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I was at a party recently and laid out on the coffee table was a passionate letter from a Mariners fan, which I’m going to share with you below. That I just happened to have to write a preview about the Mariners for the Box later that month was one of the great coincidences of my life.

Here’s the letter:

February 29, 2004

My Dearest Altheia,

The hand that holds the pen used to write you now belongs to an empty shell of a man. It’s been exactly 5 months since I’ve been sent here, to this hole, this pit, this minimum security heartbreak factory. But it feels like it’s been an eternity since that last, free day…our day at Safeco. Do you remember? Ichiro sliding into 3rd base with only his 9th steal of the second half? The way our hands touched as we high-fived after Bret Boone’s tying shot in the 3rd inning? The absolute joy in our hearts when we knew Jamie Moyer had nailed down his 21st win? Do you remember sweetheart? I remember. It’s all that I have here.

The days are passing slowly. Some of the perjurers wouldn’t tell the Warden how we ended up with Sandfrog t-shirts and stamped hands so he took away our TV. No ESPN. No Baseball Tonight. All of my Mariners news is now courtesy of the Times. Oh the paper! My curse in ink and pulp! Damn you Larry Stone for your timely and topical reporting!

I know we always said I’d be getting out by the time Rafael Soriano, Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley would be mainstays in the rotation, leading our Mariners to their first ever championship alongside complementary pieces like shortstop Jose Lopez and fleet-footed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo but I’m terrified, my pet. I’m terrified that Bob Melvin and this Bill Bavasi clown are going to screw it all up. Pat Gillick didn’t work the phones like he should have at the deadline but at least he could tell a starting player from a bench warmer and didn’t throw wads of cash at park inflated, barely replacement-level "talent" like Raul Ibanez. RAUL IBANEZ! The taste of the words coming out of my mouth is as vile as the veal they served us last night. Our chef wouldn’t know a tonatto sauce from con le sarde, but I digress. Did you hear they’re going to hit Ibanez fourth and Edgar fifth?

I used to brag to my friends in Boston about our bullpen. It’s still quite good with Hasegawa, the great but relatively unknown Julio Mateo and Soriano and while I like Eddie Guardado, he’s not enough to make up for the loss of Sasaki, Rhodes AND Armando Benitez. Will this new pen be as secure as the one in 2001; the one helped the Mariners to a 92-5 record when leading after the 6th? I can’t be sure. I can’t be sure of anything anymore, except Bret Boone’s glove.

Ben Davis is looking like a bust. Freddy Garcia and his screwed up head are still here. Rich Aurilia can’t be the answer and while we’re on shortstops, why would somebody trade one ok shortstop for TWO, BAD shortstops? Randy Winn won’t be the centerfielder Cameron was. John Olerud is getting old fast and Edgar, bless him, can’t keep it up forever. The hitting is worse. The pitching is worse. Kevin Jarvis? I can’t take it anymore! The papers keep coming and the news is never good!

All is lost. Save yourself – sell the Microsoft stock and move to San Diego. You’ll find hope there. Petco looks beautiful.

Your loving partner,

PS. How is Survivor All-Stars?

That’s the kind of off-season it’s been for Mariners fans. Luckily, I’m not as negative as Heathcliff here.

Let’s review 2003, shall we?

The 2003 Season

2003 W-L Record: 93-69

Runs Scored: 795 (7th in AL)

2nd, AL West

Runs Allowed: 637 (1st in AL)

Att.: 3,268,509 (2nd out of 14)

Pythagorean Record: 97-65

They were good. Honest!

It's almost hard to remember it now, but the Mariners led the AL West for 134 straight days in the middle of 2003, only to end the season 3 games being Oakland in the division and 2 games back of Boston in the wild card race. Strong pitching and defense fueled the team and gave the Mariners enough weapons that they should have been able to overcome an average offense. In fact, if we use the Pythagorean method to determine the team's expected record, the Mariners should have had won the most games in all of baseball. And if we have what "should" have happened and $1.35, you can get a large coffee at most Tim Hortons franchises.

