Mariners’ McKay: M’s aren’t hot — they’re showing glimpse of ‘true ability’
The Mariners ended the month of June on an 11-4 tear, and with two more wins to start July are continuing their run as one of the better teams in baseball over the last few weeks.
While that may come as a surprise to some given Seattle’s status as a young and rebuilding franchise, it’s not a surprise to many in the organization, including Mariners director of player development Andy McKay. Friday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy, McKay discussed what the club has been doing on the field of late.
“You know, honestly I’m not really (surprised by the recent success),” he said. “We believe in our players and we believe in our process.”
That process appears to be paying dividends as the Mariners (44-39) suddenly find themselves five games over .500 and 3.5 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot.
These surging Mariners have dealt with plenty of adversity over the last two years, and McKay is excited to see things coming together on the field.
“Things have gone well so far, but beneath the surface, we’ve always believed in what we’re doing,” he said. “Even through the COVID layoff, which obviously threw us a big curveball, and the number of injuries we’ve had this year, we have felt very confident in what we’re doing and that it was going to lead to some sustainable success, and hopefully we’re beginning to see the beginnings of that.”
Due to the Mariners’ winning ways of late, that may cause some to label them as “hot” or “on fire.” McKay doesn’t think that’s an accurate representation of how Seattle is playing.
“I always try to push back on that a bit because I think what you’re seeing is our collective ability coming together,” McKay said. “And this is what happens when players play for something bigger than themselves and eliminate distractions. So really what you’re seeing is a glimpse of our true ability. I don’t believe it’s a hot streak. It’s us playing up to our ability level to some extent.”
What makes the Mariners’ great play of late all the more impressive is that some of the young players who were expected to be contributors at this point of the 2021 season and also be key building blocks for the organization going forward aren’t playing right now.
“You’re seeing it with a lot of different people and you’re seeing it with us missing some names, like Kyle Lewis being hurt and Evan White being hurt and Jarred Kelenic being back in Tacoma,” McKay said. “I think all along throughout this process of trying to build a sustainable winner, the focus has always been on the young core coming up, which I certainly think has some value and some merit to it. But you can’t forget about a (veteran like) Mitch Haniger and what he’s capable of doing and what he’s been doing. He’s an All-Star-level. Or what Marco (Gonzales) brings to the team. So you do have this mix of these older-type players who have some experience and they’ve had some success at that level that are also there and are a big part of this.”
McKay also believes that this 2021 Mariners team is showcasing another element of Seattle’s ability to develop talent.
“When you think about player development, sometimes there’s a bit of a misconception of (thinking) player development is a minor league thing and that’s not the case,” McKay said. “Our players have continued to get better at the major league level and that player development concept is just as prevalent at the major league level as in Modesto or Arkansas or Tacoma or Everett.”
McKay pointed to two of Seattle’s best players in 2021 to prove his point.
“You’ve seen the evolution of Yusei Kikuchi at the major league level. You’ve seen the evolution of J.P. Crawford at the major league level,” he said. “So the development of these players, it just hasn’t stopped and it will continue.”
You can listen to the full interview with McKay from 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy in the podcast at this link or in the player below.