The encouraging thing about the season’s first weekend was how many things you saw that you needed to see. Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake were near the best versions of their current selves. While allowing for the occasional suboptimal route, Dee Gordon also took the opportunity to envelope centerfield with his speed, and the rest of Safeco Field with his personality.
Mitch Haniger, for the second straight April, looks like the best overall player on the Mariners, crushing two homeruns, and continuing his very enjoyable habit of never, ever giving away at-bats. The Mariners need to develop a 5-6 win, under 30 player in the absolute worst way. When he’s healthy, Haniger is the one with that in him.
Edwin Diaz reminded us all that, when things click, he is as close to literally unhittable as any pitcher alive. His two appearances allowed for, ahem, zero balls to be put in play. Through the season’s first series he has a K% of 75, and a K/9 of 27. You heard it here first, folks, but those would both be records if he can keep them up.
Discouragingly, the series against Cleveland showed us many things we were afraid we would see. Neither Ryon Healy nor Daniel Vogelbach had a hit. James Paxton, The One Upon Which To Dream, allowed as much or more hard contact in four and two-thirds innings than all other Mariner pitchers combined, most of it in the air.
Most concerning of all, by far, was through three games the Mariners have already lost two players to injury they cannot afford to lose. Mike Zunino is on the DL with an oblique strain. The Mariners say they expect him to return shortly, and he just may, but obliques are nasty, lingering, easily re-injured things. Mike Marjama and David Freitas are both competent backstops, but clearly are not as Good as Zunino can be and has been for awhile.
Nelson Cruz meanwhile was already under orders to take it easy anytime he hit the ball on the ground, due to a sore hamstring. Cruz came up with a better plan, which was to just wallop dingers and take it super damn easy thank you very much. Somehow, even that level of leisure didn’t protect him, as he twisted his ankle returning to the dugout after one of his many mighty taters. There was an MRI, and we still don’t know. I’d propose the Mariners simply take volunteers at Safeco to hoist the beautiful man around on their shoulders from the batter’s box to wherever he needs to go. There would be no want of hands, I am sure.
You’ll hear this a lot this month, but it’s early. Too early for analysis. Too early for complaints about lineups, or bullpen rotations, or claiming victory in The Great Offseason Ideological Wars. But it’s not too early to observe what we see, and say through three games the Mariners look a lot like we thought they would. They can hit, and they can run. They will be competitive about as long as their starting pitching allows them to be. They have a closer with terrific stuff. They are old, and injury prone, and don’t have great depth.
The greatest takeaway of all, though, is they are playing. Baseball is back. Writing and talking about the game feels fun again. We’re born anew, and all joys and miseries lay fresh before us. Sometimes, you just need to move forward.