Dooley: Believe in the Mariners — unlike in ’21, this isn’t just about hope

Jul 16, 2022, 4:53 PM | Updated: 7:05 pm

Mariners infield...

The Mariners infield reacts after beating the Toronto Blue Jays on July 7. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

As the Mariners continued to add to the tally of their incredible win streak this week, I found myself experiencing an unfamiliar feeling. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something I don’t recall feeling from watching the Mariners before.

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It wasn’t until the first game of the Rangers series that I realized what it was. It was the refreshing feeling of having confidence in this team.

The Mariners arrived in Texas early Thursday morning after a doubleheader in D.C. and got off to a shaky start, with Marco Gonzales giving up four runs in the first two innings. It would be completely understandable if they just had an off day and dropped that game, but I fully expected them to rally and win it – and lo and behold, they did.

That’s the difference between the 2021 Mariners and the 2022 Mariners.

Last year’s slogan during their improbable run to 90 wins was “Believe,” and believe we did. But belief can be rooted in many different things. I would argue that our belief in last year’s squad stemmed from a place of hope. There was something magical about the scrappy squad battling for the last American League wild card spot all the way until the final series despite a minus-51 run differential.

Statistics couldn’t explain the run they went on, but night after night they managed to pull off these nail-biter victories. When fans were asked to “Believe,” it felt like being invited to be a part of that magic, almost as if we were being asked by Peter Pan to believe in Tinkerbell to sustain her very existence. If we root hard enough, maybe we can will this team beyond their capabilities.

Unfortunately, it was not quite the M’s time, and the Red Sox ended up clinching that final wild card.

This year is something entirely different.

Sure, it took a while to get there. In May and early June, it looked like the expectations for the 2022 Mariners had been set too high. My, what a difference a month can make!

Now the Mariners are on a 13-game win streak, have moved into the second AL wild card spot, are posting a plus-32 run differential, and have been getting incredible consistency from their starting rotation and bullpen.

This is a team that you can believe in. And not the kind of belief rooted in optimism and hope, but the kind of belief rooted in confidence and conviction.

I understand why that is a scary proposition for fans who feel that they have repeatedly been burned when giving their hearts to this team in the past. I think there was probably something that felt safer for many about investing in the 2021 Mariners. They weren’t supposed to be good anyway, so if they didn’t make the playoffs, it’s what we expected. But if they did, it would be a bonus. That’s not the case right now.

The stakes are higher. The Mariners will head into the All-Star break as contenders with Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger set to return soon and a chance to add at the trade deadline. They are beginning to emerge from the rebuild looking like the team we’ve been waiting for.

Can you believe it?

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