I’m normally quick to react and judge teams, especially my own teams, right out of the gate at the start of a fresh season. A three game sample should not generate enough evidence to gauge what a team will be like for the rest of the season. Three games is only about 1.8 percent of the schedule, but the Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres all stumbled some out of the gates this year.
Lofty expectations, however, have me quick to judge three teams that were hounded by the media this offseason. Seattle, Miami and San Diego all showed a ton of offseason promise. But three games into the year finds their combined record being 2-7.
The Padres and Mariners both hold a 1-2 record, succumbing two games each to the powers of Dodgers and Angels, respectively. Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols both showed in their opening series that 2015 may be the year of the veteran first baseman in L.A., going a combined 12-for-22 with six home runs and nine RBI.
The Marlins had trouble generating anything in their home opener series. The flashy fish of South Beach suffered heavily, losing all three games and being swept by a ‘re-building’ Atlanta Braves club that doesn’t hold much promise for a strong 2015 season.
Cause for concern, or a rough time getting back into the groove of regular season play?
Hold your horses, folks. I still like each teams chances at the playoffs, yet we live in a time where hyperbole can reach the eager fan a bit to quickly. Over-exaggeration leads to drama and that is what the average sports fan loves. The draw and intrigue of dramatic story lines that comes with watching a sport.
All of these three teams have a balloon floating over them, over-inflated with expectations from the offseason. The general public can look at these teams records and watch their performances in each of the three games from Opening Week. They may decide to put the needle to the balloon and bring them back to reality as the below-average ball clubs that serve as fodder for their divisional counterparts.
But let’s avoid popping the balloon quite yet. Let’s ease the pressure built up inside the balloon, let some air out, understand that these teams are still all right. It’s been a minor bump in the road. Each team does have work to do, but the rosters capable of a playoff run are still there.
I think for the Mariners‘ offense, they got a little too reliant on Nelson Cruz in the first few games. The opening series debut for Cruz included a 1-for-11 effort at the plate. Not everyone is going to draw hits out of the gate. The common thought for Mariners fans is that Cruz will be blasting home runs out into Edgar’s Cantina on a regular basis, but that won’t be the case in my eyes.
Moving in the fences has helped Safeco Field better itself for hitters over the past two seasons, but the cavernous ball park is still a fly out haven for the likes of Cruz. With time, Cruz will start hitting home runs in Seattle. I would expect him to connect for his first and maybe his second long ball during the Oakland series this weekend, but Cruz must be approached with tempered expectations. With timely situational hitting from the rest of the lineup to back Cruz, the Mariners should find their stride and regain composure to compete for the AL West title.
My hometown Mariners do have three new faces in the outfield with Cruz, Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano. Add to that J.A. Happ in the rotation and Rickie Weeks at designated hitter/second base and it could very well be the team needs more than a month afforded to them in spring training to truly gel.
Giancarlo Stanton is just getting started for the Marlins. Like San Diego, this club also looks drastically different from Opening Day in 2014. They added two starting pitchers to their rotation — Mat Latos and Dan Haren — via trades and their ace Jose Fernandez is starting the season on the disabled list. The Marlins also have a new second baseman in Dee Gordon, a new third baseman in Martin Prado and a new first baseman in Mike Morse. Ichiro Suzuki will act as the teams fourth outfielder now too. The Fish are also now armed with two long-term assets in Stanton and Christian Yelich.
There is a reason Mr. Stanton was signed to a $325 million contract. I agree with the idea that teams can’t be carried by just one player, but I believe the presence of Stanton in the lineup will eventually open up opportunities for the supporting hitters to get their work in.
Unfortunately, pitching around Stanton (4 BB in 12 PAs) and a nightmare start for Latos in game two hindered the Marlins efforts. They will be tasked with challenging a stout Nationals ball club over the season in the NL East, but a Wild Card berth is something that the MVP candidate Stanton can help his team aspire to. A rough start for sure, but the hits should start falling into place or flying out of the park in no time.
Friars on Base
Las year against the Padres, Adrian Gonzlez hit .216 with two home runs and nine RBI in 19 games. After hitting .769 with five home runs and seven RBI in the three game opener, San Diego should be relieved to know they won’t have to face his bat again for two-and-a-half more weeks.
San Diego’s pitching got bullied this series by the long ball, with six total balls leaving the park. While the lack of pitching was definitely concerning to see at times for the Padres, they were facing a potent Los Angeles lineup centered around a determined first baseman who led the NL in RBI last year.
The Friars’ offense has all the tools to compete on a game-to-game basis, and returning home will help the cause. Opening the season in Chavez Ravine, the home of another popular postseason pick, gave the Dodgers another edge to the matchup. A four game series with the world champion San Francisco Giants now awaits San Diego. Much is left to be told about this new-look Padres team. If they can even manage a two game split with the Giants, they should be in good shape.
I hope you, as the reader, hold the same reserved mindset as I do. Maybe it could just be that all three teams have a lot of new faces in place so it will take some time for the chemistry to click.
Three games into the season is premature to jump to conclusions. However I, like most other fans, am quick to judge.
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