Mariners Analysis

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mariners face an uphill battle

One of the key debates during the off season will revolve around how good this team might be next year. Even the new GM is going to have some tough nights trying to figure out if a complete tear down is in order. Much like the Bedard debate last year, the "how good-how bad" debate will have no clear answers until we begin play.

It is true the team has a core set of players who will allow them to fairly easily shake the title of worst-AL-team. With Felix, Morrow, Ichiro and Beltre among others, there is no reason this team can't be .500 next year with some intelligent roster management. This isn't 2003. There is some youth to build around, especially if Fields gets signed and is as good as advertised and the club dumps Washburn to gain payroll flexibility.

However, being a .500 team is not that special. I'm not going to run out and buy season tickets because a new GM is going to turn this club from laughingstock to forgettable. The problem for the M's is the division they play in:
Angels- much better team, better owner, better manager, better farm system, equal financial footing
Athletics- budget continues to increase year to year, about to move in to new stadium, smart GM and much improved farm system
Rangers- better farm system, smarter management team in place, awesome offense

Based on what is likely to happen over the off season, I'd have a hard time picking the M's any better than 3rd in the division. Both Texas and Oakland have much better farm systems and it's not like baseball is going to take a time out and let the M's catch up. Sure the M's will be better next year, but we can bet the other teams are going to be working to get better too. Ranger fans are thinking "if only we can get some pitching" and Oakland fans are thinking "some of these guys are going to be really good" this winter too.

It's too easy to just write in the Angels for the next 3 years as division winners, even though that is what very well could happen. We play sports because of the unpredictability. The Mariners MIGHT win the world series next year. The Huskies might win a game under Willingham that matters. You just never know.

But if we are being honest with ourselves, the Mariners face a pretty large hurdle in the off season. In many cases their opponents are better today, possess a deeper farm system and have smarter staffs.

The Mariner front office needs to really look in the mirror and understand they are far, far away from fielding a playoff caliber team and have some serious obstacles to over come if they want to win the West.

I'm not sure I disagree with the idea the team can be .500 next year. But I have a much harder time seeing this team actually competing for a playoff spot. In my eyes, that's a big difference and I don't see that problem going away any time soon.