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A better Mariners is possible
On the conflation of high expectations—high hopes?—and pessimism.
Everything is politics.
That’s what I say when people say they aren’t political. Or they don’t want to talk politics because we stumbled on a topic they perceive to be ancillary to traditional political discourse.
Everything is politics.
So you take growing fond of the Mariners during the early-aughts when they were among the best teams in the sport—and acted like it—with leftism first sipped on at a liberal arts school in Missoula, Montana and eventually chugged in 15+ years living in Seattle, and you get someone who wants a much better world.
Because it’s possible. But you have to want it. I don’t know if that’s enough to make it a reality—but you do have to want it.
How could you not?
So, your Seattle Mariners.
They’re fine. Nothing is fucked here, dude.
They’ve played some good teams and had some tough luck and will play today to win their second consecutive series—this one a potential tone-setter for the road trip and against a team that raised a National League pennant in this ballpark on Opening Day.
They’re not anywhere close to doomed. I’m not sure it’d be reasonable to say they’re even in tough shape. You wouldn’t say that of their opponent—who with a loss would be two games under—or almost anyone else on April 27th.
Almost anyone. Have you seen the White Sox? Holy hell.
There’s this thing going around where, if you express some level of frustration, it’s perceived as harsh judgement—a binding proclamation on the fortunes of the club. I had a tweet saying the Mariners falling five back of the Rangers would be “pretty bad” and it was labeled as panic.
The White Sox went 0-6 on a road trip to fall to 11 games under. They now play the Rays for four. Their title window, which believe it or not was open for 20 minutes not that long ago, can only be migrated if you’re Alex Mack.
There is panic. That would be panic.
Nobody thinks the Mariners are bad. Like I said, they’re not doomed.
But what some people are bumping up against is another crowd who have done that actual panic. And this ain’t that. They’ve done that actual panic in a season with much better odds for success than those White Sox. Not only is this not that, but I wouldn’t expect us to get there.
As we settle into the heart of the season, what this actually is does feel familiar. We’ve done this before.
As we stand now, they’re a good-not-great team that could go a long way with the right breaks. They could have the best season in franchise history with the right breaks. They could win it at all.
I wrote in my last post (11 days between is too long and that’s on me, y’all) that not much had changed since Opening Day, or the start of the offseason. And in the macro, that’s true now.
In the micro, a little less-so.
Robbie Ray’s done for the year. Kolten Wong might be done forever (he might not!) and, shocking as it may seem, Cooper Hummel was and is not the answer at the position literally titled designated hitter.
The first item there got the discourse going a bit yesterday morning as some longed for an alternate reality where the Mariners entered the season with better pitching depth.
The Mariners, of course, began 2023 with a starting corps comprised of a Cy Young contender, a recent Cy Young winner, two of the best young arms in ball and two more-than-serviceable number fives.
That’s pretty good! That’s the best one through six the Mariners have had in a long time. Maybe ever.
Here’s the catch though, the real kicker—they will let you have more good starting pitching. It’s allowed.
If you have a starting pitcher who didn’t crack your 90-win playoff roster last year, you don’t have to have him in your rotation to start a year where you’re gunning for a title. Even if you love him. Even if he goes on to show you he does deserve a rotation spot.
You can add elite talent and figure it out from there. You can trade one of your two maybe-he’s-a-solid-backend-dude for parts and replace him with someone significantly better while bumping the other to the bullpen.
Is that a little zany? Yeah. It sounds lavish as hell. Pure luxury. But they will let you live like that if you try to and pull it off.
The thing is, no team lives as they planned to live for very long. Shit happens. Robbie Ray getting 10 total outs on the year happens.
And when those things happen, it’d be nice to be living so luxuriously that the guy you’re counting on to step up is a guy who could—but not one you were always banking on to do it.
It cuts the other way, too.
Jarred Kelenic is playing like an MVP candidate. J.P. Crawford has a .390 OBP and hit a ball 424 feet last night. Folks can praise the front office for their patience and perseverance with these dudes and, hey, right there with you. Don’t give up on talent.
But these are the types of things—things you probably shouldn’t have been counting on, but did hope for—you want to take your ball club from 92 wins to 98 wins, or even 96 to 105. Not from 82 back to 90.
I want the Mariners to be great. I believe they can be great. But they have to want it, too.
When you see someone frustrated about this club, expressing it in one form or another, know it’s not because we believe them to be some awful outfit. Or that the season’s over.
We just want a parade, dude. And we want the organization to want a parade as much as us.
Maybe we disagree on the methods, fine. Maybe it’s better to have less talent than more or to “fail fast” with the likes of Hummel or Wong or La Stella or Flex.
There is no guaranteed road to 100 wins or a pennant—everyone is well aware. But you don’t have to choose a path as narrow as this one.
It can still be navigated. For sure. Not impossible.
But a better world is possible.
One where the 2023 Seattle Mariners are a great ball club.