Small victory for the Mariners despite loss to Texas
By Shannon Drayer
No season series win for the Mariners over the Rangers as they fell 3-2 to Texas Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Going 9-10 with a plus-15 run differential seems almost miraculous, however, after their showing against Texas the past two years.
Last year’s games against the Rangers were little more than an exercise in futility as the team could only muster four wins in 19 games. That year Texas outscored them 95-53. The 2010 season wasn’t much better with a 7-12 record and minus-50 run differential. This year has been a different story and this progress is significant.
The M’s went 9-10 against Texas this season. (AP photo)
This team has shown it can beat the Rangers and win in Arlington. Confidence has been restored after taking a beating there the past few years.
It didn’t take long, either. Jason Vargas, after the final game of the first series (a loss) between the two teams there back in April, almost defiantly said the Mariners had shown that they could play with the Rangers and that he was looking forward to the next series.
If this group turns into the perennial postseason team that Jack Zduriencik is looking to build we could look back on those comments from Vargas as the first bit of swagger displayed by this bunch. There is still, however, a long way to go.
Offensive pieces must be added in the offseason if the Mariners have any hope of taking a giant step forward next year. The young core will also have to continue to develop. How much more of a step can Michael Saunders take? Are we scratching the surface with the talents of Kyle Seager or did he max out early? What is Dustin Ackley? Will Jesus Montero show more power? We all have ideas of what these players should be. Is one year enough to make a call on who they are? Probably not.
Eric Wedge made an interesting comment Sunday when I asked what the biggest hurdle was the young hitters had to overcome this year in order to move forward. He talked about the challenge of finding consistency, of shaking off a bad game and not trying to ride a good one too far.
“It is tougher for the position players because they have to do it every day,” he said. “Whether or not they get their teeth kicked in one day or have a great day, regardless, you have got to come back and play the next day. Guess what, if you had a great day you are supposed to do it again. If you had a bad day you are supposed to fix it. That’s hard.”
“The process which we are working through right now is a big part of it,” Wedge continued. “Some players are ahead of others. Just because one player is ahead of another production-wise right now doesn’t mean he is going to be a better player. Some of these other guys are lagging behind a little bit, taking a little bit longer to figure it out, but ultimately they might end up being the better player and more consistent than those other guys.”
In other words, Wedge is not giving up on anybody, particularly the guys who are viewed as having a higher ceiling. One full year in the big leagues for some, especially those who did not have a lot of at bats in the minors, is not enough to determine what that player ultimately will be.
That doesn’t mean that we are in for another year of evaluation. This team does not have that luxury and must move forward. Some players may have to play catch up or compete for positions they were given this year as moves will be made in the offseason.
The biggest moves, however, could be what those who have been “lagging behind a bit” do in the offseason. How will Ackley look at a full season of hitting .240 and striking out over 120 times? Will Justin Smoak have a Saunders-like realization that he is in danger of not being a full-time big leaguer and take extreme steps like Saunders did? Will Montero put in significant work to improve physically? Are they capable of surprises?
Let’s hope so.