All is not lost for the Seattle Mariners’ season.
Sure they are headed for their 8th losing season since 2004. Yes, they play in one of the best divisions in baseball. I know the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics have two of the smartest front offices in the league and the Los Angeles Angels have some pretty deep pockets. But the Mariners have hope; a hope that through all of the years of losing, the meaningless summers and the loneliness of a quarter-filled stadium, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
For years we’ve heard tales of a better tomorrow. That their young stable of minor league pitching prospects was going to be the ticket back to relevancy and hopefully the playoffs. The trio of Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton were going to lift the Mariners from the uninspired mediocrity that has plagued them for the past decade.
It’s time to start cashing in the chips.
We’ve been promised an optimistic future but that promise is only as good as the results it yields. We’ve been waiting for three years for these pitchers to develop. In today’s millisecond attention span world, three years is an eternity to wait for an outcome. Mariner fans have waited long enough. It’s time to see what the years of losing have produced in terms of young talent.
Apparently the Mariners believe the same thing as they announced yesterday that one of their “Big Three” will be making his Major League debut this week. Taijuan Walker is scheduled to start against the Houston Astros this Friday and will presumably fill out the fifth spot in the starting rotation for the rest of the season. But why stop with Walker? The Mariners should also bring up James Paxton, who has admittedly struggled some this year, as well to see what he has to offer. Paxton has been pitching well as of late with an ERA of 3.38 in his last ten outings and was one of the top prospects in all of baseball as recently as last year. Rumor has it the Mariners were actually a few starts away from bringing up the third member of the can’t miss pitching prospects Danny Hultzen earlier this season before he got hurt and shut down for the year putting the kibosh on his and our dreams until at least the start of next season.
Pitchers are cared for and protected now more so than ever before but that hasn’t stopped some of the best young pitchers in the game from getting hurt. From Stephen Strasburg to Matt Harvey, two pitchers who most would say were coddled by their respective teams only to get hurt anyway, have both dealt (or are dealing) with major arm troubles just as their big league careers were taking off. Pitching is an unnatural and violent motion. Injuries are simply the cost of doing business in baseball and they can happen at random. The philosophy on young pitching prospects has long been to develop them slowly and bring them to the big leagues only when they are absolutely ready. But every season, every start, every pitch in the minors is one less that can be used in a major league game. You know, the ones that count.
Either a guy can pitch in the big leagues or he can’t. The best way to find out is to have him pitch against big league hitters. Mariner fans have long envisioned a world with Felix, Iwakuma and the three young studs wreaking havoc on American League hitters.
For Felix’s sake, let’s hope that day is soon.