If you would have told me that the Mariners would blow out the defending champion Red Sox on Opening Night, I would have called you crazy.
And if you would have told me after the Mariners final win last season that Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Nelson Cruz would all play for new ball clubs in 2019, I would have called you insane.
The unpredictability of baseball is unparalleled. The best teams in the sport win roughly 60% of their games. That would earn you a middle seed in an NBA playoff bracket and likely a Wild Card berth in the NFL.
In the case of the Mariners, a .600 win percentage seems like quite the stretch. FanGraphs projects Seattle to finish with a 76-86 record; Sports Illustrated went as far as saying that “it’s genuinely difficult to find anything likable or notable about the team.”
Critics beware — after a strong start against 2018 playoff teams in Oakland and Boston, the Mariners have mashed their way to a 3-0 record, scoring 26 runs in the process.
Despite the success, should fans really expect a playoff berth in a top-heavy American League? The answer, though bland, is probably not.
What’s important within the excitement of a hot start is accepting the lack of sustainability. Even the best teams in baseball lose — a lot.
But the best teams also win the games that matter, and thus far, the Mariners have done just that.
It’s not that the Mariners will flop in 2019. But their position in the American League makes a cool-down period inevitable.
When GM Jerry Dipoto answered questions from fans last weekend at Mariners FanFest, he stressed unfortunate timing. In the last five years, Seattle has the fifth-best record in the American League, but with no playoff appearances to show for it.
This could be the case once again for Seattle following an 89-win season. Even if the Mariners overachieve and win more than half of their games, they would still have to go through three teams with 100-win potential, plus the team that manages to take the weaker, AL Central.
In all reality, it’s too early to rule out the playoffs for the Mariners, but it’s also too early to declare it as a given. What can be certain, however, is a team identity focused on proving themselves.
The 2019 Mariners will be fun. Fans will embrace the young successors of aging veterans as the team rejuvenates the farm system and strays from the oldest MLB roster last year.
Take Thursday’s slugfest as an example — Seattle will score runs. They will be exciting, fast, and most importantly bond, as their hunger to win only increases.
And if Seattle misses the playoffs, that’s okay. Sit back, watch the team grow, and take the blowout wins as they come.