I've already stated, multiple times, even in my rosiest moments I don't have lofty expectations (like winning the division or even the wild card) this season. What I do expect, and will be giddy as all get out if it happens, is slow and steady improvement in every facet of the team. That being said, I sure like the way John thinks ... and what is spring for, if not for hope? It IS eternal, right?
Warning to 09 Angels - remember the 02 Mariners? | John McGrath
...This brings us to the heart of the artichoke: Are there any similarities between the Mariners of 2002 and the Angels of 2009?
I see four. Granted, I’m squinting, but I swear I can I see four.
1. Aging regulars approaching the downward-slope phase of their careers. Seattle’s everyday lineup in 2002 included catcher Dan Wilson, first baseman John Olerud and second baseman Bret Boone (all 33 years old), along with designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who was 39. The Angels’ everyday lineup includes outfielders Vladimir Guerrero (34), Torii Hunter (33) and Bobby Abreu (35). The physical decline of Guerrero, who has endured knee problems the past three years and will be a free agent after the season, could find him following ex-teammate Garret Anderson out of Anaheim.
2. The absence of a lights-out ace pitcher. The 2002 Mariners boasted 16-game winner Freddie Garcia, 13-game winner Jamie Moyer and perennial, on-the-cusp-of-a-breakout-year right- hander Joel Piñeiro, a 14-game winner whose 3.24 ERA ranked eighth in the league – just ahead of Moyer’s 3.32, which was ninth.
But no Seattle starter posed a fear factor for the opposition. No Seattle starter was a cinch to snap a losing streak.
The Angels’ 2009 rotation is anchored by John Lackey, whose tight elbow has put him on the disabled list, along with fellow right-handed starters Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar. The injuries will force Scioscia to open the season with a rotation of Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart and Shane Loux.
Moseley, Adenhart and Loux combined last season to win three games.
3. Post-playoff malaise. Knocked out of the league championship series by the Yankees in both 2000 and 2001, it was only natural for the 2002 Mariners to assume they’d stay busy well into October, when they’d get a third straight shot at busting down the doors of the Evil Empire. Too bad the rest of the league never got the commissioner’s office memo granting Seattle a free pass to the ALCS.
The Angels? They’ve gone to the playoffs four times since 2004, and three times were sent home after the first round. Scioscia is a master at managing egos and stifling overconfidence, but it’s fair to wonder if his team finally might drift into the comfort zone that lulled the Mariners into listlessness in 2002.
4. The 10-year itch. Baseball managers, along with head coaches in football and basketball, often lose their edge around their 10th year with the same team. Maybe the players get tired of hearing the same voice. Maybe the manager/coach gets tired of walking down the same hallway, past the same locker room, to the same office.
Piniella, hired to replace Bill Plummer before the 1993 season, reached Year 10 in 2002, then left for Tampa Bay. Conspiracy theorists insist Piniella was angered by the front office’s reluctance to pursue major deadline deals that would’ve increased payroll, but his motives were not that calculated.
He had been on the job 10 years. It was time.
By the way, this is Scioscia’s 10th year as manager of the Angels.
The Mariners didn’t immediately implode after rookie manager Bob Melvin took over for Piniella.
Melvin’s 2003 team won 93 games, enough to coax the front office into keeping the over-the-hill gang pretty much intact for 2004.
The decision was well-intentioned, but it greased the skids that accelerated a model 21st century baseball franchise’s reversion to its 1980s doldrums.
As for the 2002 Mariners, they won early, and won often, and appeared destined to achieve the lofty preseason expectations put on them. Then came September, when they got sleepy at the wheel of the driver’s seat and surrendered their control of the division.
Warning to the 2009 Angels: It could happen to you.