Yesterday was a sweet finish to an interminable offseason. The Seattle Seahawks are reigning Super Bowl champions and spring training is less than 10 days away. Soon, Surprise Stadium will be packed full of fans in Russell Wilson jerseys as the quarterback tries his luck at baseball (or, in a less thrilling turn of events, motivational speech-giving). Life is good.
Before we dive into a new year of Mariners fandom, let's take a moment to readjust our expectations and predictions. Leave your guesstimations in the comments below.
Wins and losses
80-82. Even on the heels of Seattle's second pro sports championship, that's as much optimism as I can muster for this season. 2014 will be a proving ground for a lot of young players, among them Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Keeping Corey Hart and Franklin Gutierrez healthy will be a feat all its own, and while Robinson Cano is bound to make a positive difference for the club, it will be impossible for him to shoulder the entirety of the team's offense.
MVM (Most Valuable Mariner) and LVM (Least Valuable Mariner)
MVM: Robinson Cano. Regardless of Cano's impact on the team's overall win-loss record, it's safe to say that he'll lead the Mariners in most offensive categories. Sorry, Kyle Seager apologists.
LVM: Hector Noesi. Noesi strung together several successful outings to kickstart the 2013 season, but dashed our hopes with some of the worst performances of his career. By season's end, he had sunk to the bottom of the roster with -0.3 bWAR. As much as I'd love to see some good come from the Pineda-Campos-Montero-Noesi swap, the chances of that happening expired long ago.
Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Robinson Cano, and Mike Zunino. Felix has earned a bid for the All-Star game for the last three years; Cano, for the last four years. Iwakuma is poised to repeat his Cy Young-worthy season in 2014, and Zunino could be a dark horse candidate if he boosts his production during his first full year on the field.
Breakout player and total bust
Breakout player: Taijuan Walker. There's no such thing as a pitching prospect. There's no such thing as a pitching prospect. There's no such thing as a pitching prospect.
With that out of the way, Walker's sample-sized outings last September have given us little, if anything, to worry about. Granted, there are no guarantees that he'll blossom into a No. 3 starter overnight, but it's hardly going out on a limb to expect him to shake up the rotation in 2014.
Total bust: Willie Bloomquist. I'm just going to leave this here.
The new Raul Ibanez and/or Ted Williams
Kyle Seager. Raul Ibanez didn't just rack up the most home runs for Seattle in 2013 -- he became the first Mariner to hit over 25 homers since Russell Branyan's 31-dinger season in 2009. Now, with Ibanez down in Anaheim, it's anyone's game. My money's on Seager, who has consistently produced 20+ home runs for the past two years.
Best/worst ballpark giveaways
Best giveaway: Macklemore bobbleheads. The Mariners have a variety of nifty giveaways lined up in 2014, from bright yellow King's Court beard hats to knit beanies and lunch cooler bags. Their roster of bobbleheads includes King Felix, Lou Piniella, and Robinson Cano. Macklemore joins Mike McCready as the second musician to receive a bonafide Seattle bobblehead in his honor.
Worst giveaway: Red party cups. I'm not sure what was wrong with the t-shirt/drink voucher combo, but the Mariners have taken Girls' and Guys' Night Out to a ridiculous level. For the low price of $25-35 per ticket, guys can purchase a commemorative red plastic cup, as well as a "free" drink and a seat to the game. Girls' gifts will be even less practical: blue and green feather boas.
Where do you think the Mariners are headed in 2014? Is a championship season in our future, or will the M's duke it out with the Astros at the bottom of the AL West? More importantly, will you pay upwards of $25 for a plastic red cup?
- Taijuan Walker places #16 in Keith Law's top 100 prospects
- Saying no to Nelson Cruz
- Podcast episode 16: Tacoma Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto
- A point of clarification on Michael Pineda, and the injury that overshadows the trade