Personally, I think the reason it's hard for me to remember the M's as being as successful as they were last season is that they just seemed so...beaten. Resulting in much fan criticism and outright outrage, Pat Gillick didn't make any moves at the deadline last season to improve a sagging and injured offense, almost a carbon copy of what happened at the deadline of 2002. Fans became dejected and the disappointment seemed to leak into the clubhouse. A 4-game sweep of the M's at the hand of the Red Sox in August didn't come as a surpise and emotionally took them out of the race, even if they remained mathematically close until the end of the season. Gillick took the brunt of the blame, and he ended up stepping down as GM once the season ended, but the man wasn't the one who set the budget.

Individually, Mariner players did great things in 2003. Bret Boone was generating MVP noise for much of the season. Jamie Moyer won 21 games at 40. Ichiro, Moyer, Boone, Edgar Martinez, and Shigetoshi Hasegaw were All-Stars. Mike Cameron, Boone, Ichiro and John Olerud all won gold gloves. Pitcher Rafael Soriano, named the Mariner's #1 prospect by Baseball America, was once again called to the majors and absolutely dominated, posting a 1.53 ERA and allowing only 30 hts and 2 home runs in 53 innings. It just didn't add up to this team earning a playoff spot.

Who's in, Who's out
Hey, come on in. Grab a beer.See ya. Take your baggage with you.
OF Raul Ibanez (FA - KC)RHP Armando Benitez (FA – Fla)
LHP Eddie Guardado (FA - Min)
CF Mike Cameron (FA – NYM)
3B/1B Scott Spiezio (FA – Ana)LHP Arthur Rhodes (FA – Oak)
SS Rich Aurilia (FA – SF)SS Rey Sanchez (FA – Tam)
IF Dave Hansen (Trade - SD)3B Jeff Cirillo (Trade – SD)
RHP Kevin Jarvis (Trade – SD)

IF/OF Mark McLemore (FA)

OF Quinton McCracken (Trade – Ari)

1B Greg Colbrunn (Trade – Ari)

LHP Ron Villone (NRI – Hou)LHP Norm Charlton (Pasture)
LHP Terry Mulholland (NRI – Cle)RHP Kaz Sasaki Japan)
OF Eric Owens (NRI – Ana)Carlos Guillen (Trade - Det)
SS Ramon Santiago (Trade - Det) 

SS Juan Gonzalez (Trade - Det)


The off-season

Bill Bavasi, hired as GM to replace Pat Gillick early last November, can’t be called slow to act.

Merely days after taking his job, Bavasi set the market for post-peak, mediocre corner outfielders by signing Raul Ibanez to a 3-year deal worth $13.75MM, probably double what he is worth. Mariners fans scratched their heads at the price but looked forward to further improvements to the offense. Shortly after, Pat Borders, an easily replaceable spare part, was strangely offered arbitration. More head scratching, but it was a relatively minor transaction. Unfortunately for Seattle fans, there was a pattern of questionable acts developing, as Bavasi went on to spend a lot of money on older players who are redundant to the Mariners while missing out on SS Kaz Matsui. His first trade, sending useful and productive Greg Colbrunn to Arizona for useless, offensive zero Quinton McCracken was questionable. The next trade, the one with San Diego that finally rid the team of offensive anchor Jeff Cirillo, didn't allow for the payroll flexibility some had hoped for as overpaid and horrible Kevin Jarvis came in return.

Not surprisingly, people are already calling for Bavasi's job.

Every so often since he was traded to Cincinnati after the 1999 season, rumours will circulate that Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be traded back to Seattle. They've started up again. I can't see it actually happening though, what with big money pumped into Winn and Ibanez this offseason. Bavasi wouldn't be able to justify sitting someone in favour of Griffey and with Cincinnati's outfield and financial situations what they are, it's doubtful Bavasi would be able to include one of them in the trade to make room.

"FOUL", screamed the Umpire, to no one in particular.

