Opening Day is here. I was going to say it’s finally here, but it feels like it snuck up on me this year. Usually spring training turns into a slog in late March, but for whatever reason I never felt that this year. Anyway, Opening Day, the best sports day of the year, is here.
The Mariners and King Felix face the Angels tonight. Jered Weaver’s on the mound for the dumb Angels. If you’re in Anaheim and can find tickets near third base, Josh Hamilton will keep you cool with his many swings and misses. Albert Pujols might even come sit with you after he reinjures his foot. Mike Trout will do stuff with his monstrous neck. The Angels are no Oakland Athletics, but they’re still dumb.
It feels like more casual Mariner fans really want to root for the team, but they just can’t quite bring themselves to do it. I don’t blame them, given the ineptitude the team has shown over the last decade plus. Still, if we all can find it in our hearts to let go of the dismal memories, we just might find a little magic this year. Henceforth, nothing but positive thoughts! The Mariners could be good! Just start with that. You don’t have to plan on the playoffs yet. There’s always next year for crazy talk like that. Just look for some little things. This might be the year a young player finally does something right. Maybe Felix won’t lose any 1-0 games. Just start small and enjoy what you find, and soon enough, we will all believe big together. Go Mariners.
If that’s not working for you, here are a few real reasons to be excited for this season:
Robinson Cano is really good. He’s the closest thing we’ve had to Edgar since we had Edgar, plus he plays a mean second base. The only position player close to him in talent Seattle has had recently is Ichiro, and as much as I love Ichiro, Cano’s power is a better fit for this young group than Ichiro’s speed and contact could ever be. Don’t be surprised if he makes a run at the MVP, but even on an average year, he’s the best second baseman in baseball and one of its best hitters.
The (healthy) rotation is tremendously talented. Once Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker return to the field, this rotation will have as much potential as nearly any in the league. The problem is, outside of Felix and Kuma, it may take a season or two for guys to begin to reach that potential. I expect many bright flashes from Walker, Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez (or whoever fills that last spot), but we could really be in for special things in 2015. This rotation has four guys with legitimate ace-level stuff, and a slew of kids waiting to fill in behind them. Plus, the 2013 rotation set the bar low, and even an inconsistent season for the kids could bring significant improvement.
Brad Miller is starting to look like a folk hero who will become an all-star. Miller was not a first round pick, but since he was drafted, he’s done nothing but hit and improve at shortstop. Where many thought he’d have to move off the position, he’s now a solid defender. And he still hits. How good he’ll be remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if he holds down short for the next decade with a few all-star games thrown in. Add in his “crazy legs” running and team captain attitude, and he should be a fan favorite soon.
This is the year some young guys should break out. Ackley looks ready to shine. People who know seem excited about Smoak. Saunders had jumped a level before his injury last year. That’s not even counting the really young guys. What if Mike Zunino hits even decently? He’ll be the best Mariners catcher in 20 years, that’s what! There’s big upside with most of the roster. They won’t all reach it, but some should. And if they don’t, at least for the Ackley, Smoak, Saunders group, it’ll be time to move on. That means seeing a new crop of young guys come up. Who wants to see Jabari Blash get a chance to knock some dingers? Me, me! I do!
Lloyd McClendon’s a man. He’s funny, interesting and no-nonsense, without seeming over the top. Eric Wedge acted no-nonsense, but I think there was plenty of nonsense going on there. The season will show whether the switch will make any difference, but it’s certainly improved the manager interviews (and pictures. No more Wedge eyes!).
It feels like there’s one more big move coming. The Mariners are still sitting on salary and big trade chips. Nick Franklin is an excellent trade piece, and there’s plenty of young talent in the majors and minors. Maybe they move some guys to finally get an outfielder or another piece. Maybe they make a huge move at the trading deadline or next offseason for David Price or Cliff Lee or Giancarlo Stanton. There’s never any guarantee with trades, but the Mariners will be able to make offers very few teams can top for nearly anyone who hits the market.
Hopefully, some of those things get you pumped up. If not, just stop worrying about the M’s and go to Safeco, or your local minor league or high school stadium, and watch some baseball. There’s nothing better than sitting on a nice day watching some ball. Get a hot dog or some peanuts or sunflower seeds. Play catch with your nephew. Have a home run derby. If the M’s season goes bad, as it usually does, find your baseball enjoyment elsewhere. Baseball’s here, and apparently so is spring. And hope springs eternal, as they say. So don’t let the man get you down. Believe big.