2018 was a fascinating year for the Seattle Mariners and their fans. However, for my year in review piece, I have decided to talk about the most encouraging part of 2018, the off-season.
Don’t get me wrong, this last season was mostly fun. Sure, the last 6 weeks were a soul-sucking embarrassment of an effort, but for 80% of the season, this Mariners team was really fun. But ultimately, the magic ran out on this overperforming roster, and unfortunately, it ran out well before they had clinched a playoff birth.
After this season, the team had 2 choices: continue their strategy of tweaking the roster around the fringes, hoping to find the magic formula and sneak into the second wild-card spot to try and appease fans, or actually build something meaningful.
Much to the dismay of Mariners fans who stopped paying attention when the Seahawks kicked off, they chose the latter. Thank God. You see, I have been banging the drum for a rebuild for 3 years. It was painfully clear this roster wasn’t good enough to do anything significant, and the payroll was already bloated to the point that adding big contract players just wasn’t an option.
They also didn’t have the farm system to go get the young stars they needed to actually compete with the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox. They were stuck. And I entered this off-season sure that the Mariners would choose the path of least resistance and try to push themselves to a mediocre 84 win team.
After, it is an easy way to go. It virtually guarantees the ownership turns a profit, and maybe the AL sucks again and the Mariners could actually play a game 163. And yet, I was dead wrong. The Seattle Mariners ownership had decided to take the path with most resistance. They decide to sell.
Even after the trades of James Paxton and Mike Zunino, I was unconvinced that Seattle was really willing to be irrelevant for a few years. After all, both guys had just 2 years of club control and were starting to get expensive. But then, they trade Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in the same package… and didn’t get screwed over.
At that point, I was all in. For the first time in 20+ years, the Mariners were actually committed to a rebuild. They weren’t lying to their fans, which the spent the better part of the last off-season and early this year doing.
” Whatever it takes” quickly evolved into “Ichiro can still play” which led to Guillermo Heredia being sent down because they couldn’t release Ichiro. They lied. Felix Hernandez was god awful for 4 months before he was taken out of the rotation for 3 days. Not a very ” whatever it takes” attitude.
But this off-season, they are being honest. “It may be a rough couple of years, but this is our plan”. And every move they have made this winter has been in service of their stated plan. While this seems like an obvious business plan, it is borderline revolutionary to see a Mariners ownership group do it.
So for me, 2018 went from a bitter disappointment to my most exciting time of my Mariners fandom. I am no longer being lied to, the team has a plan that makes sense, and they are executing it. 2018 was a great season for the Mariners (on the field and this off-season only) and leaves me more optimistic about the future than I have ever been.