Passan on Mariners: Playoff chances, bright future, Ohtani

Jul 6, 2023, 1:57 PM

Seattle Mariners Logan Gilbert George Kirby...

George Kirby and Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners talk before a game on Sept. 27, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The start of the 2023 season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the Seattle Mariners.

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After back-to-back 90-win seasons and the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2001, expectations were high for Seattle entering this year.

But the M’s have found themselves hovering right around .500, and as things currently stand, the Mariners are five games back with three teams between them and the third American League Wild Card spot – four if you count the team actually holding the position.

The Mariners have shown recent signs of righting the ship, winning back-to-back series against the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants, two winning teams and, in the Rays’ case, the best team in the American League, if not all of baseball.

But can Seattle realistically still make a playoff run? ESPN’s Jeff Passan discussed that and much more during a Wednesday interview with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“Here’s the thing: Right now, they have to jump over the Orioles – not happening – the Astros – not happening – and the Yankees, which is not going to be an easy thing to do,” Passan said. “And then beyond that, the Blue Jays are … ahead of them, the Angels are still ahead of them, the Red Sox still ahead of them. Between the Yankees and the Blue Jays, that is a formidable duo.”

The hope for the Mariners, Passan said, is the American League East beats up on each other and the M’s can “back their way in.” That’s easier said than done.

“But it’s not like the AL West is bad. I mean, (Seattle is) in fourth place in the AL West right now. It’s a good division,” Passan said. “Texas might be the best team in the AL, Houston has been playing great baseball lately and somehow they have patched their rotation together and look a lot like the world champions of last year.”

“This is not going to be easy for the Mariners,” Passan later added. “I’m not saying that they can’t do it, I just think at this point they’ve dug themselves such a big hole that getting out of it is going to be tough. They’re going to need a streak – maybe not the same (14-game winning streak) as last year, but there’s going to need to be a time when they win the 10 out of 12 games, 13 out of 16 or something like that where they really make a run here soon. Because if they don’t then they’re not going to have the incentive to go and make that big move at the deadline that they might otherwise.”

And if the Mariners are to make a run, Passan thinks it will be thanks to one thing in particular.

“I think it’s got the pitching for that, yeah,” he said. “The offense needs to keep up. I think when you have starting pitching like the Mariners do – especially if Bryce Miller is coming back (from his blister injury) – then there’s a puncher’s chance.”

The Seattle Mariners’ future and Shohei Ohtani

As Passan outlined, the Mariners face an uphill battle when it comes to returning to the playoffs in 2023. But even if they miss out on the postseason this year, Passan remains bullish on the M’s moving forward.

“The fact that the Mariners have three All-Stars … it’s why as depressing at times as this year has been for Mariners fans, don’t lose sight of the fact that the future for this team remains bright. And when you have an array of young talent like they do and a pitching staff like they do, they’re going to be fine,” Passan said. “In the long-term, they’re going to – as long as (Mariners chairman) John Stanton is on board with this – they’re going to address the weaknesses that they have.

“They’re going to be in the Shohei Ohtani derby and they’re going to be a good team going forward. I have not lost my faith in that despite the difficult start that they’ve had.”

Listen to Passan’s full conversation with Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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Passan on Mariners: Playoff chances, bright future, Ohtani