By Aaron Levine, Sports Director
With the start of the Mariners season starting tomorrow, let’s go back to four months ago.
It was Blue Friday, before one of the biggest Seahawks games of the year in San Francisco.
And yet it was a morning when the Mariners – yes, the Mariners! – actually stole the national headlines.
That’s how huge the signing of Robinson Cano was. A $240-million superstar, bucking the trend and legitimizing Seattle as a baseball town that could lure big-name free agents to the Pacific Northwest. It could’ve been the perfect kickstart to four months of momentum leading up to tomorrow’s season opener. National baseball writers said that the Cano signing finally put the Mariners on the map. There was faith that it was the first of many more significant moves that would put the rest of the AL West on notice – and legitimizing optimism for this season.
For four months, we waited, many fans dying to see what significant move was next. But those moves never happened.
And what we’re left with instead are two huge superstars in Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, surrounded by a fleeting hope – a hope that has sprung eternal every spring, only to be dashed by the start of June for most of the last decade.
Take a look at all of the impressive players the Mariners were reportedly in the running for this offseason after signing Cano: Billy Butler. Carlos Beltran. Nelson Cruz. Kendrys Morales is still out there and could sign with the M’s after Opening Day. But they were all legitimate bats who could have bolstered the offense. There was also pitcher Ervin Santana, who could have strengthened a rotation reeling from injuries.
Even Cano himself publicly lobbied for Cruz and Santana this Spring – a validation from the M’s $200 million dollar man himself.
But Cano was granted neither wish.
While the Mariners increased their payroll this season – the increase to about $92 million was not the significant jump projected by many. The M’s still rank in the bottom half of the league in overall payroll. And no offense to Corey Hart, John Buck, Fernando Rodney and Logan Morrison – but those weren’t the moves many fans had in mind.
So tomorrow, we begin anew, with one more superstar in Cano, surrounded by a familiar group of players with a familiar story of whether “potential” can somehow become a reality.
Sure, these Mariners could shock the world – and we’d all be ecstatic. But they had their chance to steal more headlines this offseason, and those headlines never came.
At their Home Opener next week, the M’s will honor the Seahawks – a gracious move, yet one that will clearly attempt to re-establish an optimism with their own fanbase – providing the perfect chance to ask that famous Russell Wilson question, “Why Not Us?”
But we might know the answer already.
Why Not Us? Because – after signing Robinson Cano this offseason – the Mariners’ front office had multiple chances to make another big splash…and produced a couple of ripples instead.