But the season was all and all, a auccess. Witnessing the two most prominent icons and Mariners history, Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr, be carried off the field by their teammates said it all: the Mariners are done losing.
While the Mariners still finished third in the American League West and fourth in the wild card, they achieved something that even the cheeriest optimists predicted was impossible: a winning season.
After losing 101 games last season and finishing 40 games under .500, the Mariners did not have much hope. The team looked a little different player-wise, but with a new manager and GM, no one thought they could improve too much. But two players rose up and gave them the hope they needed to succeed.
The first was a Mariners legend returning to Seattle for a final tour or two in the ballpark that he made a priority in his time with the team in the nineties. Ken Griffey Jr, after fairly unsuccessful stints with the Reds and the White Sox, was finally considering coming home.
When all seemed lost and it seemed like pure fact that Griffey would be wooed away by the Braves, he chose to stop the nonsense and return to the place where he grew into the Hall of Famer he is today.
He called Chuck Armstrong, the Mariners team president , and said he wanted to come home. And while his .215 average was debatable to its impact on the team, each one of his twenty home runs was an exciting milestone and an defining event for Mariners fans. young Mariner fans could now say: "I saw Ken Griffey hit a home run in a Mariners uniform."
More valuable then his performance on the field was his performance in the clubhouse as one of the vocal leaders and team prankster. Griffey kept the mariners clubhouse light and fun and made a rookie's first home run (and there were a lot of them for the M's this year), an experience that rookie would never forget.
His vocal role and overall exceptional attitude made Griffey priceless to the team's outlook this year and for years to come.
The second player to carry the mariners this season was Cy Young candidate and staff ace Felix Hernandez. From the moment Felix came up from the minors three years ago, Seattle knew he would be a star. This year, he really blossomed into that role. His 19-5 record, 2.49 ERA, and 217 strikeouts were statistically amazing, but like Griffey, his numbers were not his greatest impact this year.
If you ever watched one of the many Mariners close, one-run games this season, you probably saw a shot of the dugout at some point. If you ever saw Felix, especially in a game he pitched in, he was probably in the corner with a towel over his head, a nervous wretch. And when the Mariners would get a big hit, he would be the first of the bench screaming or out hugging the winning hitter.
Combine that with his emphatic reactions after a big inning ending double play or strikeout, and you not only have an ace for years to come, but you have an emotional leader.
That brings us to the big question: where do the M's go from here? They definitely have some big pieces to the puzzle in place. First of all, with the organizational leadership of cool-headed manager Don Wakamatsu and crafty general manager Jack Zduriencik, they have decision makers that will take them far in the future.
The starting rotation is filled with youthful talent who, with good decisions from the brass, could have an impact for many years to come. Along with the obvious ace Hernandez, young pitchers Ian Snell, Doug Fister, and Ryan Rowland-Smith present enormous upside for the future of Mariners pitching.
This Mariners team is absolutely loaded with young talent and is ready to explode into a pennant race with just a few more tweaks to the batting order. If Zduriencik can continue his incredible scouting and trading that he demonstrated this season, the Mariners could be well on their way to the playoffs in 2010.
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