20 Reasons the M's Will Win it All in 2005

Let me be clear. I don't think they will, but they could, if say 16 or 17 of the following 20 items on this list occur. That would be the baseball equivalent of the Perfect Storm, or in the Mariners case, a repeat of 2001.

1. Joel Piniero shows us his true number one stuff. He does have it. It's just a matter of whether or not he decides to show us. Peter Gammons went so far as to suggest he might win the CY Young award in 2003, but what did he know? A healthy, effective Joel has ace stuff and is the key to 2005.

2. Jeremy Reed is the real deal. We were all doing the jaw drop last September watching the kid play, and there is no doubt he has the tools to be a force in this league. But does he possess game altering ability? Center field play was a major factor in the decline of our pitching last year, and though Reed doesn't need to play gold glove caliber defense, he does need to lock down the position and provide an above average glove. His bat is golden, but the M's need more than that from Mr. Reed to have a shot at the playoffs.

3. Jamie Moyer is on the rebound. If Joel Piniero is the $200 sneaker, than Jamie Moyer is the lace holding the whole thing together. The aged wonder looked less than himself in 2004 and no way does he win 20 games again, but the M's need at least 15 from him.

4. Bobby Madritch is the real deal. If you're starting to sense a theme here than you've figured out that I think starting pitching is the key to 2005. Mads had a superb and unexpected debut last summer and provided a much needed tonic to watching Ryan Franklin giving up gopher balls as the fifth starter. A solid MadMan should mean a solid pitching staff, pure and simple.

5. Richie Sexson stays healthy. If he isn't, then the M's are in for a long year. For those of you paying more attention to his check swings than his hit totals this spring, good for you. His timing will return, but it's going to take some time. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a terrible April, but as long as he is healthy, everything else should fall in line. You think Justin Leone and Bucky Jacobsen hit some long bombs out of Safeco last year? Wait till this guy gets up to do his thang.

6. Everyday Eddie Guardado can pitch... well, everyday. If not, the M's are in Bii-iig trouble. The pen should be stronger than people think (see number 8), but without Eddie G as closer, it weakens considerably via a nasty domino effect. J.J. Putz as a setup guy is much more appealing than J.J. Putz, the closer, trust me.

7. Mike Hargrove is the yin to Bob Melvin's yang. Sweet Lou he ain't, but he does bring more fire than Melvin; course my freezer could have stoked a hotter flame than Bo Mel, so I suppose that's a forgone conclusion. Hargrove is a good balance between his two predecessors.

8. The bullpen is stronger than people think. Seriously, I'm not joking. There are some sweet arms in there. If they can stay healthy, the AL West might get interesting as long as the starters do their job. Julio Mateo can be special, as can Putz and George Sherrill. We all know what a healthy Eddie can do and Shiggy has to rebound, doesn't he? Ron Villone is a question mark, but he is versatile and who knows if Franklin ends up joining him for a deep long relief corps. Plus, Rafael Soriano is due to return some time this summer. These guys really aren't so bad after all.

9. Gil Meche shows his true colors. The guy has better stuff than anybody on this roster not named Felix Hernandez, so why does he rate lower than Joel P? Actually, he doesn't, but the expectations are a lot less for Gil, and he won't be depended on like Piniero so that's the only reason he's here. He has legit ace stuff, and if he can work out the mental game, he can win 20 games... this year. Mark me down as being on the Gil Meche bandwagon. That may be a curse though. I jumped a similar train to Quest field last fall and fell off in pretty short order.

10. Adrian Beltre duplicates his 2004 campaign. Why does this not rate higher on the priority scale? Cause the M's really don't need him to duplicate 2004 to be successful. If he can hit .300, hit 40 bombs and drive in 100 plus runs, I'll take it. For those keeping score, I would not classify that as duplicating his '04 success.

11. Jose Lopez is ready for the big time. He can thank Pokey Reese for his unexpected shot in April. I'm speculating of course but it seems more likely every day. His hitting prowess is no mystery to anyone, but his glove is an unknown. He struggled in winter ball with the leather, but has looked swell this spring and his average range hasn't been an issue because of the consistency he has played with. Adding his pop to an already hard hitting lineup is going to be something to savor.

12. Miguel Olivo is ready to assume the mantle. We can hope. We should pray, cause without him, Dan Wilson may have a hard time approaching Pokey Reese's hitting performance. Not good, but the good news is that Olivo has looked better from behind the plate, and his arm is absolutely sick!

13. Felix Hernandez is ready to pitch mid-season. For those of you commenting to yourselves that this is probably the only time Felix will be rated 13th on any list, let me break it down like this: patience grasshopper. If you build it, he will come, and by building it, I mean winning. He needs some Triple-A seasoning, but he ain't going anywhere and he will provide a pretty big spark when he finally arrives. The bad news is that if the Mariners stink, we're going to have to drive to Tacoma to watch him pitch if we want to see him before September.

14. Go time for Rafael Soriano. Though not quite the spark that Felix may provide, adding Soriano to the bullpen will provide a significant lift to the bullpen. The guy throws gas, period, and he has better stuff than all but a handful of closers around the league. Will he be a setup guy. Who knows? After Tommy John surgery, he might come back and throw 103 mph.

15. Randy Winn is going to have a career season. He's never been surrounded by an offense like this one, and he is one of the best hitters in baseball with runners in scoring position. Be glad the M's didn't trade him this year, because his best is yet to come.

16. Ichiro Duplicates 2004. Or better yet, he hits .400. Naw, the M's don't really need him to, but it would sure be fun. I just count myself lucky to watch him play every day.

17. Jose Campillo brings it. This one is starting to look pretty iffy. The scouts love his control, but he hasn't done anything this spring to distinguish himself or separate him from the incumbent Ryan Franklin, even though Frankie has looked like garbage, for the most part. He is a fine pitcher, though, at least from what I'm told - and he's only 26.

18. Boone, here comes the Boone! I used to love it when they played POD's "Here comes the Boone" song (actually it's "Here comes the BOOM," but don't tell Bret). Last year, however, it made me cringe. No, not because crap rock went out when Brittany Spears married Kevin Federline leaving Fred Durst's crushed ego lying on the pavement. Last year Boonie looked like he was trying to knock down the seagulls hovering over Safeco Field when opposing pitchers threw him a high fastball, but this year he will hit lower in the lineup and the pressure to carry the offense will be greatly diminished. He should rebound nicely.

19. Willie Bloomquist becomes the next Mark Mclemore. This one is actually looking darn likely. He's not much of a hitter, but he has become incredibly versatile, particularly in center field, and that versatility makes him valuable to the organization. A guy who wears that many hats is worth keeping around.

20. A healthy knee for Bucky. I love that a minor league prospect gets featured in a local television commercial, not because he's accomplished anything on the field but because he's just so danged likable. He does have serious pop, even if he can't hit a curveball, but the bench looks a little too full for him to make the club in that capacity. Regardless, he deserves a chance.

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