2013: Another year of Seattle Mariners struggles

The Seattle Mariners and younger players like Ackley, Montero and Soak are tough eggs to crack.

After 16 games, they’re now at a 6-10 record. That’s 10 percent of the season out of the way. Given how great this team was in spring training, there were pretty big expectations of maintaining a near-.500 record this year. For a Mariners fan, that’s equivalent of making the playoffs.

So what’s going wrong?

There isn’t one specific area needing improvement, which makes this the most frustrating part of being a fan. Many pieces need to come together in this juggling act called the Seattle Mariners, and we can’t even pick up our second item to throw in the air.

Maurer, Ibanez, Smoak, Ackley and Montero all had pretty awesome spring stats heading into April, and gave fans hope. It looked like the “Big Three” lineup kiddos were finally breaking out of their moldy 2012 season and sustaining a level of play we always believed they could.

But instead of seeing the fans’ pretty vision come true, we’re instead left with the Seattle Mariners vision of the Seattle Mariners. And the reality is that’s not nearly as pretty; it’s about as pretty as Aaron Harang in a tutu.

The Mariners have struggled mightily to maintain balance since the Great Depressing Season of 2004. The entire front office has changed, a new mindset is in place, an entirely new roster exists and yet the offense still can’t figure out how to hit. Sure, there have been a few highlights along the way; mere glimpses of what could have been. Years like 2007 and 2009 come to mind, offering just enough hope to keep most fans going through about half the season before the team tripped over its own shoelaces.

This team is smarter than it was in 2004, has better people offering insight regarding roster moves, has a rejuvenated minor league system and even has a shiny new TV screen in center field. Despite the frustrations already, the 2013 Mariners are a vast improvement from the team that began this downward spiral nine years ago.

Unfortunately, the progress since then has been inconsistent and hairline fractures have broken out on the hull of the USS Mariner. Her back is broken.

The front office since 2009 has done one helluva job improving this team after picking up the piecemeal from the previous tenants. There have been great trades, lukewarm signings and trades that have left many of us in fits of rage. The term “former Mariner” in the broadcast booth usually means someone went on to have a pretty good career outside Seattle. I don’t need to name names… Doug Fister.

While the team is stuck in a perennial rebuilding effort, the “hope” for the future resides in a block of Ackley, Smoak and Montero who, collectively, can’t seem to break past .180 in the lineup this year. Those three were supposed to anchor 33 percent of our offense for the next several years. One-third of our run scoring ability lies with them.

But we’re told to be optimistic. Hultzen, Paxton and Walker are in the minors and will join King Felix in creating an impressive four-pitcher rotation that should dominate baseball. At least that’s what they tell us.

The same “hope” was offered with our big three offensive prospects and they’ve failed. It should make fans wonder where the problem starts: is it in the minor leagues or the major leagues?

The Mariners have a new set of problems at the onset of every season and until that foundation is laid, this team will continue to induce migraines. But, like every other fan, I’ll continue to watch.

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