Riggleman Giving M's Life, But Changes Loom

The M's are playing better since Jim Riggleman took over as manager, but big changes are needed to move the franchise forward. Contributor Eric Yang looks at what may be next in the Mariners' long journey toward respectability.

What a difference a week makes. After firing John McLaren following the Mariners' horrendous start, the team has shown some promise, winning 10 out of the first 16 games under new manager Jim Riggleman. So far, the M's have shown some more energy and are finally getting back to the basics.

The Mariners are now taking daily batting practice before games, while also routinely conducting fielding drills as well. Former Manager Mike Hargrove wasn't the best at managing the game, but at least he put the basics first. Now Riggleman is doing the same in making the players take daily fielding practice, something they surely need.

After all, the M's are one of the worst fielding teams in the major leagues and make some mental mistakes that are inexcusable at this level. So far, so good, as the Mariners as of late have improved defensively and have a better chance to win the close games. It is always those little things that can make or break a game, and the team has finally started to realize that. That is one of the reasons why things have turned around a little bit in recent weeks.

However, the days ahead for the Mariners are not going to be easy. In fact, it's only going to get harder from here. The road to .500 is a long one, but it should be the first goal the team should have.

No matter the outcome, the Mariners need to decide who they want to keep next year. The next three months should determine who stays and who goes. Players like Jose Vidro who are not part of the long term solution for this team should be designated for assignment. In fact if the Mariners do not do it soon, he may be entitled to his vesting option. They need to call up players in place of Vidro like Bryan LaHair, Wladamir Balentein, and others at Tacoma who could be helpful at the next level for years to come. There is one prospect, who should get the call to the majors at least in September. Victor Diaz was a player in the New York Mets organization who has, according to scouts, a better-than-average arm and some pop. He, along with the players mentioned above, need to get a look at the major league level.

If that takes moving Raul Ibanez out of left field to DH then that's what should be done. In fact, players like Ibanez and Erik Bedard should be on the trading block as we speak. They can help other major league teams while bringing some potential pieces that the Mariners farm system does not have.

Creating a bidding war for them would be a way to get the best possible prospects in any deal. However, the player who can bring the most back is Adrian Beltre. At only 28, Beltre has yet to reach the prime of his career. He has adjusted to the American League more and has a great glove and a power bat, as he has hit 16 home runs for the Mariners this season.

So far the Mariners have been reluctant to deal Beltre because they think they can win with him next season. But it's high time they get the best deal they can for veterans like these, like the Tampa Bay Rays or the Florida Marlins. Those teams dealt their best players for prospects and are now doing challenging for division titles. Those two teams have a payroll of less than two-thirds of the Mariners --- combined. The Marlins won the World Series twice and the Rays are on their way to their first playoff appearance. That is what the Mariners should be aiming for. Money doesn't mean a thing --- it's how you spend the money. The Mariners need to take a page out of the book from the Marlins and learn that it's not how much money you spend, it's how many wins and World Series titles you have at the end of the day.

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