By Brent Stecker
This season has been one of progress for the Mariners, and that progress could have them being well-represented at the All-Star Game in Minnesota on July 15.
As fan voting moves into its final week, the Mariners have four players with very good cases to make the trip to Target Field, including two position players, which is significant since the M’s haven’t had a position player make the All-Star Game since Ichiro’s run of 10 straight appearances came to an end after 2010. Furthermore, the last hitter not named Ichiro to represent Seattle in the midsummer classic was Jose Lopez in 2006, and that was a long time ago, folks.
Of course pitching has been as big a part as any in the Mariners’ success this season, and a pair of hurlers are also in the mix for All-Star nods.
Let’s take a look at the Mariners’ All-Star candidates:
The King is poised to make his fourth straight All-Star appearance and fifth overall (oddly enough he didn’t make the American League squad during his Cy Young season of 2010), and this may finally be the time that he gets the start for the A.L.
His skipper is behind the idea, at least.
“He should start the All-Star Game,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Saturday. “If they want to win, they should start him.”
Hernandez’s stats definitely support McClendon’s statement. After his dominant start against the Indians on Sunday, he sits at 10-2 with a 2.10 ERA (tied for the A.L. lead), 0.92 WHIP (leads A.L.), 137 strikeouts (second A.L.) and 22 walks in 128 1/3 innings pitched.
There are a few pitchers who have an argument to be the A.L.’s starter, but the King has the upper hand, as both the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish are scheduled to start on the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Felix, meanwhile, is in line to have enough rest before the contest.
Robinson Cano leads the fan vote for A.L. second basemen and is poised to play his first All-Star Game in a Mariners uniform. (AP)
The Mariners superstar is running away with the fan vote to start at second base, so it’s a virtual certainty he’ll be playing in his sixth career All-Star Game and first in a Mariners uniform. It’s unlikely he’ll be back in the Home Run Derby, though – he may be a three-time Derby participant and the 2011 champion, but he hit just his fifth home run of 2014 on Sunday.
Despite the lack of power, Cano has been every bit an All-Star in his debut season with Seattle. He’s fourth in the A.L. with a .319 average, and his 45 RBIs are the most among all A.L. second basemen. Whether he’s the runaway starter is another story – Houston’s Jose Altuve (.347 average, .838 OPS, 36 stolen bases) is in the midst of a career year – but that’s just splitting hairs. Cano will break the M’s position-player All-Star drought, and he deserves to.
Seager has been in the All-Star conversation before and his numbers certainly look deserving this year, but he’s still looking for his first nod to the A.L. squad. The problem has always been the depth at third base, and even though the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is now playing first, there are still a lot of talented players making a case to go to Minnesota.
Seager’s one of them, though, having rebounded from a poor start to the year to now sport a .277 average and lead the Mariners with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .836 OPS.
There are two other A.L. third basemen I would expect to see in the game – the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (.890 OPS) and A’s Josh Donaldson (18 homers, 60 RBIs) – and the Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall (.350 average) and Rays’ Evan Longoria (having a down year but has a chance of being Tampa Bay’s lone rep) are on the bubble.
I’d expect the A.L. to carry at least three third basemen, which isn’t completely unheard of, so I’d bet on Seager getting the chance to show his night moves on a national stage.
The Fernando Rodney Experience has given the Mariners a few scares, but all in all the free-agent signing of the former Rays closer has paid off.
Rodney is tied for the A.L. lead with 23 saves (25 chances), and he’s maintained a 2.23 ERA and struck out an impressive 37 in 32 1/3 innings.
Rodney’s chances look pretty good of making his second All-Star team, and if he is part of the squad, it would be interesting to see if Mariners pitchers get the chance to both start and close the game.