BRENT STECKER

Panicking about Seattle Mariners? So are fans of other MLB contenders

Apr 20, 2023, 4:43 PM | Updated: 9:26 pm

Seattle Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic watches a home run by the Brewers' Christian Yelich on April 18. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

“From postseason magic to a really bad start in 2023.”

“Fans seem to have had enough of the veteran and want him out.”

“Their bats are nowhere to be found, and it’s growing to be a concern.”

“They have been decimated by injuries.”

“One player is finding himself in the crosshairs of the fanbase’s angst.”

“A streaky, injury-prone team that needs a lot to go right to be competitive.”

If you’re a Seattle Mariners fan and those quotes are causing you to panic, I have good news for you: none of them are referring to the M’s, and they’re all from this week about MLB teams with playoff hopes in 2023.

I guess the Mariners don’t have the market cornered on early-season angst.

Now, Seattle’s 8-11 start is nothing to be proud of. This wasn’t the plan. But neither were the injuries that have sidelined Robbie Ray and Andrés Muñoz, taxing a pitching staff that was great in the Mariners’ back-to-back 90-win seasons in 2021 and 2022.

Dipoto’s Mariners Injury Updates: Muñoz, Moore, Ray and Haggerty

The Mariners’ lackluster offense is a big concern, with struggling veteran newcomers like Tommy La Stella and Kolten Wong seeming to represent to frustrated fans the embodiment of an offseason where they think Seattle didn’t spend enough to get better a season after breaking a two-decades-old playoff drought.

The worry that last season’s storybook run to the postseason will turn out to be a mirage and the team will return to its previous form as a year-in, year-out disappointment? Well, I can’t even entertain that one. That’s just silly and completely disconnected from the reality that the team has been heading in the right direction ever since it began a rebuild following the 2018 season.

These concerns, though, are things you may encounter if you poke around the circles of social media that Seattle Mariners fans inhabit. And they’re very similar to concerns that fans of at least six other teams around the league that either made the playoffs or came into 2023 hopeful of improving upon a .500 record are sharing in their own social media circles.

How do Seattle Mariners compare to contenders?

Let’s start with that first quote: “From postseason magic to a really bad start in 2023.”

That comes from an article posted on the 6abc Action News (Philadelphia) website about the Phillies. Yes, the same Phillies who reached the World Series last year. Well, they’re off to an 8-12 start after a big offseason where they signed superstar shortstop Trea Turner. Fun note about him: In a stat unearthed by Seattle Sports’ Brandon Gustafson, Turner has a 0.6 WAR this season, while Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford (who the Mariners coincidentally acquired from Philly prior to the 2019 season) has a 0.9 WAR right now. Bet you didn’t expect that.

On to No. 2: “Fans seem to have had enough of the veteran and want him out.”

Nope, that’s not about La Stella. That’s from a sportskeeda article about José Abreu, new first baseman for the defending World Series champion (and Seattle Mariners archenemy) Houston Astros. They’re off to a 9-10 start, and fans are none too pleased that he has a .605 OPS and hasn’t hit a home run since Aug. 4, 2022, when he was still with the Chicago White Sox.

This next one really sounds like it’s about the Mariners, but it’s actually from an SI.com article about their spring training complex-mates, the San Diego Padres: “Their bats are nowhere to be found, and it’s growing to be a concern among the team and their fans.”

You may recall that the Padres have been spending money left and right to turn their squad into a superteam, yet so far they’re only 9-11. It led to veteran Matt Carpenter to share this sentiment after a recent game: “We’ve gotten into a little funk as a group. … We’ve got some guys, myself included, that are maybe probably trying to do a little too much in some key spots and maybe not letting the game come to them. Just kind of going through one of those ruts.”

The team the Padres have been chasing for years in the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are up next in a CBS Sports post: “They have been decimated by injuries.”

The Dodgers are 10-10 and had to play All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts at shortstop upon his return from the paternity list on Wednesday just to make due. Imagine the reaction if the Mariners were in such bad shape they had to make Julio Rodríguez play the infield.

Going back to the maligned newcomer angle, here’s another sportskeeda article, this time about St. Louis Cardinals catcher Wilsson Contreras: “As the offense continues to struggle, one player is finding himself in the crosshairs of the fanbase’s angst.”

Contreras hit just .171 with no home runs in his first 12 games with the Cards, and while he’s rebounded in recent games, St. Louis comes to Seattle for a three-game set starting Friday with the same 8-11 record as the M’s.

Finally, we come to an SFGATE.com article on the 6-12 Giants: “A streaky, injury-prone team that needs a lot to go right to be competitive.”

The Giants went an even 81-81 last season, missing the playoffs, and they took their chances this offseason on a number of players with lengthy injury histories. That hasn’t gone well thus far, including with former Mariners slugger Mitch Haniger, who has yet to play this season due to an oblique strain.

Getting to the point

Alright, what does all of this mean exactly? Honestly, not a whole lot, which is the point. It’s April 20. We’re three weeks into the six-month MLB regular season. The Mariners have a lot of concerns, some holes to plug, and a sub-.500 record to correct. They also have a lot of time to do all of those things, just like all these other teams. Turns out it’s not that easy to build a lineup that is great from 1 through 9 at the jump of a new season.

Do you think the Phillies, Astros, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants will all miss the playoffs this year because of their slow starts? Doesn’t seem likely. And if you put yourself in the shoes of a fan of one of those teams, and you replace their team in that list with the Mariners, the answer to the question would still be “doesn’t seem likely.”

Games in April all count. So do injuries. But when it comes to how much this stretch of games matters, it’s no more than any other month of the baseball season. It just happens to be that with April coming first, the reaction to these games is so much more pronounced and overblown because there are no games from before to add context to the overall record. Simply put, an 8-11 stretch in the middle of the season is always met with much less concern than an 8-11 stretch at the beginning of a season.

So if you’re panicking about the Seattle Mariners right now, just know there are plenty of other fans around the league in the same position.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Is change needed? Dipoto addresses Mariners’ hitting struggles
Important development – the Mariners have a HR trident now
Where Mariners could look if they decide to trade for a bat
Passan: With big week, Jarred Kelenic displays his star potential
Seattle Mariners Check-In: Status report on offseason departures

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Panicking about Seattle Mariners? So are fans of other MLB contenders