They began the year beating Oakland in back-to-back games, 6-2 and 5-2, and the Seattle Mariners closed 2011 by being shutout in consecutive games by the same Athletics.
Yes, Virginia, the Mariners say they’re a much improved team than the one that broke camp back in March.
And now, that season has ended. At 67-95, the win-loss record was an improvement over the 61-101 of last year, though too many numbers didn’t change.
Seattle’s .236 team average in 2010 was the worst in baseball. And their .233 average this season was, well, the worst in baseball.
New manager Eric Wedge ran through 18 rookies this year – 12 of those made their big-league debuts. There were gems like Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp, young bullpen arms in Tom Wilhelmsen, Chance Ruffin and not-quite-so-young Steve Delabar.
There were rookies with potential – Casper Wells, Alex Liddi, Kyle Seager - and an acrobatic shortstop in Brendan Ryan. Without David Aardsma all year, the Mariners made a closer of Brandon League, who saved 37 of Seattle’s 67 wins.
Not all those new faces will be back. There will be trades. No team that endures three losing seasons in four years can sit pat, and Jack Zduriencik knows the baby steps of 2011 must get bolder in 2012 – and being dead last in the American League in average, hits and runs won’t let that happen.
For the first time in the history of Safeco Field – and the first time since 1992 – the Mariners drew fewer than two million fans this season.
The team has the making of a rotation, the start of a fine bullpen, a few players who can help at the plate. But Ichiro batted 59 points below his career average. Miguel Olivo led the team with 19 home runs and 62 RBI. Seattle’s designated hitter position produced a .226 batting average.
The off-season begins now. Feel free to commence lending the team advice. Right now, they’re in no position to ignore it.