By Jim Moore
If you heard Michael Grey and I last Friday, we were talking about a "Top 10 list of Reasons Why We're Optimistic About the 2014 Mariners."
I can hear you already…
"How hard was it to come up with 10 reasons?"
"Wouldn't it have been easier to come up with a 'Top 10 List of Reasons Why We're PESSIMISTIC About the 2014 Mariners?'"
"Or wait a minute, that would have been a Top 100 List."
Most of the time, I'm right there with you, a cynic and a skeptic and a non-believer in the Mariners based on what they have now and what they've done in the past.
The outfield's a mess; the rotation's a question mark until Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker return from injuries; no one's going to believe that Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders are quality major-leaguers until they show they are for a full season; Corey Hart is this year's version of Michael Morse; and on and on.
But for the sake of Friday's show and this post, I tried to look at the Mariners differently. Maybe they'll be the team that Vegas thinks they'll be – setting the over-under on number of wins at 81 ½.
I would've put the number at 75 ½, but Vegas is smarter than all of us. If they think the Mariners can go 81-81 or 82-80, be careful if you think otherwise.
Right or wrong, it was a heck of a lot more enjoyable to talk about the possible positives with this Mariner team than harping about their deficiencies, which seems to be my half-empty take most of the time.
With that, the "Top 10 Reasons Why We Should Be Optimistic About the Mariners This Year."
1. Robinson Cano. Some of these reasons are going to be obvious, and he's at the top of the list. The Mariners can count on getting 25 to 30 home runs, 100 runs batted in and Gold Glove defense from their new second baseman. On top of that, he's added a surprising new dimension with his leadership in the clubhouse.
2. Felix Hernandez. Could this be the year he finally wins 20 games? Let's hope so. Maybe he'll get enough run support in 2014. At the very least with Felix on the mound, the Mariners have a good chance to win.
3. Lloyd McClendon. The new Mariners manager might be the lift this team needs. But I admit to liking Eric Wedge, so I'll need to be convinced. McClendon is straight-forward, to-the-point, no-nonsense, all of those things, and it could make a difference.
4. Kyle Seager. The third baseman faded at the end of the 2013 season, but you know what you can usually get from him – a solid hitter who gives you 20 home runs and 60 or 70 RBIs, totals that could go up this year. Love the idea of him hitting second ahead of Cano.
5. Hisashi Iwakuma. Don't you have to include him on the list too? Will a middle finger injury that spoiled spring training bother him all year? I wouldn't think so. This guy was a Cy Young candidate last year and should return to form by late May or early June, enough to be a big factor.
6. James Paxton/Taijuan Walker/Erasmo Ramirez. I don't think all three will have good seasons, but don't you think at least one of them will? Paxton has been mostly solid in Cactus League play, and Ramirez has too – he might be my favorite of the three. We'll see about Walker and his shoulder issues, but he's always been the team's top prospect.
7. Brad Miller. Well, I admit I was pulling for Nick Franklin to win the shortstop job. Not sure why, I guess I just like that Franklin's a switch-hitter who would have occasionally offered a right-handed bat to a left-handed heavy lineup. But Miller has taken the job with a hot bat in spring training and could be a star in the making. Or heck, I'll take a semi-star in the making too.
8. Bullpen. OK, now I'm pushing it with this top 10 list. But hey, when we asked Rick Rizzs for his top 10 list, he mentioned John Buck at No. 8. John Buck?!?! He's a backup catcher. The Mariners have a good relieving corps that could be even better if Tom Wilhelmsen can shake those mental demons from last year. I'm not a huge fan of the Fernando Rodney signing when they already had Danny Farquhar as a closer, but if the Mariners take a lead into the eighth inning this year, they should win the game.
9. Dustin Ackley. If I wasn't pushing it with the No. 8 reason, I'm really pushing it now. I'm not a big Ackley fan. Don't like his beard and to be frank, I haven't seen much that I like from his game either. But in the optimistic spirit of this post, I will note that he hit .305 in the second half of the season and has been tearing up the Cactus League this spring.
10. Bark in the Park. If every other reason bites the dust, you can still count on No. 10 – on July 8 against the Twins, the Mariners will allow dogs to attend a game at Safeco Field. I took mine to Bark in the Park at an Everett Aquasox game last year and had a great time. Circle your calendars for this one.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website www.jimmoorethego2guy.com and www.kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.