Last season the Mariners had their best winning percentage ever (.481), and this time they have the talent to pass the .500 mark. They look particularly good around the horn, with catchers Dave Valle and Scott Bradley (17 homers, 96 RBIs between them in '87), first baseman Alvin Davis (29 homers, 100 RBIs), second baseman Harold Reynolds (.275, 60 steals), shortstop Rey Quinones (.276 with 12 homers) and third baseman Jim Presley (24 homers, 88 RBIs). Presley's home run production may go down, however, because the Mariners, who are trying to emphasize speed this year instead of the long ball, will raise the leftfield wall to 17 feet, by adding on six-foot Plexiglas sections.
Seattle's lead flinger is Mark Langston, who won 19 games and who led the American League in strikeouts for the third time in four years, but his backup band is Question Mark and the Mysterians. In order for the Mariners to stay in contention, they will need strong comebacks by Yankee reject Steve Trout and Mike Moore, who lost 19 games in '87. Otherwise, Williams might be gone before midseason.
For years baseball fans have been saying that the CALIFORNIA ANGELS are too old, but this year's club is quite young, even if catcher Bob Boone is 40. "It's Disneyland in here," said one Angels beat writer, referring to the absence of grousing veterans in the California clubhouse.
It would be fantasyland to think that the Angels have enough pitching to climb back to the top. They re-signed Mike Witt, and Kirk McCaskill may resume his winning ways after having elbow surgery. But beyond those two, California doesn't have much.
With a little more than a week to go in spring training, Gene Mauch decided to retire as manager, leaving the team to Cookie Rojas. Mauch, who had managed a record 26 seasons without a pennant, wasn't about to get to the World Series with this club anyway.
The CHICAGO WHITE SOX are also a team of the future. To that end, they traded Bannister, Richard Dotson and Jose DeLeon, who together pitched 646 innings last year. In contrast, their new rotation of Rick Horton, Dave LaPoint, Jack McDowell and Melido Perez finished the season with a total of only 262 major league innings. The bullpen stopper will be poet Bobby Thigpen, who sent this reply to a $70,000 contract offer this winter: "As I sit home this offseason / I wonder what the hell is the reason / Why the club wants to be unfair / Underpaying a player who can produce and care." The Sox replied in wooden prose, renewing him at that figure anyway.
Horton, who studied economics at Virginia, gave this assessment of his new team: "I'm happy we're undervalued as to market projections. You might want to classify us as a growth stock with a lot of untested assets. We're not blue chip yet, but it's a volatile market."
No doubt the Sox will have a few Black Mondays along the way.