Tonight the Mariners open their season in Anaheim. Felix Hernandez takes the mound for the M’s, and at the age of 27, with most of a decade left on his contract, becomes the Seattle Mariners pitcher with the most opening day assignments. Amazing. My hope is the Mariners will be amazing tonight and for many of the 161 games that follow. I know I have been grouchier than all get out about the state of the Mariners, what they could have done this off season as opposed to what they did do, but I do that because I care, I really do.
I love the Mariners, I always have, always will. I am a baseball person, and while I wish the Seahawks, Sounders, Thunderbirds, Storm and the ghosts of the Seattle Supersonics well, on my heart is blue and teal with a big S and compass rose. My father began taking me to baseball games, the original Seattle Rainiers, when I was a very small boy. I saw my first major league game in 1963, Giants vs. Pirates at Candlestick. I was eight and wore the hat I bought at the ballpark to bed. One of the worst days in memory, right there with the Kennedy assassination, MLK and RFK murders, and 9/11 was the news the Seattle Pilots would take their blue caps, scrambled eggs and all, and head for Milwaukee. Good bye Diego Segui, Mike Hegan, Don Mincher and the rest.
I want the M’s to win tonight and every night. I’m very excited about this year, because the M’s have some young players with great stories and some great potential. Here are a few players I’m anxious to watch over the course of a season:
Brad Miller–he’s shown he can hit, field and run and those are things we haven’t seen together for a while. He’s had an awesome spring, and now I want to see what he can do for this team over the course of the season.
Abraham Almonte–I saw Almonte in Tacoma a couple of times last year and I was impressed. He’s a hustler and can make things happen when things are going right. My fingers are crossed.
Stefen Romero–Guys who have good minor league bats, but without a true position always frighten me. Remember Vinnie Catricala and Mike Morse? But Romero is athletic, right handed and willing to play wherever. Reminds me of Mark McLemore without the speed, though Romero is no slug.
Roenis Elias–He has such a great story. How can anybody not pull for this guy. He’s making a pretty big jump from AA, but it sounds like the he pitched well enough, the team had a need, and here he is. Hope he sticks.
The rest of the rotation, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker when he’s back in a few weeks and Chris Young will bear watching and more crossed fingers, but really two guys I’m very anxious to see aren’t young anymore, but as much as anyone the fortunes of the Marines may rest on their shoulders.
Justin Smoak–I’ve always wanted to believe Smoak was the next Mark Texeira, a big switch hitting monster who could carry your team. I don’t believe that anymore, and I don’t think anybody does. But I do think Smoak can do a lot for the M’s if he can hit with some power, raise his batting average 20 points against both righties and lefties, and draw a few more walks. Smoak really did make progress last year, he just needs to make more.
Dustin Ackley–If Ackley is the guy we saw in August last year, he could make this team a lot more fun to watch. He could be a .290 hitter with 40 doubles and speed on the basepaths. When he’s right, Ackley is the kind of player Safeco was built for.
I’ve talked some friends into driving up to Safeco tonight to catch the ballgame on the Jumbotron. We’re taking advantage of the cheap deal the M’s offer and we’re going to take our chances on the cold. Maybe I’ll take my iPad and blog (if I can get wi-fi.)
Cheers, and go M’s!