Drayer: Mariners, still alive in playoff race, setting up a lot to look forward to
This month, it has often been tempting to do the look forward as the season winds down. It’s what you do in September when you cover the Mariners.
Time to put the season that has largely petered out to bed early to take a look ahead at what will hopefully be a more promising season the following year.
This year, there has been a playoff chase to follow – and deservedly spotlight – and while we are now in near-miracle territory as far as the team making the postseason, it has not felt comfortable to move to the look-ahead phase.
There will be plenty of offseason – or what this winter will more likely be the “not-so-offseason” – to dissect what we saw and look forward. And with that all becoming even more clear in the last week of play, there should be much to look forward to with baseball in Seattle in the not-too-distant future.
Breaking through the fog of so many possibilities for the Mariners on the near-horizon has come the realization that landing the 2023 MLB All-Star Game will turn out to be more than just a nice honor for the Mariners and the city of Seattle. The impact of the news was perhaps muted a bit by word finding its way to ESPN’s Jeff Passan two days early, but at the official press conference to announce the awarding of the game last Thursday, the pomp and circumstance that greeted those who came through the Space Needle elevator doors at the Skyline level left no mistake: this is a big deal.
There is a reason the All-Star Game is categorized as one of the “jewel events” in baseball, and to see the logos on the screen behind the podium brought back memories of how those logos were everywhere when the game took over the city for a week in July 2001. With the marketing came excitement. The eyes of baseball will be on Seattle that week, and that week is coming up much quicker than likely expected.
All-Star Games are typically awarded years in advance, but for the Mariners the reality is just over a year away as the impact will be seen and felt at the start of the 2023 season. When the team arrives home from spring training in 17 months, there will be no mistaking that they play in the city and building that will host the Midsummer Classic.
Will an MLB run-through of sorts in Seattle have taken place the previous fall in the form of postseason games? That certainly is the hope of the organization and fans, and that’s what inspires the desire to look ahead. Whetting the appetite further is what we have seen from Mariners rookies Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert in September.
Regardless of where the club finishes, the biggest measure of success with this team will come in the progression of young, key players. Kelenic did not burst on the scene and become an immediate superstar. Gilbert surprisingly has been in the process of making big changes while being called upon to help in the big league rotation. Both seem to be hitting an encouraging stride, but like the Mariners’ season itself, every game is precious at this point. The evaluations will have to wait until every batter is faced and swing made.
The temptation to look ahead remains, but there should be but one focus the final two weeks. Odds are stacked heavily against the Mariners that the reward for this season will be additional games, and if that is indeed the case and the season ends Oct. 3 with a Sunday afternoon game against the Angels at T-Mobile Park, the secondary prize will be the start of what should be a most interesting and intriguing offseason that could lead to the Mariners generating their own excitement before the arrival of the All-Star Game.