Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If the Mariners Were a Sergio Leone Movie Part II

My midseason look on the Mariners back in 1007 was so good that it's time to bring the format back. Why wasn't there one for 2008? Maybe I was lazy, maybe the Mariners were on their way to losing 101 games as well as their minds.

But 2009 has been a refreshing change for a franchise that needed it. It began in the winter when Seattle hired Jack Zduriencik as General Manager. Zduriencik, formerly in charge of scouting with the Milwaukee Brewers, radically changed the Mariners by emphasizing speed, defense and value. He also brought on first-time manager Don Wakamatsu who has instilled discipline and accountability.

And, looky here, the M's are still in contention. The preseason favorite Angels, despite having suffered through tragedy and injuries, remain ahead of the pack like they're accustomed to. Plus Texas can't be messed with like in years past. But Seattle isn't going away.

While the future remains a mystery let's look back at the 2009 Seattle Mariners a little past the midway point of the season:

The Good

Ichiro Suzuki - His best offensive season in years, excellent defense and psyching out Yankees fans. Once again nothing short of brilliant.

Russell Branyan
- Russell is the free agent bargain of the year. He's played at an All-Star level for the Mariners. His power hitting and patience from the left side has been a huge part of the M's offense (sometimes the only part). And his defense hasn't been horrible. It's like he's a Bizarro Richie Sexson... for a fraction of the cost!

Felix Hernandez - Consistency has been the key. No longer is Felix letting his emotions run amok. Again, this is partly a testament to Wakamatsu's demand for accountability. But it's also a huge nod to Felix, whose gameplan and mental toughness are beginning to match his insane abilities. He's a true #1 starter and younger than David Price. Yea, that's scary good.

Franklin Gutierrez - In some backward cosmic way the Adam Jones trade was a good thing. Well, it wasn't but Franklin did eventually become a Mariner as a result. His bat has demonstrated good pop recently, adding to value beyond being an elite center fielder. Mike Cameron 2.0, we love you.

The Bad

Jose Lopez - Rough season for Lopez, who lost a sister last month and continues to struggle at the plate. His power numbers have modestly improved but they've come at the expense of base hits. And while he was never known as a nimble defender his range continues to deteriorate. Seattle may replace him in the starting lineup -- soon.

Ken Griffey Jr. - A lot of nostalgia and walks. Thus describes The Kid's return to the Emerald City. Nobody excepted Junior to start climbing outfield walls and slugging 40 home runs like he used to with the 90's Mariners but... err, I guess we did expect this version of Griffey. The one that's old and creaky at the dish and in the field.

The Ugly

Yuniesky Betancourt - Wait... he's gone? Well, what the hell do I do with my Bizarro Facebook Club dedicated to him??? Damn it, now I have to find a new least favorite Mariner.

Brandon Morrow - He was in The Ugly category two years ago, so it's disappointing to see him here again. Hopefully Brandon and team will finally, finally give him the proper time to develop into a starter. Dude's got a long way to go:

46 IP, 31 BB, 45 K

He's still insanity at 60 feet, 6 inches.

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