Stecker’s 3 Things: Were hats the reason for Mariners’ bad luck?
The Mariners head to Philadelphia for a two-game interleague series, and a sweep could put Seattle at .500 for the first time this season. Here are three things to keep in mind this week about the 15-17 Mariners.
1. The Jean Genie.
Jean Machi might be the Mariners player who closest resembles a genie, but the Mariners’ true Jean Genie is shortstop Jean Segura, who seems to have no problem answering the team’s wishes for a constant on-base threat. The 27-year-old Dominican native picked up where he left off when he returned from a short stint on the disabled list, and where he left off looked a whole lot like last season when he led the National League in hits as a member of the Diamondbacks. He’s also been reminding people that while Mitch Haniger came over in the same trade with Segura and initially took Seattle by storm, it was Segura who was considered the biggest piece of that transaction. The Mariners’ offense has looked great with Segura hitting leadoff, a spot that has been unsettled since Ichiro Suzuki played his last game for Seattle nearly five years ago. Segura’s .368/.409/.517 slash-line looks mighty good atop the lineup – and his .481/.548/.630 line in six games in May even better. You have to wonder if general manager Jerry Dipoto is already trying to lock him down in Seattle past his current deal that ends after the 2018 season.
2. Starting rotation holding it together.
Something interesting happened last Friday after James Paxton, hands down Seattle’s best pitcher this year, joined Drew Smyly and Felix Hernandez on the disabled list: The sky didn’t fall. Sure, the Mariners lost that night in 13 innings, but it was no fault of starter Yovani Gallardo, who allowed just one run in six frames. That was the beginning of a huge weekend for Seattle’s less-heralded starting pitchers against the Rangers. Chase De Jong, all of 23 years old, looked like an entirely different pitcher from his first start for the M’s to beat the Rangers on Saturday. He pitched like a wily veteran in the 8-2 victory, using good command to hold Texas to one run on four hits and no walks over six innings. On Sunday, Dillon Overton and Christian Bergman, who like De Jong would both be in Triple-A if the Mariners were closer to full strength, combined for seven innings of three-run ball, only two of which were earned. Even before the Texas series, the Mariners got a stellar start from Ariel Miranda, who went seven innings for the second time this season, to beat the Angels on Thursday. With three-fifths of the preferred starting rotation out of action and Hisashi Iwakuma still day-to-day after taking a ball off his knee in his last start, those performances from back-end and depth rotation pieces are great news for a team inching its way to .500.
3. Very superstitious.
Baseball is a superstitious game, so there’s some room to talk about luck. As it pertains to the Mariners in 2017, to paraphrase Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign,” if it wasn’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all. How else could you describe a team that has seen its longtime ace, two of its key offseason acquisitions, its best pitcher and best hitter all hit the DL in the first quarter of the season? Or how about the truly bizarre sequence on Friday in which two separate relief pitchers had to leave a game due to injury over the course of three pitches. Well, there might be a perfectly explainable reason for the seemingly unexplainable – their spring training hats.
— Mariners (@Mariners) February 3, 2017
Yes, they are sharp-looking hats, and they’ve been very popular among the fanbase as a result. But they also feature a variation of the upside-down trident logo that the franchise used from its inception in 1977 through 1986, something that was dropped for an interesting reason. In Greek mythology, the upside-down trident is a symbol of bad luck, and the Mariners’ early history would support that. During the time that the Mariners used a trident logo on their official uniforms, they never made the playoffs. In fact, in those first 10 seasons, the M’s lost more than 100 games three times. Their best record was 76-86, for a .469 winning percentage in 1982. What happened after the logo was changed? Well, the very first season in 1987 produced a 78-86 record – a franchise-best at that point. The Mariners then broke .500 for the first time in 1991. In 1995 came an American League West title, a trip to the playoffs and a postseason series victory – all firsts. In 2001, the M’s tied the MLB record for wins in a single season. Absent in those years, save for some throwback games, was the trident logo. I know this leaves out a lot of bad seasons from the current 15-year playoff drought unexplained, but luck can’t account for everything – if it accounts for anything at all. But looking over all the injuries and inconsistencies this talented Mariners team has dealt with during its slow start to 2017, maybe throwing some blame on hats the team wore for six weeks in spring training isn’t all that off-base. And maybe since April 1 marked the last time they would wear those hats this year, the bad luck could soon run out. At the very least, I bet you’re kind of curious what logo the Mariners will use on next year’s spring training hats.