Many of you are probably thinking two straight years in the cellar as the clear answer to this question. But remember how often divisions can flip-flop each year. Take the occasional teams who have gone from worst to first. Staying on realistic terms here, you’re on your own planet if you think the Mariners will go worst to first.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the team will finish in last place next season. First off, divisions are obviously luck of the draw. The Mariners wouldn’t have finished at the bottom if they had been in the same division as the lowly Tigers and Royals. The Mariners had some brief fun but for the rest of the season, the AL West looked fairly tough.
The Angels were over .500 until early August when the freefall began. The Rangers were in wild card position for most of the summer until they probably remembered their actual rebuilding selves. The Astros were the Astros (whether dirty cheaters or not) while the A’s continued to shock the world for their first consecutive playoff berths since 2013-2014.
It doesn’t seem like anyone, even the A’s, are yet in the Astros’ league to dethrone them for the West title. The only way that happens is if the team completely collapses and is psychologically never the same from their heartbreaking World Series loss. And even when Gerrit Cole departs, they still have Verlander plus much more in every aspect.
But the reason this is being brought up is that in baseball, you really never know where most of the teams will finish. Baseball doesn’t have a “middle class” right now. It’s not that there is no parity because there is.
There has been a different World Series winner since the 2014 Giants. In 2019, a handful of teams really stunk while the other side of the pedestal was really good. There were multiple 100-game winners yet several 100-game losers as well. And if not for the league expanding to two wild cards, there barely would have been any teams from the outside of playoff spots looking in.
So can the Mariners finish in second place? The answer is likely no but don’t be so sure the A’s will repeat as the second place. The reason being is how unpredictable they are. Do you know that before their back-to-back playoff berths they finished last in the West three straight years? And the Angels, despite two of the best hitters in the game and a massive market, we’re right there with them?
And even though the Rangers had some recent playoff appearances of late, they take a while to get going even with Beltre healthy. While hating to burst your bubble, I think the 2020 Mariners will sadly repeat in last for the first time since 2011-2012. And the West had only four teams back then as well.
This organization means well and has some exciting pieces but they aren’t close to ready for the big-time. The Astros have horses with World Series experience while the A’s have finally found the all-around team they need to contend.
Now the 2019 Angels did show a lot of vulnerability by finishing not that far ahead of the Mariners. But the point is that they actually do have the horses on offense and now a manager who brought the Rays and Cubs from stinkers to World Series participants.
The team that has the closest chance of finishing behind the Mariners are the also-rebuilding Rangers. But they tend to overachieve and come out of nowhere. Them hanging around as long as they did last season was a surprise.
They also have a better offense and for some reason, continue to build these young studs who are great at hitting for power. Ahem, Joey Gallo. Sorry Mariners fans, but unless the upcoming club overachieves, 2020 will be the year of not just good vision but a vision of the four division rivals ahead of us.