Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training this week, and to be honest, it feels a little subdued.
In past years the start of Spring Training was a big deal and a sign that warmer weather and sunshine were just around the corner.
But this year feels different.
Maybe it’s because last season’s 60-game abbreviated season never really got on my radar. Maybe it’s the relatively boring playoffs and World Series that wrapped up the season. Maybe it’s just the lingering Pandemic blues. I don’t know, but I’ve been having a tough time putting my finger on my lack of excitement for this season. Then it hit me.
The Seattle Mariners are, for what seems like the 100th year in a row, an afterthought in the minds of most baseball fans.
If your team has a history of success, a couple of all-stars, some wily veterans and some young up-and-comers, Spring Training is exciting. How will the season play out? Will we make the playoffs and even the World Series? Let the games begin!
For Mariners’ fans? Not so much. Not even close.
Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but what do M’s fans really have to look forward to in this upcoming season?
Unless you’re a hardcore fan, it’s hard to find something to pin your hopes on. Even team management is saying ‘Not this season, but we’re getting close!’ Put that on a t-shirt.
I get what the team is trying to do, and it is long overdue: Blow up the team, trade for prospects and let them develop. Go young and watch the kids grow. I like the plan in theory, but not seeing any discernable progress is frustrating. And for the team to preach patience once again is brutal.
Throw us a bone. Give us someone, anyone to root for.
Are there any signs of hope on the horizon?
Baseball America says the Mariners have the second-best farm system in all of baseball. Wow. Remember, it was just four years ago the Mariners’ system ranked dead last. Read that again: DEAD LAST.
I’m not sure how much credence anyone should put in those types of rankings, but even if the Mariners are more realistically in the top ten, that seems promising.
Other good news? Last season the team had two players win Golden Glove awards as the best defensive players at their positions: Evan White at first base and J.P. Crawford at shortstop. Add returning, and now healthy, Mitch Haniger and AL Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis, and you’ve got something to build on. Top-prospect pitchers Logan Gilbert and Justus Sheffield and outfielder Jarred Kelenic should also make major contributions.
Those players, along with veterans Marco Gonzales and Kyle Seager, make a decent core, and maybe, just maybe, will bring a glimmer of hope.
So, when are the Mariners going to be able to cash in on this stellar farm system of talented youngsters? Who knows? The Mariners ‘step back plan’ is in full swing, but lots of fans, including me, are getting impatient.
The team has boxed themselves into a bit of a corner by saying 2021 won’t be their year, but 2022 will be. So what happens when they roll out a promising roster of young players in 2022, and they fall flat? If the team doesn’t meet those sky-high expectations, will fans rebel? Will fans finally give up?
So many questions.
The future looks bright, on paper, but when the retooling will finally come to fruition is anybody’s guess. We’ve been here too many times.
Is the end of the baseball’s longest playoff drought anywhere on the horizon? We’ll just have to wait and see.