A few years ago, an article series like this would have seemed like a waste of time. Before 2022, comparing the Seattle Mariners to anyone other than the worst teams in baseball was a waste of time. Now? Now things are different. In part 4 of an 8 part series, I'm going to take a look at the teams that could potentially stand in the Mariners way of not only making the postseason but winning the American League. After spending the last few weeks looking at some AL West threats, today we are going to take a look at how the “Tampa Bay Way” could prove to be a thorn in the Mariners side this season.
Mariners Tale of the Tape: Tampa Bay Rays
End of an Era?
On the surface, the Tampa Bay Rays don’t appear to be a team who’s on the downward trend of their championship window, but there is some evidence to say otherwise. In 2019, the Rays won 96 games and pushed eventual AL champion Houston Astros to game 5 of the ALDS. In the wacky 2020 COVID-shortened season, the Rays were dominant. Due to safety protocol, the Mariners never got to face them, but the Rays rolled to a 40-20 record, good for a 108-win pace in a normal 162-game season.
The AL East champs rolled through Toronto in the Wild Card Series, and then went the full 5 and 7 games against AL favorites New York Yankees and their revenge victory over the Astros to advance to their second-ever World Series. While they provided some memorable moments and SO many Randy Arozarena home runs, they eventually fell in 6 games to the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Rays returned in the full 2021 season ready to finish the job, winning 100 games and being the top dog once again in the AL. After a dominant 5-0 win in game 1 over their rivals from Boston, the Red Sox would win the next 3 games in dramatic fashion, and before you knew it, the Rays were eliminated. Something changed with the Rays in that series, and they simply haven't been the same since. The Rays would win only 86 games in 2022, finishing in the 6th and final wild card spot, behind your Seattle Mariners. The Rays continued a lifeless playoff run, scoring 1 run in 24 innings of a 2 game sweep against Cleveland.
It begs the question, was 2019-2021 their window to get a title, or has their moment passed?