Major League Baseball Spring Training is underway and the regular season is now just a few days away from starting. It seems like that shortened season is long gone in the past but it was really just a few months ago.
The Seattle Mariners have had quite the interesting offseason since the World Series finished and their players reported for camp. Things were mostly quiet for Seattle and then just a week ago, their CEO and President Kevin Mather resigned his position after making some horrible comments to a rotary club.
Mather said these comments about different players and coaches on the roster whose first language was not english.
“I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma ‘X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”
“Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is loud. His English is not tremendous.”
As you can see, these comments have no place in Major League Baseball and if this guy were talking about me, I would tell him to shove it. Now Mather is gone and it can go one of two ways for players in Seattle. They can either quit on this franchise before the season begins or they will band together and almost play in protest of a guy like Mather.
It seems like the latter is already happening. Team ace Marco Gonzales was called “boring’ by Mather. So of course, he took to Twitter and made his bio, “Very Boring.”
On top of that, Gonzales had this to say about the Mather incident and how it is going to affect the group of guys that they have in the clubhouse.
“But, the positive is that we’ve built a really solid culture here over the last couple years. We’ve built a culture in which the players are beginning to run and guide the direction of this team. This is something that we will move on from. Our group will come together.”
This is a good sign for Seattle. Now let’s take a look at their roster and see how they might pan out.
Scott Servais is back for another season as the Seattle manager. He has been there since 2016 and is 348-360 in over 700 games managed. This year he is tasked with managing a really young team that has a lot of good talent. They have the unanimous Rookie of the Year in Kyle Lewis coming back. They have Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffeild, JP Crawford, Evan White, and a guy who I think will be in Rookie of the Year talks this year in Jarred Kelenic.
This is the most fun and interesting that this Mariners squad has been in a long time. While they came up short in 2020, I think that was a great way to prove that they are better than a lot of people think and they have some young, fun talent to look out for.
The offense is going to be the best part of this team hands down. If Kyle Seager can have a year where he hits over 20 home runs and the Mariners get a healthy season out of Mitch Haniger, this team could make a real push for a Wild Card spot.
On paper, this team really does seem like a squad that could do a lot more damage than they are being given credit for. I am seeing a lot of predictions that have the Mariners finishing fourth in the AL West but there is a chance that they could truly surprise a lot of people.
“The focus right now is getting ready for (opening day),” he said. “I think we have the opportunity to do something really special this year, maybe a little bit ahead of what most people are predicting based on the lack of experience that we have. I do know one thing about young players is they’re hungry, they have a ton of excitement and passion and energy. Those are all things that will serve us very well as we go throughout, hopefully, a full 162-game season.”
The rotation got a huge upgrade with the signing of James Paxton and if Marcos Gonzales can prove yet again that he can be an ace for the Mariners, they have three really quality arms rounding the top of their rotation with Sheffield on that list. The last two rotation spots will probably come down to Yusei Kikuchi or Chris Fiexen. Their bullpen was inexperienced coming into last season but that is where 2020 really pays off for him. It is one part of the roster that Servais thinks improved the most from last season to this one.
“I think all the guys we asked to make some changes over the offseason … they all came in ready to go. Now we’ll see how that plays out on the field.”
The bottom line in this division is that you are going to have to go through the Houston Astros if you want to win. Since 2010, they have gone 54-89 against Houston, a record that absolutely has to get better. I think there are a lot of similarities between the Rays and the Mariners and Tampa Bay is a team that won their division last year, getting through the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
The Mariners have a great young core intact and they can build it all around Kyle Lewis. They have really solid depth, really solid chemistry, and for the first time, a bullpen that seems like it won’t blow every game they are ahead in.
If the Mariners are able to put together on the field what they have on paper, I see them finishing above .500 this year and finishing second or third in the AL West. I think this squad is probably a year away from making a legitimate run at the Division Title and kicking Houston to the curb.