With Edgar Martinez retired, catcher Dan Wilson is the longest-standing Mariner, having been with the club since 1994.
Ichiro Suzuki turned down a lifetime achievement award offered by the cultural arm of the government of Japan after his record-setting 262-hit season, saying he didn't want such an award while he still had much left to do. This is the second time he has turned down the award, the highest honor a Japanese civilian can earn.
The 2005 season will reunite first baseman Richie Sexson with his first big league manager. Mike Hargrove was the skipper when Sexson first made it with Cleveland. Back then, Hargrove used Sexson in left field when necessary to get him into the lineup, but this time around, Sexson will be at first base only.
At the end of the 2004 season, CEO Howard Lincoln promised season-ticket holders that the Mariners would make a big splash in free agency. To do so, the Mariners backloaded the contract of Sexson in order to be able to entice Adrian Beltre to sign with the club. The Mariners will have more financial freedom next year with the expiration of big-money contracts owed to Bret Boone and Jamie Moyer.
The Edgar Award
Martinez has found retirement rewarding. Commissioner Bud Selig said the trophy given to the top DH every year will be named the Edgar Martinez Award.
The eight wins by Ron Villone in 2004 were the fewest by a team leader in Seattle history -- even in strike-shortened years.
The only coach returning from the 2004 staff is pitching coach Bryan Price. It was the greatest coaching turnover for Seattle in a decade.
Boone and shortstop Pokey Reese played together in 1997-98 for the Reds. Boone lobbied Reese to sign with Seattle as a free agent.
There doesn't seem to be a team in either league with a more radically different makeup this year than Seattle, which has added third baseman Adrian Beltre and first baseman Richie Sexson to what was the weakest offense in the American League. More pitching would help, but the Mariners improved their defense significantly with the addition of shortstop Pokey Reese. These moves should help the Mariners climb back into contention in the AL West.
Things can only get better for the Seattle rotation, and just how much it improves will determine the Mariners’ fate in 2005. No. 1 starter Joel Pineiro is healthy again after elbow problems forced him to miss the last two months of the season. Gil Meche looks to feed off of a strong finish to 2004, when he threw with power and command. Left-hander Bobby Madritsch was as good as any starter the Mariners had during his debut in 2004, and he will get his first full season in the rotation. Veteran Jamie Moyer, who surrendered a major league-high 44 home runs last year, needs to keep the ball in the park to return to his winning ways. Come to think of it, that goes for the entire Mariners staff, which gave up 212 home runs in 2004 (second most in the AL). Going into the season, the Mariners are thinking about moving Ryan Franklin into the bullpen, opening a spot in the rotation for Ron Villone, Travis Blackley or Clint Nageotte.
Eddie Guardado says he’s fine after knee and shoulder troubles cut short his first year with the Mariners. Assuming that’s the case, J.J. Putz, who did a decent job as the closer in the final two months of the 2004 season, will move into a setup role. Beyond that, the Mariners are scrambling. Shigetoshi Hasegawa believes he’s solved the delivery problems that he encountered during a miserable 2004 season, but he thought that several times during the course of the season and was wrong each time. Lefty George Sherrill gets his first full season in middle relief after making the jump from the independent leagues. He will share left-handed relief duty with the powerful Matt Thornton, whose experience in winter ball showed his shoulder is healthy again. Julio Mateo, a rising star before getting hurt last year, is healthy again, too, but Rafael Soriano (Tommy John surgery) will miss at least half the season. Scott Atchison is looking to work his way into steady work.
Second baseman Bret Boone, with another Gold Glove to his credit, returns for his fifth season as the Mariners’ second baseman and says, “I’ve put last year behind me.” Offensively, it was his worst in Seattle, so he spent the winter accelerating his workouts to prepare for a rebound as he heads into his free-agency year. Reese, fresh off winning a World Series ring with Boston, is the new starting shortstop. He has won a Gold Glove as a second baseman, and his addition at shortstop will go a long way toward strengthening the infield defense. Seattle can go with Ramon Santiago and Willie Bloomquist to back up at both spots.
Not only do Sexson and Beltre bring 40-homer power, but both are also accomplished defensive players. Beltre has great range and is as good as they get at charging slow rollers, while Sexson, at 6-foot-8, gets to almost everything at first base. Beltre and Sexson are both right-handed, which usually is a detriment in Safeco Field, but they both have power to right and right-center. They will make up the middle of the lineup, with Beltre likely to bat third and Sexson fourth.
Ichiro Suzuki, with a golden glove and an equally brilliant bat, is the only outfielder who figures to be in the same spot as he was in 2004. Randy Winn will shift from center to left field to make room for rookie Jeremy Reed, who hit .397 in a September call-up. Winn’s poor arm is less of a problem in left. That moves last year’s left fielder Raul Ibanez to DH duty. None of the outfielders hit for much power, but both Ichiro and Winn have a history as consistent on-base performers. Ichiro set the major league record for hits in a season last year with 262; this season, the club will be happy with anything in the 220-range.
Miguel Olivo is a raw talent who must improve his fundamentals behind the plate. Olivo spent about a month after the season at the club’s spring training facility in Arizona working with the coaching staff on his defense. The club didn’t like what it saw from him in terms of blocking balls in the dirt, so he volunteered to get some extra work in. He has a chance to be an offensive force and he will get the opportunity to catch most of the time. The same, however, was thought of Ben Davis; he was a bust and eventually was traded. Veteran Dan Wilson is a favorite of the pitching staff, so he is sure to receive plenty of time behind the plate once again.
First baseman Bucky Jacobsen, fresh off knee surgery, will provide some right-handed power off the bench. Santiago gives the club the middle-of-the-infield defense needed in a backup role. Ibanez can play left or right field, as needed, in addition to first base. Bloomquist can play all four infield positions and three outfield spots, but he’s still looking for a chance to start.
General manager Bill Bavasi, who was a late arrival last offseason, hired a new manager, Mike Hargrove, shelled out a combined $114 million for Sexson and Beltre and then added Reese. This is a huge change in philosophy for Seattle management, which never had lured the big-name free agent it needed. Club CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong shrugged off last season's 99 losses and falloff in attendance by allocating the same $95 million payroll the 2003 club had in hopes that the Mariners will return to glory.
Seattle, which averaged 98 wins from 2000-03, should be back in the plus column with the moves it has made. The offense will get most of the ink, but the defense should shore up some of the pitching woes. The pitching undoubtedly will tell the tale on how competitive this team will be. Returns from injury by Pineiro and Guardado are crucial if the Mariners are to contend in late September.