The sight of baseballs flying over fences could be one of those unintended consequences the Seattle Mariners will be happy to live with.
Back in December, freshly hired and focusing on the construction of a roster that could score runs and win games, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto cited the need to add players who could get on base.
He feared there had been too much concern over power in this organization; they needed players who could be efficient at the plate and then fast on the bases.
So in the first week of the season, the Mariners raced to the American League lead in home runs, with Robinson Cano being the first second baseman to homer four times in a team’s first three games since the 1941 season.
When they returned to Seattle on Friday, those in the clubhouse quickly tempered talk of the Mariners becoming the new millennial Murderers Row.
Manager Scott Servais copped to the reality that the slugging numbers were skewed by starting the season with a three-game series at Texas, in the Rangers’ hitter-friendly park with fresh, warm breezes heading toward the outfield.
However, Servais noted, it wasn’t just the power guys who answered early, with Leonys Martin and Luis Sardinas also rapping long balls.
“Realistically, we’re probably not going to see that kind of power up and down our whole lineup all year,” Servais said before the home-opener. “But our core guys in the middle of the lineup can hit the ball out of any park; we do have that kind of power.”
The most powerful has been the resurgent Cano, whose ninth-inning game winner on Wednesday made the most important early statement about the 2016 Mariners. Until that game, the M’s had lost their previous 80 games when trailing in the ninth inning or extra innings.
Eighty games. Picture that. They hadn’t rallied to a last-inning win in 80 games. What does that do a team’s belief, to the confidence that such things can be done?
Cano struggled last season, needing months to hit this many home runs. It was obvious he wasn’t healthy, and after the season, he needed surgery to repair a double hernia. I’m not a doctor, but I have to suspect that having a double hernia would tend to make hitting with power somewhat problematic.
While he didn’t score many runs, he scored a lot of points in the clubhouse with his determination.
“You can definitely see that he feels better and is physically in a better position,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “He battled for us last year; that was something we knew in the locker room and it didn’t get out really, but he battled. Knowing that he (needed) surgery and the season wasn’t going the way we all wanted it, he could have gone in and had the surgery while the season was still going, but he didn’t; he went out every game and he played hard for us.”
Seager sees the effects of adding faster players to meld with the residual power, and “I think it’s a pretty good mix.”
Asked if power is contagious, and once a teammate like Cano gets hot, it infects the rest of the team, Seager liked the concept. “Contagious? Yeah, I think everybody would like to catch what Cano has,” he said. “It’s a confidence thing.”
And confidence is one of those things that compounds itself, just as powerfully as failing in 80 consecutive last-inning comeback attempts can make you certain you can’t achieve one.
At least in the first week, the Mariners have seen it can be done. They’ve proven it to themselves.
“When the pieces around our core guys grind at-bats to get on base and make it tough on pitching, then the middle of our lineup goes to the plate … it’s going to be fun to watch,” Servais said. “That’s the design of our team. Is it going to happen every night? No, it’s not. But when all the pieces are working, we’re going to be very exciting.”