Drayer: Mariners go into 2020 as last MLB team to not reach World Series
And then there was one.
When the Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night to sweep the NLCS and advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, it left the Mariners as the only remaining MLB team to never have checked that box.
It has been a remarkable postseason run for the Nationals, who prior to this year had yet to win a playoff series in their 51-year franchise history, let alone win the National League pennant. Coming into the league originally as the Montreal Expos in 1969, the team made just one postseason appearance before being relocated to Washington, D.C. prior to the 2005 season. Since then, the Nationals have been eliminated in four division series, most recently by the Cubs 3-2 in 2017.
Mariners fans no doubt would have happily taken any of the Nationals’ recent division series failures. Seattle is the midst of a well-chronicled 18-year playoff drought, the longest current stream in major North American professional sports. The Mariners do, however, have plenty of company in other leagues that have failed to make it to a finals series or game. Four NFL teams (Browns, Jaguars, Lions and Texans) have never advanced to the Super Bowl, six NBA teams have never made the Finals (Nuggets, Clippers, Hornets, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Pelicans) and four NHL teams (Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Wild and Jets) have never played for the Stanley Cup.
While the playoff drought has been painful, when it came to setting the path for 2019 and beyond, Mariners upper-management chose to forgo the shot at a wild card in 2019, instead tearing down in an attempt to build a model that would sustain winning in the future. Adding two players to the 2018 roster in hopes of grabbing a wild card spot was on the table following that season, but the choice was made to get younger. With no shot at winning the American League West against the 107-55 Astros and the AL’s wild card teams winning 96 and 97 games, respectively, it is clear the Mariners made the right decision – and did so while shedding the massive contract of Robinson Canó, too.
With year one of the “step back” in the books, the clock is ticking on the Mariners’ current plan. The postseason drought will need to be broken in the not-too-distant future for the plan to be deemed a success. At that point, perhaps a World Series becomes less a dream and more a realistic goal.