2003 Seattle Mariners preview

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Meet the 2003
Projected lineup
C / Ben Davis
RHP / Gil Meche
RHP (closer)

  • Regular-season schedule
  • Mariners off-season moves
  • Mariners team page
  • Last year's record:

    93-69, 3rd place in AL West

    If 2002 were a movie ...

    "Goodfellas." Erstwhile bad ass finds himself wallowing in tepid anonymity by film's end. And that's what happened to the M's in '02. Seattle won a record-busting 117 games in 2001, but came tumbling off the mountain last season and managed "only" 93 wins. That didn't pass playoff muster, and the were relegated to thumb-twiddling in October. So how'd that happen? Pitching let them down. In general, the staff ERA vaulted by more than half a run, and in particular putative ace saw his ERA rise by more than two runs in the second half of the season (3.44 to 5.66). And remember that Safeco is one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in all of baseball. The pitching letdown combined with playing in the brutal AL West was too much for the M's. Ichiro's notable decline and 's post-Coors descent into crapdom didn't help matters. And of course there was 's unsurprising tumble from MVP Candidate Mountain and 's injury, which cost him more than 50 games. On the plus side, the bullpen once again thrived. soldiered on as one of the more underrated hitters in the game, and pitched quite well as a new member of the rotation. All in all, though, the A's and were just too darn good.

    This year's question ...

    Can they best the A's and ? The road to the postseason doesn't get any easier this season. For the M's to have any hope, the rotation must show improvement. Defenestrating is bound to help. A healthy Gil Meche is fast becoming a mythical beast — much like an insightful Mike Lupica. But the M's could use his skills to shore up the back of the rotation. If Meche is able to give them 150 innings this season, it'll be a tremendous boon to the team's chances. Because if that happens, it'll allow them to use either and , whomever's more effective. That's a nice problem to have; both are talented pitchers. is 40, but his performance last season portends of further success. He is 40, though, so the usual caveats apply. must show improvement. More on him in a moment. One of the greatest baseball nicknames ever belonged to Bob Ferguson, who was known as "Death to Flying Things." (The greatest nickname, incidentally, was Arlie Latham's, "The Freshest Man on Earth.") The moniker could just as easily be used to describe the new Seattle outfield, which features three natural center fielders. The addition of , combined with incumbents and Ichiro, gives the , quite honestly, one of the greatest defensive outfields in history. Considering the fly-ball tendencies of the rotation, this could quietly be an off-season masterstroke by GM Pat Gillick. And you might see improved ERAs across the board. On the offensive side of things, Winn should be a reasonable addition. Keeping Edgar healthy will be critical. The addition of will help the cause against left-handed pitching. Olerud should continue his .400-OBP ways, and Cirillo can't help but improve at least a little. Ichiro's decline was brought about in part by a knee injury, so, that healed, he should improve. The bullpen should again be among the league's best.

    Battle royal

    Catcher. has veteran moxie and entrenched popularity. Those and a quarter will get you a hole-and-a-half of Golden Tee. is the better hitter, and provided his defense is passable (it is) he should get the nod. Wilson's abdominal strain has put him behind schedule this spring, so don't be surprised to see Davis (who bears a ridiculous resemblance to Henry Rollins) don the tools of ignorance on Opening Day. Wilson, however, is a favorite of the staff's, so he'll likely emerge as he long-term starter.
    VAN DYCK: Experienced or old?
    Our question: When does the positive of being an "experienced" team turn into the negative of being an "old" team? We could find out with the , who still need productive seasons out of "veterans" , and . The one thing we know is that the lost their father figure in Lou Piniella. Now they have a brother figure in Bob Melvin, who will kind of let things run themselves if he is smart. Nothing against Melvin, a super-nice guy and a super-bright baseball mind, but the will miss Piniella like a senior citizen misses his comfortable old rocking chair. Oh, sure, the still have talent (Ichiro by himself assures that), but we wonder if there is enough go-go for more Sodo Mojo. They may have won more games than any AL team the last three seasons while surviving losses of , Junior Griffey and . But can they survive the loss of the heart-and-soul, Lou Piniella, not to mention and ever-tightening budget belt? More: |

    Uncry these tears ...

    For . He was never a great arm, and he was never a great pitcher. But he was versatile, durable and often effective — a poor man's . He'll be missed, and that he's now cashing checks in Oakland only makes it worse.

    And stay out!

    . To the surprise of no one aware of Baldwin's declining strikeout trend, JB was a big, fat bust in '02. His 6.61 road ERA and lame-o K/BB ratio won't be missed in the least.

    Joe Millionaire Award

    The guy who's not worth as much as is widely believed? . He's overrated because of his 16 wins, and forecasting him is becoming rather tricky. Garcia's been overworked in recent seasons, and that probably has a lot to do with his second-half banana-peel act last season. He's not an ace. He's good but not great, and I have serious doubts about his ability to be effective for more than 180 innings. Why might he improve? He was a little unlucky last season. He showed the best command numbers of his career (although, like everything else, they tumbled in the second half), and that improved outfield defense should help him — particularly in light of his declining ground ball/fly ball ratios. So he's at once overrated with hope for genuine improvement.

    Where's the love?

    For . He's a rickety bag of bones these days, but the dude can still rake. He has power and one of the most discriminating batting eyes in the game. He also hits for average. If there's any justice, he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. This could be his last ride. Be generous with the props.

    Needs a touch of ...

    A third baseman. Cirillo's bound to improve, but anything shy of drastic improvement will mean he'll still suck. If the decide to cut bait on for pitching, it might be time to pounce.

    Crystal ball

    Third place, AL West. But the margin of quality between them and the is Lara Flynn Boyle-thin. It'll be an interesting brawl in the West.
    Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, Royals, Mariners, Rangers, Dodgers, Tim Wakefield, Joel Pineiro, Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia, Ryan Franklin, Jamie Moyer, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Cameron, Ichiro Suzuki, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano

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