The Stumbling Mariners: A Plea to the Pessimists

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 04: Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners walks back to dugout during their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 04: Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners walks back to dugout during their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

In early December 2017, I was optimistic that the Mariners were going to be able to snag two-way Japanese star, Shohei Ohtani.  Bolstering their rotation and potentially their lineup in one signing. I found out, coincidentally enough, while having coffee with a die-hard Angels fan, that Ohtani, despite Dipoto’s and the Mariners’ best efforts, would be signing with the Los Angeles Angels.

My hope that 2018 would be the season to finally end the playoff drought began to diminish with the Ohtani signing and continued all the way through Spring Training. Sure, there were great pieces on the 2018 Mariners, but it seemed like there were some glaring roster holes that had not been addressed in the off-season.  

As the season started, the 2018 Mariners began to prove doubters and pessimistic fans wrong. People quickly realized that this Mariners team was fun and could win games. Series win after series win, it seemed like this team really had a shot of potentially breaking through.  

Things were definitely looking up for the 2018 Mariners in April and the beginning of May. So much so, that even the most pessimistic of Mariners fans were having visions of this year possibly being the year to finally end the drought. 

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And then it happened. The bullet to the heart. The straw that broke the camel’s back. The demise of the 2018 Mariners.  On May 13th, Robinson Cano broke his hand after being hit by a pitch. Initially, Cano was only going to miss roughly 4 weeks due to the injury, but those 4 weeks quickly turned into 80 games with the bombshell revelation of a PED-related suspension.  Cano had been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for Furosemide, which is considered by the MLB as a masking agent. Electing to drop his appeal, Cano had to serve his suspension immediately.

So there it was, Robinson Cano would not be able to return to the team until August 14th, which meant that the Mariners were going to have to play without their star second baseman for 3 months.  

After hearing this news, it was hard for any fan to imagine this team continuing to win without Robinson Cano in the lineup.  Surprisingly, not only did the Mariners keep winning, but they caught fire for the rest of May and June and created a nice cushion for themselves in the race for the 2nd Wild Card spot.  What initially looked like the Mariners’ demise, was proving to be their chip on their shoulder. Although the Mariners would stumble into the All-Star break, they still maintained a lead for the 2nd Wild Card.

After the break, hopes were still high for the Mariners, but then the inevitable happened, and the stumble continued, and then the stumble turned into a free fall.  The Mariners once competent offense disappeared. With less run support, the starting rotation and bullpen became more and more scrutinized. By August 2nd, the A’s had taken sole possession of the 2nd Wild Card.  For the first time in a long time, the Mariners were on the outside looking in.

Many fans are frustrated and ready to move into football season, and I get it.  This is tough.  The idea that the Mariners would be trailing the A’s in the Wild Card race in early August seemed almost laughable in June, but here we are.  What are we to do?  Give up?  Throw in the towel?  Watch pre-season football (Oh God, please let your answer to this be no)? 

I, for one, am not ready to give up, and for me, it comes down to the “what ifs”. What if the offense figures it out?  What if Robinson Cano is the boost that the team needed? What if the pitchers find their stuff?  What if Oakland stumbles?  If any of those what-ifs come to fruition, I would never be able to forgive myself for giving up. 

If the Mariners play great baseball and give us a meaningful September, would you be able to forgive yourself if you gave up too soon?  If this, despite the improbabilities, is the actual year the drought ends, could you forgive yourself for giving up?  The way I see it is that it is entirely possible that these frustrated, ready-to-give-up fans might just miss the best two months of Mariners baseball we’ve seen in a long time.

Despite the fall from grace of July and early August, the Mariners still remain within striking distance of the Oakland A’s. As of August 9th, the Mariners are only 3 games out of a playoff spot.  Who would’ve thought that this team could’ve kept the race this close without Robinson Cano?

If asked at the beginning of the season, “Would you take the Mariners being 15 games over .500 in August?”  Every fan would reply with a resounding “Yes!”. That question would also be asked under the assumption that this team was going to have Robinson Cano the entire year.

July and the beginning of August have been frustrating for a fan base so desperately craving a playoff berth, but there are some silver linings for the rest of the season. The Mariners have 10 games left against Houston and 10 games left against Oakland.  When push comes to shove, the M’s still control their destiny

. Oh, and for those that are counting down the days, Robinson Cano will join the team again on August 14th. That means Cano will play in 6 of the games against Houston, and 7 of the games against Oakland.  

With this terrible stretch of baseball in July and now into the beginning of August, I can’t help but hope and believe that when Robinson Cano returns to the team during the next homestand, he will be able to get this team over the hump.  Although it’s frustrating now, we could very likely be treated to meaningful baseball throughout September.

Next. Grading the Mariners Busy Trade Deadline. dark

As improbable as it may have seemed when Ohtani chose the Angels, or when we didn’t get another starting pitcher, or when Robinson Cano was suspended, we’re still in this thing!  Get out to Safeco, buckle up, and support this team. We’ve got some baseball to play, and it actually matters!