The question of whether Seattle shortstop Carlos Guillen can
fill the shoes of Alex Rodriguez was answered in the affirmative
during spring training. Inside Guillen's locker were three pairs
of Rodriguez's size-11 spikes with A-ROD embroidered on the
heel. They fit just fine.
Guillen, however, can't come close to producing the runs
Rodriguez gave the Mariners last year in the winningest season
in franchise history, which ended two victories shy of the World
Series. Guillen, 25, is a switch-hitter with eight home runs, a
.260 batting average and 50 RBIs in 346 career at bats.
"Carlos will do fine," Rodriguez says. "He can hit .280, 15 to
20 home runs and 70, 80 RBIs." Those numbers, however, would be
fractions of what Rodriguez put up (.316, 41, 132) before
leaving for Texas as a free agent.
Guillen says he first realized that Rodriguez would be leaving
when they flew to Miami together after losing Game 6 of the
American League Championship Series to the Yankees in New York.
"I sat next to him on the plane," Guillen says. "He told me, 'I
might not be back. The job next year looks like it could be
March 26, 2001
"I'm ready. This is my first opportunity to stay in the big
leagues at one position. Shortstop is the position I know best."
The transition from Rodriguez to Guillen, who has been hurt or
unsuccessful in assignments at second base and third base,
completes a major makeover for the Mariners. What was once a
fearsome slugging team in the hitter-friendly Kingdome, with
Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. at its core, has morphed into an
old National League-style team--think the mid-1960s Dodgers--that
needs exceptional pitching and defense to survive in spacious
Starting pitchers Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, John
Halama and Paul Abbott are solid, and Kazuhiro Sasaki, Jeff
Nelson, Arthur Rhodes and Jose Paniagua may be the best
late-inning quartet in baseball. But the Mariners' season comes
down to this: How can they hit enough to compete with the A's in
the AL West? The Mariners are swimming upstream in a league in
which Texas, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and Oakland might be
pushing 1,000 runs apiece.
"You've got Chicago and Cleveland in the Central, and one of them
is going to be the wild card," says G.M. Pat Gillick, alluding to
the other teams' scheduling advantage in playing more games
against AL Central and NL Central teams--perhaps the two weakest
divisions in baseball--than against other AL teams. "To get into
the playoffs, we are going to have to win our division. I think
it's that simple."
Despite an $80 million payroll, the Mariners have only two
players who hit 20 home runs last year, and one of them is a
part-timer: Jay Buhner, who shares the leftfield job with Al
Martin, whose 36 RBIs in 480 at bats last year were
embarrassingly low for a corner outfielder. DH and RBI champion
Edgar Martinez, who hit 37 homers and drove in 145 runs--the most
ever for a 37-year-old--is the team's only every-day power threat.
"He's going to set a record for walks," one AL West veteran says.
"You'd be crazy to ever throw him a strike in that lineup."
The Mariners' biggest addition is rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki, the
slap-hitting batting champion from Japan who attracted about 100
media members to his first official workout. The Mariners expect
his adaptation to America to be as smooth as that of Sasaki, the
2000 Rookie of the Year closer. Indeed, Ichiro, as Suzuki is
universally known in Japan, declined a team offer for a
translator while learning the kind of clubhouse idioms you won't
find on a Berlitz tape. "Jay's teaching him the King's English,
and Paniagua's teaching him the King's Spanish," manager Lou
Piniella says with a howl of laughter.
Suzuki is a superb base runner and defensive player but has
little extra-base power. Piniella compares him to Rod Carew. "We
signed [second baseman] Bret Boone because we needed some home
runs," says Piniella, who himself re-upped with the Mariners in
the off-season for three years and just under $7 million. "We're
still a hitter or two short here."
"One of the big reasons I came back is because Lou came back,"
says Martinez, who briefly toyed with retirement but now wants to
play at least until he's 40. "I believe that as long as we have
Lou, we have a chance. We'll miss Alex. But last year we lost
Junior, and we left spring training healthy and playing well, and
that carried into the season. If we do that again, anything can
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Mariners
Pitching and defense are the strengths of this team. The
Mariners are short a bat, but they might be O.K. because they
won't have to score seven runs every night....Freddy Garcia and
Aaron Sele are two tough righthanders. Garcia is outstanding:
95-mph fastball, nasty curveball and a terrific changeup that he
throws to both lefties and righties. Sele is nothing
exciting--he just knows how to pitch. Jamie Moyer and John
Halama are of the same type: lefthanders who change speed and
keep hitters off balance. That Randy Johnson trade really worked
out: In Halama and Garcia the Mariners got two key guys....I
can't figure out why Brett Tomko doesn't win more games. With
his stuff he should get 11 or 12 wins every year....The bullpen
did a great job last year, and it got much stronger by picking
up Jeff Nelson. He's been effective in some big spots over the
last few years. With Nelson, Jose Paniagua and Arthur Rhodes,
the Mariners have some quality major league arms out there.
Rhodes is filthy on lefthanders--he's got a nasty slider, and
you don't see many lefthanded relievers who throw as hard as he
does. Kazuhiro Sasaki was almost unhittable in the second half.
He's solid....John Olerud has a chance to win a batting title
every year; same with Edgar Martinez....Ichiro Suzuki has some
tools and won seven Pacific League batting titles in Japan, but
in spring training major league pitchers are just knocking the
bat out of his hands. He can't hit the inside pitch; he just
keeps fouling balls over the third base dugout. He can really
run, but right now he's a little overmatched.
projected roster with 2000 statistics
2000 record: 91-71 (second in AL West)
Manager: Lou Piniella (ninth season with Seattle)
BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
RF Ichiro Suzuki*(R) L-R 97 .387 12 73 21
SS Carlos Guillen S-R 172 .257 7 42 1
CF Mike Cameron R 80 .267 19 78 24
DH Edgar Martinez R 36 .324 37 145 3
1B John Olerud L 112 .285 14 103 0
LF Jay Buhner R 132 .253 26 82 0
2B Bret Boone R 194 .251 19 74 8
C Dan Wilson R 267 .235 5 27 1
3B David Bell R 245 .247 11 47 2
IF Mark McLemore S-R 279 .245 3 46 30
OF Al Martin L 218 .285 15 36 10
OF Stan Javier S-R 318 .275 5 40 4
C Tom Lampkin L-R 289 .252 7 23 0
STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
RH Freddy Garcia 25 9 5 6.1 1.42 3.91
LH Jamie Moyer 92 13 10 5.9 1.47 5.49
RH Aaron Sele 31 17 10 6.2 1.39 4.51
LH John Halama 128 14 9 5.6 1.57 5.08
RH Paul Abbott 109 9 7 6.0 1.36 4.22
BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA
RH Kazuhiro Sasaki 27 2 5 37 1.16 3.16
RH Jeff Nelson 137 8 4 0 1.28 2.45
LH Arthur Rhodes 172 5 8 0 1.15 4.28
RH Jose Paniagua 270 3 0 5 1.32 3.47
LH Norm Charlton 381 0 0 0 4.00 27.00
RH Ryan Franklin(R) 308 11 5 0 1.11 3.90
RH Brett Tomko 200 7 5 1 1.43 4.68
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Japanese Pacific League stats
Combined AL and NL stats
Triple A stats
"Pitchers are just knocking the bat out of Suzuki's hands. He
can't hit the inside pitch."