a spot on the Seattle bench?

Realistically, Bay is not necessarily going to be an impact starter unless Franklin Gutierrez cannot stay healthy or another outfielder is unproductive. At 34 years old, Bay was never intended to be a long-term solution.

The Mariners hope that spring training will be a reflection of Bay’s performance during the regular season. When you look at the 2012 stats, there were certainly signs that there was trouble ahead for Bay.

His 2012 stats looked like this:

Spring training: 46 at-bats, .196 average, 9 hits, 0 home runs, 0 RBI, 15 strikeouts

Regular season: 194 at-bats, .165 average, 32 hits, 8 home runs, 20 RBI, 58 strikeouts

His 2013 stats are significantly better, at least in spring training.

Spring training: 52 at-bats, .327 average, 17 hits, 2 home runs, 6 RBI, 17 strikeouts

Regular season: TBD

Obviously the spring training statistics have to be put in context. Many players hit well during camp, as they are facing a wide variety of pitching talent. In addition, the strikeouts are still a bit high, as Bay is striking out almost 33 percent of the time.

Still, the .327 average and a .407 on-base percentage are good signs that Bay has regained some confidence at the plate. Realistically, the Mariners do not expect Bay to be a dominating presence in the lineup, but it would be nice to have some solid offense off the bench or in an occasional start.

Again, Bay has not officially been awarded the final spot on the roster. However, it seems reasonable that he will be in a Seattle uniform on April 1 when the Mariners face the Oakland Athletics.

If Casper Wells does not make the squad, what will be his fate? Greg Johns of tweeted this about the reason that Seattle has yet to announce a decision:

It will be interesting to see if there is actually any market for Wells. What team wants a 28-year-old guy who hit .228 in 2012? At best, the Mariners might receive a low-level minor league or the always popular “player to be named later.”

It is time for Jason Bay to show that he can still play. Otherwise, he won’t be on this team for very long.

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Predicting the Seattle Mariners’ Final Starting Rotation

The Seattle Mariners are inching ever closer to solidifying their starting rotation for the 2013 season. More decisions will likely be made soon as players are moved to the bullpen, sent to the minors or politely asked to seek employment elsewhere.

Jon Garland is out (via after Seattle was unable or unwilling to guarantee the 33-year-old veteran a spot in the rotation. Garland looked solid during the spring, but was apparently not effective enough to write his name in ink just yet.

Garland’s departure will be a disappointment to those who were rooting for a veteran presence at the backend of the rotation, but the move is not a shock. The opt-out clause in Garland’s contract suggests he anticipated this possibility.

Now the veteran pitcher still has time to catch on with another club. He may just have to wait a little while for a pitcher on another club to get hurt or prove to be short on effectiveness.

So, who is left? The general consensus is that Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders are the top three. That leaves Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, Jeremy Bonderman and the surprising Brandon Maurer.

Beavan was arguably a solid, but unspectacular pitcher in 2012. Through March 23, he has looked very good, posting a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings of work. In his last outing on March 17, Beavan went six innings and only gave up one run on three hits while striking out two.

Ramirez has never been hyped as much as other pitchers in the Seattle system, but he just keeps hanging around. He had a nice outing on March 16, but got tagged for four runs and six hits and a home run in a two-inning appearance in March 21. Ramirez may have his name on the current depth chart, but he will need to be effective in the last few outings.

Bonderman represents that veteran presence that could provide experience to young pitchers in the lineup. When you look at the overall numbers, they aren’t particularly impressive as Bonderman has a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings of work. However, the appearances are getting better, and Bonderman is still around.

Then there is Maurer. Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are all gone from camp, but Maurer is still here with his 1.20 ERA in 15 innings of work. He leads the team with 15 strikeouts in the spring to go with only five walks. The young hurler may very well pitch his way into the rotation.

Picking the eventual starters is tough, only because there is no clear leader at this point. Statistically, Maurer has the best performance of the four this spring, but there may be hesitancy to put a rookie in the rotation.

Of course, the Mariners did it with Michael Pineda a year ago.

In theory, Beavan and Ramirez are the incumbents, but Maurer and his strong pitching may bump one of those players. Garland was arguably pitching better than Bonderman, but Seattle was unwilling to guarantee him a spot. That may not bode well for Bonderman’s eventual fate.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on bearded Beavan and young Maurer at this point. Ramirez and Bonderman are going to keep it close until the very end.

Let’s just say I would not put a lot of money on this prediction. All predictions are subject to change without notice.