I cringe at how Greg Colbrunn has been treated recently, both by the Mariners and the Diamondbacks before them. To some degree, he bound his own hands in 2003 by signing with a team that already had Edgar Martinez and John Olerud at DH and 1B respectively. But when one considers that Bob Melvin had Colbrunn sit a number of times in favour of John F. Mabry, even before Greg’s season ending wrist injury in July, it becomes clearer who needs their head examined.

All Greg Colbrunn has done since 1999 is bat 314/388/538 in nearly 900 plate appearances. That’s better than Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Tino Martinez, Fred McGriff, Erubiel Durazo, Kevin Millar, Sean Casey, Phil Nevin, Jeff Conine, Raul Ibanez, Eric Karros, David Ortiz and countless others but still, the man has had had little playing time over the last 5 years while those other guys earn big coin. True, he’s developed a reputation as one of the game’s premier pinch hitters, batting 316/382/489 over his career in those situations, but does that mean he only has to be used in that role?

One of the reasons he sat around on the market before signing with the Mariners is that he’s been falsely labelled as a platoon guy. How these labels stick in this era of enlightened mathemagicians is a mystery - the stats show that his splits are almost as close as can be. Surely a team like the Pirates or the Tigers or the Brewers or even the Oakland A’s could use a real hitter like Colbrunn for 162 games a year. But yet the Mariners trade him for a poor man’s Randy Winn in Quinton McCracken and back to the Diamondbacks no less, who had no clue what to do with Colbrunn in the first place.

Looking Ahead to 2004: The Lineup

Thanks to Coach and friends for this attractive formatting. Remember, it's not stealing, it's code reuse. Statistics presented are AVG/OBP/SLG with AB in parentheses.

1 Ichiro! RF Age: 30 Bats: L 2003: 312/352/436 (679) Career: 328/374/440 (2018)

His name is as exciting as his game, both necessitating an exclamation mark. Ichiro has now played 3 seasons in the majors and has had 200-hits in each of them. In addition to his bat, Suzuki led all AL corner outfielders last year in Defensive Win Shares/1000 innings with 3.04. I think you could say that this is one of the few imported free agents who have actually met the high expectations set for him on the field, let alone the bonus of Seattle cashing in on his cool, sunglasses laden image in Asian markets.

Although he’s been successful overall, Suzuki had a pretty serious slump nearing the end of 2002. His OPS was 171 points worse in the second half than the first. Previews, and wanna-be previews like this one, largely glossed over that decline and Ichiro again started to wane as 2003 went on - this time to the tune of 181 points. Will the trend continue?

The Mariners hope not. Aside from Bret Boone, Ichiro is the most important offensive weapon Seattle possesses. I see no reason to expect anything but more of the same from Ichiro this season but if he slumps again or misses any time at all, Seattle will find it very hard to score runs during those games. The gap in production from Suzuki to backups Quinton McCracken and Chris Snelling is a chasm.

You might hear concerns about Suzuki’s walk rate slipping significantly. Pay no attention to them. While his raw walk total did fall from 68 walks in 2002 to 36 last year, most of the decline is due to being issued 20 fewer intentional walks year over year. Unintentionally, he did walk less, but it’s not such a large swing that we need be worried.

2 Randy Winn CF Age: 30 Bats: B 2003: 295/346/425 (600) Career: 283/343/406 (2436)

Mike Cameron has been regarded as one of the best centerfielders in the game for a few years now and fans of the Mariners might worry that his being replaced by Randy Winn is a bad thing for the team. If they did think that, they’d be wrong.

Both Winn and Cameron were credited with 21 Win Shares in 2003, Winn being a little more productive with the bat than Cameron and vice versa when it comes to defensive contributions. Generally, Center fielders get more balls hit to them than Left fielders (last year in CF, Cameron had 3.4 balls hit to him per 9 innings while Winn had 2.3 hit to him per 9 innings in LF). It’s reasonable to assume that the Mariners moving Winn to CF this upcoming season will give him more defensive chances, thereby increasing his defensive value. Winn was virtually the same offensive player in 2003 as he was in 2002 and if he
continues with that established level of production in 2004, his increased defensive value thanks to the position change will actually make him more valuable than Cameron. The best part is that Winn, to be paid $3.5MM next season only makes half of what the Mets are going to give Mike Cameron. Not offering Cameron arbitration has got to be one of Bill Bavasi’s better moves this off-season.

