PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners put Richie Sexson on one side of the infield and Adrian Beltre on the other in 2005, the result was supposed to be a significant increase in the number of runs scored. The Mariners had finished last in the American League in runs scored and home runs in 2004 and the big boppers were expected to lead an improved offensive attack. But the Mariners still have not made significant gains in the overall AL offensive picture, so two more veteran reinforcements -- both named Jose, and both of whom played for the Nationals in 2006 -- have been added to the 2007 lineup in an attempt to get the team out of the AL West cellar and into pennant-contending mode for the first time since the 2003 season.
Welcome aboard, Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro. If each newcomer has a "typical" season, the Mariners are looking at a 37-home run and 158-RBI contribution to a lineup that already includes Ichiro Suzuki, the most prolific hit machine in the Major Leagues the past six seasons, a truly professional hitter in the cleanup spot in Raul Ibanez and a shortstop-second base combination that is stellar on defense and a tough out on offense. The starting rotation has a three-fifths makeover and the bullpen appears strong, especially with closer J.J. Putz, who took to ending games last season the way newcomers in Seattle take to coffee. But the key to an improved season and departure from the AL West cellar could hinge on the addition of Guillen and Vidro. "One of the things that has been lacking here lately, at least in the two years I have been here, is the offensive production has been down," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think that obviously has cost us games. It made winning more difficult. "That is the one glaring area people point at because it's so easy to see. Our runs scored per game is not what we would like for it to be. Our runs scored in a season is not what we would like for it to be." The Mariners scored 756 runs last season, which was a 58-run improvement over the previous season. But all but one AL club scored more runs than Seattle. Guillen arrives with a strong hitting reputation. He has a .272 career batting average, 143 home runs and 574 RBIs. His best season came in 2004, when he batted .294, hit 28 home runs and drove in 104 runs.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
"Watch him swing the bat," Hargrove said. "He probably has the most pure swing on the team."A typical 162-game season for Guillen would produce 21 home runs and 83 RBIs. Vidro, on the other hand, has less power and is more of a rally instigator. "He will hit an occasional home run," Hargrove said of the 32-year-old, "but he's not a guy who's going to go out there and hit 35-37 home runs. He's a guy who's going to get a big two-out hit. "He's kind of an innings-sustainer, a guy who keeps things going." Hargrove was referring to the first inning of a Cactus League game when, with two outs and nobody on base, Vidro lined a single to right field and Raul Ibanez followed with a home run. "That's Jose's job and he's good at it," Hargrove added. "He's a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate and that's pretty impressive." A typical 162-game season for Vidro would be a .301 batting average, 84 runs scored, 16 home runs and 75 RBIs. The bottom line is this: If Guillen and Vidro both do their jobs, that should help Beltre and Sexson. They have combined to hit 117 home runs and drive in 404 runs during their two years with Seattle, but their loudest critics say that isn't enough production to match the multi-million dollar contracts they signed as free agents. "I think both of them have tried to do too much," Hargrove said. "Adrian had a pretty [good] doggone year last year (.268, 25 homers, 89 RBIs) and Richie has given us the offense we expected (73 home runs, 228 RBIs in two seasons) when we signed him." But the Mariners have been stuck in the basement and the two highest-paid players have taken the brunt of the criticism. "To their credit, they haven't moaned about it," Hargrove said. "Anybody worth their salt, anyone who really cares, this game is more than just about the money they make. They have pride in who they are and what they do. They care about what people say and think about them. "We all do that to a certain degree, and these are among the guys who have a tendency to come in and struggle the first part of their contracts, trying to justify to the fans and the people who are putting their trust and dollars in them, they put a lot of pressure on themselves to give back. "I think that's what we have seen from Adrian and Richie. The spotlight has been on them." The best solution for everyone, then, is for Guillen and Vidro to redirect some of that spotlight onto their own shoulders.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.