Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hopeful or Hopeless? Franchise Edition

Mariner Fan
Dilemma might be overstating it just a little, but probably not by much.  While the Mariners are nowhere near the Pirates or Royals as far as futility, they're starting to make a run.  To put it in perspective though, the last time the Royals finished .500 or better was in 2003 with a record of 83-79.  The time before that was in 1993 with a record of 84-78.  The Pirates, meanwhile, have finished at .500 or better zero times since 1992 when they went 96-66 and lost to the Braves in the NLCS.

The Mariners finished with a record of 85-77 in 2009 which was amazing considering their offense.  Yes, it sucks to be a Pirates fan.  It sucks to be a Royals fan.  It sucks to be a Mariners fan.  For us Mariner fans though, it hasn't sucked for quite as long.  Instead of rehashing what both Larry Stone and Geoff Baker wrote here and here, I'd rather ponder the possibilities as a regular, ordinary, sick of it all fan.

Rationally, I'm sure that we all know (hope) that the muck the Mariners are stuck in won't last forever.  The franchise will fold or get moved at some point before the world ends, so obviously it won't be forever.  It might feel like forever, but at some point, things will turn around.  The question is will there still be enough people that care when that comes to pass or will Safeco look like the Marlins ballpark in a couple of years, never to recover to the sellouts of old?

I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm pretty sure I'll still be around.  Probably in a padded cell and a concussion from banging my head against the wall, but yeah, the Mariners are my drug.  Unfortunately, these last few years have given me one nasty hang over.  Not for a lack of trying, but because the core of the team is about as tasty as a month old apple that's been eaten and has sat in the sun for a month.  That's not a core anybody finds appetizing.  At least I'd hope not, otherwise you're reading the wrong blog.

In essence, the rebuilding plan has fallen apart.  Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez (sort of), Jesus Montero and, to an extent, Charlie Furbush.  Furbush is getting to be a fairly effective reliever, which is far short of a back end starter, which is what I imagine they were shooting for.  The Doug Fister trade isn't as haunting as the Bedard trade, not nearly, but that one still hurt considering what Fister has been up to with the Tigers.

The rest of the guys that were supposed to be the foundation of the team going forward have crumbled into a pile of dust, Guti almost literally so.  Smoak is at best a gap hitter, Ackley has turned into a slower Ichiro, Saunders had one good season and is off to a slow start, Guti has moved his stuff into the trainer's room and Montero was so concerned about learning how to be a catcher, he forgot how to hit.  There are still guys like Zunino and Walker down in the minors, but given the track record of guys that have made it to the majors, that doesn't mean much any more.

That's not to say Zunino and Walker will fail, but seeing all of the young hitters that the front office pointed to as the saviors fail so drastically, the confidence is just not there.  In what is quickly turning into a lost season, where can fans look to for hope for the future?  You can continue to point to the farm system and say that the guys coming up soon will do better, but Ackley and Montero were sure things too.  As Larry pointed out in his post, Kyle Seager is the only kid doing anything worth mentioning on offense.  The rest of the guys that are doing any kind of damage aren't signed beyond 2013.

Nick Franklin has been up for about a week and in a week's worth of play, he's got a week's worth of numbers.  As Ackley proved, even a half season of production doesn't tell us much.  That isn't to say Franklin will fall on his face, but even a month of production is nothing to hang your hat on.  Jesus Sucre has been up for a couple of weeks and don't expect anything from him.  He's not known for his hitting prowess, so you can go ahead and not expect much from him either.  So what, exactly, do we have to look forward to?  The answer is, who knows.  Geoff made the point that, even if Jack Z and Wedge are gone by the end of the season, the two guys that would make the next hiring for GM are the same guys that hired Bill Bavasi.

There's no guarantee that the next guy will do any better.  There's no guarantee that the next guy will hold on to the talent in the minors and will trade them away to win now.  We just don't know right now.  There's hope that Montero can remember how to hit now that he doesn't have to learn how to catch once he comes off the DL in Tacoma.  There's hope that Saunders' 2012 season wasn't a fluke.  There's hope that Ackley can figure out that the outside pitch is something you have to actually swing at once in a while.  We don't know when or if they'll turn it around.  We don't know much of anything really.  Not from our seats in the nosebleed section, looking down on the action and hoping that the big wigs can get something going.  About all we can do is cross our fingers and throw peanuts at them when they screw up.

I wish I had a crystal ball so I could tell you it'll get better soon.  Unfortunately, all I have is this magic 8-ball and it keeps telling me "Ask again later".  I never liked these freaking things anyway.  Trades are still coming.  Hopefully productive ones that can improve the club before everybody jumps ship.  Given how the season has gone the first two months, cynicism is the prevailing emotion for most.  Some have already jumped off.  Some are watching with the same fascination of passing a car wreck at the side of the road.  Still others can't stop watching no matter how painful because, dammit, this is my team.  No matter where you land on the scale, here's hoping you can make it through this mess of a season and soon, we'll all come out of this on the other side.

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