Seattle Mariners v Chicago Cubs

Springtime Storylines: Can the Seattle Mariners score any runs?


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: the Seattle Mariners.

The Big Question: Can they score any runs?

In case you forgot, the Mariners had a historically bad offense in 2011. They scored 556 runs last year. The other 13 AL teams averaged 735 runs. This was near-deadball era production. It has to get better, right?

Of course it does. And it probably will. The addition of Jesus Montero certainly helps matters. He has always hit and will do so in Seattle as well, even if his raw power numbers are sapped somewhat by the big park in which he now plays.  Having Dustin Ackley around for a whole season and not just 90 games will be helpful too. Justin Smoak should take a step forward. Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins can’t possibly have season as bad as they just had, right? Really, there’s nowhere to go but up for a lot of this roster even if, apart from Montero and Ackley, there is a practical ceiling on the heights they can reach.

People forget that the Mariners were actually holding their own for a time last year, flirting with .500 and even contention before a 17-game losing streak came along and just obliterated everything. No, they’re not as good as they showed before the winning streak, but they won’t be as bad as they showed after it either. And with a somewhat better offense to go along with what seems like it will always be competent pitching in Seattle, the M’s should be pretty respectable for a team most people will pick to finish last.

What else is going on? 

  • We may be seeing the end days of Ichiro. After ten straight  .300 average/200 hit seasons, Ichiro cratered last year, hitting .272 and getting on base at a mere .310 clip.  That has cost him the leadoff position, and now he’ll bat third. Will that change anything? It’s hard to see how. Ichiro is what he is and for all of the good things you can say about him, one thing you can’t necessarily say is that he’s adaptable. If he takes the same old approach and has 2011 results, it may be over for the guy.
  • What’s gonna have a bigger impact: the loss of Michael Pineda or the gain if Jesus Montero?  I’d say this is a net positive for Seattle. Yes, it’s hard to give up a hard-throwing young pitcher like Pineda, but the offensive need was so great for the M’s, that they have to be pleased to have made this tradeoff.  While Seattle doesn’t have anyone as good as Pineda to slot in behind Felix Hernandez, there is a lot of pitching depth on this team and some guys with upside coming up through the system.
  • No matter how they do in the won-loss department, one of the more interesting things to watch this year is whether Montero can catch. The Yankees seemed to think he was hopeless. The Mariners are a bit more optimistic about that, but it’s not as though they’re going to stick him behind the plate all the time. If he can catch at anything approaching a respectable level, his addition means a heck of a lot more than it would if he spent his entire career as a DH.
  • It’s a key year for Justin Smoak. He was expected by many to break out last season, but persona problems (the death of his father) and a nagging thumb injury kept from ever hitting full speed.  Entering his age 25 season, it’s time for Smoak to live up to the hype.

How are they gonna do?

Better, but let’s be real here: this is a last place team. But not a horrible one. And it’s a team with a decent amount of hope going forward and a lot of young arms with promise. It’s nothing to get excited about yet, but at least it’s not something that will create existential dread either.

Cardinals “optimistic” Yadier Molina will be on NLDS roster

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Yadier Molina suffered a mild ligament tear in his left thumb on September 20, but the Cardinals announced Monday that they remain “optimistic” he’ll be on the roster for the upcoming NLDS.

Molina visited a hand specialist Monday and Jenifer Langosch of reports that he’ll have a custom splint built in hopes that he’ll be able to hit and catch. He’s still not 100 percent, but even a limited Molina could be better than the alternative. That would be Tony Cruz in this case.

The Cardinals will meet the winner of Wednesday’s Wild Card game between the Cubs and the Pirates. Game 1 of the NLDS will take place Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET in St. Louis.

Veteran’s Committee candidates for the Hall of Fame announced

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has announced the candidates for Veterans Committee consideration for the 2016 Hall induction class. The VC sorts its ballot by era, with each year’s candidates representing a different part of baseball history. Up for consideration: Pre-Integration Era candidates.

Here are the candidates, with short bios paraphrased from the Hall of Fame’s actual press release because, really, who alive who is not a baseball historian is super-familiar with many of these guys?

Doc Adams: a member of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845 who helped standardize the game’s tools and contributed to the establishment of the shortstop position. May actually be the inventor of “grit.” I mean, I don’t know this for sure, but he is a white shortstop, so . . .

Sam Breadon: Owned the Cardinals from 1920 until 1947. Hired Branch Rickey and helped create the blueprint for the modern farm system with minor league clubs owned or controlled by the parent club. Which, to be fair, wasn’t necessarily the best deal for a lot of folks, even if it was a good deal for baseball owners.

Bill Dahlen: Shortstop from 1891-1911 for the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Braves. He was a power hitter for his era. Not that his era was known for power. When he retired he was the All-Time Home Run King. With . . . 84.

Wes Ferrell: Pitched for 15 seasons from 1927-1941, compiling a 193-128 record for a lot of teams, though doing his best work for Boston. A six-time 20-game winner, including winning 25 games twice. As far as wins/ERA politics go, he was Jack Morris before Jack Morris and was probably a good bit better than Jack Morris.

Garry Herrmann: President of the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 to 1927 and chairman of baseball’s ruling National Commission from 1903 to 1920. Gets credit for helping bring the AL and NL together and starting the World Series. Demerits for running a conflict-of-interest-riddled National Commission which was disbanded in favor of the Commissioner system following the Black Sox Scandal, maybe?

Marty Marion: Thirteen seasons in the majors, 1940-50, 1952-53, batting .263 with 36 home runs and 624 RBI at shortstop. Mostly with the Cardinals. Was named the 1944 N.L. MVP Award winner, twice also finishing in the top 10. Considered one of the best fielding shortstops of his era. His prime almost perfectly coincided with the war years, which may have taken the shine off of some of his offensive numbers during that stretch, but he was considered a top shortstop, at least with the glove, for a long time after the war too.

Frank McCormick: Eight-time All-Star and the 1940 National League Most Valuable Player with the Reds. A first baseman, his comps are Sean Casey-types.

Harry Stovey: An outfielder in the National League and the American Association in the 1880s and 1890s, leading his league in home runs five times and runs scored four times. His pic at the Hall of Fame site is of a wood engraving. Baseball is old, you guys.

Chris von der Ahe: Owned the original St. Louis Browns franchise – now the Cardinals – from 1881 through 1899 “and demonstrated his visionary qualities with entertainment options at games.” No word on whether he invented The Cardinal Way.

Bucky Walters: Pitched 19 seasons in the major leagues, from 1934-1950, compiling a 198-160 lifetime record. Mostly with the Reds. Won 27 games once. Was the MVP as a pitcher in 1939, which is pretty sweet.

As the Hall notes, Dahlen, Ferrell, Marion, McCormick, Stovey and Walters are included for their contributions as players, the other four are inclusions for their off-field careers.

The Pre-Integration Era ballot is determined this fall by the Historical Overview Committee of the Hall of Fame, which is comprised of several historians and journalists. They are: Dave Van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerlyBaltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jack O’Connell (BBWAA secretary/treasurer); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (; Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The results of the voting will be announced at the Winter Meetings in early December.