The last time we checked in on the Mariners they were sitting at 7-11 and fourth in the AL West. In the 3 weeks and 19 games since, they're still a yawn inducing 17-20 overall, having gone 10-9 in that stretch. Not terrible, just not great. What's even more bizarre is how inconsistent this team has been at times.
From game to game, you never know which Mariners team will show up. The offense shows up in bunches, then will disappear for games, and the same with the pitching. They just can't seem to get everyone going at the same time. When the starters struggle, the bullpen is top notch, if the starters go deep in the game, the bullpen has shown an uncanny ability to blow leads late in games. I'm looking at you Fernando Rodney, aka the most bi-polar of the bunch.
Watching Mariners games each night, Rodney finds a new way to frustrate you. This is the same guy who is a two time All-Star and the MLB leader in Saves last season. Even in the games he does manage to close out, he likes to walk a couple guys before shutting the door, almost like he owns stock in the company who makes TUMS. To relate to Cyclone fans, he reminds me of Matt Thomas. This is nothing personal against Thomas, as Rodney is a great player and one of the best at what he does. It's how he goes about it that conjures the same frustration you feel when watching Matty Ice. Some games he has the most fluid beautiful jumper in all the land. Other nights you find yourself throwing things at the TV and hoping the neighbors don't hear you yelling. Or you feel like this...
I hate to pick on just Rodney though. The whole team could use a trip to group therapy to work through their issues. After an impressive 11-4 stomping on the Padres last week, a game that saw the Mariners set a Safeco Field record for most home runs in a game with 6, the offense mustered up only 7 runs over their next 4 games losing 3 of those contests. I mean, is anyone else seeing why this team fits so perfectly for Cyclones fans!?
I do expect to see the hate mail piling up soon that we didn't go with the Astros or even the Nationals. Both teams are two of the hottest in baseball with the Astros sitting on top of their division and the Nationals only a .5 game back from first. That would've been too easy. We said we wanted a season Cyclones fans could relate to, not front runner bandwagon glory. So far this team has managed to follow the righteous path laid out to them by Cyclone Nation, and while it's disappointing, did anyone really expect it to be easy? Look what we Cyclones fans put up with during the fall and winter for god sake. Summer should be no different for us!
While this team has certainly had its share of bright spots, the players that aren't performing up to their standards are some of the least likely suspects and proving more troublesome than expected. Most notably, Robinson Cano and the mysterious case of his missing bat. I think everyone agreed that the switch from the little league stadium that the Yankees play in to the much larger Safeco field would zap some of Cano's power, but I don't think anyone saw this coming.
Last season Cano hit only 14 home runs, which was a significant drop from the previous 5 years which all saw him hit more than 25 each season with a career high 33 in 2012. Most chalked that up to the move, new surroundings, new division, etc. However, this season he only has 1 home run through the teams first 36 games. Even more alarming, his batting average sits roughly 48 points below his career average of .308, and his slugging percentage hovers around .360. For a player who has averaged close to .500 slugging through their first 10 seasons, this jumps off the page. Early season averages and percentages tend to fluctuate quite a bit at the beginning of the season, and level off as the season moves along, however, these are substantial drops that can't entirely be ignored.
This could be a case of needing to adjust expectations. Cano is no longer a young player, and while not old by any means as player's age, power tends to diminish, unless you become a roided out bobblehead sideshow like Barry Bonds. Cano appears to be fully healthy, so I don't think there's a hidden injury behind his early season struggles. Whatever the case may be, his slow start has not helped the Mariners offense as much as they had hoped when they spent the offseason getting Nelson Cruz to protect him in the order. His bat heating up, and Nelson Cruz's staying scorching hot, will continue to drive the Mariners success on offense this season.
If the offense continues to struggle and the pitching remains hot and cold, we could be looking at much of the same over the next few months. Lots of wins coupled with lots of losses, ultimately leading to the nut punch .500 season. This isn't Cyclone football, so that would be considered disappointing for this Mariners team, especially given all the offseason hype.
As I will continue to stress all summer, all is not lost, and this season is long and grueling. There are some flaws with this team, but as much time as I spend watching these games, there is a lot of untapped potential and still LOTS of time to turn this season around. Two weeks from now, this team could be 10 games over .500 and we'll all be laughing about the slow start. Until then, enjoy the roller coaster that has been the first 6 weeks of the season.
Felix Hernandez became the fourth youngest player in MLB history to reach 2,000 career strikeouts. Felix just turned 29 last month, so there should be many more along the way in his already illustrious career.
Logan Morrison hits a walk off home run in the 11th inning to win the game vs. the Athletics on May 8th.
Nelson Cruz hits walk off single in the 9th to lift Seattle to a 2-1 win over the Red Sox on May 15th.