Drayer: As young Mariners pass milestone, how will they handle the full 162-game season?
Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, the Mariners did something they did not do in 2020. They played a 61st game.
That point seemed significant on a number of levels, so it was tossed around during the pregame show on 710 ESPN Seattle before the series finale against the Angels.
“With every game starting today, it means we push 2020 farther back in our memories,” said Rick Rizzs, the longtime voice of the Mariners. “There was no minor league season, there were no fans in the stands, but now, when the team comes back (to Seattle for a homestand) on June 14, we can put as many as 31,000 fans in the ballpark and we can watch the kids all season long, and it reminds us that we can get to game 162. We are getting closer to normalcy, and for me, that’s what game number 61 means.”
While things might feel back to normal in terms of baseball for most, ROOT Sports analyst and former MLB player Mike Blowers pointed out that the young Mariners players will be venturing into uncharted territory as the season continues.
“When you think about this club, Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger, Tom Murphy and Dylan Moore are the only hitters to have gone through a major league 162-game schedule,” he said. “All the rest of these guys are going to go through it for the first time and that’s a difficult thing and that’s a valuable thing, because you know what? Come August, they call it the dog days for a reason. You’re tired physically and mentally and you have to find a way to fight through it.
“By the end of the year, you don’t even remember how many injuries you had to play through. That’s part of the process of being an everyday player at the major league level. It’s something they are going to have to go through, there’s only one way to know and that is to go through it.”
Blowers cautions that the grind of a 162-game season might not be kind to some of these young players.
“A lot of these guys are going to struggle late in the season and I am expecting that to happen, but that is part of the process,” he said, noting that the pressure will be turned up as the summer goes on with bigger crowds at the park and teams starting to separate from the pack. “When you get into late August and September, playing teams that are going to get into the postseason, it’s different. But those are experiences they have to go through, and at times unfortunately it’s going to be painful, but that is part of the process.”
The changes coming up as the season wears on could catch those who only have the experience of the shorter 2020 season by surprise. August and September baseball is different, and if you haven’t been there, you don’t know.
“My first go-through where I was at the major league level for the entire season, when I started the year I weighed 210 pounds,” said Blowers. “By the time it was over I was 192 and I was mentally just done, but that prepared me going into the winter what I needed to do physically and when I went into spring training how to handle myself a bit better.”
For the Mariners to have played near-.500 baseball into June despite the injuries they have endured, Blowers sees the team in a good spot regarding development, with plenty more that can be accomplished in the coming months.
“I think they have done a pretty nice job competing,” he said. “If you had told me 60 games into it that this is where they were going to be, I would take it. And that’s before I even considered the amount of injuries that they have had. I don’t know what the record is going to be at the end of the year, that’s not the most important thing to me right now, but be competitive as the season moves on and see fewer and fewer mistakes. To have these games is so valuable to the process.”