Inclement weather has been a major obstacle for the Indians this year, and the need to make up lost games has led to a very tightly packed final few weeks of the season. At no time has this been more apparent than today, when the Seattle Mariners come to town for an awkward one-game series before Cleveland’s four-game set with the White Sox.
It’s been a rough season for Seattle; the M’s’ 63-89 record is fourth-worst in baseball, and they currently sit a whopping 24.5 games back in the AL West. The Indians have taken advantage of their opportunities against them this year with a 5-3 season series record to date, including two wins via walk-off home runs.
It’s only one game and it won’t really matter to either team, but this quaint mini-series gave me an excuse to talk to Jeff Sullivan, MLB Editor at SB Nation and writer (his official title is apparently “Sexy Person”) at Mariners blog LookoutLanding.com. He was kind enough to offer his thoughts on Seattle’s offseason plans, Ichiro’s slide, and his team’s hopes of contending in the near future. Here’s what he had to say:
LEWIE POLLIS: Obviously it hasn’t been a banner year for Seattle. In your eyes, has this year been a disappointment, or is this what you were expecting?
JEFF SULLIVAN: Well, it’s turned out like a disappointment, given that this team was 43-43 on July 5th. They’ve cratered ever since, and even though, overall, they’re about where a lot of people thought they’d be, that’s hard to stomach. I’d say, on the whole of it, the M’s have been about 5-10% less than what I expected. I can’t be too upset since I never expected them to make the playoffs, but there have been some individual struggles and failures with which I’ve been none too pleased.
LEWIE POLLIS: In May, you said you expected the Mariners to contend in 2012. Is that still a realistic goal?
JEFF SULLIVAN: Nah. I mean, it could happen, in that anything could happen and the Mariners aren’t the worst team ever, but the M’s just played the Rangers, and looking at the numbers really brought to my attention just how large a gap exists between the two teams. The M’s are on the right path, I’m pretty sure of it, but they have a long way to go, and so 2013 or even 2014 looks a lot more likely.
LEWIE POLLIS: The Mariners were the Yankees of the 2009-10 offseason, then did basically nothing last winter. What should we expect out of Seattle this offseason?
JEFF SULLIVAN: Trades. A little spending. But mostly trades. People have talked about the M’s freeing themselves of the Silva/Bradley contracts, but a lot of that money is going to be eaten by Felix getting a raise. I’d look for Zduriencik to be busy in the trade market, as he’s sitting on far too many young outfielders trying to squeeze their way into a limited number of plate appearances. The team could and should also dump Chone Figgins. So that’s something.
LEWIE POLLIS: Unless he gets 27 hits in the next 10 games, Ichiro will miss the 200-hit plateau for the first time in 11 years. What caused his fall from perennial All-Star to roughly replacement level?
JEFF SULLIVAN: You’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask, but the most obvious ought to be age, right? Ichiro’s 37. Players get worse at 37. What complicates things is that there aren’t a lot of specific markers of age-related decline – he’s still running well and making contact all the time – but still, when a 37-year-old’s numbers go down, the natural assumption is that they’ve gone down because the player is getting up there. For what it’s worth, I think at least some of Ichiro’s struggles have been unsustainable or due to bad luck (whichever you prefer), so the potential exists for a better 2012. But I’m honestly not sure if we’ll ever see the old Ichiro again for more than a few days at a time.
LEWIE POLLIS: Tell us a little about Charlie Furbush. What should the Indians expect from him?
JEFF SULLIVAN: Fastball around 88-91, swing-and-miss breaking ball, odd mechanics that make it look like there’s been a sudden gust of wind. Furbush is a high-effort guy with strikeout potential, but he misses his spots a lot, so he could throw six innings, or he could throw three innings.
LEWIE POLLIS: What’s your prediction for the game?
JEFF SULLIVAN: I don’t even know who’s starting. I don’t care to look it up. I assume that, because you asked, Furbush is starting for the Mariners. I don’t know who’s starting for the Indians. Whoever it is will probably allow one run in seven innings and the Indians will win 6-2.