Grey Area: Mariners’ disappointing stretch overshadows positive strides

Sep 26, 2014, 10:04 AM | Updated: 10:08 am
Austin Jackson and the rest of the Mariners’ trade-deadline acquisitions have underperformed....
Austin Jackson and the rest of the Mariners' trade-deadline acquisitions have underperformed. (AP)
(AP)

There will be a time for Mariners fans to look back at the 2014 season in many positive ways. The successful addition of Robinson Cano, the All-Star growth of Kyle Seager, the second-half improvement of Dustin Ackley and meaningful baseball in September are just a few of the stories for scrap book.

But that time is not right now.

Right now the Mariners are floundering during a stretch of the most important games that they’ve played in a decade and are clinging to tiebreaker mathematics that seem unlikely at best. Worse still, the two teams that the M’s are “competing” with for their playoff lives have done next to nothing with their own opportunities and have kept the door open wide for the M’s to do something. Just a handful of wins at any point in September could have changed the fortunes of this team and started a postseason party at Safeco that fans have waited so many years for.

With the prize so very close at hand, there’s nothing right now but disappointment.

While some would make the case that even being disappointed this late in the year represents a positive change in the fortunes of Mariners fans, it can’t be seen as such. Meaningful baseball and a wild-card chase might be progress when viewed against the expectations that were held in April, but this team was good enough to change that expectation along the way. They just haven’t been good enough to live up to them.

Do you remember the point of the season where your expectations for this team changed? I pinpoint mine to the trade deadline and the deals that brought Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia to town. None of those guys, or even all of those guys, were going to set the world on fire, but here were the Mariners making moves and bringing in pieces to help them right away while sacrificing nothing from their everyday lineup.

At that point in the season the Mariners were good enough to compete, and then they went and got better. For me, that was the moment that the expectations changed. Elite pitching, some increased offense, veteran players, improved outfield defense and all for the cost of players that may have never played regularly at Safeco. The team was ready to compete for a spot, and for most of the rest of the season the Mariners did just that.

But then the last half of September came and the starting pitching — all at once — suddenly faltered. One by one the starting five suffered injuries or bad starts, and the weaknesses of the offense were exposed. It all culminated in Toronto and the disastrous fifth inning that found Felix Hernandez walking away from tying a career-worst of eight earned runs and taking virtually all of the remaining air out of the Mariners balloon. Watching The King have that kind of performance wasn’t just disappointing, it was sad. Hernandez has suffered too long with too little support to have his first big time shot in late September end that way. If you believe in the Baseball Gods, then you must acknowledge that they are both cruel and unfair.

So for now it’s just disappointment and three remaining home games against the Angels for Mariners fans. With the Seahawks on the bye I can only imagine what could have been with a playoff lead to protect or even just the fate of the team in its own hands. This team did so much to turn around attitudes — theirs and ours — and to see it come down to tiebreakers and hoping for losing streaks in Oakland and Kansas City just doesn’t do the season justice. There will be a time to acknowledge all the good that came of the 2014 Mariners season, just not now.

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Grey Area: Mariners’ disappointing stretch overshadows positive strides