Mariners in 2012: Newbies show promise, veterans pose problems
The Mariners had a dismal 2011 season. They lost more than 90 games for the third time in four years. Attendance hit a new low at Safeco Field.
Now that the season is over, fans are looking ahead to 2012 with a little more optimism. The team has made a lot of young acquisitions who look promising. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says some old problems remain.
Big salaries, big obstacles
It looks like Ichiro Suzuki will be coming back for the final year on his five-year, $91 million contract (he'll be paid $17 million next year). And the Mariners will be paying Chone Figgins $9 million in 2012 as part of a guaranteed contract – even though it's not likely he'll play, or play much, next year. Those two salaries are tying up roughly a quarter to a third of the Mariners' entire payroll.
Art says the big question surrounds Ichiro. His hitting and fielding suffered this year. It recently was revealed in The Seattle Times that Ichiro was incredibly distracted by the earthquake and tsunami in his native Japan. Art says the team should have given him some time off to deal with that.
Now, he says Ichiro has some choices to make.
"Ichiro has to tell the Mariners and, hopefully, us – fans – what he wants. Do you want to win a World Series? Do you want to set milestone hit records in Major League Baseball?"
New players, new start?
The Mariners acquired a lot of new players this season – many of them quite young with a lot of promise for the future. But Art says 2012 might be too soon to see a huge turnaround in the team.
Rookie pitcher Michael Pineda and 2nd baseman Dustin Ackley are All Star-caliber acquisitions, according to Art. Mike Carp could also be a solid contributor next year – with his ability to play 1st base, left field and designated hitter. And the Mariners control all of their contracts for several years.
Art says the rest of the new guys have question marks around them.
"First baseman Justin Smoak, 3rd baseman Kyle Seager, pitcher Charlie Furbush ... all these guys have done something to give hope but they are still unproven as to whether they're going to be sustainable Major League contributors."
Find out more about what Art has to say on this issue at Sportspress Northwest.