Much can change over the last few days of spring training as outings get longer and management is faced with making tough decisions. Stay tuned.


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Seattle Mariners: 2013 Roster Starting to Take Shape

The Seattle Mariners started spring training camp with 61 players. They are now down to 47, and more cuts will be coming soon as opening day is not that far away.

Fourteen cuts down. Twenty-two to go. Can you feel the tension start to build?

Some of the cuts have been expected, while others are intriguing. As is usually the case, certain players have stepped up and surprised people enough to warrant additional consideration.

Battles are tightening up, and the remaining players hope that they still have a chair when the music stops.

On March 14, the Mariners made some decisions on the starting rotation, sending the “big three” to the minors. This includes top prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. More cuts were made on March 15 as the team continues to trim players.

While fans may have hoped for a repeat of Michael Pineda in 2012, Seattle is not going to force these pitchers onto the Major League roster. As noted by The News Tribune, “With Jon Garland looking healthy, the Mariners had no need to rush them into the big leagues.”

What is intriguing is the fact that prospect Brandon Maurer is still in camp. Through March 15, Maurer has appeared in four games, compiled a record of 2-1 and kept his ERA at 0.90 for the spring. He has 11 strikeouts in 10 innings of work.

Maurer may still be battling long odds to make the rotation, but he is still in the mix with veterans Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman as well as Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. This race is too close to tell at this point.

The outfield is still crowded. So far, it appears that Jason Bay is potentially going to make the roster. Bay has cooled down a bit, but he is still hitting .292 with two home runs and four RBI. Julio Morban was actually hitting better, but the 21-year-old prospect was sent to the minors after showing that he may have a future in the Seattle outfield.

In addition to Bay, there are seven other outfielders still in camp. One assumes that three of those may have to go. Michael Saunders is actually not hitting particularly well in Arizona, though he did play extremely well in the World Baseball Classic.

Eric Thames may not make the roster, and Casper Wells will need to hit a little more consistently if he is going to win a spot on this team. The wildcard may be Carlos Peguero, who has displayed some solid hitting in Peoria despite leading the team in strikeouts.

Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino are still in camp despite the fact that neither prospect is hitting particularly well. Still, Zunino is making a good impression (via ESPN) in terms of poise and leadership. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to become the man behind the dish at Safeco Field.

Slowly but surely, the roster is starting to take shape. Stay tuned for more cuts.

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Why Expert Predictions for the Seattle Mariners Are Too Negative

The Seattle Mariners are going to have a good season. In fact, they might be one of the surprise teams in 2013. As one might expect, some of the early 2013 predictions (via CBS Sports) are not particularly favorable. One can assume that many previews will keep the Mariners towards the bottom of the American League West.

It isn’t like the M’s are necessarily going to rise up, take the league by storm and make a miracle run to the World Series in 2013. However, this team has real potential and if they can get into a groove, they could make some noise this season. The predictions are not insulting, but there are a few reasons this Seattle Mariners team may be better than some experts think in 2013.


The Mariners will hit

Seattle has struggled to get on base, and this has been a glaring weakness the past few seasons. As noted by Dayn Perry of CBS Sports, “Yes, Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales have pop, but they don’t address the team’s central shortcoming, which is getting on base.”

The reality is that Morales is a career .281 hitter and Morse has hit .295 during his eight-year tenure. Will this not theoretically have a positive impact on a Mariners team that finished with a .234 team average in 2012?

There are other reasons to believe that this team will hit better in 2013. While nothing is guaranteed, it seems reasonable to project that Dustin Ackley will improve on his 2012 average of .226 and Justin Smoak will not hit .217 again. In addition, there is optimism that young players like Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders could continue to progress.

Add in the tutelage of Raul Ibanez, and this team just might produce on offense.

This is not to suggest that Seattle will jump from a team average of .234 to .275 in 2013. However, a .250 average and a .315-.320 OBP seems reasonable. If the Mariners had hit .250 in 2012, they would have ranked 19th in the league, which is lot better than 30th. How many more wins might that have produced?


The future may be now

Perry also notes, “Yes, Seattle’s strength lies not in the present, which, insofar as the 2013 season is concerned, is not a good thing. But as dismal as things are in the short term, the Mariners have cobbled together an exceptional collection of young talent.”

To suggest that the present is “dismal” seems a bit negative given the changes that Seattle has made since the end of last year. This is a team that finished 75-87 in 2012 and arguably improved their roster in the offseason with the additions of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez.

