Forget analytics, attitude is what Mariners need

Micah Rice: Commentary

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor



I know. It’s just one series.

But …

It’s a long season, so baseball is best quantified in the long narrative. It’s unwise to get too excited over the first three games of the Seattle Mariners’ season.

But …

Seattle strolled into the house of the defending American League West champion Texas Rangers and smacked them around.

In an era when many teams have embraced the small-ball approach, the M’s offense was Texas-sized. Seattle hit nine home runs, including four by Robinson Cano.

The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001. They have gone nearly all of baseball’s analytics-loving Moneyball era without one postseason at bat.

But in a power display reminiscent of the late 1990s, it was like Cano and his teammates did a collective bat flip and said “analyze this.”

It was a good reminder that for all the statistical analysis in today’s Major Leagues, you still can’t put a number on attitude.

And that’s why the opening series was so encouraging for a franchise that has shown less attitude than a crabby barista in a Seattle coffeehouse.

It was more refreshing than an iced latte to see first-year manager Scott Servais acting like he’d just downed a quadruple espresso after catcher Chris Iannetta was suspiciously hit by a pitch Tuesday’s 10-2 win.

Rangers pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen had just given up the second of two home runs the Mariners hit in the six-run eighth inning. The next batter, Iannetta, was plunked with a fastball just below his rear end.

Servais strode out of the dugout and pointed at reigning AL Manager of the Year Jeff Banister. He unleashed a tirade that, when viewed on television, would make even the most rudimentary lip-reader blush.

And with that, the rookie manager in just his second game earned his locker-room cred.

“You want your manager to get fired up,” Cano said after the game. “You want your manager to protect you. You don’t want a manager who won’t take care of his players. He’s one of those and we have even more respect for him now.”

The Mariners should embrace the role of feisty underdogs. As owners of baseball’s longest playoff drought, an us-against-the-world outlook would suit them just fine.

Besides, the Mariners were given plenty of respect before last season, when some were tabbing Seattle as a World Series contender. It became a season of unfulfilled expectations.

So a near-complete overhaul of the roster and front office took place. Nobody outside of their clubhouse expects much of the Mariners this season.

Maybe it’s premature to declare that this year’s Mariners are ready to shock baseball. The long season will be told by a long narrative, not the hour-by-hour blurbs in today’s media where every win preludes a championship and each loss is a harbinger of doom.

But some of baseball’s most classic prose relishes the renewal of spring, and the hope that comes with it.

And no buts about it, the season’s first series offered much for the Mariners be hopeful about.

Micah Rice is The Columbian’s Sports Editor. Reach him at 360-735-4548, or on Twitter at @col_mrice.