Seattle managed to salvage a win today in the fourth game of a four-game series with the Yankees at Safeco field. Rookie pitcher Doug Fister earned his first major league win with seven innings of three-run ball and the great control (no walks) he’s shown in his minor league career.
If you’re looking for signs of encouragement about the new Mariners brain trust, players…well, just about every tangible and intangible thing you can call to mind or spreadsheet is loaded with such signs. Are the Mariners developing talent better than in recent years? YES. Evaluating talent better? YES. Managing on the field better? YES. Showing better defense, situational batting (getting the bunt down, hitting it to the right side, working counts deeper)…YES. In so many of the ways baseball teams, players and front offices are apt to be evaluated and compared to give fans an idea of whether the team is getting better, the data is showing not just progress but significant progress. With the exception of offensive production, this is a team that has done a whole helluva a lot right since this time last year, starting with the hire of Jack Zduriencik, Don Wakamatsu and their respective staffs, and going right down to the players commitment to hard work, winning attitude and a great clubhouse cohesiveness. Pitching has been outstanding and the club defense has been brilliant.
Perhaps the best quick indicator of just how far this team has come in one year, is the little footnote to which I refer in the header. I witnessed win number 61 last season on the season’s final day, in a stadium full of freakish ‘local’ mascots, kids trying to figure out what sort of super hero mascot these oddballs were, and where the few people watching baseball were rooting for the Ms to lose the game in hopes of securing the top pick in the baseball draft. Alas, the Mariners won number 61, avoiding the first overall pick, my kids were able to figure out only 17 of the 20 mascots (even AFTER we read the descriptions in the program). This season, though the playoffs are a long shot for the Ms, the team won the 61st game more than a month earlier than last year, and the winning pitcher was rookie Doug Fister just one of the many stories that have made this season exciting and encouraging. Baseball is fun again in Seattle, and anyone who isn’t encouraged about the direction of the club is plain and simply and Eor (and couldn’t they have got Eor from Winnie the Pooh for mascot day last year, instead of recyclable burlap sandwich bag man, just as an example?).
I can’t wait to see how this season plays out, and I find myself calmly expecting great things from this organization over the next few years. Yep, here in Seattle, with our own Mariners.