By Sam Thomsen
Sam Thomsen is a sophomore at Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop whose passions are baseball, the Mariners and writing. He has been following the Mariners since he could walk and came up with an outside-the-box plan to rescue the M’s and save general manager Jack Zduriencik’s job.
Can you imagine plopping down in your recliner, stretching your feet out and flipping on SportsCenter to hear these words come out of Neil Everett’s mouth?
“Hello, everyone, welcome to a brand new edition of SportsCenter. I’m Neil Everett. We open the show with some shocking news out of Major League Baseball: The Seattle Mariners have signed top-shelf free-agent Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $300 million contract.”
Imagine the SportsCenter anchors discussing that the Mariners hauled in the biggest offseason accessory.
Imagine the excitement.
Imagine the cheerful shock.
Imagine the home runs. And maybe even a playoff berth.
Sadly, though, all we can do at this point is imagine. Because frankly, Robinson Cano – the coveted free-agent second baseman and career .309 hitter – is merely an expensive craving on the Mariners 2014 offseason wish list. Or maybe we should say every team’s wish list.
Several weeks ago, Cano and his agent Jay Z said the power-hitting second baseman wants a colossal 10-year, $310 million deal. It’s unlikely Cano, 31, will receive a contract that lucrative, although a monstrous $250 million deal is possible.
But the question for the Mariners – just like last year with Josh Hamilton and two years ago with Prince Fielder – is whether they have the guts to haul in such an exorbitant commodity.
This is the make-or-break year for Mariners genera manager Jack Zduriencik. Especially after a discouraging year of disappointments. A year of underachievement. A year when the Mariners finished with 91 losses.
This is the year for Jack Z – and Mariners management – to decide whether they want to sign fillers or game-changers. Jason Bays or Prince Fielders. Whether they want to adopt a win-now mentality or a win-five-years-from-now mentality.
Jack is on the hot seat. He’s been in Seattle five years, with just one winning season (2009). If he wants to keep his job – and help the team win before it’s too late – the most effective way is to attack the free-agent market. He can’t rely on the team’s “promising” farm system to carry the team for another season. He needs proven talent. Reliable hitters. More veteran leadership.
He needs to – no, he must – attack the best free-agent opportunities available. The Mariners’ offense desperately needs help. The M’s hit just .237 as a team last year. Over the past four seasons, the team’s batting average is a pathetic .234. That’s the price of a grande americano at Starbucks, not a team’s batting average.
The Mariners need a big bat – just like they did last year, and the year before, and what feels like forever. A gigantic bat. A consistent bat. The M’s lineup needs Cano’s .314 batting average, 27 homers and 107 runs batted In. The team needs the excitement that Cano would bring.
The team needs to bring the buzz back to Safeco Field, where attendance has been in a free fall since Seattle tied a major-league record by winning 116 games in 2001. While Seahawks fans set the world record for loudest fans and Sounders FC set a new standard for MLS attendance at CenturyLink Field, fans at Safeco are on course to set marks for the quietest crowds.
For the Mariners’ lineup, the story is the same. The team needs a consistent producer. It needs timely hitting. It needs swagger.
And that is exactly what Cano would provide: an immediate injection of energy in the middle of the Mariners lineup. He’d support the young guys and add stability to the batting order. He’s exactly what the lineup needs.
It’s October again. And, as they’ve had to do for years, Mariners fans must turn to football or soccer for sports excitement.
If the Mariners want to break this exasperating pattern and create legitimate postseason hope, the team’s best chance begins with signing Cano.
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