Siberian Baseball

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Seattle Mariners (69-93, .426, 4th in AL West)

Let's just file the Mariners under X-Factor for right now, OK? Making the most of their location on the Pacific Rim, they boast more Japanese imports than a used car lot. First it was Ichiro and Hasegawa and now they've added Kenji Johjima behind the plate.

Touted as the next big thing, he fills a hole behind the plate for the Mariners after proving himself in Japan. Ichiro is happy because it should draw heat away from him this season (not that the pressure seemed to matter much to him in the past) and will let him relax a little more in his sixth season.

After setting the single-season hit record and making George Sissler's widow cry, Ichiro went out last season and racked up 200 hits for the fifth year running. Say what you will about the team, but Ichiro is the best pure hitter in baseball right now, has an explosive first step (especially from the right side of the plate) and keeps the Mariners in more games that he gets credit for.

If he does all of this while being distracted by the Japanese media, imagine what he'll do this year.

Adrian Beltre's magical contract year took a lot out of him and Richie Sexson slacked a bit, too. I'm not sure either of them give a damn what the fans think of their performances, but it's a good thing the M's brought in Carl Everett to help stabilize the locker roo... oh, wait. As long as there are no dinosaur-related conversations, they'll be fine, I'm sure.

Jeremy Reed was trade bait all offseason which will do one of two things - make him play harder to prove them wrong/drive up his value or crap out just to screw them over. Could go either way there.

Finally, King Felix gears up for his first full season in the majors. A late season call up was a ringing success with numbers and columnists linking him to the past greatness of Doc Gooden. It became an event to watch him pitch when his day came up in the rotation. Yes, he was that good. But, he was also playing as the big story of the season in Seattle with no pressure, so I can't wait to see what he does this year.

After tying the single-game rookie strikeout record, Hernandez has a ton of expectations on him this year. As the top prospect in the M's system, it was bad enough, but after such success, there's not much room for error in Seattle. This team needs a winner and quick after so many near misses and squandered talent (Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner's one solid season) that yielded nothing in the long run.

Expect Felix to be fitted with an ankle bracelet and kept at the top of the Space Needle should he perform well this season. I can't see Seattle letting another superstar slip through their fingers.

Seattle Mariners
C: Johjima; Rivera
1B: Sexson; Bloomquist; Morse
2B: Lopez; Bloomquist; Betancourt
SS: Betancourt; Morse; Bloomquist
3B: Beltre; Bloomquist; Morse
LF: Ibanez; Everett; Lawton; Morse
CF: Reed; Everett; Lawton; Bloomquist
RF: Ichiro; Lawton
DH: Everett; Ibanez; Morse
SP: Moyer; Pineiro; Washburn; Meche; Felix Hernandez
CP: Guardado
RP: Soriano; Putzl Mateol Sherrill; Thornton; Gonzalez; Carvajal



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