Spring training has began for Major League Baseball. (MLB) Teams all across the country are preparing for the 2015 campaign. Last years World Series Champion San Francisco Giants are looking to repeat as champions, the Washington Nationals are regarded as one of the best teams since the 1927 Yankees, and the St. Louis Cardinals are looking to continue their string of post season runs. The one team that has a lot of the nation surprised however, is the Seattle Mariners.
In 2001 the Mariners tied for the best record in MLB history with 116 wins. Their post season was cut short though as they fell in the American League Championship round to the New York Yankees. The Mariners have not been back to the post season since that season over 14 years ago. With only a few winning seasons in that span, there has not been much for the dwindling fan base to get excited over.
Management for the organization seemed to put more focus on redoing the restaurants and family theme nights at Safeco Field, than building a strong team. With players like Chone Figgins, Richie Sexton, and Milton Bradley demanding huge salaries and not producing, the mid 2000’s were a dark time for the Mariners.
Fast forward to 2014, with a new general manager Jack Zduriencik, and team manager Lloyd McClendon and the team appears to be on the right track. With the emergence of players like Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino and the signing of Robinson Cano the Mariners was able to improve from a 2013 record of 71-91 to 87-75. The fact that they had the best pitching rotation in the American League helped quite a bit too.
The Mariners finished just one game short of a post season birth. With one of the best starting rotations in the league, the best bullpen, emerging young players, and the signing of 2014 home run leader Nelson Cruz, the Mariners looks poised to make waves in 2015.
Cruz is in the twilight of his career, but is a proven winner and may be the spark the offense needs. Cruz’s Twitter Handle is @ncboomstick23. When he arrived to the city, fellow Seattle team, the Seahawks, had the “Legion of Boom” welcome him. Seattle is looking to become the city of Boom, if only they could get the Sonic Boom back in the NBA.
Catcher Jesus Montero has been known for many things over his career in the big leagues. Most recently were his troubles with his weight, and antics off field. This year Montero showed up to camp 40 pounds lighter and in the best shape of his career. Montero is struggling to find a place on the team, as Zunino is the Mariners catcher, and Cruz is the designated hitter. The Mariners are encouraged with his new-found dedication to the sport and to the team.
In addition to Montero cutting weight, the face of the franchise Felix Hernandez, also has a new slimmed down frame. Hernandez reported to Mariners training in Peoria 15 pounds lighter than 2014. Hernandez told reporters that he did not feel he needed to drop the weight, but plans on keeping it off for the entirety of the season. With the work load the Mariners offense has put on him to close out games, the slimmed down frame can only help his endurance.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Dinur –License
The News Tribune