By Eric Denton – LA Angels

I must confess—I bought into the hype this offseason.

The Seattle Mariners, coming off an 85-win 2009 season, made some serious moves in the winter.

They traded for one of the best starting pitchers in baseball in Cliff Lee, giving them one of the more formidable one-two punches along with blooming superstar Felix Hernandez.

Seattle also signed the best free-agent third baseman on the market, the Angels’ Chone Figgins. Not only would Ichiro and Figgins be dangerous batting one-two in the Mariner order, they also hurt the AL West champion Angels by taking their offensive catalyst.

Seattle’s one confusing move was the acquisition of controversial outfielder Milton Bradley, but even Bradley has a track record of behaving well every other year, so maybe the M’s would get the good Milton.

Adding Bradley and Figgins to a lineup consisting of one of the best players in all of MLB, Ichiro Suzuki, up-and-coming center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, along with second baseman Jose Lopez, who at 25 years old had just put up his biggest offensive season with 25 HR and 96 RBI: what wasn’t to like?

Seattle had great defense and enough offense to back up the league’s best pitching staff from 2009. The only real loss the Mariners took was losing slugging first baseman Russell Branyan to the Indians and replacing him with another former Angel, Casey Kotchman.

I was totally convinced it would be the Mariners and not the Angels who would win the AL West. I proclaimed it boldly on a couple appearances on AM830’s “The Drive” with Jeff Biggs and Jason Brennan.

While I can’t say my early concerns about the Angels have come to pass, my choice of the Mariners, like the team, is a complete disaster.

Chone Figgins has been a complete bust in the early months of his new four-year contract. Figgy is hitting just .194 with a .308 OBP and only has nine stolen bases along with three caught stealing.

Jose Lopez became such a liability defensively at second base they had to move him to third to hide him. Seattle signed Figgins, who arguably could have won a Gold Glove at third, and had to move him to second, a position he never played with regularity in Anaheim, because of Lopez’s poor defense. Lopez also has been terrible at the plate, hitting only .214 with one HR.

As for the other new additions, Milton Bradley had a well-publicized meltdown and left the team to deal with stress-related issues. He’s hitting .237 with three HR. Casey Kotchman got off to a fast start and then fell off the face of the Earth. He’s under .200 like Figgins—.190, three HR, and 18 RBI, which I believe were all produced within the first couple weeks of 2010.

Seattle icon Ken Griffey Jr. is a shell of his former self and went through his own controversy when it was reported he allegedly fell asleep in the clubhouse. Cliff Lee started the year on the disabled list, and Felix Hernandez hasn’t found his 2009 form.

Overall, the Mariners still have a very good pitching staff (team ERA 3.75) but, outside of Ichiro, Gutierrez, and the resurgent 36-year-old DH Mike Sweeney, the Mariners are a disgrace: 18-28, 7.5 games back before their weekend series against the Angels.

Unlike the Angels, who have shown some flashes of being a competitor, the Mariners, preseason darlings of most followers of Major League Baseball, were dead on arrival.

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