The Twins are heading to Seattle for a three-game series against the Mariners this week. Scott George from Lookout Landing was kind enough to answer some questions about the Mariners for us (and trust me, I had a lot of dumb ones, because I don’t know anything about the Mariners).
So let’s learn!
Q: How are Mariners fans feeling about the season?
A: Frankly, it depends on who you ask. I would say that right now we are a fan base divided. Some people feel that because the M's got boned by injuries, and they'll be able to right the ship (or the USS Mariner, if you will) once everyone comes back from injury, or there's a remote chance that they'll salvage a contending season out of 2018. The other half is very interested in packing it up, getting what we can out of whatever trade-able assets we have available (Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, if he's healthy) and the M's will have to build the team from the ground up. This minor league system has the depth of an Adam Sandler film festival right now, so even a rebuild will take some time. So it's a matter of wanting to be patient.
Q: What have been the most expected and least expected parts of the season so far?
A: It's been pretty unexpected to run through as many starting pitchers as they have had so far. I have dropped the "What is a (insert AAAA starting pitcher)?" joke on Twitter probably five times this year and I'm starting to hear myself get booed from here. One thing that a lot of folks on the masthead called at spring training that was on the nose until he got hurt was the production of Mitch Haniger. This guy is a stud but he goofed his oblique. Here's a dope piece by Jake Mailhot when we acquired him on how he changed his swing and how it has paid dividends tenfold (yeah yeah, small sample size) .
Q: Who is the best player on the Mariners right now?
A: James Paxton just came off of the disabled list, and one thing that really jumps off the page is how much this team missed him/any sort of resemblance of elite starting pitching. It's going to be really comforting having someone take the ball every five days and feel super confident about the outcome. Have fun with him Tuesday night.
Q: How is Felix Hernandez? I know he's been on the DL, but that's about it. Are you worried about him? Confident he can return to form?
A: There is definitely some concern about Felix not being the Felix Hernandez that he used to be. However, even when he's not performing at his King Felix level, he's still outstanding when healthy. You could tell at the beginning of the year that he was definitely laboring, so I am hopeful that this DL stint helps him work out all of his injuries, not just the one reported. He is making his rehab start down I-5 in Tacoma on Tuesday, so his return is right around the corner. *knocks on this coffee table*
Q: How has the starting rotation been in general?
In the late 90s, NBC/Viacom still had the rights to Saved By The Bell. Knowing that they couldn't get Mark Paul Gosselaar (shout out to my Pitch fans) or Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (shout out to my White Collar fans) they decided to limp along and create Saved By The Bell: The New Class bringing in a bunch of flunkies that went to Bayside still being run by Mr. Belding and Screech. It isn't what fans want, but they did the best with what the cards they were dealt. This is an analogy for the starting rotation that probably only makes sense to me.
We were supposed to have Drew Smyly, but he sacrificed his arm for the World Baseball Classic, and we might not see him until August. In his absence, Ariel Miranda has looked pretty impressive but I would say for the most part the rest of the rotation has been a bit of a dumpster fire. Gallardo has not looked good, and short of Christian Bergman giving a solid three of four starts, most of the create-a-player pitchers have been going out there with the goal of not embarrassing themselves for five innings before our hapless bullpen takes over. It's frustrating because pitching has never been a big problem in the past, and now we are here. Paxton is back, like I mentioned earlier, and Felix is on the way, so we'll see. But at this point, I don't know if I can list off the five starters we have right now.
Q: Former Twin Danny Valencia has been off to a good start with the Mariners this year. He just tied a club record for getting hits in nine-consecutive at-bats. Is there anything you can share about where this hot-streak came from? How do fans feel about him, if anything?
A: It felt like a lot of folks did not like April to Mid-May Danny Valencia. He was on a much shorter leash than say Kyle Seager. I say this because Seager is notoriously a slow starter, but we always say "It's fine, it's early" for Seager. Since I think the end of May, Valencia has been on a tear. He has been endearing himself to the local fans, even wearing a Seattle SuperSonics hat during a postgame interview. Being likable is great, but being likable and performing is not something Mariners fans are used to.
Q: What is up with the crickets or grasshoppers or whatever they've been selling at SafeCo this season? I've heard they've struggled to keep up with demand. What is wrong with you people?
A: People look at me like I have two heads when I order a Keystone Light at Safeco Field. These are the same people that don't bat an eye at eating BUGS in front of me. I think it's gross, but it's probably the cheapest thing to eat in the ballpark.
Q: What is a question I should have asked you but didn't because I'm Mariners-stupid? What's the answer to that question?
A: The Mariners-Rays game went live on Facebook on Friday night. It was cool, blackout free internet stream even in Seattle. It apparently had a live-chat, like all Facebook Live feeds. I saw a screenshot of the feed that had someone ask "Why did the Mariners trade Varitek?" This is a question you could have asked. The answer is everybody needs bullpen help.
Thanks again to Scott George and Lookout Landing!