COMMENTARY| The Seattle Mariners had playoff-caliber pitching in 2012, finishing in the top four of the American League in ERA, WHIP, and AVG (five teams qualify for the playoffs). Their offense, unfortunately, was the league’s worst in AVG and runs scored. They weren’t much better in home runs (149), placing 11th out of 14 teams.
How did they do? With a record of 75 wins and 87 losses, the Mariners were last in their division and 18 games out of the playoffs.
Off-season: During the winter of our (the fans) discontent, the front office made a decision to improve the offense. Woo Hoo! While many felt they should have gone after a speedy lead-off man, such as Michael Bourn, the choice was to pursue the long ball. The four sluggers brought in have a total of 631 home runs in their careers: Raul Ibanez (271), Jason Bay (211), Kendrys Morales (79), and Michael Morse (70). Franklin Gutierrez has the most of all Mariners returning from the 2012 team, but his total is only 57.
I’ve always felt it is easier to hit well when you are surrounded by others who are hitting. With this in mind, it is hoped that the new guys’ presence can help the performance of the younger Mariners.
Spring Training: Through the first week of the 2013 spring campaign, the plan seems to be working quite well. Mariners who have hit home runs include: Jason Bay (2), Franklin Gutierrez (2), Nick Franklin, Raul Ibanez, Mike Jacobs, Alex Liddi, Michael Morse, Carlos Peguero (3), Brendan Ryan, Michael Saunders (2), Justin Smoak (2), and Casper Wells. Seattle has more home run hitters, 12, than most other teams have total home runs (the Houston Astros have hit 13, Cleveland Indians have 12).
The 18 home runs for the Mariners is the highest among all 30 MLB teams, not just the 15 in the American League (remember the Astros have switched to the AL this year).
Pitching Continues: If you’re concerned Seattle’s pitching has deteriorated, fear not. Among AL teams, the spring training Mariners rank #2 in ERA, #4 in AVG, and #5 in WHIP. Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker are making a case to be included in the Opening Day roster, though that would probably be too soon.
A Few Years Back: The Mariners have not always been such whimps at the plate. Long time fans will remember the late 1990s, when the team led all of Major League Baseball with 264 home runs in 1997. They outslugged everybody else again in 1998 (234) and 1999 (244). Those were the final years at the Kingdome, with Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar and Buhner terrorizing American League pitchers.
Do I miss the Kingdome? No. I do, however, miss hearing Dave Niehaus call the home run shots. Niehaus was the voice of the Mariners from their inception, in 1977, until his death following the 2010 season. He received the Ford C. Frick Award in 2008, the greatest honor available for baseball broadcasters.
I remember listening to Niehaus say, “It will fly away” when a drive was headed over the outfield fence. “My, oh my!” was the cry when things got really exciting. Living in Oregon, a bit far from the Kingdome and Safeco, I listened to Dave a lot.
Ryebread and Mustard: My favorite of Niehaus’ many catchphrases was, “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it is grand salami time!” If you didn’t already figure this one out, it’s when the bases are loaded and a Mariner hits a grand slam home run.
The Mariners have been averaging more than two home runs per game this spring. In a 162-game regular season that would be … a whole lot of home runs!
When you come to see the Mariners at Safeco Field this year, think about Dave Niehaus. Better yet, bring along a little ryebread and mustard.
A Mariners’ fan since their inception, Harold Andrews is bullish on the team’s chances of reaching the playoffs in 2013.