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ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan: ‘The Mariners are better than I thought’

Jeff Passan says Mitch Haniger and the Mariners have a chance to sneak into the playoffs. (Getty)

ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan doesn’t sugarcoat things for Mariners fans during his usual visits on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk, so the fact that he actually had something positive to say about the M’s after they went 0-6 on their recent homestand is pretty notable.

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Of course, Passan didn’t pass up an opportunity to give Brock Huard a hard time about the Mariners’ skid at the start of the interview, but after some good-natured ribbing, he shared that the M’s have impressed him.

“All joking aside here, the Mariners are better than I thought they were gonna be. They actually are,” Passan said. “They have distinct weaknesses but I really do think that they can hit, and the problem is they ran into probably the top two pitching teams in the American League (Cleveland and Houston). That’s all it comes down to. They ran into really good pitching.”

While the Mariners struggled going up against three Cy Young Award candidates – Houston’s Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer – and really strong bullpens over their six straight losses, Passan is encouraged by what the Mariners’ offense did before their losing streak and what it means in the current landscape in the AL.

“Here’s the thing in 2019 – if you can hit bad pitching, you’re probably gonna be an OK team. And I think the Mariners have shown they can hit bad pitching,” he said. “Now, if you can’t hit good pitching, you’re probably not gonna win much in the playoffs, but the Mariners’ start literally has put them in a position to be a playoff team this year.”

So was there anything Passan took out of Seattle’s homestand?

“As great as the start was (to the season), there was some regression that was gonna happen, and regression came in the form of really good starting pitching showing the Mariners that for all the improvement that they’ve made on the hitting side, there’s still a lot to go,” he said. “If you are going to live by the home run, you’re also going to die by the home run.”

Passan got a chance to check in with the Mariners when they were in Kansas City playing the Royals from April 8-11, and there was more he saw behind the scenes that informed his belief that they’re moving in the right direction. He compared what the Mariners are doing to the Tampa Bay Rays, who he called the “best-run organization in baseball.”

“When you have something that gets preached from the moment you get into the organization to the time you’re in the big leagues and you have full buy-in, that’s when you have a great franchise. That’s the sense that I got, actually, from the Mariners’ clubhouse,” Passan said. “That there’s some buy-in and that the process they have right now, like the advanced scouting stuff that I (wrote) about, especially on the hitting side, the way that the players talked about that, it was almost with reverence. It shows that some of these processes that they’re put into place are working.”

To hear the full segment with Passan, listen in the player embedded in this post or download the podcast version at this link.

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