Baseball Notes: Griffey-style Mariners
Recently, Ken Griffey Jr was inducted into the Hall of Fame in one of the easiest decisions the voters have ever had.
In the 1990's there was a wealth of accessible greatness in sports. Basketball had Jordan, hockey had Gretzky, football had Barry Sanders and baseball had the friendliest of all, Ken Griffey Jr. His smile, backwards hat and overflowing love for the game of baseball endeared him to all baseball fans. It helped that he played in Seattle, a team that wasn't a bitter rival of anyone due to the geography of being one of the most remote teams in the league, but was still rather successful.
Safeco Field was build in the image of Ken Griffey Jr.'s left handed swing only to have him ask for a trade to Cincinnati to be closer to his family. The Mariners of today have a lot of power in the middle of the lineup, Robinson Cano is back to his power hitting ways with 23 homers. Kyle Seager, another lefty, just reached 20 homers for the 5th straight season, as he has been over 20 homers in every full season he has been in the bigs and this is his first season breaking past the mid-.260's avg as he is hitting .284. Nelson Cruz, the only righty in the powerful middle of their lineup has 26 homers with his .288 avg as his power recognizes no disadvantage a stadium throws at him.
The Mariners have eight hitters in double digits of homers already, including their back up 1B, rookie Dae-ho Lee. Safeco Field used to be considered more of a pitcher friendly park but this year the Mariners are third in the majors in homers and above average in runs per game. The thing that seems to be keeping them just above .500 and just out of contention has been difficulties with pitching.
Wade Miley was traded away just before the deadline after his ERA hovered around 5.00. Taijuan Walker has pitched well but is currently on the DL, Hisashi Iwakuma's ERA is just over 4.00, Nate Karns is also injured (and he has also under-performed). They are also in a position where they will be calling up a lot of young pitchers to fill holes from these injuries and for pitchers that have been traded away like Mike Montgomery, and Joaquin Benoit.
There are a few holes on this team, they haven't had much production or health from shortstop, catchers haven't been hitting, and although Adam Lind can hit the ball out of the park, his average is pure garbage on a consistent basis. Seager, Leonis Martin, Mike Zunino the injured Ketel Marte and his replacement Shawn O'Malley are under the age of 30, but they also have eight regulars that are 32 or older. There is only one Mariners prospect on a top 100 list, Alex Johnson who is ranked 94th by Baseball Perspectus and MLB.com. They do have former Cub farmhand 1B Dan Vogelbach, and former Dodger prospect SP Mike Lee who have formerly been listed on top 100 lists, are both still under the age of 25, and are fairly recent additions by trade to the mariners AAA affiliate.
The days of Randy Johnson, Griffey and ARod in Seattle have drifted off into the realm of nostalgia but there is still a strong core of exciting players of Cano, Cruz, Seager and King Felix. If Felix and Seager stay healthy and with the team for years to come, and Vogelbach can seize on the opportunity to get MLB playing time that he had been blocked by Anthony Rizzo at 1B with the Cubs. There is a lot of hometown pride in Seattle and the Mariners will at least give their fans a product with some excitement, even if they aren't making the postseason every year.