I was amazed at the huge improvement that we saw last year over the prior season’s team in almost every way. They did the little things, they played defense, they made opposing pitchers work harder. The clubhouse was light-hearted but purposeful at the same time. The two men brought in to overhaul the debacle created by B-B-B-B…I feel like the Fonz trying to say ‘I’m sorry.’…Bavasi not only did that, but managed to change the culture, expectations, style of play, accountability of this team while winning and producing mostly headlines about their baseball play.
This offseason has been a dream for me. We get a real, speedy, disciplined guy to hit behind Ichiro and play a solid third, bring in a LF that has had recent problems but may really blossom in a different place and environment. Then there are the players like Garko, Kotchman, Eric Byrnes – all capable of 20-30 homers and a couple of which still have some speed. THEN we look at the pickup of Cliff Lee and Brandon League to an already good pitching staff, the return of Franklin Guttierrez, a healthy Jack Wilson, as well as Griffey, strong reserves like Langerhans, Hannahan, Tuiasosopo.
It’s hard enough for me to wrap my head around all of the positive moves, made within a philosophy including solid defense, fundamentals, etc., but to add in the new five year deal for Felix Hernandez and I am verklempt.
And geez, Bedard and Washburn are still floating around out there, and either one of them would be a great fifth starter, and if healthy much better than that. How does a rotation of Felix, Lee, Snell, Rowland-Smith and Fister sound? Much better than last season, right? If the M’s were able to get either Bedard or Waashburn, or both at decent prices, then at least for part of the year we’d see Felix, Lee, Washburn, Bedard and Rowland-Smith. That would be one hell of a group of starters wouldn’t it?
Even without any more signings, I think that the M’s pitching coach, defense, bullpen coach and manager will be able to do what they have done thus far with pitchers: improve them. From the ranks of Snell, French, Fister, Vargas and Olson, I imagine that the M’s could coax solid, innings-eating starters for the fourth and fifth spots. The bullpen has been improved too, and now we can expect to see League, Lowe Aardsma for the seventh, eighth and ninth, with Kelley, White and perhaps Vargas or Olson.
It would be great to have a really solid and established right-handed hitter, and I know that we’ll have to see how this all works out at the end of the season, but Jack Z is my hero right now, and Don Wakamatsu is a close second.
I feel like the M’s will be in the West race all season, and if I think back to the final game of the 2008 team’s season – which I attended, masochist that I am – there is no way you could have convinced me that within 2 seasons after 101 losses, the team would be contending for the West.
I do love baseball, and all the more so when I get to watch it played well, managed well, and winning.