And So It Ends
The 2013 season is over. It was, in my personal opinion, the least enjoyable season to follow since I started paying attention to the team back in the mid-80s. There have been worse Mariners teams, certainly, but this particular roster represented just such a huge step in the wrong direction for the entire organization. And, of course, it didn’t have to be this way. That this was an intentional construction in an effort to build a winning team would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.
The organization continues to sell hope, even as it looks more and more dysfunctional by the day. You’ve probably noticed that I stopped buying what they were selling a while ago, and 2013 didn’t do anything to restore my hope that the team was right and I was wrong. So, now, I’ve basically adopted a new hope; that this team was so awful, so unwatchable, so embarrassing that there’s a reevaluation of internal beliefs.
We’ve already seen this front office pivot after failure before. They went for pitching-and-defense, and when that didn’t work out, we got this abomination of a dingers-and-leadership roster. That it didn’t work either might — might — make a case for just focusing on good all around players. Guys who can hit, and field, and run, and pitch, and if they’re good in the clubhouse, then that’s a nice bonus. That’s what this team needs – good players, of all shapes and sizes.
The defense was atrocious, but it isn’t so simple as getting better defenders. The pitching was bad, but this team isn’t a couple of new pitchers away from being good. The Mariners need a lot of new players, most of them better than the ones that got a lot of playing time in 2013. My hope is not in these players magically improving, but in the 2013 season being a wake-up call that there is no championship core in place, and that the team needs to change course and go get some better players to open 2014.
They have two good pitchers in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. They have a good third baseman in Kyle Seager, and a shortstop who looks like he might be pretty good in Brad Miller. Those four should enter spring training next year as the entrenched starters at their positions. The other 21 spots on the roster should be sources of potential upgrade. That doesn’t mean I think Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, et al are totally useless. A couple of them might actually help the team next year. They just shouldn’t be counted on. Their contributions in 2014 should be bonuses, not a prerequisite for the team to succeed.
It’s time to move on from Justin Smoak as the team’s starting first baseman. The team needs at least two new outfielders, and if Kendrys Morales keeps asking for crazy money, they need a new DH too. They should acquire a stopgap catcher who can play everyday to start the year, allowing Mike Zunino to learn how to hit in the minor leagues like he should have done this year. They need at least one starting pitcher, maybe two. And the bullpen and bench both need work.
It’s a pretty long list. It’s a lot to accomplish in one winter. Maybe too much. Maybe there are just too many holes to put together a winning team next year. But, there are useful role players to be had, quality additions to be made, and the possibility for the team to go from utterly useless to at least acceptably okay. These upgrades are easier than going from good to great. It shouldn’t be that hard to find reasonable Major League players to fill the spots that were given to totally useless scrubs this season.
The organization just first has to realize that that’s actually what they did. They have to stop blaming the kids for this team’s failures and realize that it was the cavalcade of horrible veterans that dragged this team into the depths of despair. They need better veterans, and to get those, they need to realize that last year’s ideas about roster construction were entirely wrong.
That’s the hope I have. Jack Z and his team have changed course before, following an attempt to win that didn’t work. Maybe they’ll do it again. I have my doubts, but if you’re looking for hope in 2014, that’s probably a better spot to look than hoping that all the young kids magically become good overnight.