Grading the 2003 Mariners

As the 2003 season comes to a disappointing close, we at InsidethePark.com felt the need to grade out each of the players on the roster. Why did the Mariners falter down the stretch yet again? Read on for the grades and the reasons behind the late-season slide.

When looking at the 2003 Seattle Mariners roster, a team that will forever be remembered for its late-season slide, there are many ways that one could grade out each player. We at InsidethePark.com feel that the best way to do so is based on what each player was expected to do entering the season. Using that as a measuring stick, here are our grades for each member of the 2003 Mariners.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Ryan Franklin… A
Aside from Jamie Moyer, no starting pitcher was more consistent in '03. Franklin got anemic run support all season long, hurting his record, but finished towards the top in the American League with a 3.50 ERA. Franklin took the M's deep into games time and time again, exceeding expectations all year long.

Freddy Garcia… D+
Relied upon to be the staff ace, Garcia disappointed for most of the season. Aside from a stellar 5-0 month of June, Garcia struggled with his control, his composure, and his consistency in going 7-14 during the rest of the season. Had "The Chief" pitched like he had in previous years, rather than the unconfident pitcher with a 4.51 ERA, the M's would be on their way to the playoffs right now.

Gil Meche… A-
Only 24 years old for most of the season, Meche came back after missing two years with injuries to pitch magnificently. The M's would have been happy to get 8-10 wins out of Meche this year, but this former first-round pick didn't settle for that. Meche's 15-win season proved to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, and a reason to be excited about his future in the rotation.

Jamie Moyer… A+
Moyer got to 20 wins for the second time in his career by being the most consistent of all the starting pitchers, and at age 40, he showed no signs of slowing down. While other got the headlines, Moyer quietly went about his business and dominated the AL for another season. He'll be depended on as a front-line pitcher in the rotation again in 2004, leading what figures to be a young rotation.

Joel Pineiro… B-
Though Pineiro reached 15 wins and kept his season ERA under 4.00, his season-long inconsistency and continual first-inning struggles hurt the team. After a 14-7 2002 season, this was supposed to be the year that the 24-year-old (he turned 25 on Sept. 25th) was to find his groove and become one of the AL's elite. That didn't happen.

RELIEF PITCHERS:

Armando Benitez… INC
Benitez came over in the highly controversial Jeff Nelson trade with the New York Yankees, and had mixed results in 15 games with Seattle. Like Kazuhiro Sasaki, he prefers a closer role, but just like Kaz he was forced into a setup role with the emergence of Shigetoshi Hasegawa as the team's closer. His 3.14 was solid, but a bit decieving. Benitez likely won't return in 2004.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa… A
It's hard to imagine what more Hasegawa could have done this season. His ERA was under 1.00 for much of the season, and will finish right around 1.50. And when Kazuhiro Sasaki went down early in the year, it was Shiggy who stepped into the closer's role and took control. With 15 saves under his belt, he may be the team's closer of the future if he resigns in the offseason.

Julio Mateo… A-
Mateo was a surprise pick to be the team's final pitcher to make the roster coming out of spring training, but all he did was provide stability as a long-reliever all season long. He appeared in 49 games with an ERA that hovered right around 3.00, cleaning up whenever a starter was forced out in the early innings. While getting the difficult task of pitching only once or twice a week, it never seemed to bother the 24-year-old.

**Jeff Nelson… B
Though not as spectacular and unhittable as in previous seasons, Nellie was consistent prior to his trade to the Bronx. He left in early August after 46 appearances with Seattle, going 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA.

Arthur Rhodes… C
It's been a rough year for Rhodes, but not all of it was his fault. As the only lefty in the bullpen, he had to carry an unfair load. Eventually, it caught up with him. Having had to appear in a team-high 66 games, Rhodes continued to take the ball despite nagging injuries. His poor numbers (4.25 ERA, 4 HR) were uncharacteristic, his fastball non-electric, but his no-nonsense workmanlike approach was admirable.

Kazuhiro Sasaki… D
Whether it be his ailing back or his broken ribs, Sasaki suffered through his worst professional season in America. As the team's highest paid player and a person relied upon to close games in years past, this year was a tremendous disappointment. By the last month of the season, Kaz was nothing more than a setup man for Hasegawa with an ERA at 4.18.

Rafael Soriano… A
A converted outfielder who has blossomed into a flame-throwing right-handed pitcher, Soriano opened some eyes with a huge 2003 season. He worked exclusively as a middle-reliever, appearing in 38 games, and was dazzling. Soriano enters the final three games of the season with a 1.60 ERA and a 65 to 11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

INFIELDERS:

Willie Bloomquist… INC
After finishing 2002 with a September so impressive that the M's decided not to bring back veteran utility man Desi Relaford, Bloomquist had little impact on the team in 2003. His biggest contribution came in the month after the all-star break, when the M's decided to go with youth instead of using Jeff Cirillo. That ended when the M's picked up Rey Sanchez at the trade deadline and Carlos Guillen returned, moving from shortstop to third base. He'll be back in 2004, hoping for more playing time.

