Mariners Are No Longer Sleepless in Seattle

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Peoria's spring training ballparks hosts the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.ArizonaTravel, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

By Dan Schlossberg

Forget Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

The Seattle Mariners seem poised to erupt even sooner than Mount Rainier.

After missing the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons — the longest stretch of mediocrity for any American sports franchise — the M’s should pick up where the 1993 film left off.

Their 90-72 record last year was their best since 2003 and their farm system is even more encouraging: ranked No. 1 among all 30 clubs by Baseball America.

The authoritative tabloid lists four Seattle prospects among the game’s top 50 prospects. They are catcher Harry Ford, shortstop Noelvi Marte, outfielder Julio Rodriguez, and pitcher George Kirby.

Activitist general manager Jerry Dipoto, who makes more trades than the New York Stock Exchange, signed second baseman Adam Frazier and AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray over the winter and is on the hunt for a right-handed bat with punch.

Despite the lockout, Dipoto is in Peoria, Arizona for minor-league spring training and hopes locked-out major league players join them soon.

“It’s just nice to see baseball players again,” he told Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. “There are a couple of dozen we really haven’t had a chance to lay eyes on.

“Now we get to know the kids a little bit. Of all the things we do, draft and development is my favorite.”

Six of Seattle’s top 10 prospects are there too, with Ford, Kirby, and pitchers Emerson Hancock and Brandon Williamson the headliners.

Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, now 48, is there too in a dual role as coach and good-will ambassador.

For Dipoto, it’s the third straight spring that hasn’t sprung the way he had hoped. In 2020, Covid split training camps into two sessions months apart. Protocols for the coronavirus made things crazy in 2021 too. Now there’s a labor war that is wiping out the exhibition schedule and threatening the March 31 start of the regular season.

“It’s been a really weird couple of years,” admitted the GM, whose varsity coaching staff is also enjoying the Arizona sunshine. Manager Scott Servais and all of his coaches are getting a first-hand look at the club’s kids.

Once the season starts, Seattle seems certain to join Houston, Los Angeles, and the rapidly-rebuilding Texas Rangers for supremacy of the American League West. Only the Oakland Athletics, who are openly paring payroll, seem more like pretenders than contenders.

HTP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered baseball spring training since 1971. He covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and makes frequent public appearances to promote his books. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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