Fann: Emotionally preparing for 1st Mariners playoff series in 21 years
The Mariners wrapped up a 90-72 regular season on Wednesday, matching their exact record from a year ago. The difference, of course, is that this team is playoff bound, and will begin the Wild Card round on Friday in Toronto against the Blue Jays.
I, like many fellow Mariners fans I’m guessing, am not entirely sure what to expect the emotions will be when watching these games. Surely there will be anxiety, especially in a three-game series compared to a five- or seven-game series.
But after spending the regular season living and dying with every game in the desperate hope of seeing Seattle end its infamous playoff drought, I now feel liberated to a certain degree with that burden gone. This year’s Mariners team had to make the playoffs. Any result otherwise would have made this season a failure. That mission was accomplished, and now it feels like the Mariners are playing with house money.
Put simply, I feel this overwhelming sense of “just being happy to be here,” and I’m hoping that will help ease the anxiety of these next few days, allowing me to truly savor a moment that we’ve all waited so long to arrive. (It should go without saying that I hope the team doesn’t feel this at all, for they should believe they’re about to embark on a World Series run.)
The Mariners are a hefty underdog against Toronto and will be for as long as they remain in the postseason. That, in and of itself, alleviates some of the stress. So does the hope that this is just the beginning of a five-plus year stretch that features annual trips to the playoffs with each carrying greater expectations.
I’m not sure I’ll feel “just happy to be here” ever again, or at least not in the foreseeable future. This will be the only season where being a one-and-done playoff team would still signify a successful season.
There are still moments I’d love to see during this series: A home run from Mitch Haniger, a signature moment from Julio Rodríguez and Luis Castillo going toe-to-toe with Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah chief among them.
None of this means I don’t believe the Mariners can beat Toronto. I wholeheartedly think Seattle can pull off the upset. Damn near the entire lineup is a power threat, and I trust the bullpen in close games. Additionally, I want nothing more than to fly back to Seattle from Las Vegas and attend a game at T-Mobile Park in the ALDS. There’s no doubt every player in the Mariners’ clubhouse has dreamt about the atmosphere of a home playoff game, especially after experiencing the raucous scenes that followed Cal Raleigh’s playoff spot-clinching walk-off home run last Friday night.
And of course the second Manoah throws the first pitch on Friday, I’m sure all of this will go out the window, and I’ll be pacing as an anxious mess for all nine innings. But I’ll still make the effort to savor the moment all the same and understand that I’m grateful for this team and this season no matter the outcome in Toronto.