Moore: Where Mariners sit in AL hierarchy is clear-cut after playing Yankees and Red Sox
In Monday’s Seattle Times poll, readers were asked if their faith has or hasn’t been shaken by the Mariners losing five of six games to New York and Boston. The response was pretty much 50-50, and I can see why.
One minute I’m thinking the Mariners will be just fine, those were two superior teams they faced on the road. The next minute I’m thinking the Yankees and Red Sox showed us who the Mariners really are – a team that isn’t quite ready to play with the big boys just yet.
But then I flip-flop again and remember that they split a four-game series with the Red Sox at Safeco Field a week earlier and will have a chance for redemption against the Yankees in Seattle in September.
I feel like the Mariners are MLB’s version of the Buffalo Bills, the team that had the longest streak in pro sports without making the playoffs until they ended the drought last year. Predictably, they lasted only one game, eliminated by Jacksonville in the first round.
The Mariners, as you know, are now on the clock as the pro sports team with the longest non-playoff streak, extending 17 years. It looks like that streak will end this year, and end abruptly with an early elimination from the playoffs.
From what we’ve seen, the Mariners are good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make a run at the World Series.
I’m guessing the thrill of seeing the Bills in the playoffs was what mattered most to their fans, and I think we need to keep that in mind – or at least I do – when it comes to micro-analyzing the Mariners.
I talk and write about them differently in June than I did in March. Back when they were in spring training, I was hoping they’d get one of the two wild card spots, and if it was the second one and they had to play the sudden-death game on the road, so be it, gimme that all day long.
Three months ago if you told me the Mariners would lose 10-2 in that wild card game to the Red Sox in October, I would have said I’d take it because at least we’d get to see the Mariners in the playoffs.
Now I sit here dissecting them like they’re some half-baked team that isn’t ready to go all the way when they’re on a pace to win 99 or 100 games. I’ve lost sight of the big picture, which I’m guilty of all the time.
In my attempt to remain objective, I tend to focus on negative things, and when I do that I look at the Mariners as a team that has truly benefited from a league that has a few “haves” and a bunch of “have nots.” In fact, I can’t remember a year like this where it’s been so clear-cut.
You’ve got three teams that are going to win 100 or more games in Houston, Boston and New York. Then you have two teams that are good but not great in the Mariners and Indians. After that, right now anyway, you have two teams that are pretending to be playoff contenders, hovering just above .500 in the Angels and A’s. Below that, you have eight teams that have no shot whatsoever, and it’s strange to say that when it’s still June.
The negative take on the Mariners pertains to fattening up their record against teams with losing records, but good debaters on the other side would point to the fact that Scott Servais’ team is doing what it’s supposed to do – beating those bad teams – and what would people be saying if they lost to the Baltimores and Kansas Citys?
That’s particularly of note this week with the Mariners playing four games against the Orioles. It’s a can’t-win series – if they go 4-0 or 3-1, people will say big deal, it’s just the Orioles. If they split or go 1-3, the doom and gloomers will be out in force.
As I wrote last week, I still think Houston will win the division by 10 games, and the Mariners will earn the second wild card by 10 games over the Angels. Right now the Mariners have a six-game lead on the Angels, and that gap will widen as the season goes along.
I’d like to say that what sports-talk show hosts say is truly meaningful stuff, but it’s not, and I bring that up because the Mariners have not played well since I called them a smokin’ lock to make the playoffs last Monday. During the football season, my smokin’ locks have stunk, thus the possibility of a jinx, but I don’t think the baseball gods download our show. Besides, this notion of a jinx is as crazy as thinking a closer doesn’t pitch as well in a non-save situation even if I feel that’s the case – it happened again Saturday night when Edwin Diaz gave up two runs in a 7-2 win at Boston.
No matter how you look at it, the Mariners are really in an unusual situation this year. At this point it would be more surprising if they don’t make the playoffs than if they do. Either way it will be one of the most memorable seasons in franchise history.
If they make the playoffs, 2018 will be remembered as the season that ended a 17-year playoff drought, regardless of how they do in the postseason. If they don’t make it, we’ll be sitting in a bar somewhere in the future, drinking our beers, shaking our heads, talking about 2018 and how the Mariners could be the only team in baseball that could blow it like that.