Assessing the Mariners’ Chances in the AL West

Last year the M’s were left in the cold.

The A’s, Rangers and Angels all got to fight over the AL West crown, and while the Mariners had that opportunity, they didn’t exactly take it. This year will be different.

The first difference is that the Astros are part of the division. Houston isn’t going to be a doormat for the rest of the division, but they probably won’t factor in to the playoff race with the exception of playing spoiler for a week in the fall.

Which leaves the old guard as the likely contenders. I’m talking A’s, Rangers, Halos and M’s.

M’s. That’s right, Seattle is going to contend this year. I don’t think this team will win the division, but they could very easily put in a season like they did in 2009 when they finished 85-77.  Had baseball used the wild card play-in that year, Seattle would have finished one game off the Tigers for the last playoff spot.

The Mariners are competing in a strange division. One that they have the potential to win.

The rest of the divisional teams have their own weaknesses. First off, Houston is a mess. Secondly, I’m not sure Oakland can recapture the magic they had last year with the rest of the league having time to adjust to their young pitchers. Texas is not the offensive juggernaut that it once was and has some serious question marks at the back end of the rotation. Finally, I have serious doubts about the Angels. I’m not sure if this whole “dream team” thing is a good idea. Almost half of their lineup scares me, while the rest might be the definition of an “easy out.” Seriously, look up “easy out” in the dictionary and you get a lot of Angels’ hitters.

I don’t really see a clear favorite in the division, which is why it makes it all the more ripe for Seattle’s taking. Offensively and defensively I think Seattle can reincarnate a lot of what Oakland did last year. I should remind you that Oakland won the division when there was no clear favorite (it was an Angels/Rangers tossup at the time.) And because they had great pitching, a slugging offense and a rowdy fan base.

In terms of pitching, the Mariners clearly have more experience than the A’s do entering last year, while their offense should be very good in terms of extra base hits and slugging in general.

And then there is the unsaid standard in Seattle sports. You give us a competitive team, we go bananas. Ever been to a Seahawks game? Ever wonder why Seattle is coined as the “Mecca” of American soccer?

I think it’s very possible that Seattle could find itself in the wild card play-in game this fall. The team certainly has the talent.

Wonder if the M’s will contend this year?

They will.

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