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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 6, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Mariners set to resume season tonight in Oakland

Greetings from the Bay Area, where we just had a delightful morning in San Francisco ahead of tonight’s resumption of the 2012 season for the Mariners across the water in Oakland. Don’t worry, I’ll have some Oakland shots for you later on. Just didn’t want to start your day off with them. Thought the one above would be better.
As for the Mariners, they can start this latter half of their season opener off on a better note simply by doing what they failed to in Japan.
They need to score runs.
That’s oversimplifyng things a bit, but in the grand scheme of things, the ability of this team to sell fans on this rebuilding plan depends heavily on some offensive improvement. Nobody expects a juggernaut, but the sub-600-run output of the past two years cannot be allowed to unfold yet again if this plan is to have credibility.
The Mariners failed to score more than a run in regulation play of each of their two games against the A’s in Japan. They were also pretty inept offensively against a pair of Japanese squads that blew them apart prior to that.
Fortunately for the Mariners, only two of those games count and they split them to come away with a .500 record heading into tonight.
Unfortunately, there was an eight-day gap (almost nine days when you consider the time difference with Japan) between the start of Seattle’s regular season and the resumption of it. And when that happens, memories of those first two games have lingered far longer than they should have. Had the Mariners been allowed to play six or seven more regular season games, chances are nobody would remember much about how many runs were scored the first two.
Unless, of course, the non-scoring continued.

And really, that’s where we are right now. The Mariners have been victims, in a way, of too much of their opening two games being magnified simply because we haven’t seen any meaningful action since.
Now, they finally have a chance to rectify that. And they need to get on it.
The only way this team will change any lingering perceptions about it is to go out and actually do what they say they are capable of. Any more stumbling around here in Oakland — where only two games will be played — and then you’ve got an off-day Sunday for everyone to sit around and gripe yet again.
Then, you’ve got a four-game series in Texas without Felix Hernandez taking the mound, so it’s probably best not to get your hopes up for a stellar showing there.
No, if this team wants to generate any momentum heading into its home opener a week from now, it needs to start scoring runs right away. Otherwise, the negativity from a slow start could start to snowball and, well, we’ve all seen how well this club has responded to that over the years.
It’s not just the team that needs to get off to a better offensive start, but certan individual players as well.
Contrary to some stated beliefs, Chone Figgins is not about to be sidelined if he struggles in the upcoming six road games. But Figgins is already on about as short a leash as any player can be with his own fanbase and things might not be very pleasant for him if he returns to Safeco Field with a sub-.200 batting average.
It’s going to be very difficult for Figgins to get anything going this season if the home fans boo him for simply breathing, so it’s important that he generate some kind of momentum on this road stretch in order to rebuild his confidence and keep the fans off his back.
Same with Ichiro, really. He got off to a good start with four singles in the season opener. He’s not going to get that every night, but needs to develop some confidence of his own in the No. 3 spot in the order and show he can be a useful contributor there.
The same goes for the young players.
Michael Saunders is off to a good start, but now, he’ll have to sustain that for more that two days in a row. Now is the real test of his ability to stay consistent. And he won’t have all year to do it, either, with Franklin Gutierrez showing signs he may be able to come back a bit earlier than imagined. If Guterrez makes it back in April, it will be somewhat miraculous, though. So, I’d say Saunders has at least until the month of May.
The other guy who really needs to get it going is Kyle Seager, who has been handed a golden opportunity at third base because of the Mike Carp injury and the retirement of Carlos Guillen. Seager had a very strong spring and will now be the primary third baseman at least until Carp is ready to return in another week or two.
After that, the playing time could become more sporadic unless Seager shows that the team needs to move mountans to keep him in the lineup. Seager now has the next week or two to show he’s ready to be an everyday major leaguer. No, it’s not a fair sample size of at-bats, but there just isn’t time to get him that sample right now. This is the window he’s been given. If he goes 5-for-40 to start things off, chances are he won’t get to play every day once Carp returns and Figgins is sent back to third.
Right now, Seager’s destiny is in his hands. What he does with it from here will ultimately determine whether he sticks in the majors all year or returns to Class AAA at some point to get more playing time until other things sort themselves out.
So, yes, there really are a bunch of hidden storylines worth keeping an eye on this early in the season. The Mariners likely won’t contend for anything but third place this season, but there is still plenty on the line both from a team and an individual perspective.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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