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One Year Ago Today

Thursday, December 7, 2006

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It won't be the easiest sell to fans as a consolation prize. But the Mariners finally broke the ice Wednesday in their pursuit of a starting pitcher by trading for Atlanta Braves left-hander Horacio Ramirez.

The price for the 27-year-old, oft-injured hurler was steep, with the Mariners sending hard-throwing, 26-year-old setup man Rafael Soriano the other way. It's a move destined to be debated by fans, given Soriano's stature in Seattle's bullpen and coming as it did the same day the Mariners lost out in bidding on free agent Jason Schmidt.

A moment of silence, please.


This is when the nightmare started. Up until this point, the offseason looked promising. Peaches, even. The Mariners had already picked Jose Guillen off the scrap heap, and for days strong rumors were afoot of a three-way trade that would net us Tim Hudson and Adam LaRoche for Soriano and Richie Sexson. Manny Ramirez's name also came up on a few occasions. It was a good time to be a fan, and we were genuinely excited. We began to consider the notion that Bill Bavasi might know what he's doing after all.

Fail. We barely even knew what hit us. Out of nowhere, Soriano got traded for a pile of crap. A little over a week later was the Vidro deal, followed by a frighteningly dedicated pursuit of Barry Zito in which we were only outbid by the Giants. Throw in a little pointless Chris Reitsma for good measure and in less than a month we'd gone from cloud nine to licking our wounds after suffering through one of the most agonizing letdowns of an offseason we could remember. (Not mentioned: the Batista signing, which was neither good nor bad.)

Now it's 2007, and the Mariners are in a similar position as they were a year ago - a decent team in need of better arms if they want to stand a chance of competing. They've already made their neat little scrap heap addition in RA Dickey, and recently they've been linked to both Erik Bedard and Johan Santana, inarguably two of the seven or eight best starting pitchers in baseball. Regardless of whether or not you think trading a lot of youth for one of them is wise, you have to admit that the chase is intriguing, and that if you're going to overpay you might as well overpay for someone awesome. In short, it hasn't been dull.

But the meetings are over now, and the M's don't appear close to landing either ace. Where does this leave us?

Admit it - you're petrified. In your head, you can already see what's coming. Four years and ~$44m for Hiroki Kuroda. Pointlessly signing some veteran reliever, or maybe using Ben Broussard to trade for one. And to top it off, bringing in a non-Jenkins corner outfielder because they used Adam Jones to trade for some assclown like Daniel Cabrera or Bronson Arroyo. After all, we've already had one nightmare offseason; why not make it a second?

It sucks. It's not like we want to be negative. Like the trade deadline, this is supposed to be a time of joy and eager anticipation. It's just that we've been conditioned to have precious little faith in the front office and to expect them to do terrible things. We've reached the point, I think, where we'd probably be satisfied with something as simple as our GM not getting totally ripped off. That's a low bar, and psychologically, it takes the shine from the offseason apple. I wish there were a way to filter the cynicism out of our brains, but there isn't. There isn't. This is our burden until things legitimately improve.

So what do we do when we have little reason to be upbeat and positive, but still want to find a way to move forward with cheer in our eyes?

That's right. We fake it.

The dread may live on, but force a smile and no one'll be able to tell.

Offseason, ho!