3 Bret Boone 2B Age: 35 Bats: R 2003: 294/366/535 (622) Career: 270/328/449 (5764)

Few players could legitimately claim that they are the best in MLB at their position, both offensively and defensively, but Bret Boone could if he wanted to and I wouldn’t call him a liar. He’s won a Gold Glove 3 times, including the last two years, and unlike some who have won the award, Boone legitimately deserved them. Only Alfonso Soriano (73 Win Shares) even approaches the offensive value Boone (87 Win Shares) has had over the last 3 years. The only negative about Boone is his age. He’ll be 35 soon after opening day so a slight decline in skills is a distinct possibility. Whether guile and Edgar Martinez’ magic age elixir can offset that decline remains to be seen.

4 Raul Ibanez LF Age: 32 Bats: L 2003: 278/345/454 (608) Career: 278/334/464 (1862)

Raul Ibanez at Ewing Kauffman Stadium, 2002-2003: 308/355/522 in almost 600 PA
Raul Ibanez everywhere else, 2002-2003: 280/338/459 in almost 600 PA

Two-Year Park Indices (courtesy of the Bill James Handbook) tell us that it was 11% easier for a left-handed hitter like Ibanez to get a hit at Ewing Kauffman stadium than in an average park and 12% easier to hit a home run. And now he’s playing at Safeco, where it has been 8% HARDER for left-handed hitters to get a hit than at an average park and neutral when it comes to hitting home runs.

This is going to be ugly.

5 Edgar Martinez DH Age: 41 Bats: R 2003: 294/406/489 (497) Career: 315/423/525 (6727)

A fringe Hall of Famer, Edgar Martinez’ career might be that much more prolific if only the Mariners had recognized the player they had on their hands back in the late 80’s. Instead of playing Martinez, the hot young 3B tearing up Calgary, the Mariners kept committing that position to Jim Presley, he of the Cory Snyder/Ed Sprague variety.

What can we expect out of Edgar in 2004?

The slide began the year before last. After a very consistent 7-year stretch of OBPs greater than 420 and SLG%s greater than 540, Edgar has been in 400/480 territory the last two seasons - still a very good performance but indicative of a bit of a slower bat. Like Julio Franco, the guy could probably hit for a nice average until the beard comes in white and will always have a nice batting eye but look for Edgar to lose more power as the bat gets even slower this season. Never a healthy guy, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Edgar got seriously hurt during the year and retired out of frustration, both with his declining abilities and the team's performance. It will be a shame...this guy IS the Mariners.

6 John Olerud 1B Age: 35 Bats: L 2003: 269/372/390 (539) Career: 297/402/471 (6994)

Jays fans who remember John’s outstanding 1993 season might also remember the secret to his success – line drive after line drive into both gaps, many of which scooted all the way to the wall for a double. He would never repeat the success of 93, coming close with a 354/447/551 season with the Mets in 1998, but line drives to all fields still helped him hit consistently in the neighbourhood of 300/400/480.

So, why did his offensive numbers decline last season?

Throughout June and July of last year, Olerud battled hamstring problems. But since he’s not one to complain, he barely missed any playing time. If you asked him, his legs had nothing to do with his slump, something I have a hard time believing. Try and swing a bat with power generated by the legs, only to have someone stick burning pins into the insertion point behind your back knee, and see if you can keep your swing on the intended plane. The man is a professional athlete but hamstring injuries are a bitch.

Olerud, only 35, briefly contemplated retiring after this season but has since changed his mind. Count me as one of the fans who couldn’t be happier. I never tire of watching that miracle of a swing. In the town where I grew up, I remember seeing the old clubs of the resident golf pro. Their faces looked brand new, save for a spot precisely in the middle, from round after round of hitting the ball perfectly square. Watching Olerud all these year, I have to imagine that his bats are much like those clubs, all the more impressive considering that baseballs don’t sit motionless on a wooden tee.

