Saturday, April 5, 2014

And So It Begins Again...

The regular season has begun, which means the annual question of "When will we be disappointed" creeps into the back of our minds. With the first four games in the books, that question has gotten drowned out due to optimism. Basically, optimism means you have a more positive outlook on everything. Being a Mariners fan, you may have forgotten that, so I wanted to refresh your memory. If you want the dictionary definition, the first entry says, "1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome."

After four games? Really? Well, yes. Given that there's another 158 games left, that could change rather quickly, but looking on the bright side, no matter how short of an existence it may have, is a refreshing change of pace for us fans. What's happened in those first few games? The fourth one was dumped on pretty heavily by Hector Noesi and a rookie ump by the name of Sean Barber. I'd rather not relive it, so we won't.

These first few games, we've seen what Justin Smoak can do when he's not trying to hit the ball over the fence and fail miserably. In the series against the Angels, he went 6 for his first 13, good for a .462 average. Not only that, he was getting hits when there were other guys on base. He did so well, he drove in 7 of them in those first 3 games with his first two home runs of the season. The icing on this particularly scrumptious cake is the fact he drove in 3 of those guys while hitting left handed, something he had struggled with last season. To drop a bit of Gefilte fish into the middle of the cake, its 4 games and 17 at bats with several hundred more to go. Still, its nice to see Smoak hitting balls he missed last season, even if it is a small sample.

Another bright spot has been Brad Miller, who beat Nick Franklin this spring in the starting shortstop competition. Through the first three games, he was 5 for 15. He went 0 for 5 in the fourth game to bring his average down to .250, but his average wasn't the surprise. The surprise was when, in the second game, he hit two home runs. Again. For the fourth time in his career. Miller, to this point, has 80 games under his belt to go along with 10 home runs. 8 of those home runs have come in 4 games. We got a pretty good idea what Miller was about last season with a .268/.318/.418 triple slash line in 306 at bats last season and with any luck, he'll improve as the season goes on instead of stepping in a big pile of sophomore slump.

Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton and Roenis Elias combined to go 25 innings, giving up 5 earned runs, 6 walks and 29 strikeouts in the first four games. That won't continue, especially since both Iwakuma and Walker will soon be back in the rotation, but its an encouraging sign from the starting rotation. We all know Felix is going to be Felix, but we don't know about most of the rest of the rotation. With the exception of Iwakuma, we haven't seen any of these guys for any kind of extended stay in the majors. Its an encouraging sign though, when they come out of the gate throwing that spherical object they call a baseball like it just said something about their mama.

Another encouraging sign, at least I hope, is that apparently they're not going to keep throwing a guy out there and cross their fingers while they hide in the corner closing their eyes. After giving up a couple of runs in an inning of work to the Angels on Wednesday, he got another chance on Thursday in the 12th inning. On the second pitch he threw, Coco Crisp clubbed it over the fence for a walk-off home run. On Friday, Noesi was DFA'd and added Dominic Leone to the 40-man roster and called him up. Noesi can still refuse an assignment to the minor leagues after the 10 days, but either way, as long as he's not in the bullpen, stroking his cat and laughing maniacally while planning on how to blow the next game. As for Leone, I have no idea. I figured Carson Smith would have been the one to get called up, but no dice. To be honest, I've never seen or even heard of Leone before Friday. At least, I don't think I have anyway. As a side note, Tom "The Bartender" Wilhelmsen is still drinking more than he's serving, apparently.

In a nutshell, the Mariners have started the season 3-1, giving us a glimpse of what this team might look like this season. Except for late home runs given up by Noesi. That we won't see too often, if ever again. Oh yeah. Robinson Cano has been Cano'ing so far this season also. Being optimistic is a nice change of pace. The optimism may fade, given enough games, but so far its been a pleasant surprise to see the Mariners actually scoring runs. If they can do it consistently, they may surprise the hell out of, well, pretty much everybody. If not, we get to live with disappointment and padded rooms for another season. At least the doctors and nurses are nice.


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