ESPN’s Jeff Passan: ‘This is just the beginning’ for ‘really tough’ Mariners

Oct 1, 2021, 11:45 AM
J.P. Crawford #3 and Abraham Toro #13 of the Seattle Mariners hug after a 13-4 win against the Oakland Athletics. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

With just three games remaining in the 2021 regular season, the Mariners are tied with the Boston Red Sox for the second American League wild card spot. How about that?

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By now you’ve likely seen the team’s rallying cry of “Believe,” taken from manager Scott Servais’ favorite TV Show “Ted Lasso.”

Well this team, which is one win away from 90 on the year, certainly believes in itself. And ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan is believing in these Mariners, too.

Passan joined Mike Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Mike Salk Show to talk about what he’s seeing from the Mariners and the rest of the wild card contenders.

While Passan is believing in the Mariners along with many other baseball observers, he admitted that it takes more than belief to become a playoff team.

“You can believe in yourself and just not have the talent, right?” he said. “But I think once you start recognizing that there is some talent to back up this idea of belief, there’s a fundamental change in the attitude there and you start buying into things you didn’t think were realistic before.”

The Mariners certainly have the talent coupled with belief in themselves and one another, but Passan said they also have one key trait that’s difficult to read in sports.

“This Mariners team is incredible because it’s just really tough,” he said. “Toughness is a difficult thing to measure, Mike. We’ve seen that throughout all sports. I (dare) someone who has seen this team to say they are not tough as nails and that it’s not really, really, really impressive what they’re doing.”

So what does Passan think of the other three AL wild card contenders? He shared some quick thoughts on the Red Sox, New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays.

First, let’s start with the Yankees, who hold that top wild card spot.

“I think the Yankees are going to win the first wild card,” Passan said. “I think that they’re the best team (of the four), I think that they’ve got the advantage, I think it is theirs to lose at this point.”

Next up are the Red Sox, who dropped two of three to the Baltimore Orioles and are now tied with the Mariners.

“They should have wrapped this thing up so long ago,” Passan said of Boston. “I don’t understand how they’ve kicked the can down the road to this point and allowed the Mariners and Blue Jays to get back in it.”

And lastly, the Blue Jays, who are one game back of Seattle and Boston.

“The Blue Jays (facing) the Orioles, they seemingly or theoretically have the easiest team that they’re going to be playing,” Passan said.

But none of those three teams are playing as well as the Mariners are. Seattle has won 11 of its last 13 ballgames.

“Doesn’t the momentum feel like it’s with the Mariners right now?” Passan said. “Oddly enough despite those three things that I just said, despite those three teams that I went over. I don’t think it’s just a local thing in Seattle. I think people around baseball feel like the Mariners have a really, really good shot at this, or at least forcing the chaos scenario.”

The chaos scenario is, well, chaotic.

If the Mariners, Red Sox and Blue Jays all end with the same record, things get very interesting.

The Red Sox would have first pick of being Team A, B or C, due to tiebreakers, followed by the Mariners and then the Blue Jays.

Team A would host Team B in a game for the right to face Team C, who would have a “bye” before hitting the road to face the winner. The winner of that game would then face the Yankees in New York in the actual wild card game.

Passan broke down why that puts the Red Sox in a very interesting position.

“If the Red Sox choose Team C, that means the Mariners will be hosting game 163 with Toronto in Seattle at T-Mobile,” he said. “And if the Mariners win that game, then Boston has to travel all the way across the country … to play the next day. So do the Red Sox (instead) choose to be Team A and try to win two games at home instead? There are a lot of different permutations to this. The right thing to do is to take the one game on the road because it’s a lot easier to win one game than win two and it’s a lot better and makes much more sense to not tax your bullpen before the wild card game. But it’s one of those things where if you feel like that travel is going to be so problematic, maybe (the Red Sox do) choose to be Team A.”

(For a full breakdown of the potential chaos, check this story out.)

Passan did admit that he was a little disappointed in the attendance during the Mariners’ three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, but when he heard from Salk that the team expects well over 30,000 for the team’s three games against the Los Angeles Angels, he perked up.

“It should be. Because this is fun. This is what sports is about,” Passan said. “It’s about seeing guys like Jarred Kelenic turn into something when it looked for a while like he was going to be a bust. He’s not. Julio Rodríguez isn’t, Logan Gilbert isn’t, George Kirby isn’t. The fun part, guys, is this is just the beginning. There is much, much more of this to come.”

Listen to the full interview at this link or in the player below.

Believe it — Mariners just moved into a tie for AL’s second wild card

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan: ‘This is just the beginning’ for ‘really tough’ Mariners