7 Rich Aurilia SS Age: 32 Bats: R 2003: 277/325/410 (505) Career: 278/331/444 (3598)

For $3.5MM, the Mariners are going to get an above-average 32 year old shortstop in Aurilia. To make room for him, the Mariners traded an above-average 28 year old shortstop in Carlos Guillen, who they had just signed prior to the trade for $2.5MM. Guillen was credited with 12 Win Shares in 2003; Aurilia, 13.

What do the Mariners get for their extra million dollars? An illusion of action. Look for Aurilia to be the same Aurilia he was in 2002 and 2003. He’ll hit about 270, get on base 32% of the time, hit 15 or so home runs and provide solid D. Those expecting him to return to the milk and honey of 2001 might be wise to remember the mistake they made in late 1996, when they invested their Boxster savings in Brady Anderson rookie cards.

8 Scott Speizio 3B Age: 31 Bats: B 2003: 265/326/453 (521) Career: 261/331/427 (2986)

The Mariners have few options in the system when it comes to 3B. There’s Willie Bloomquist, who is really only a third baseman in the sense that he has played third base. He’s not much more than a backup. There’s Greg Dobbs, who was a significant prospect before rupturing his Achilles last April and hasn’t played much above Class A. And there’s Justin Leone, MVP of the AA Texas League in 2003 but who, at 26, was old for that level of play.

Considering how thin the system is and considering how horrible Jeff Cirillo was in Seattle, the Speizio signing is a little defensible. Once again, he’s being paid more than market value for the sort of production he’ll put up but for a thin position like third base, there’s something to be said for dependability. It was easy for Cleveland to take a risk on a guy like Casey Blake when 2003 meant nothing to them. The Mariners are different. Whether or not this author agrees with them, they expect to win 90 games and contend in 2004. They could have picked up another team’s organizational player and paid him the major league minimum; someone whose ceiling is around 265/326/453 and likely production is somewhat less. Or they could have taken the closest thing they could get to production certainty and signed a guy like Speizio, a guy that will cost you more but in whom you can be confident that he’ll be putting up 265/326/453 type numbers. The Mariners chose the risk averse route and I can’t really blame them.

9 Ben Davis C Age: 27 Bats: B 2003: 236/284/382 (246) Career: 241/313/368 (1319)

Ben Davis is a 6’4" catcher. So, he was destined to fail from the start, right?


Davis’ problem isn’t his height. In fact, there’s not one problem with Davis, rather many, with his biggest being entirely out of his control. There are certain expectations people have of a player drafted 2nd overall, which is where the Padres chose Davis in 1995, and he hasn’t come close to meeting them. It’s not his fault where he was picked. Blame GM Randy Smith and then scouting director Kevin Towers for drafting a high school catcher and hyping him as the next great thing, the player who would turn around a franchise that went 108-171 the previous two years. He ended up being labelled a
disappointment and labels in MLB are like American Express cards – you never leave home without them.

Ben’s other big problem is that he’s just not a good hitter. He never was. A career 241/313/368 hitter in the majors, his production isn’t that far off from where MLEs forecasted he’d be.

While it seems he’s been around forever, Davis is only 27. He still might improve slightly. But he’s probably not ever going to deserve a major league starting job. Considering he’s passable against lefties (241/323/411 career vs. 241/310/355 against righties), he can be a productive part of a major league roster. Unfortunately for the Mariners, the role he’d be best in is the role Dan Wilson (276/324/433 career vs. lefties, 259/306/373 vs. righties) already has.

Looking Ahead to 2004: The Bench

With SS Ramon Santiago, 3B/SS/OF/2B Willie Bloomquist, C Dan Wilson, OF Quinton McCracken and 1B Dave Hansen likely comprising the Mariner bench next year, I’m confident we’ll be seeing one of the worst benches in MLB. I’d bet money that none of them will even be league average hitters.

There is a serious and concerning lack of depth on this team, this very old and possibly brittle team. Here’s hoping that Bavasi’s offseason spending spree doesn’t bind his hands when it comes to filling in holes.

