“Excuse me, waiter? I’m ready to order.”
“Waiter: What can I get you?”
“It looks like I will have to order the crow. But make it a half order?”
Waiter: “Excuse me?”
“Well, I recently wrote an article for the Pacific Northwest’s most important website, Oregon Sports News, and I bashed the Seattle Mariners. I went on and on about how there just wasn’t much to get excited about with this season’s extremely young and inexperienced team.”
“Now they’ve started the season winning six of their first seven games. Yeah, I know, crazy isn’t it? They took three games from the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and swept the hard-hitting Anaheim Angels to end a 7-1 homestand. So, I think an order of crow for this writer is what’s called for.”
Waiter: “So just the half order?”
“The season is so young, I don’t think a full order is warranted. As fun as these first eight games have been, the team still has some glaring weaknesses, so I can’t say my analysis was completely wrong.”
Waiter; “Ok, sir. A half order it is. But I’ll save that second half of crow just in case.”
Who could have seen this coming from the new-look Mariners? They start the season in Japan, and it was more about Ichiro’s retirement than it was about actual baseball. Throw in the first professional start for the next Japanese sensation, pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, and the team’s two wins against the Oakland A’s were almost an afterthought.
They score 14 runs, bash 18 hits and stroke four home runs in the two games, and it raised a few eyebrows. Could this be something? Is General Manager Jerry Dipoto a genius?
After a few more meaningless Spring Training games, the season started for ‘real’ as the Red Sox rolled into Seattle. This is when all the M’s perceived deficiencies were supposed to take over and drag the team back to reality. Not so fast.
First the good news. In the four games against Boston, the team scored 34 runs (8.2 per game), slammed 11 home runs (17 on the year), and the team batting average is now .264. I thought there might be some power in this lineup, and these first eight games proved me right. But those numbers this early are astonishing.
With that said, I can’t really see the Red Sox pitching remaining this bad (13.20 earned run average — the worst through four games in the past 10 years). So, it looks like the M’s caught a break as Boston looked like they were still shaking the offseason rust.
But the M’s are getting production from some unlikely sources. Free agent signee Tim Beckham is playing out of his head (.379 BA, three home runs and eight RBI), good enough to earn him the American League Player of the Week. Add to that Ryon Healy and his eight extra base hits and seven starters hitting above .280; it all doesn’t make sense. This team was supposed to struggle at the plate. Wow.
Now remember, I asked for a half order of crow. Yes, these first eight games have been a pleasant surprise, but there are some scary numbers on the Mariners’ side of things.
The defense is shaky at best, and that is being nice. The team’s 13 errors easily lead all of Major League baseball. Third baseman Dylan Moore made three on three consecutive plays in the ninth inning on Sunday, and the team committed four on Monday night. Ugh.
The pitching has been a roller coaster, to say the least. Despite seven wins, M’s pitchers have given up 68 hits and 39 runs and issued 26 walks. The teams overall ERA of 3.36 is respectable, but two players’ ERAs are over 11, and Hunter Strickland, the man they thought was the team’s closer, is now on the disabled list.
That is a lot of numbers to digest, and it has only been eight games. Lots of offense can go a long way in masking the team’s weaknesses. The 7-1 start is exciting and causing quite a stir in Seattle. It is, by the way, the best eight-game start to a season in franchise history.
But all this early success raises many questions. Can the offense continue this torrid pace, carry the team and rescue a young bullpen? Is this sustainable? How is this offense going to do on the road?
Let’s not drill down too far on these early games. Let’s enjoy the team’s surprising results and bask in the glow of first place, if only for a few more weeks. Crow is not a great delicacy, but it’s what I deserve. I admit, I was wrong (so far), and the Mariners have blown my socks off. As a life-long, suffering Mariners fan, I really, really hope I have to eat the whole bird, and the Mariners can continue this unforeseen delight. If only the season were eight games long.