Note: This is a Crunch Time column I wrote for the Free Press
The Seattle Mariners gave a good impression on Opening Day, April 6, after their 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels that included M’s pitcher Felix Hernandez — known to beloved fans as “King Felix” — recorded 10 strikeouts, his third career Opening Day where he’s had 10 or more K’s.
Baseball writers and the general media from national news to outlets in the Pacific Northwest, seem to have a fascination with the Mariners this year, with many experts predicting that Seattle will go far into the postseason.
The Washington Post predicts the Mariners will win the American League West and go on to win the World Series. USA Today wrote that the M’s will take second in their division and make it to the playoffs as a wildcard. Many Las Vegas sports books also have the Mariners winning the World Series, or at least have them in the top 3 of all 30 MLB teams.
In an interview with the “Seattle Mariners Baseball” podcast, Aaron Goldsmith, who is in his third year as a broadcaster for team’s radio network, said there is no one in the American League that’s really a frontrunner.
“If this team can stay healthy, they can go far,” Goldsmith said. “There is a lot of excitement for this team and for good reason.”
There is a lot of hype for the M’s and not just with the media. Many Mariners fans are excited for this season and as Goldsmith pointed out, it is well-deserved.
Seattle is coming off a successful 2014 where they went 87-75, their first winning season since 2009, and missed the postseason by one game. The franchise made headlines during the offseason after they made some acquisitions, most notably home run king Nelson Cruz for $57 million.
Other players who dawn a Mariner’s cap for the first time include infielder Rickie Weeks and outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith. J.A. Happ will make a nice addition to Seattle’s starting lineup of pitchers alongside Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijan Walker, James Paxton and King Felix.
In addition to the new faces, the Mariners kept some well-known returners, including infielders Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Robinson Kano.
While I think fans and writers might be expecting too much to think the Mariners will win the World Series, I believe that they have the potential to make it to the postseason and even win the A.L. West. Seattle has a lot of talent, a solid batting lineup and good bullpen, much like our own Cheney High School baseball and softball teams.
But like our beloved Blackhawks and Lady Blackhawks, who recently entered Great Northern League play, the Mariners are going to be in a dogfight with their division rivals: the Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s. Seattle will play all four of these teams in the next two months and they could certainly gain a lot of momentum and a good lead in the division if they win most of their games.
But no matter where the Mariners end up this season, it will be an interesting one that fans will be talking about for the next few years.