By Tommy Farris
Tommy Farris, 23, is a recent University of Washington graduate who lives in Port Angeles.
The first half of the 2013 season struck a familiar chord for the Mariners.
The club threw around some dollars in the offseason, Brendan Ryan’s batting average hovering around .200, the team is mired in fourth place in the American League West standings (thank goodness for the Astros), and the Mariners are seemingly out of contention by the All-Star break yet again.
However, this isn’t another pessimistic fan submission whining about another bleak Mariners season. I’m writing with excitement and encouragement. Call me naive, but I’m convinced that if the M’s front office can handle emerging success differently, we have hope for the future.
I’ll make it brief and simple: Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, and Kyle Seager. These guys play the game right. Hard-nosed baseball, aggressive at the plate, and a competitive swagger I haven’t seen since 2001 and earlier.
It’s no surprise to me that those three were listed 1-2-3 in the lineup in Sunday’s 3-1 win against the Reds. Seager is proving to be a trustworthy 20-home run, 90-plus RBI guy. Franklin is looking like a future All-Star who can bat .300, with 25 homers and 20 steals. It may early for Miller, but seeing two triples from our new lead-off guy and Ryan out of the lineup makes the M’s lineup instantly more potent.
For some reason, seeing those guys hit 1-2-3 in the order and watching how they play the game gives me hope that this can be the core of a 1995-type Mariners playoff team.
I’ve spent too many years watching our top prospects like Jeremy Reed, Wladimir Balentien, Dustin Ackley, and Jesus Montero crumble under the spotlight and lack that competitive edge. We shouldn’t have to baby our top prospects back and forth on I-5 from Tacoma to get their confidence going. Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and injury plagued Franklin Gutierrez have simply underachieved. I’m sick of fans justifying our young players’ struggles as being due to their age. Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were staples in the M’s lineup by age 21. My point: young players can produce, so there should be no more slack for these guys.
Even more painful is seeing top young talent like Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo dealt away when the M’s front office prematurely labeled our club contenders in 2007 and 2009. Because the Mariners lacked forward thinking and robbed the team of future All-Stars, the 2007 and 2009 teams turned out to be one-hit wonders, as aging veteran acquisitions left the team with no youth to fill in the gaps.
Here’s my Safeco Field Beer Garden plea: Jack Zduriencik, please build around competitive, hard-nosed ballplayers like Miller, Franklin and Seager, and don’t touch a single one of our up-and-coming prospects like Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker or James Paxton until we’re a first place team or perennial contender, and the trade would make us the AL favorite, rather than just trying to climb into the wild-card race.
Let the kids play and, heck, bring up a few more. Stop protecting these guys until they’re 22, 23, or older. As we’ve seen with Franklin, Miller, and Mike Zunino, some of these kids could be helping the Mariners win right now.
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