Looking Ahead to 2004: The Pitching
1 Jamie Moyer LHP Age: 41 2003 vs: 246/304/367 (897tbf) Career vs: 264/315/408 (11585tbf)

Interesting Moyer Stat: Jamie threw 1165 pitches tagged at less than 80 mph in 2003, the 2nd most in the AL. The others in the top 3? Tim Wakefield with 2307 and Steve Sparks with 1010. Two knuckleballers and a junkie (coincidentally, that’s also the name of my first album, due out this July).

Moyer's arsenal of slow, slower and slowest changeups baffles the plethera of overanxious hitters in the AL and is easier on the arm than throwing thousands of sliders or curves. When will he stop being effective? It's tough to say. All of the aged pitchers before him, that I can think of anyway, have either been power pitchers (Ryan, Clemens), knuckleballers (Hough, Niekro) or breaking ball guys (Tommy John). Can Box readers think of another pitcher who survived on a diet of changes and fastballs and pitched into his 40s?

2 Joel Pineiro RHP Age: 25 2003 vs: 241/308/359 (890tbf) Career vs: 243/305/372 (2085tbf)

Pineiro, drafted in the 12th round of the 97 June draft, put up fairly unspectacular numbers for most of his minor league career. He didn't give up many home runs, didn't walk many guys and had ok K-rates but his ERAs were always higher than they should have been given his peripherals. Things started to come around in 2000, a year where he started in AA and ended in Seattle. And then 2001. Pineiro dominated the AL for the final two months of the season, putting up a 2.03 ERA while giving up only 2 home runs and 21 walks in 75.1 IP. Tremendous numbers for a rookie. Pineiro has since had two very
good seasons in the Seattle rotation, is still only 25 and is ready to take the "Ace" mantle away from Moyer anyday now.

I didn't want to turn this into a fantasy preview, but I can assure you that Pineiro will be very high on my BBFL draft list.

3 Freddy Garcia RHP Age: 27 2003 vs: 255/323/429 (862tbf) Career vs: 249/316/397 (4214tbf)

They trade for him, they’re going to trade him, they’re going to keep him, they’re going to trade him, they’re going to keep him, they’re going to trade him, they’re going to non-tender him, they’re going to keep him. So goes the life of Freddy Garcia.

Garcia has the arm of a superstar and the head of a scrub. Honestly, I have no clue what to expect from him next season. He could pull a Loaiza and baffle AL hitters by putting it all together or he could keep getting by on talent alone, which wouldn’t be so bad anyway.

4 Gil Meche RHP Age: 25 2003 vs: 263/322/439 (785tbf) Career vs: 252/329/410 (1523tbf)

5 Ryan Franklin RHP Age: 31 2003 vs: 251/307/416 (877tbf) Career vs: 252/305/414 (1758tbf)

Gil Meche and Ryan Franklin have gopheritis. So does Freddy Garcia. Considering they play half their games in spacious Safeco Park, I had thought that a much higher percentage of the home runs hit off of them would have been given up on the road. Not so.
Pitcher2003 – Road HR Allowed2003 – Home HR Allowed
Jamie Moyer109
Joel Pineiro811
Freddy Garcia1516
Gil Meche1911
Ryan Franklin1122

Career totals at Safeco and beyond are somewhat similar. What’s up with that?

With the help of these two surprises, the Mariners used just five starting pitchers in 2003, the first team since the 1966 Dodgers to accomplish that feat. Of the two, Meche was once a real prospect. Shoulder injuries derailed him for the entire 2001 season and his AA comeback was no great shakes (6.51 ERA in 65 innings). He won a starting job in the spring though, went 10-3 in his first 15 games, and didn’t give Bob Melvin a reason to take him out of the rotation, until July that is. Meche’s last 16 starts were ugly – a 6.40 ERA in 74 innings and playoff-hunting Melvin might have been smart to hand Meche’s spot to hot prospect Rafael Soriano. Hopefully, Meche learned from the experience.

