So yesterday we all spent a bit of time working through our collected anxieties and fears over the 2014 Mariners season, and there were few surprises. These kinds of exercises are, in my opinion, valuable and healthy not only for measuring expectations before the baseball season begins, but also to force your brain to catalog the possible emotions it will be trying to cope with in August once your team is a punchline on MLB Tonight:
Poor, poor Angels fans. At the very least, I think we can say that most of us have left this ship a long time ago, and it's now on its way to Norway. And that's one of the most interesting things I got from yesterdays sort of informal poll: very few people seem to be worried the Mariners will underperform, miss the playoffs, and avoid their 100-win tally they are so capable of reaching. Because that's silly! No one was worried that was going to happen in the first place. Which makes next year a lot of fun to watch, because if the Mariners are just good, then it's progress, damn progress. There is almost no conceivable outcome where fans are yelling at Robinson Cano like in the above graphic: to us, failure is as familiar as a worn childhood blanket. It won't be pinned on him, or this plan. The Mariners just need to perform.
Yesterday showed there is a general anxiety over the outcome of the shortstop battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. Some expressed worry that Nick Franklin was going to overperform in Spring Training and slot into that sixth spot based on exhibition games that aren't exactly indicative of how the season will go, but then again, I don't know what else they have as a metric to make that decision with. They need to have a starting shortstop in April, not June. And though the anxiety is probably mostly over a general distrust of an organization that has shown itself to make some bizarre decisions in the past, with the fear that it will translate into making the wrong decision for the position or a stupid trade afterward, it's not a terrible thing to be worried about. Ask any Phillies fan in five years how much they would give up to have a prospect logjam, if you can finish the statement before they break out into tears.
Another worry was that the core philosophy behind the roster construction did not appear to be a departure from last year, despite looking sexy with Robinson Cano. And as a caveat--which thankfully we aren't at yet--some expected more mediocre veteran waiver-additions. That would be obnoxious, but the Mariners are nowhere near that kind of decision making yet, both from a figurative and literal perspective. But the first point has some teeth--yes, the Mariners added Cano, but Hart and Morrison are similar to last year's bat-first additions, and that Zduriencik sees the starting nine as a bunch of hitters that can be switched around almost willy-nilly. But McClendon has already shown a strange sort of ability to think critically about defensive logistics (albeit with a pretty shitty roster, but he's working with what he has). Hart's defensive woes have more to do with his knees than his glove, and while Morrison will, in McClendon's words, "probably" get some outfield time, it's clear he isn't going to be tossed out there like Raul Ibanez or Michael Morse. So that narrative doesn't quite work.
That leaves things like Hart's knees--which are a legitimate concern, but somewhat out of anyone's control. Or anxiety over ourselves, that we stop watching the Mariners in August because they are unwatchable. Which is such a Mariners thing to say. Don't forget this team has added a new adjective into the English lexicon.
But it doesn't have to be. For round two of our scare tactics exercise, let's try and chart public opinion on what we are all excited about this year: and again, no rosterbation, and no absurd Brad-Miller-is-going-to-go-.300/.500/.600-isms, either. And this can be even more than the simple "Holy shit, we get to watch Robinson Cano every day" platitude that is, on its own, kind of incredible. We get to watch two prospects with high ceilings battle for a position on the same team. We have one of the best pitching prospects in baseball all but guaranteed a rotation spot, and another arm right behind him that doesn't slate too low either. We claim what we really want is improvement over last year, and then worry that Hart and Morrison aren't going to be incredible, forgetting that to do be better than Morse and Ibanez is just about anything. And if all that fails, well, we have Felix.
So let's have it: be optimistic. What are you looking forward to? What should we watch? What will you be watching?