In addition, it would not be a shock to see some of the top prospects in Seattle this season. Perhaps players like Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Nick Franklin, Stefen Romero and Brandon Maurer will not make their presence felt until 2014 and 2015.

Then again, some of these players have looked pretty good in spring training. Seattle is obviously going to be hesitant to rush their young talent, but why couldn’t the Mariners start infusing young talent into the lineup this season?

Does the plan always have to be focused on two to three seasons from now?

The finish will be strong

It seems reasonable to assume that most experts are going to project that the Mariners will finish fourth in the American League West. The prediction from CBS Sports is in line with this prognostication. Still, there are some flaws in the argument.

The worst-case scenario presented by CBS Sports is that the Mariners will finish in last place. Obviously this prediction is a way for the author to cover his bases (no pun intended), but there is no way that the Houston Astros finish ahead of Seattle. To be fair, anything is possible, but a last-place finish is not going to happen.

This may be a bit bold, but a second-place finish is not out of the realm of possibility for this team. Certainly a lot of things would have to go right, but could the Mariners show offensive growth and maintain their solid pitching? Could this lead to overcoming the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels or the Texas Rangers?

The Angels and the Rangers obviously have formidable offenses, but pitching is what gets things done in baseball. If either of these teams take a step back on the mound, the Mariners could actually find themselves at the top of the division rather than the familiar cellar.

Perhaps the Mariners will have another mediocre season. Then again, perhaps there is reason for genuine optimism.

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Seattle Mariners: Outfield Battle Heating Up in Spring Training

The Seattle Mariners will have some tough decisions to make when the roster needs to be trimmed to 25 players. There is the issue of the starting rotation, but perhaps more complicated is the outfield. Seattle has a fairly large slate of players who will be competing for the three outfield positions plus some bench spots.

On paper, the starting outfield could be Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders. Through March 8, those three players are hitting .300, .313 and .222 (respectively) through 14 games. Conceivably any of these players could lose their starting jobs, but they are arguably the incumbents for now.

Who are the contenders?

Raul Ibanez was added to this team for veteran leadership and depth, and he has been one of the hottest-hitting outfielders this spring, as he is hitting .500 with two home runs and five RBI.

Carlos Peguero is hitting .375 with three home runs and four RBI. The slugging prospect has a lot of power, but he has not proven that he can maintain a solid batting average. Peguero strikes out a lot, and he has already whiffed eight times in 24 plate appearances.

Casper Wells has been a bit streaky. He started slow, but then contributed nine RBI over a two-game stretch and now leads the team with 12. Granted, he only has a .259 average and is also the team leader in strikeouts with nine. If Wells is going to make this squad, he will need to find some consistency.

Eric Thames is arguably toward the end of the list, and the young outfielder is only hitting .227 this spring with no home runs. Thames has been provided with the opportunity to play quite a bit, but he has not delivered at the plate.

There is also 21-year-old Julio Morban, who is holding his own with a .278 average and two home runs this spring. It seems reasonable to assume that Morban will start the year in the minors, but he could make an appearance in Seattle if others fail to perform at the start of the regular season.

Jason Bay is perhaps the most intriguing of the group, simply because he has had success in the past. As noted by Greg Johns of, Bay feels as if he has “regained his stroke.” This is always an interesting aspect of baseball because one has to wonder where Bay’s swing went in the first place. In addition, is it here to stay or will it get lost again in Seattle?

Will the real Jason Bay please stand up? Here are Bay’s stats over the last five seasons:

2008: .286/31/101
2009: .267/36/119
2010: .259/6/47
2011: .245/12/57
2012: .165/8/ 20

Obviously, it would be nice if Bay could party like it was 2009, but at 34, the slugger’s best days may be behind him.

The difficult part of spring training is that players can get very hot in the month of March and then significantly cool down once the regular season starts. Justin Smoak hit .378 last spring, only to hit .217 during the regular season.

If I were a betting man, I would project that the starting outfield will remain the same, though Saunders will need to pick it up a little bit over the next couple of weeks. On this team, no one in the outfield is truly safe. Saunders is hitting very well during the World Baseball Classic.

As tweeted by Greg Johns:

It is probably safe to assume that Ibanez will be on the roster. If Bay keeps hitting like this, he may also be on the team, though there is still a lot of time for evaluation. Peguero will probably ride his strikeouts back to Tacoma, and the status of Casper Wells will depend on his hitting and how many pitchers the Mariners carry.

Tough choices will be coming up very soon. We will see which outfielders are up to the challenge.

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