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October 3, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Mariners win 75th game to wrap up 2012 season

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Seems fititng that the Mariners ended the 2012 season as the 75-win team we’ve talked about them being all month. No 72 wins, or 78 wins. Right on the 75-win money. There is now little doubt this is a 75-win team.
Tonight, they wrapped up a 12-0 win over the 89-win Los Angeles Angels, who played the final two games like they left their hearts in San Francisco, or maybe Boeing Field. Not the same club that was competing for a playoff spot 48 hours ago, but hey, the M’s needed a break.
Now comes the real season. At least, for the Mariners.
M’s manager Eric Wedge was talking a big game all day long, starting with this morning’s press briefing when he touted the team as a possible playoff contender for 2013. The way this second wild-card is going, any .500 team come late-August can claim to be in contention and I’m all for it.
A more realistic goal for this squad is to shoot for a .500 record, but even that will likely take some intervention from outside the organization — meaning the importation of some bats.
The M’s looked like the 1927 Yankees today, pounding hits, scoring runs and throwing out Mike Trout everywhere on the basepaths. But the reality, without some upgrades, will be far different when things start to count again next April.
For now, we can talk about what we did see from a 75-win team. Some marginal improvement in the second half in terms of playing .500 ball — mostly against weak teams but in some series against good ones, too. The Mariners beat Jered Weaver three times in two months the second half and he only lost five games all year, so that counts for something — namely, they took the Cy Young Award away from him, as well as contributing the the Angels getting knocked out of playoff contention with some timely spoiler wins.
The Mariners did play a tougher brandof baseball in the second half. It wasn’t enough to beat good teams most nights, but it’s a start. This team doesn’t roll over and die like it used to even at times last year.
So, that’s some improvement. Now, comes the rest.

Are the rebuilding Mariners making progress?

Playing tough baseball is easy when there are no expectations of winning anything. This team finished 19 wins behind Oakland and if I’d told you that would happen back in March, you’d have predicted a 120-loss calamity.
Yes, the A’s defied all pre-predictions and some logic and won the division, while the Orioles nearly did as well. Can the Mariners come out of nowhere and win next year? I suppose anything’s possible. Then again, teams like the Blue Jays have tried to “catch lightning in a bottle” for 11 seasons and failed miserably.
Wedge keeps talking — and did today — about wanting to build something that can be sustained. Ultimately, that will involve a bigger commitment by ownership. It can start this off-season and maybe even lead to exciting playoff times as early as next year. Or, the Mariners can simply stay where they are, try for maybe a .500 season next year and keep putting off that eventual date for when everything will be “right”.
Drag it out two more years, that TV money should be there to go on a spending spree with.
But if we learned anything from the A’s and O’s this year, it should be that no season should be written off entirely in March. You owe it to your team and your fans to at least try to get better within your capabilities. The M’s are a lot more capable than they’ve shown in the payroll department.
Take a look at their bottom line, their ballpark, their revenue base, then contrast that with the A’s.
Seattle ended this season with a team worth about $60 million. That’s roughly what the A’s are putting out there without the taxpayer-subsidized park, revenue streams and franchise value on the verge of exploding.
This team can do more. The current players are doing about the best they can for now. Time to get them some help.
Blake Beavan finished off the season with his 11th win.
“It was great,” he said. “Looking back on my last start, I gave up seven runs against Oakland. Then, this being my last start this year, I went out the way I wanted to go out.”
Beavan said he kept trying to work harder with every outing. It’s a mindset, he said, that took him time to work on but — with help from veteran Kevin Millwood — he’s figured out how to keep working and not get too comfortable.
Casper Wells drove in a career-high five runs tonoght and hit another homer. Of all the fourth-outfielder types t pass through here this year, he’s definitely the most capable on both sides, offense and defense. But to be a full-time player, he has to show more consistency to go with the shorter swing displayed these final weeks.
He’ll be worth watching next spring.
In the post-game show on the radio, GM Jack Zduriencik revealed that Dustin Ackley played much of the year with a bone spur in his ankle. Now, I’m sure that was a painful time for him but no, I’m not willing to write this entire season off as a result of an injury.
We played that game with Justin Smoak and his thumb last season, when the team revealed in the winter time that — surprise! — yeah, his thumb was really sore and that’s why his numbers were so bad. Well, Smoak’s thumb was great this year and his numbers were still bad — until he revamped his swing the final weeks.
So, as for Ackley’s injury, yeah, that’s tough. But if it was really serious, the team would not be risking its No. 2 overall draft pick playing a bunch of meaningless games in the second half of a last place season. Maybe we can write the entire year off to Ackley being hurt. Maybe not. Bone spurs are tricky because you can’t just have surgery to remove them in-season and then come back and play.
It’s something you’ve got to take care of in the winter time.
I know from experience that they are painful. But not debilitating. So, did it impact Ackley’s numbers. Can’t say. Let’s wait and see how he comes back next year and then we’ll decide.
Ackley said the success of the A’s means the M’s can do stuff next year.
“It proves what we’re even capable of doing,” he said. “Nobody really saw them as a team early on that could do anything or even win the division. And I think our team is going to be capable of doing that, if not more.
“So, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. But it’s within reach.”
It’s always been in reach for teams that try. The Mariners were contenders up to July of 2009 and even June of last year. To make the playoffs — especially now with a second wild-card — really just involves surviving until the end of August and then playing on through to the end. Sometimes, that finishing kick involves playing way above your head. But when players who are pros sniff a chance to win, they can do incredible things over a final month of any season.
The trick is getting them through the first five sixths of the season. That’s where the Mariners have fallen short anytime they’ve been in a race past May under their current cost-restricted regime. This team needs some help to get past the July trade deadline and through August.
Give it some and we might get to see some interesting baseball beyond May next year.
Nothing’s impossible. With this team, it’s really a matter of how much longer the folks running it want to make people wait before they really take the shot they are capable of taking.
It all starts this winter. Should be interesting. Hopefully, I’m not writing this exact same wrap-up in 12 months.

Comments | Topics: Dustin Ackley


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