The Mariners had their moments but the 2010s was not kind to our baseball team. We had only three winning seasons and surprise….zero playoff berths. But among the hard times, there was some excitement as well. The decade featured four no-hitters by the Mariners with one being a perfect game by Felix.
So which of the Mariners teams highlighted the decade the most? Which team ranked at number one among the ten? I’ll give you a hint. It’s one of the three units that finished over .500! That narrows it down to 2014, 2016, and 2018 teams.
Most of you may think that the best team of the decade was the 2018 group. After all, they had Edwin Diaz, Nelson Cruz, and an All-Star middle infield in Jean Segura and Robinson Cano. They had Felix Hernandez, James, Paxton, and a surging Marco Gonzales. They improved their later bullpen by picking up Alex Colome for setup. Sure, they had the names but that doesn’t distinguish them as the best team.
Here’s why the 2018 team was more disappointing than 2014 and 2016. They started off so hot and led us on. After appearing destined for a playoff spot by as early as mid-June, they broke our hearts and didn’t even finish with 90 wins. But at least the 2014 and 2016 teams contended until season’s end. The 2018 team saw the sky fall on them so fast that really by early September, their playoff hopes were dashed by Oakland’s second-half sizzle.
We now have our two remaining finalists, 2014 and 2016. The 2016 team had a solid offense but the bullpen was negative. They had two primary closers during the year and after multiple chances to stand out from others in the standings, they had a heartbreaking loss. They patrolled first place for most of the spring but lost a killer series to the Rangers, who never looked back.
They were one of the last teams in the playoff race, hanging around until game 161. What hurts about their fate was that Steve Cishek and Edwin Diaz blew a ton of saves and if they had converted just a couple of those, maybe they sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card. The 2016 team saw Cano and Cruz put together their best years to date. But both of their stellar seasons were wasted by the mediocre bullpen. They began to build a solid lineup but that still couldn’t prevail over the pitching.
So sorry, Scott Servais. But the best team of the decade wasn’t patrolled by you but by your predecessor, Lloyd Mcclendon. Does anyone else feel like Lloyd didn’t get enough of a chance in Seattle with only two years at the helm? Lloyd’s 2014 group comes out as champion because they were the first “good” team of the decade. After several years of mediocrity, this team contended for longer than any team since the 116-win crew.
Lloyd Mcclendon made baseball in Seattle relevant again. They were one of the wild card teams for most of the season. They had a playoff-quality pitching staff the likes of Felix, Iwakuma, and Chris Young in that order. Their late relief was dynamite and even though Fernando Rodney was a horror show on wheels, the man was still an All-Star with 48 saves.
So why does this team win the 2010’s trophy despite their standout pitching? Probably because with the exception of Robinson Cano, this team’s lineup was not exactly top-notch. Stefen Romero as a reserve? Brad Miller and Dustin Ackley at middle infield? Neither player panned out as Mariners, or in the Majors at all.
Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano were All-Stars but that was it. And Cano still needed help since this was pre-Cruz. He was the only hitter in the lineup worth pitching around. First baseman Logan Morrison had power but didn’t hit for a high enough average to justify it. Mike Zunino flirted with Mendoza all year while one of the few hitting highlights didn’t come until mid-season in Austin Jackson. And yet he only hit .229 as a Mariner in 2014. Their next best-known mid-season pickup was…Chris Denorfia?
So there you have it, folks. This team overachieved with a just okay lineup. That made them a ticking timebomb as a contender and they eventually paid the price, falling just short of a game 163 with the rival A’s. Sorry 2016 and 2018, a tie goes to the overachievers.