I’m not one to get too worried after the first series of the year. It takes at least a couple of weeks and sometimes a lot longer for a team to settle in. Roles have to be defined and adjustments made. Players get injured or don’t perform at the level expected or the level they did in spring training. Billy Beane, GM of the now fearsome Oakland A’s, famously said that you spend the first two months of the season figuring out what you’ve got, the second two months getting the team you want, and the last two months playing with that team. It’s a long season, and the Mariners will have spells where they hit the ball so well they’ll look like the best team in baseball.
What the Mariners won’t have with this current roster no matter how long the season goes is That One Bat. Anderson today and Braden a couple of days ago threw excellent games. When your pitcher throws like that, you expect to win the game. That’s the principle that the Mariners are built on, with Felix and Lee and hopefully Bedard and a potentially shutdown bullpen. But when some hitters go to the plate, they are on equal ground or at an advantage no matter who the pitcher is and how well he’s throwing. These are the types of hitters who go down in history, the Ruths and Mays and Williams, at the extreme end, but also the Texeiras and Hollidays and Guerreros. Some guys reach that level for a season or so, while some play their careers there and go down in history.
The Mariners don’t have that guy. Ichiro is the only thing close, and some people would put him in that category, but I think his lack of constant power moves him out. There aren’t many players I’d rather have up in the ninth with the winning run on second, but there are plenty of guys I’d rather see when we’re down one in the fourth against Roy Halladay (thankfully that won’t happen this year). Milton Bradley could possibly be that guy. He was at that level in 2008 in Texas, but for him to get back there might be a stretch. It’s not inconceivable that Guti or maybe even Tui or someone could get there, but it’s pretty doubtful.
So now I’m wondering how many teams do have that guy. It seems like everyone does, but that’s certainly not true. Let’s take a quick look at the American League. This is totally subjective, based almost solely on my opinion. The player has to have home run power, a reputation as a big hitter. Reputation is important in this case, although people will surely argue that it’s not. This is the guy you want at the plate, whether it’s late and the game’s on the line, or early against an ace. These are the guys that you make sure to see and get nervous when Felix is pitching to them.
Angels- None, although lots of near misses. Morales, Abreu, Hunter and Matsui are either close or were that bat at some point. Not now though.
Athletics- None. I do have an unnatural fear of Kurt Suzuki, however.
Rangers- Josh Hamilton and Vlad. Both have issues, but both still scare you to death.
White Sox- No one currently, although some decent power. Beckham and Quentin could be discussed, but that’s all.
Indians- Grady Sizemore. Shin-soo Choo might just be lacking the reputation.
Tigers- Miguel Cabrera
Royals- None. Billy Butler might get there in a few years.
Twins- Mauer, Morneau. Kubel and maybe Cuddyer are overshadowed but scary too.
Orioles- None, but Markakis, Jones and Wieters might make this list in a year or two.
Red Sox- Kind of a tough one. I’ll say Youkilis, Ortiz still, and Victor Martinez. Part of that might be the memory of him hitting three home runs at Safeco in a rout of the Mariners on a hot summer day.
Yankees- Not as many I expected. Rodriguez, Texeira, two of the scariest bats in the league. Maybe the scariest since they wear pinstripes. I feel about Jeter how fans of other teams probably feel about Ichiro, so I should maybe reconsider Ichiro. Jeter’s on the list though. Granderson, Cano, and Posada are close, due to either current talent or reputation for Posada, but they’re not there.
Rays- Longoria and Crawford. Zobrist and Pena are next level.
Blue Jays- Some potential, but none currently. Lind, Wells and Snider I guess would be closest, but not for a few years if ever with Snider.
So that’s 14 total, with 8 of them in the east. So about one per team, a little more if you count Ichiro, which I guess I probably should. Some of these would be different if the player were on a different team and so forth. Again, this is highly subjective. Any additions or disagreements? Overall the league seems down a little. I’ll look at the NL when I get a chance and see how that compares. Then I’ll take a look back at past World Series teams, and other playoff teams if I get ambitious, to see how everything compares.