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Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., and Russell Branyan held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the founding of a new Major League Baseball franchise, the Seattle Offense, which will start play in early July.

Major League Baseball confirmed the announcement, explaining the circumstances which allowed the three players to bypass most regulations concerning expansion franchises.

Ichiro is All Smiles About Hitting in a Lineup that Doesn't Feature Kenji Johjima

Ichiro is All Smiles About a Lineup that Doesn't Feature Kenji Johjima

“Ichiro pitched the team to me two weeks ago,” Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the press, “And it’s fairly clear cut. We are granting Ichiro, Ken, and Russell a new franchise based on a ‘talent grievance’ they filed against their current ballclub.”

According to Selig, the three players have statistically proven that, while they remain under contract with the Seattle Mariners, the offensive production from Mariners teammates has crippled their potential for success.

The talent grievance specifically cited the offensive production of current Mariners Mike Sweeney, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Kenji Johjima. The report also included a retroactive claim against former Mariner Richie Sexson.

Selig showed nothing but confidence in the new franchise.

“The bottom line is this: Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., and Russell Branyan could give the city of Seattle some form of offensive production,” Selig concluded, “And believe me, that city needs it.”

Seattle Offense officials confirmed on Wednesday that former Mariners bullpen coach Norm Charlton has been named as the team’s first manager.

Griffey told the press that the decision was easy to make, citing the need for a coach who could demonstrate business aspects up front but carefree aspects in back.

“I played with Norm in the mid-1990s.” Griffey recalled. “I’ve seen the mullet in action, and believe me when I say it is fierce.”

Charlton had nothing but high hopes for the upcoming season.

“It’s exciting,” Charlton said at the press conference on Wednesday. “The guys and I have a chance to do something that Seattle fans are dying to see; score a lot of runs!

“Let’s put it this way,” Charlton added, “We might even finish better than dead last in total runs scored.”

Despite his initial excitement about the job opportunity, Charlton is aware that there are necessary roster moves on the horizon.

Major League Baseball officials reported that the Seattle Offense declined to partake in an expansion draft, instead relying on a preliminary roster which features only Branyan, Griffey, and Ichiro.

“Filling out a scorecard is going to be a stretch,” Charlon conceded. “As of now we have Ichiro penciled in at pitcher, Griffey playing left field, center field, and right field, and Russell playing pretty much the entire infield.

“It’s a stretch,” Charlton admitted, “But it will work out.”

Suit Him Up

Suit Him Up

There is no word yet concerning who will start at catcher for the Seattle Offense, but Charlton did not deny the current rumors which claim that Mariner Moose will be suiting up at catcher for the Offense.

Regardless of future additions, the current Seattle Offense players are excited about a new playing environment.

“We are doing this for a few reasons,” Russell Branyan said Wednesday, “But most importantly we want to see what its like to have a lineup full of competent hitters.”

“Imagine that,” Ichiro interrupted through his translator, “A lineup that goes Ichiro-Branyan-Griffey instead of Ichiro followed by three guys who should be in the minor leagues.”

According to Branyan, the idea came about after a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on June 6, 2009.

“Ichiro, Griff, and I were sitting around after the game and got to talking about how [the Mariners] offense was performing,” Branyan explained, “We were looking at the stat sheet and realized that on that night we accounted for over sixty percent of our team’s hits.”

“It was bad,” Griffey said of the June 6 game, “Ichiro and I were actually leaving notes on the bases which made fun of Adrian [Beltre].”

“It’s not as mean as you think,” Griffey said in defense, “It’s not like [Beltre] was ever going to get on base to see them. Regardless of the notes, we knew something had to be done.”

Ichiro declined to talk about how the idea came to be, instead focusing on what the Seattle Offense can accomplish.

“All three of us just want to win,” Ichiro said through his translator, “And in baseball, in order to win, you need players who can hit the ball.”

“Russell, Griffey, and I decided to take the best hitters on our team and move on.” Ichiro added, “Unfortunately we found that there was no one else who qualified to join us.”

The Seattle Offense expect to begin play on Thursday, July 16, following the Major League Baseball All Star Game.

The Seattle Mariners declined to comment on the issue.

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The first week of Major League Baseball has shown a number of surprise stories. In the fantasy realms, men like Emilio Bonifacio and Nyjer Morgan have caught fire. In the real world, however, the most shocking facet of Major League Baseball thus far is its respective division leaders.

Here is a list of the current division leaders:

AL West – Seattle Mariners
AL Central – Kansas City Royals
AL East – Baltimore Orioles
NL West – San Diego Padres
NL Central – Chicago Cubs
NL East – Florida Marlins

Needless to say, the only current division leader that was expected to be where they are is the Chicago Cubs. The rest of these teams are simply over-achieving, right? Maybe not…

Here is a run-down of the current division leaders and whether each team is teasing their fans with a good first week or could actually compete in 2009.

