Well, Nelson Cruz is an Oriole. Disaster Averted. Except maybe not?
Still, you can't help but feel the Mariners avoided some sort of catastrophe here. We all know how the laws of nature work in regards to this team: had the Mariners signed Cruz, he would have hit four dingers in the first week, then run into the wall erroneously chasing a ball that was already out of the park, breaking his leg. After a quick two week recovery, they would have plopped him back out there every day until trading him to the Nationals in August, wherein he would explain in his introductory press conference that he needed out of the clubhouse and is looking forward to the postseason now, or something. It's just how the universe works. Instead, he goes to Baltimore on a deal relatively easy to swallow, and will probably do well for himself.
As Mariner fans, we are all accustomed to this. Years of anguish and defeat have made some of us calloused to feeling any unbridled optimism as spring training breaks, and its either kind of sad or just the way it is. It got me wondering, though, about what's left to worry about. Last year we were all kind of worried that Jaso's absence would create a bit of a black hole behind the plate, that Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse would spend their time in the outfield chasing shadows of birds instead of balls.
It turned out that Jaso fast-tracked Zunino, Ibanez made us forget about his defense with whatever the hell he did with all those dingers, and Morse was gone before we knew it. But there were still no playoffs. No meaningful September baseball. I'm trying to decide if the same can be said about this year, grounded in the caveat that there could still be a piece or two added before Felix throws his first strike in Anaheim this March.
If the Mariners are going to contend, and at the very least, I think they should all go into the season under the assumption that they are, there are a few things to worry about. And not lets-play-GM worries, fixing lineup holes as if we had access to the deals the front office perhaps tried to make but were shut out of, or even, frankly, deals that we knew were wise to pursue, regardless of the supposed interest from the M's (Chris Capuano). No, I'm talking that deep, Nietzschian, existential dread that emerges whenever the Mariners start a season and I'm just waiting for the walls to crumble.
But this shouldn't just be the randomness of Guti getting hit in the head by a pickoff pitch. Because part of these anxieties do emerge out of how well--or poorly--this team was built. Trading Nick Franklin for something foolish before April just because they want to get him off their hands. Slotting Blake Beavan in the 5 role before Iwakuma comes back. Seeing Justin Smoak hit a bunch of fastballs from minor leaguers in Peoria, interpreting it as success, and refusing to even consider he will probably disappoint everyone by May. Erasmo's peripherals catching up with him. Hart's knees blowing up. Endy suddenly starting every day in July. Ackley shaving his beard. Success for this team rides on a thin, thin line.
So I'm curious--and I'd like to hear: What are your biggest anxieties going into what Jack calls the "see what we have" part of spring training? Without rosterbating, what will you be keeping a close eye on as the exhibition games roll out? And if this is too depressing, we can always do the other side of it tomorrow. The goal of this is not to declare the season over, but to perhaps make ourselves aware of the cracks in a team that very well could be playing great baseball in September. Honestly, I'm damn excited for Mariners baseball, and against all better judgement, I think this team is going to be nothing like last year's team. But it's always nice to put a finger on things. When we know what to look for, it might scare us less. Which is, I guess, kind of the opposite of the whole point of "scare tactics," but that was the best title I could come up with. So go! Worry away!