I have an ongoing bet with my friend Bernard who, for lack of a better location, is an avid, yet long-suffering, fan of the Seattle Mariners. Last year I won our annual bet that the Pittsburgh Pirates would lose more games than the Mariners. This year I offered “points” like a two-three-game head start, but Bernard turned me down. He thinks the Seattle nine are still the worst and can win the bet without any help or head start. See his comments.
All the rating systems seem to agree: The Mariners will be very competitive (for the role of the Major League’s worst team). Winning 72 games is the upper range of possibility, but this assumes that the Mariners offense will perform to the level of the 1962 Mets, which is quite a stretch, in my opinion. The odds are quite good, for example, that Justin Smoak will not be able to outhit 1962 Marv Thronberry.
Given the unanimity of the projection systems (which is quite rare, actually), I feel very comfortable that the Mariners can compete with the Pirates in the loss column without any handicaps. The relative lack of major league ready players within the farm system (only Mauricio Robles and Dustin Ackley appear to be ready to perform above replacement level) represents a unique edge. When the Mariners release or dump a player (Ryan Roland-Smith, Ian Snell, Josh Wilson, Matt Tui, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, etc.) they are as done as tea bag that has made too many cups of tea. Clubs picking up a Mariners retread generally need no longer than a few weeks or perhaps a Spring Training to “re-gift” them or suggest eminent retirement. On the other hand, the Mariners are quite happy to take a chance on players that the Pirates can no longer use (Ian Snell, Jack Wilson).
In fact, looking at the schedule (in which the Mariners play almost all of their games against contending teams), I am quite confident that we will be able to put to rest any foolish talk of pennant contention by the end of the April.
As a result, most of the speculation seems to center around more interesting matters:
1. How many games before Milton Bradley and Eric Wedge get into a shouting match or perhaps even a brawl?
2. Which Mariner player will be the first to be sentenced to a jail term?
3. Will we have a repeat of “Nap Gate”, and if so, which veteran player will fall asleep during the game?
4. Who will be fired first, the GM (Jack Z), the Manager (Wedge), the scouting director or the hitting coach (Chris Chambliss)?
Personally, I can’t wait to see who the Pirates ship to the Giants later in the season during their stretch run as Pittsburgh, acting a s a farm team, gives up its productive players for more prospects.