AL WEST – SEATTLE MARINERS

The general response to Mariners hype is “No way! They lost 101 games last season!” While this is true, most people overlook the fact that two years ago this team won 88 games and led the AL wild card race for most of the summer.

This is not to say that the Mariners will certainly win, but as I said in My Opening Day Article, the Mariners are capable of winning.

The three necessary components I listed are Griffey’s production (already 1HR), Bedard’s health (a near-shutout gem in his last start) and the bullpen gaining some consistency (David Aardsma and Brandon Morrow already look like a devastating 8th/9th inning combination). If these pieces fall into place, the Mariners could contend this year.

More than any other factor, the Mariners may benefit from playing in a weak division. The Angels are aging, the Athletics are talent-starved, and the Rangers seem content to keep winning or losing 15-run ballgames. If the Mariners develop some consistency they could pull this one off.

Verdict: Contender

AL CENTRAL – KANSAS CITY ROYALS

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

One of the most encouraging things about the Royals hot start is that it has come mostly against other AL Central opponents (combined 4-1 v. Chicago and Cleveland), but that being said it will be difficult for Kansas City to maintain this pace.

The Royals offense has been horrid, and in their first five games it scored a combined eight runs (1.6 R/G). Despite this terrible offense, Kansas City has been able to win with consistent pitching. Eventually this will fall through. Zach Grienke has an ERA of 0.00, Kyle Davies has a 2.13, and Gil Meche has a 3.21. These are excellent numbers, but to expect this production all year is ludicrous.

Grienke and Meche will remain solid, but Davies (career ERA over 5) and the rest of the Sidney Ponson All-Star rotation will not keep up this pace. Eventually the offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

AL EAST – BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This one is a slam-dunk choice for me. I’m not going to say that the Orioles are a terrible team, but I am saying that their competition is just too good for them to maintain their current pace.

Yes, they rocked the Yankees. But they caught C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in their first pinstripe starts, and if you look at each pitcher’s next round you can see what they are capable of.

Yes, they took a series from the Rays. But they caught the Rays’ back end of the rotation. They did not have to face Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza, while taking wins from Andy Sonnanstine and some guy named Niemann. B.J. Upton is healthy and the Rays are just getting started.

Oh yeah, then there is that team from Boston…

Sorry to Orioles fans, but 2009 is not their year. Baltimore has a good corps of five players (Roberts, A.Jones, Markakis, Huff, Mora), but the other teams in your division are just too talented for Baltimore to actually compete this year.

Verdict: Pretender

NL WEST – SAN DIEGO PADRES

SP Jake Peavy

SP Jake Peavy

I’m starting to feel like a jerk while writing this, but some of the things I’m writing have to be said.

I will give the Padres a great asset that the Orioles badly need: a terrible division to play in. However, I can’t say that the San Diego Padres can contend this year.

San Diego has split a series with the Dodgers (2-2) and swept a three-game series from the knockaround Giants. Unfortunately for the Padres, none of this has been done in convincing fashion.

San Diego seems content to let their pitching win games for them. They play in PetCo Park, feature a good-but-not-great pitching staff and to date the Padres have not scored more than seven runs in a game.

Jake Peavy and Chris Young are good enough to carry a team in this fashion. Walter Silva, Kevin Correia, and Shawn Hill, however, are not. Eventually San Diego’s mediocre offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

NL CENTRAL – CHICAGO CUBS

Yes. Is that enough to say here?

As I mentioned in My MLB Predictions Article, I believe that the Cubs have what it takes to win the NL Central. They have a solid pitching staff (Rich Harden is their No.4 Pitcher… That’s nasty) and excellent offensive weapons.

I don’t need to type much to defend the Cubs, as they are a near-consensus choice to win the NL Central this year (some Cardinals/Brewers supporters do exist).

Verdict: Contender

NL EAST – FLORIDA MARLINS

SS Hanley Ramirez

SS Hanley Ramirez

In 1997 the Florida Marlins shocked the world by winning the World Series with a low-income crop of players.

Six years later, in 2003, the Marlins again won a World Series with a group of unproven players (who have now gone on to be stars).

Six years later, in 2009, the Marlins have come out of the gate 6-1 and feature some of the best young talent in baseball.

Many critics suggested that the Marlins lineup would struggle without Hanley Ramirez in the leadoff spot, but Emilio Bonifacio is the new leadoff man and the Marlins haven’t lost a step.

2009 NL MVP Hanley Ramirez (book it, it’s happening) might be the best player in all of baseball, and while the lineup of Bonifacio, John Baker, Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and Jeremy Hermida isn’t exactly “Murderer’s Row,” it is a serviceable offense.

The offense is average, but the pitching is outstanding. Many experts labeled the Marlins’ rotation of Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller as the best in the NL East. They have an unprecedented amount of young talent, and if the rotation can gain consistency then the Marlins could contend for the NL East crown this year.

Verdict: Contender

That’s my opinion on what division leaders are faking it and who might be around to play in October.

Comment with what you think is right, wrong, and anywhere in between.

sk.

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