The Seattle Mariners have been blessed with being one of the four teams in baseball perennially guaranteed never to finish worse than fourth in their division. This season they're evidently destined to end September second-and-a-half, according to a consortium of Seattle Times experts.
Three days before the dawn of the '10 campaign, two Times beat writers, two columnists and an editor offer their conclusions for the M's. The verdicts: two say second and three foresee third for Seattle. All pick the Angels to win once again and each sees Oakland in the cellar.
Given such uniform expert certitude, it somehow seems futile even to play the 162 games.
On the other hand, it could be that, at various times, the M's actually will be first, second, third, and last in the mini division called the American League West.
They figure, anyway, to be last in the bracket by mid-April. The bad news is that they start with seven away games, four with Oakland and three at Texas. The better news is that they then arrive home for another three with Oakland, meaning they will have played their first 10 against what is considered the lesser competition of the division.
Alas, Seattle teams don't play well on the road. Even though Felix Hernandez, said by many to be the best starter in baseball, is expected to go to the mound thrice by mid-month, M's starting-pitching talent drops off considerably after Hernandez. Worse still, M's run production during spring training hasn't exactly been prodigious. The club sat at a lackluster 11-17 record after Thursday'ês 9-4 loss to the White Sox, scoring in double digits just once. Then again, none of the A.L. West clubs had a winning record this spring.
Fans no doubt expect that the M's, if they start slowly, will gradually rise in their division, especially as starting pitching improves with the arrival of injured Cliff Lee and that other lefty, the ne'er-feel-well Erik Bedard.
A bold prediction, then, would be that Seattle will arrive at the top of the division during the pennant frenzy of September, when they meet A.L. West foes 14 times. Is this, then, a guess that the M's will win the division title? Yeah, but the better guess is that they'll finish second-and-a-half.