Last night, the Mariners got five solid innings from Taijuan Walker, but again didn’t score all that many runs and would up blowing yet another game late. Oh yeah, and they played in front of their all-time smallest crowd at Safeco Field, which is to be expected when you are 14 games under .500 and playing a team destined for roughly 110 losses on the first Monday night of the NFL season when ESPN is offering up a pigskin doubleheader.
Anyone for a Mariners doubleheader? Thank God for Safeco Field’s roof, huh?
So, yeah, this season will go down as yet another epic disappointment. There is always the promise of next year, and the year after that, which is generally what it’s all about in sports since only one team wins a championship and all the others have room for improvement.
It’s along those lines that I’ll ask today’s poll question: where do the Mariners most need to improve?
The answer “All of the Above” will not come into play today. So, pick one area. Pretend the Mariners aren’t going to boost payroll by very much — hardly a stretch when you think about it — and will only be able to make one major fix. Which will it be?
A bullpen that keeps blowing games late, resulting in one of the highest totals in baseball for both walkoff defeats and losses in the other team’s final at-bat?
A starting rotation where Aaron Harang took the mound for most of the season — he still leads the team in complete games, mind you — but where the team has young help supposedly on the way?
An offense that is averaging about 3.6 runs per game since late July with a bunch of newer, younger faces (a sub-600-run output if factored into a 162-game season)?
This isn’t as easy as it all sounds. Don’t forget, the bullpen should have Stephen Pryor back next year. Carter Capps will have a year under his belt. But what to do about Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar? Trust either of them?
As for the offense, this team had Endy Chavez in the outfield an entire season. Even he never dreamed that would be possible. I know because I asked him.
The rotation? Yeah, we can talk Big 3 and all that stuff, but Taijuan Walker was spoon-fed small five-inning samples for three starts, two against the Astros. James Paxton was considered by some scouts to be lefty relief material just a few weeks ago. Danny Hultzen barely pitched this year. Felix Hernandez hasn’t won a game in September since 2011 and trails Harang in complete games.
Some things should work themselves out for next year. But assuming it will all go smoothly is the kind of stuff we’ve all — to some extent or another — been fooled into believing since this rebuilding plan began back in 2009. Wherther you buy into the numbers, more traditional evaluation, or were a supporter/objector to this plan either five years ago or within the past 12 months, we’ve all gotten stuff wrong at one point or another. Nobody’s predictions about where this organization is headed have been entirely correct over the past five years. I’ver scoured the internet and haven’t found an example of that perfection yet.
So, where to start making it right? Yes, these are broad strokes I’ve outlined, not specifics. It’s done on purpose to avoid shades of gray and to get you to give a general answer. We’ll get into the shades of gray later.