Yesterday marked the end of the Seattle Mariners' 2009 season, and even though they finished third in the AL West, this year was an unqualified success. New management made quite a few changes over last winter (and even more during the year) with the end result a team going from 61 wins in 2008 to 85 in 2009. All indications point to the clubhouse environment improving a lot and everyone (players, fans, media) enjoyed the season as it unfolded.
The big-name acquisition for this year was Ken Griffey, Jr. returning to Seattle and his impact on the team was immeasurable. However, I think the player who had the largest impact on the long-term look of the team was the new center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez, who not only showed sparkling defense (not seen in Seattle since Mike Cameron and Griffey, Jr.) but showed great production at the plate.
As for call-ups, I liked both Jason Vargas and Doug Fister. Vargas' first few starts were fantastic, but it seems that teams started to learn about him. Hopefully he'll be able to adjust and mix things up a bit more as he gains experience. As for Fister, he shows great potential and will hopefully gain more consistency next year, no small trick for a control pitcher.
To keep up with the team, I follow a few blogs. While others may have more information and breaking news, the one which quickly became a must-read for me was Shannon Drayer's blog. She has a fantastic rapport with the players and knows how to report on things bring out the human side:
- While waiting to interview Chris Woodward, catcher Kenji Johjima went to her and said "0 for 3, Shannon, talk to me!"
- Shortstop Jack Wilson apparently gets turned around easily, getting lost several times in the Detroit clubhouse. When in Anaheim, Wilson told broadcaster Brad Adam he would be hosting a party at his house in Thousand Oaks, "about 45 minutes south of Anaheim." Of course, it's over an hour north of Anaheim.
- Shannon wasn't sure what to expect when she interviewed José Guillen after he first joined the Mariners. She told him, "You are not nearly as big and scary as I thought you would be." "What do you mean I am not big! I'm six feet tall!" She came away with great respect for him.
- Third baseman Adrian Beltre would often talk to his neighbor in the back yard, thinking he was a great guy. One day at the stadium, Beltre was wondering why his neighbor was on the big screen. Who was it? Ty Willingham, former UW football coach.
- Shannon asked Ichiro about why he faked throwing a ball to the stands after a third out. "After the error, the crowd was cheering and yelling, 'Hey, Ichiro, you suck!' Then more cheering. So after the third out I (mimicked fake out) and there was 'BOOOOOOO!' I like that."
- During one game Ichiro missed a shoestring catch, short-hopping the ball. Many people thought he should have gone into a dive for the ball (something you don't see Ichiro do). Shannon asked Griffey, Jr. about it, who explained several factors which go into whether one dives for a ball, but in this particular case, he physically demonstrated why not diving was the right decision.
I first knew of Shannon when KOMO-1000 radio got the Mariners broadcasting rights, and she did interviews and specials. Over the next few years it became clear how well she got along with the players, and that she had more than just passing knowledge about the sport. When KOMO lost the rights last year, she was let go partway through the season. However, she was picked up pretty quickly by rights winner KIRO and started doing a blog then. Seems it took her a while to get used to posting rather than broadcasting over radio, but now she's tweeting in addition to blogging.