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Are they the Mariners or the Mediocres?  Mediocre is the word that came to the top of my mind as I wrote this preview, from top to bottom the Mariners are "decent, fair, indifferent, middling, passable, tolerable, unexceptional and vanilla".  There are few major problems but there are few above average players, or front office people, to take Seattle to the playoffs.  The Mariners lost 84 games in 2006, their third losing season in a row. However, on the bright side, their 78 wins were the most for the Mariners since 2003.  The bright spots are few in this preview, and with an aging roster and lowly ranked farm system the future does not look any better.

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Basically unchanged
But will that suffice in this
Improved division?

Ah, why not have one more preview saturated with senryus, those wacky haiku-style reflections that avoid the "haiku" label when they do not specifically pay homage to nature. Reader submissions, as always, are encouraged.

The Angels, in one sense, are an organization firing on all cylinders. They play winning baseball in a fan-friendly park for a supportive owner in front of teeming crowds, and their stellar minor league system keeps cranking out power arms and promising bats alike. That said, the nature of season previews is such that "big picture" hopes and fears are cast aside momentarily in order to tightly focus on the task at hand, which is to win the 2006 World Series. Do the LAA o'A have the chops to get it done?

On to the preview!

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Compared to recent off-seasons, the 2005-2006 winter was a quiet one for the Athletics. They added a mid-range free agent, Esteban Loaiza; they acquired Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez from the Dodgers; they signed Frank Thomas to an incentive-laden deal. Will the new acquisitions help the A's return to the playoffs?

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Like Toronto, Texas had an eventful offseason that renewed the hope of its fans. New GM Jon Daniels made two bold trades and spent a healthy portion of his boss’s treasure to upgrade the team. Did Texas improve enough to overtake both Los Angeles and Oakland and reach the postseason for the first time since 1999?
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It would be glib to suggest that all Mariner fans have to look forward to in 2006 is Felix Hernandez. So consider me glib, because, while Ichiro Suzuki will do his thing and Kenji Johjima may add more Japanese flair, the Mariners look like one of the dullest teams in baseball.
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For most of the last decade, the AL Central has featured one good-but-unspectacular squad and four teams ranging from average to poor. So far in 2005, the AL West is trying hard to usurp that hollow crown.
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Let’s clear a few things up right now:
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Since the rise of the A’s five or so years ago, the AL West has featured, at minimum, two teams who could be reasonably ranked in the top five or six in all of baseball. For much of that time, the Seattle Mariners were one of them, winning at least 90 games four consecutive years—including, of course, the 116-win season in 2001—and earning two post-season berths in the process. That epoch is over. The Mariners lost 99 games last year, but even if they had lost only 85, they have been passed by the Rangers and now stand as the fourth-best team in a four-team division.
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Three things you might not know about the 2004 Texas Rangers:

  • The offense was not great.
  • The rotation was not terrible.
  • The bullpen was phenomenal.

Unlike their division rivals, the Rangers hit the pause button after the season ended and will return with virtually the same group that posted the franchise's first winning record in five years. Other than right field, designated hitter, and one rotation spot, the names haven't changed. Texas will seek internal improvement, perhaps augmented with an in-season trade or two.

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Back in the playoffs
Unwieldy new name, but they're
Favoured in the West

To discuss the re-re-rechristened Los Angeles Angels...of Anaheim, I was considering challenging myself by coming up with a catchy St. Patrick's Day limerick for each key player on the squad. Alas, the challenge proved too daunting, particularly in light of the dearth of clever-sounding words that rhyme with "Rodriguez." So it's back to senryu, which is a haiku-style reflection that does not specifically pay homage to nature.

I'll put my money where my mouth is about limericks: The best Angels-related limerick submitted by a reader or Roster member in the thread below will receive two Cheer Club tickets for the Jays-Angels extravaganza on Thursday, July 28, at my expense.

But I digress. On to the preview!

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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.
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Plenty of good seats are available at The Ballpark In Arlington. Every so often, I attend a game by myself and pick the best seat available on game day. Four years ago, I sat in the 3rd row behind the first base dugout. Last year, I sat in the 10th row behind home plate. This year, I expect to sit in the dugout and play a couple of innings in left field.

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Feisty '02 team/
Lost mojo. Tried to recoup/
With pricey shopping

Welcome to tha' O.C.! Our 2004 Preview Series now turns to the suddenly free-spending Anaheim Angels.
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"We think this is our worst club over the next five years. You'd better beat us now." -- A's General Manager Billy Beane, after his club lost to the Yankees in five games in the 2000 ALDS.

"I beg to differ." -- Hack writer John Gizzi, March 5, 2004.

The 2004 Oakland A's: 20 Questions With John Gizzi (JG) and an Anonymous Interviewer (AI)
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