Jeff Cirillo… D-
If it weren't for his hefty contract, Cirillo would have been gone long ago. For those who expected the veteran third baseman to return to his National League form in 2003, nope, it didn't happen. Before being demoted to the rookie league to regain confidence, Cirillo only looked worse in 2003 than he did in 2002. He batted .205 and finished with two homers on the year, two less than Toronto's Carlos Delgado had YESTERDAY.

Greg Colbrunn… INC
A big offseason acquisition from Arizona, Colbrunn figured to provide a huge bat off the bench for the M's. Instead, he ended up with an injury-plagued, 58-at bat season. He'll return in 2004 in hopes of providing more of a boost to the lineup as a designated hitter and reserve first baseman.

Ben Davis… C
Some expected Davis to overtake Dan Wilson as the team's primary catcher in 2003, but again that didn't happen. Davis started the season strong, but tailed off badly after the all-star break. He enters the final three games with a .240 average in 242 at bats. He'll be back in 2004, and will likely put up similar numbers.

John Olerud… C
Maybe this was the year where Father Time caught up with Johnny O. While his defense at first base remained superb, his contribution at the plate fell of considerably. Olerud's batting average dipped into the .260's and his lack of power, especially at a power position like first base, proved to be a detriment in middle of the lineup. The M's will need Olerud to power up in 2004.

Bret Boone… A-
We know what Boonie can do, and again he did it in 2003. His late season slide hurt, but overall he was again one of the top two second baseman in all of baseball. Boone was the team's lone true power source and top run producer this season, while remaining the best defensive two-bagger in baseball. With expectations squarely on his shoulders, Boonie played huge this season.

Carlos Guillen… B
Injuries plagued Guillen again this season, but when healthy the veteran responded with a solid season from both the plate and the field. Guillen proved to be one of the team's few clutch hitters in the final months of the season, and will finish the year right around .280. Forced to move to third base when the team acquired Rey Sanchez and plugged him in at shortstop, Guillen answered the call. If he returns, Guillen could return to the hot corner in 2004.

Edgar Martinez... B+
What more can you expect out of a 40-year-old? Edgar was up to his old tricks again this season, and was lucky enough to stay relatively healthy. Still the best designated hitter in baseball, Edgar battled a sore toe, tight hamstrings and gimpy knees to again be one of the key components to the M's offense. Will this season be his last? An announcement will likely be made in the coming weeks. Let's hope not.

Rey Sanchez… A
Thought to be a minor acquisition when the M's picked him up from the Mets in a deal for minor leaguer Kenny Kelly at the trade deadline, Sanchez proved to be much more than that in the final two months of the season. The veteran provided stability in the middle infield at shortstop, allowed the M's to move Guillen to third base, and was one of the team's best hitters down the stretch. Who needs Brian Giles?

Dan Wilson… B
Wilson continued to be the team's most reliable catcher, getting the call more often than Ben Davis in 2003. The season proved to be more of the same for Wilson, who supplied steady defense but failed to provide much with the stick, hitting right around .240 for much of the year. Now a Mariner for over a decade – how hard is that to believe – expect the same Wilson to return in 2004.

OUTFIELDERS:

Ichiro Suzuki… A-
Many will place the M's fall from grace in 2003 directly on the shoulders of Ichiro, but it's hard to blame a guy who was the team's best hitter. Ichiro continued to be the defensive wizard, and ignited the M's offense for much of the season. His .310 batting average will stand up in the final three games to make him the lone batter with a batting average over .300. Blame the offense, not Ichiro. Nobody can be Superman and save the team every night. The only thing dropping his ranking from an A to an A- is his late-season swoon.

Mike Cameron… C+
For the first half of the season, Cameron quietly put together some impressive numbers. In the second half, he slipped back into the mold of the free-swinging centerfield of year's past. Cameron's late season slide and inability to drive in runs really hamstrung the team, as he went from July 31 to mid-September without hitting a homerun. Still one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, it's questionable whether the M's will bring back Cammy in 2004.

Randy Winn… A-
Through the first half of the season, many wondered why there was so much hype surrounding Winn prior to the season. After the all-star break, Winn answered his critics. The athletic left fielder came alive with the bat, stroking six homers in the first 10 days after the break. He enters the final three-game homestand batting .294 with 11 homers, 74 RBI, and 23 stolen bases. Winn played about as well as the M's could have hoped for.

Mark McLemore… C
For the first time since McLemore joined the Mariners in 2000, age seemed to play a factor for the 18-year veteran. McLemore's batting average fell nearly 40 points from 2002, going from .270 to the low .230's, and his usefulness on the field dipped as well. Also disappointing was his five stolen bases, down from 18 in 2002, 39 in 2001, and 30 in 2000. It might have been smarter for the M's to bring back a younger Desi Relaford rather than the grandfatherly McLemore, but hindsight is always 20-20.

John Mabry… D
The M's brought back Mabry in hopes that he could provide a left-handed presence off the bench. Coming off a big 2002 season with Oakland and Philadelphia, Mabry appeared like he could be a key contributor. Instead, he ended up being the same ‘ol Mabry that the M's had in 1999 and 2000, batting .212 and hitting only 3 homers.

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