1 More Year! 1 More Year! 1 More Year!.

Bill Bavasi and Johnny Mac have both been generously retained for the next season in spite of their up-and-down performances.

People like to badmouth Bavasi, sometimes with good reason. He made a big splash right away in signing Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, to pedestrian results. We all thought Beltre was a huge bust, but he's managed to find a comfort zone over the last year and a half; conversely, we all thought Sexson could be a monster and he has more-than-fizzled away this season.

Bavasi has also had the unenviable position of trying to fill the DH void Edgar Martinez left behind. Last year he opted to take a flyer on Carl Everett even though most people figured he's been done for years; and this year he signed Jose Vidro, which turned out well in spite of the fact he has less power than Ichiro. Hell, he's got less power than Willie Bloomquist, but he had the second best batting average for the M's this year, so I'll cut him some slack.

Of course, Bavasi is taking the most heat for signing Jeff Weaver to that 1-year contract and for trading away Rafael Soriano for the junk-throwing Horacio Ramirez. AND, for not dumping them and trading for starting pitching at the July 31st deadline, when we were clearly in a pennant race and they were clearly NOT helping. Local writers will try to soothe the wound created by those two worthless animals by pointing out Bavasi also brought in Jose Guillen and he didn't trade the flashy Adam Jones for a Dontrelle Willis-type pitcher who appears to be on his last arms. This still doesn't make up for the fact that we clearly had prospects in Tacoma (Jeff Clement and Mike Morse anyone? The former has hit two big-time late-game homers and the latter is batting .700 since being called up) and he sat on his fucking hands.

But, here's what's most important: Under Bill Bavasi's direction, the Seattle Mariners have improved every season. Indeed, no one thought we'd be in a pennant race this year; best-case scenario was for a solid 3rd place finish, maybe pushing Oakland for 2nd. That doesn't forgive the fact that, once we found ourselves miraculously IN a playoff push, Bavasi should've been aware enough to think on his feet and get the deal done to push us over the edge; to prevent a 2-15 stretch at the end of August.

This is what we've got, looking forward: We've got Ichiro signed on for another long term. We've got a solid hitting lineup from top to bottom, less a certain starting first baseman who needs needs NEEDS to fucking go. We've got some amazing young hitting prospects like the aforementioned Clement, Morse, Jones, and possibly even Balentin. We've got a stacked bullpen anchored by J.J. Putz and George Sherrill. We've got potential young starters in Cha Seung Baek, Brandon Morrow, and Ryan Feierabend who, when healthy, and with nearly a season's worth of big league experience, should come into Spring Training ready to blow away any veteran dunderheads Bavasi signs for the league minimum. We've got Felix who's still too inconsistent to be a number 1 starter, but has shown he's nearly ready to be that anchor and be that stopper of losing streaks and that innings-eater every 5 days. We've got Batista who's a solid 3/4 in the rotation and another innings monster who somehow manages to keep us in most ballgames. We've got Jarrod Washburn who, apparently, is guaranteed a spot in the rotation even though he's WAY on the downside of his career. And we've got a manager who's got the respect of the players in the clubhouse.

I'm happy for John McLaren; he's done well with what he's been forced to do, what with Grover's resignation mid-way through the season. That being said, two days from now, the Honeymoon's over. He's gotten the team to play hard, you can't deny that. He got us to 20-games over .500 at one point. And I really don't blame him for that 2-15 slide, because he was making the best of what he had. Since Bavasi gave him absolutely ZERO help at the deadline, Johnny Mac was forced to throw Ramirez every fifth day, Weaver every fifth day. He was powerless to Batista's uncharacteristic floundering and Washburn's characteristic floundering. He couldn't force Hernandez to throw past the 5th inning when he's already at 115 pitches. He couldn't go out there and bat for a lineup that slumped at the worst possible time.

But, now he's been given the reins for a full season. Now we get to see a man guide a team from start to finish. We get to see him build on our 80-something win season and hopefully push us over the edge towards 95-100. A lot of that will depend on what Bavasi does this offseason; a lot of that will depend on hitters who were difficult outs this season continuing to punish opposing pitchers; a lot of that will depend on a bullpen continuing to throw lights out; and a lot of that will depend on a starting rotation that needs to throw better.

There's excitement in the air for next year. The Seattle Mariners won't be that surprise team; they'll be expected to contend with the big boys. As long as they don't let their potential go to their heads or the additional pressure to bog them down, we should be looking at the first exciting run of baseball since 2003