If he’s healthy, Meche should continue to progress and become a mainstay in the rotation for years. Franklin, on the other hand, is the Mariners version of Josh Towers. He has great control but being around the plate that much, he has a tendency to give up some gift pitches. His major league K-rate (4.94 Ks/9 IP) doesn’t even approach what he put up in the minors (6.65 Ks/9 IP). Look for Franklin to run out of luck in 2004.

Looking Ahead to 2004: The Bullpen

Closer Eddie Guardado LHP Age: 33 2003 vs: 207/246/340 (270tbf) Career vs: 252/316/431 (2976tbf)

Eddie Guardado doesn’t throw as hard as you’d expect; given the closer stereotype that is out there and his great performance the past few years. He gets it in there at low-90s, tops. Instead of a big fastball, he gets by on great control (2.48 BB/9 over the last 3 years) and 3 other pitches.

Seattle could have done a lot worse than Everyday Eddie, but since he’s not quite elite, once again we see a Mariner player making above market price and for only 60 to 70 innings a year. His 3-year deal is worth at least $13MM and as much as $17MM.

The Rest
Shigetoshi Hasegawa is back and is the most likely 8th inning option. He won’t likely duplicate the 1.48 ERA he put up last year but he’s solid. Julio Mateo, a rookie with a ratios to like (5.46 K/BB), was vulnerable to the long ball (1.47 HR/9) last year but didn’t show the same propensity to giving them up in the minors and should improve. Rafael Soriano, dominant after being called up from AAA, will continue in the long role, or so Bob Melvin says. He’ll be the first into the rotation should Meche or Franklin fail. The rest of the pen will likely be lefty Ron Villone and a selection from scraps and Tacoma’s finest – one of probably Mike Myers, Terry Mulholland, Aaron Looper or JJ Putz. Kevin Jarvis, the money pit flown over to Seattle as a result of the Cirillo trade, is having a really tough spring and may not even make the roster.

All in all, we’re looking at 4 good relievers and one speculative choice who should be at least average. It’s a good pen.

The Final Word

Seattle is still a pretty good team. Sure, people hate Bavasi and this is an expensive squad and they’re really old and there’s few kids ready to help immediately and um, what was I saying?

Seriously, the Offense is probably even to slightly improved with Speizio, Aurilia and Ibanez essentially replacing Cirillo, Guillen and Cameron. The Defense will be similar to last year – maybe a slight decline can be expected. The Bench is severly lacking compared to last year’s, with Mabry, Colbrunn, Mark McLemore and Rey Sanchez leaving. The Rotation might be slightly weaker, with age taking a toll on Moyer and reality taking toll on Franklin but with Soriano ready to step in with help. And while the Bullpen is still quite good, it might be a slight decline over last year's version. It’s hard to make up for Sasaki, Rhodes and Armando Benitez, even if they did only have him for a short time.

In summation, that’s only a slight decline in all areas of the team except for the bench, which is now really bad, and the offense, which should be even. Considering this team “should” have won 97 games last year, my super scientific analysis leads to believer that the Mariners can go 88-74 in 2004. Of course, that won’t be enough to win squat in the AL West this year.
2004 Seattle Mariners Preview | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Matthew E - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 10:36 AM EST (#76013) #
The letter was brilliant. The whole preview should have been the letter. Nice job.
_Spicol - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 12:40 PM EST (#76014) #
Everyone should strive to begin brilliantly and then go on far too long.

For those who don't wish to read my entire novella, there was a question embedded within regarding Jamie Moyer:

When will he stop being effective? It's tough to say. All of the aged pitchers before him, that I can think of anyway, have either been power pitchers (Ryan, Clemens), knuckleballers (Hough, Niekro) or breaking ball guys (Tommy John). Can Box readers think of another pitcher who survived on a diet of changes and fastballs and pitched into his 40s?

A reader emailed me with one great suggestion that I sloppily didn't classify - Warren Spahn. With his screwball, he deserved a category all his own.

