Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
These must be happy and satisfying days for Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. He is getting to watch the team that he has spent the last 6 years building finally start to live up to the promise he always insisted was there. With yesterday’s win over the Texas Rangers the Mariners now sport a 78-63 record, a full 15 games over .500, and have moved 1.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers for the second American League wild card spot. On this current road trip they are 5-1 and have notched 5 straight wins. They trail the Oakland A’s for the first wild card by only two games and, based on the two teams head to head record this season, which favors Seattle 9 wins to 8 for the A’s, the Oakland team must be feeling the heat. The Mariners will face the A’s in an absolutely huge series next weekend at Safeco Field which will go along ways towards deciding things. Zduriencik’s team is at long last playing meaningful baseball in September, and it is great to see.
There was nothing in the disarray of the Mariners at the end of last season that gave a clue to the team we are watching now. Seattle finished with another terrible record at 71-91, to finish 20 games under .500 and 4th place in the American League West. When Zduriencik would not re-sign manager Eric Wedge to a new contract before season’s end a frustrated Wedge announced he would not return for another season. Zduriencik launched a search for a new manager which resulted in the hiring of Lloyd McLendon in early November. McLendon had spent years with the Detroit Tigers on the staff of Jim Leyland and before that had managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for several years, but none of us in Seattle knew much about him.
This was followed a month later by the incredible news that the Mariners had signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10 year $240 million contract. The signing of Cano, a great major league hitter and the best second sacker in the American League, indicated the Mariners were serious about changing the culture in Seattle. We fans were ecstatic, but the good feeling did not last long. The next day after Cano’s signing the Mariners and Zduriencik were confronted with a PR nightmare in the form of an article by Seattle Times investigative reporter Geoff Baker which cited statements by Eric Wedge and others that claimed Zduriencik was abrasive and autocratic, even implying that Jack had falsified his credentials to get the M’s job. The flap surrounding Baker’s article definitely took the gild off the positive moves the M’s had made during the off season. It even overshadowed the signing of Robinson Cano.
Now here we are 9 months later and the play of the Mariners has completely eclipsed the negatives of Baker’s article. Robinson Cano has lived up to his press clippings in every way, to this point in the season hitting .320 with 12 HRs while playing the sweetest second base in this or any other universe. Third baseman Kyle Seager is blossoming in the field and as a hitter, currently .280, 23 HRs and 88 RBIs, and earned his first All Star berth this summer. Dustin Ackley has solidified the left field position. He has been raking the ball since the All Star break and is finally starting to fulfill his promise. Seattle leads not just the American League but all baseball in team defense and their pitching staff (3.03 ERA for the season) also leads all of baseball, with Felix Hernandez (14-5 and 2.18 ERA) pitching at a Cy Young pace for most of the season. Hisashi Iwakuma also has 14 wins with a sub 3.0 ERA and the M’s bullpen has the best ERA in the American League. Closer Fernando Rodney leads the American League with 43 saves.
With all of this goodness is it any wonder the M’s are winning? Lloyd McLendon has done a marvelous job with the team this season and their performance has justified Zduriencik’s hiring of him completely. He has a down to earth approach and is not prone to panic. That became obvious as the M’s were going through an 8 game losing streak early in the season. Lloyd never lost faith and handled the situation beautifully. I thought then that the M’s had found their manager. The team’s play since has proved me, and Zduriencik, right.
To this point in the season it’s been a great ride, and with 21 games left the M’s have put themselves in prime position for a playoff run. Lloyd and the boys are goin’ for it and this fan is with ‘em all the way.
With the Mariners playing as they are, I am going to enjoy the rest of September.
Copyright © 2014
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved