Moore: Why Mariners could make the playoffs in shortened 2020 season

Jun 23, 2020, 9:07 AM

Mariners Mallex Smith. J.P. Crawford...

Could the Mariners make the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2001? (Getty)


You know me, always trying to look at the bright side, attempting to find the good in everything. What? You’re not buying that? OK, you’re right, but I’m going to take a day off from the gloom since there’s no way a cloud can be hanging over my head when it’s 80 degrees. If it was raining today, I’d complain about the baseball owners and players being selfish, squabbling about cash. Instead, let’s look at the outrageous possibility that the Mariners could make the playoffs in a 60-game season.

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How outrageous is it? Not as completely out of the question if they played a 162-game season. Not as likely if they played a 70-game season, which is what the players wanted.

The shorter the season, the better their chances. If I was Mariners majority owner John Stanton, I would have proposed a one-game season and hope like heck that Marco Gonzales had a sensational start in the first and final game of the year. And then I’d take my chances of winning tie-breaker playoff games with the other 1-0 teams.

I know, this is a ludicrous post, but no more ludicrous than negotiations between the owners and players, who have lost more respect than money.

Think about it, if the Mariners are ever going to win a World Series, this is the year. To strengthen my case, I thought about last year’s team that started the year 13-2. The season did not end well, at 64-98, but I thought maybe they hung in there through 60 games at least.

Wrong. They were 25-35 after 60 games, going 12-33 after their 13-2 start. So I guess you could say that weakens my case.

But hopefully you’ll play along for a few more paragraphs. If not, thanks for reading this far, I’m doing my best to manufacture a somewhat plausible scenario that would end with a World Series parade down Fourth Avenue in which the Mariners would wave to no one because we’ll probably be back in Phase One again in October.

This was supposed to be a season where we watched the kids develop and saw things that made us feel like the Mariners could end their two-decade playoff drought in 2023. Or ‘24. Would you believe 2025?

They’re the only MLB team that has never made it to the World Series, and I would say I’ll probably be deader than a doornail when it happens, but I won’t because it’s sunny out.

Here are some of the flimsy reasons – besides the 60-game season – why it could happen this year.

• Many of the game’s best starters won’t be able to go seven innings until midway or late in the season. I get it, the Mariners will face the same issue, but if we’re talking four innings of Gonzales vs. four innings of Clayton Kershaw followed by a hodgepodge of relievers, doesn’t that level the playing field a bit?

• If I’m a kid on the Mariners, I’m thinking this is a half-baked season anyway. I wouldn’t feel any pressure to produce at all. If I do produce, great. If I don’t, I can blame it on how messed up this season was and write it off as an aberration. If I’m on the Dodgers or the Yankees or another club that was supposed to be a premier team this year, I’d feel differently. I’d be more worried about wondering if there would be an asterisk on my World Series ring since the season was so short. I told you these were flimsy reasons.

• Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez could play the entire season with the big-league team since there won’t be any minor-league teams. If they’re as good as they’re projected to be, maybe they’ll catch fire right away and remind us of Ken Griffey Jr. when he started his major-league career at 19 and help carry the Mariners to unprecedented heights.

• OK, this is terrible, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. Keep in mind, I don’t want athletes or anyone to be diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s bad karma. But more than likely, we’re going to hear about players who will get it and be forced into quarantine, perhaps even shelving entire teams for a two-week stretch in which their games would be forfeited or played with thrown-together minor leaguers who wouldn’t be able to compete against a major-league team.

There’s also the possibility that some of the star players on opposing teams will opt out of playing at all this summer. All of which increases the Mariners’ chances of making the playoffs.

But I can hear you, what if the Mariners are one of the teams that’s forced into quarantine? I’d say two things to that:

1) No one truly thought they were going to do much of anything this season anyway.

2) They could field their own version of a team with thrown-together minor leaguers, and if it were cloudy, I’d argue that that team wouldn’t be much of a downgrade from the one they’d be replacing.

So let’s see how this unique season plays out. If this were a normal 2020 season, the Mariners would be at the halfway point Tuesday night, playing the Rangers at T-Mobile Park in their 81st game. They’d probably be already out of it at 30-50 and 20 games behind the Astros in the AL West.

This year on the Fourth of July they’ll be 0-0 and tied with everyone else! And if the season starts in late July, no matter how bad they turn out to be, they’ll still be in a pennant race in August!

Point being, what’s the use in saying “wait until next year” when this is the year that offers a unique chance to shock the baseball world.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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