It wasn’t so long ago that the Seattle Mariners were not only relevant, but one of the most dominant teams in Major League Baseball.
Just over a decade ago, a roster put together in the nation’s northwestern corner ran off 116 wins – an improbable feat led by rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki. Winning both the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards, Suzuki quickly embodied everything the Mariners stood for.
Hustle, skill, passion and consistency.
A rotation that included Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Brett Tomko and Aaron Sele combined to dazzle, while Jeff Nelson and Kaz Sasaki formed a near-unhittable back end of the bullpen. With skipper ‘Sweet’ Lou Piniella at the helm, it seemed there was nothing this club couldn’t do.
Then, as quickly as it appeared, this illusion of grandeur vanished before our eyes. But if we learned anything from that club, it’s to expect the improbable.
As much as I love the Brett Boone, John Olerud, Mike Cameron and Edgar Martinez lineup, the 2013 Mariners were no slouch, either, despite finishing more than ten games below .500 yet again. This team has a lot of major pieces moving forward.
The largest, and most obvious of those pieces is Felix Hernandez. However, other notable talents such as Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak provided solid offense this year, and the arms of Hisashi Iwakuma and Hernandez formed one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the game today.
If this club can add a power bat and shore up with a dependable third starter, a run at the American League West isn’t out of the question.