A screwball is terribly hard on the elbow however, and it's all the more impressive that Spahn could still throw it effectively at such an advanced age. The point I was trying to make is that of all of the starting pitchers who pitched into their 40s, knuckleballers aside, none had an arsenal of pitches as easy to throw as Moyer, easy being a relative term, and it may help him to stick around longer than most.
_Shrike - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 01:07 PM EST (#76015) #
Gil Meche. "Pass".
_Dean - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 01:35 PM EST (#76016) #
The closest comparison to Jamie Moyer I can think of is Frank Tanana. I can't remember how old he was in the mid to late '80s but he appeared old and threw that same slop.
_Nigel - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 01:41 PM EST (#76017) #
I think Frank Tanana is a very good comp. I also think that Tommy John is right in that category. He was getting by on the same kind of repetoire at the end (low to mid 80's fastball with sink, great change and a breaking ball). Jimmy Key and now Tom Glavine were and are still pretty successful with that repetoire into their late 30's.
robertdudek - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 01:42 PM EST (#76018) #
Yes... Tanana - post age 35 - is a good comp for Moyer. I think that Moyer will last much longer, though (Tanana was 40 when he hung up his spikes).
_David - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 02:04 PM EST (#76019) #
Somehow Bill Bavasi managed to turn a horrible bench from 2003 into an even worse bench for 2004. I didn't think it was possible, but Bill Bavasi lives the impossible dream.

88-74 is exactly what I've been thinking about this team after they made most of their moves. That's good for third place, and in this year's AL, the Mariners would have to somehow nab the division to get into the playoffs, because the Wild Card sure as hell isn't coming out of the West. I thought for a while that maybe the Mariners had a chance to take the division because Oakland and Anaheim both sucked, but the minute Anaheim got Vlad, all of that went flying out the window.

But yeah, 88-74. If any of Edgar, Boone, or Ichiro are on the shelf for more than one week, though, all bets are off. Fans jaded over the Mariners' anomalous and ultimately unfulfilling 116-win season of 2001 will suddenly remember what a great (feel the sarcasm) year 1999 was and how great it was when Jose Mesa blew the save in the inaugural game at Safeco Field.
_Wildrose - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 02:26 PM EST (#76020) #
Nice work Spicol,I especially enjoyed the Olerud-Golf Pro anology.
Coach - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 02:50 PM EST (#76021) #
It's well within the realm of possibility that the M's and Jays finish within a game or two of each other, in the wild card race most of the way. If that does happen, given most people's expectations, Seattle will be perceived as aging underachievers on the way down, Toronto as an exciting young surprise team.

Thanks, Spicol. The letter is priceless.
_jason - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 03:13 PM EST (#76022) #
Love Olerud. He has to be the only major leaguer who while performing his homerun trot, looks like a dog that s..t on the carpet.
p.s. great work Spicol.
_Spicol - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 04:05 PM EST (#76023) #
Gil Meche. "Pass".

PECOTA isn't too warm on him either.

Just as Meche was over his head in the first half last year, he isn't as bad as his overall numbers show. Considering he didn't pitch at all in 2001 and threw fewer than 70 innings in 2002, conditioning must have been a problem. His poor second half and downright crappy September (8.06 ERA) should have been forecasted.

Why Bob Melvin is a Bad Manager Example #37: Meche, only 24 and coming off of surgery, threw over 100 pitches 15 times in 2003, including more than 110 pitches 5 times.

That's not Lou Piniella bad, but it's bad.
Mike Green - Wednesday, March 17 2004 @ 10:16 PM EST (#76024) #
Real nice job, Spicol.

Regarding Moyer, I wonder if a mileage on arm comparison is more appropriate than an age comparision. Moyer has relatively little mileage for a 40 year old pitcher. While Tanana might have been similar at this stage in his career, he was a fireballer in his 20s, and logged a pile of innings on his arm. But then again, so did his partner in crime Nolan Ryan. Anyways, I'm with Robert. I figure that Moyer's got 2-3 years left.
_rodent - Thursday, March 18 2004 @ 12:11 AM EST (#76025) #
Superior sportswriting. With style. And it looks and reads great in the Box re-design.
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