SEATTLE - JUNE 24: Miguel Olivo #30 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by Ichiro Suzuki #51 after scoring in the seventh inning against the Florida Marlins at Safeco Field on June 24, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Marlins 5-1..(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
The M's are on pace for around 70 wins this season - at what point do they eschew their use of stopgap players and commit to the rebuild fully?
After the Mariners incredibly unlikely no-hitter at Safeco Field on Friday night, many Seattle baseball enthusiasts optimistically hoped that the Mariners could build upon that momentum and spark a winning surge. Instead, the Mariners derailed and finished the weekend with a resounding thud.
The M's are at a pivotal point in the season. After 62 games, they have won 27 of them, and are on pace to win only 70 or 71 games this season. With the overwhelming youth of the team, they were not expected to win this season, but it just seems like the Mariners are only halfway committed to the process. They don't seem to be going anywhere new. There are many questions that need to be answered about this team.
How long will Blake Beavan hold the M's hostage with his spot in the rotation? - Especially when young guns Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen are showing that they are ready for the big leagues in Tacoma and Jackson.
With the return of Franklin Gutierrez on the horizon, what will happen to Michael Saunders and Mike Carp? Saunders has been on a hot streak lately and is hitting .272, so he undoubtedly deserves to stay as an every day player. Carp on the other hand, hitting .157, has a batting average even worse than Brendan Ryan (.159). Carp showed promise last season, but this season Carp has struggled mightily. I'm guessing that when Gutierrez is out of a Rainiers uniform, and back in a Mariners uniform, that Mike Carp will be heading to the bench, possibly even AAA eventually.
Does Brendan Ryan's spectacular defense actually offset his sputtering offensive effort? Ryan has been hailed as the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball, but hitting a meager .159 is a disappointing number and is increasingly more difficult to overlook given the M's struggles offensively as a whole.
Will Nintendo's corporate ownership, Hiroshi Yamauchi, ultimately re-sign Ichiro? If he is re-signed, then how can the M's possibly move forward and continue to develop with an aging right-fielder? The bottom line is that Ichiro blocks the development of the team. With him having full command of the right field at Safeco, how can the M's truly commit to developing players with Ichiro serving primarily as a road block for younger talent?
I don't know what kind of handcuffs ownership is placing on M's General Manager Jack Zduriencik, but I think it is safe to say that Ichiro is nearly untouchable.
The M's are approaching the pivotal moments of their season. Important decisions linger and the direction of the team needs to be concretely settled. If the Mariners are honestly in "rebuilding mode" then why aren't more young guys coming up to the show?
Stopgap players like Brendan Ryan, Miguel Olivo, and even the future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suziki simply have no place on this team anymore. These players were supposed to provide veteran leadership and instead they have done nothing but delay the inevitable- the actual development of young players.