This Could Actually Be the Mariners Year
By Ty Gonzalez
No, I’m not getting ahead of myself. Shut up and let me have my fun.
The Seattle Mariners are not a great baseball team.
James Paxton sits on a golden throne placed atop the remnants of a disastrous starting rotation.
A similar scene can be painted of Edwin Diaz and the bullpen.
Their $24 million All-Star second baseman just received a hefty 80-game suspension.
Their second and third highest paid offensive stars are both hitting just .228 over a combined 324 plate appearances.
Yet, the Mariners are 27-19. They sit a game-and-a-half in the lead for the AL’s second Wild Card berth. It’s early, but they weren’t supposed to be in this position at any point this season.
Some say they’re overachieving. Some say regression and reality is coming at them fast. I say this may just be who they are.
The pitching has been pretty abysmal, but it’s kept them in most games so far. The offense is above-average and is in the top five for most American League offensive categories.
They are winning a lot of one-run ballgames, currently at a 12-5 record in such instances. In 2016, the Texas Rangers claimed the best record in one-run games in Major League history, at 36-11. That record would play a huge role in the Rangers’ AL West championship that year.
History has shown that teams who win the majority of their one-run games will greatly increase their outlook for the rest of the season. Every team blows teams out, and every team gets blown out. Those games usually even themselves out in the end. It’s the tight games that shift the outcome of a season, and the Mariners are winning a lot of theirs.
Before you start yelling that it’s too early, keep in mind that we’re already past the first quarter mark of the 2018 season. This is where teams really figure out who they are and what they need to improve upon.
With the freed-up payroll from Cano’s suspension, Jerry Dipoto will be aggressive in the trade market. The Mariners will be improved at some point, whether it’s their positional depth or bullpen. A starter could be on its way, but it likely won’t be a “name” considering how little stock the league has put into the Mariners’ farm system.
Whoever the Mariners end up trading for, they’ll enter a clubhouse that’s full of love right now. The Mariners, as they’re currently built, genuinely look like they want to be there. Each player on the team cares about their teammates’ success. The only “personalities” on this team are positive ones.
Whether it be Guillermo Heredia, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, or Ryon Healy, the Mariners have a group of players that are not just great on the field, but off it as well.
The “holes” will be filled in due time.
It also helps that, as the American League currently stands, there is only one team that truly poses a threat to the Mariners and a playoff spot. That would be the Angels, who are 3-7 in their last 10 games.
The teams trailing the Mariners and Angels are either in rebuild mode or are on the brink of it. Teams that are stocked with expiring contracts and young talent still developing in the Minors.
While hot, the Athletics don’t scare me. Neither do the Rays. Nor do the Blue Jays. Don’t even get me started on the Twins, Tigers, and Rangers. None of those teams are better than the Mariners, even with the many glaring flaws the M’s have.
In 2014, the Mariners fought all the way to Game 162 for a playoff berth. Unfortunately, the Rangers couldn’t help them out against the A’s and the M’s were stuck on the couch once again.
In 2016, the Mariners were eliminated from playoff contention after a loss to the A’s in Game 161.
The Mariners had to leapfrog quite a few teams for the second Wild Card spot in both those years. The teams I mentioned that are “in the hunt” this year are nowhere near as talented as they should be to compete in September.
In conclusion, barring a catastrophe, the Mariners and Angels will duke it out for the second Wild Card. Whoever comes out victorious will likely get destroyed by whoever finishes second in the AL East.
But I don’t care. I want that to be the Mariners. We’ve waited too long and this team is really fun. They’re going to do it.
Next: Two Trades that Saved the Mariners
So stop worrying if it’s all going to come crashing down. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It’s out of your control. Right now, the Mariners are pretty awesome to watch and playoff contention is a real possibility.
Just enjoy it, Captain Pessimism.