Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Too High?

Today we open a three-game set against Cleveland, the matchup tonight featuring lefties Jarrod Washburn (1-0, 2.57 ERA, !) and Cliff Lee (sort of the more ruggedly named martial arts counterpart of Bruce Lee? Nah...0-0, 5.06 ERA). Lee is making his home debut; he is a solid pitcher who by merit of winning 18 games last year is thought of more highly than he deserves. He is not particularly a groundball pitcher, although that didn't lead to any HR in Chicago, so there you go.

Still, he might be enough to stifle the Mariners. Tad suggested that our early batting struggles should be viewed in the context of the tough opposing pitchers that the Mariners have thus far faced. Lee isn't much of a step down, but he is in the lower echelon of that group of opposing pitchers.

Since the blossoming of "modern" Mariners baseball in 1995, Cleveland has been something of a natural comparison for our beloved Seattle franchise. Sure, the team has a far older history, but both teams had a well-developed recent history of ineptitude by the mid-1990s, and both developed playoff teams based largely on farm development. Moreover, the two clashed in that eventful '95 when the Mariners magically surpassed the Angels and the Yankees to get to the ALCS.

If that comparison still holds, then once again, the Mariners don't fare very well today, in 2006. The Indians are in the midst of their second serious run of signing young stars to long-term deals in order to build a solid core. They challenged the Luck Sox last year for the AL Central, a year ahead of GM Mark Shapiro's schedule, and they are set almost everywhere on the diamond with young, rising stars. The one shortfall WAS at third base, but they remedied that this offseason by swapping Coco Crisp to the Red Sox for the best third base prospect in the game, Andy Marte.

Virtually the only good news (for us, for this series) is that the dominance of the young Indians is still a year or two away. This year they're only going to be very good, as opposed to the awesome results that are likely in the near future. The lesson of Cleveland might well be lost on the Mariners' front office; the franchise identified their non-contending position in a timely fashion several years ago, and intentionally went through a rebuilding phase in which they traded for young talent and bided their time developing that talent, with an eye toward 2006. Voila! Not only is their team good today, but it should actually improve over the course of the next several seasons.

As much as the Mariners have been forced to look to the future, there simply is not that much in the minors to build from, and this is after two seasons of futility based mostly on aging veterans and unwise free agent signings. By comparison, it looks like the M's have no plan whatsoever. While I'm sure that's not true, playing Cleveland underscores the mistakes for our club.

To make matters worse, Hollywood has not rewarded the Mariners with the kind of immortality that the inept Indians of the 1980s received in the classic film "Major League." The M's can console themselves that this also means that there was no awful sequel involving Seattle either.

Go Ms!


At 2:36 PM, Blogger Deanna said...

No way, dude! Major League 2 was an AWESOME movie. That catcher kid, Rube Baker, had the funniest lines ever uttered in any baseball movie, period. Plus they were visionaries in getting a Japanese outfielder way before people had thought of bringing Japanese position players to the US!


I still want a Vaughn #99 or Cerrano #13 jersey...

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Tad said...

I dunno Deanna, ML 2 had its moments, but it didn't really live up to the original...I too would love a Cerrano jersey, although I couldn't use his best line around my kids!


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