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Now we go.
They can do this.
We’re not asking them to do anything they haven’t done.
Well, we are and we aren’t. The Seattle Mariners have never won an American League pennant. But they have done better than their talent level would indicate. They’ve been more than the sum of their parts, and the parts they have now are unlike the ones we’ve seen in almost a quarter-century.
They can do this. Whether or not they do—that’s what we’re going to spend seven months finding out.
There’s this dream—and admittedly, it is just a dream—that the Mariners will one day spend a season, or a few, with the prospect of American League primacy firmly within their grasp. The Postseason would be a certainty and something more would be barely worse than the flip of a coin.
They’d pair elite front office aptitude, manifested through drafting and development as good as anyone’s, with the rewards of residing in a burgeoning city among the wealthiest locales in the wealthiest country in the world.
They could be the Dodgers. Or the best version of the Lincecum-era Giants. Or the mid-2000s Cubs if the Ricketts weren’t trash.
That’s what stung so much about this offseason. If it ever were going to happen, if the powers that be were to ever be looking down at a pair of cards that’d necessitate pushing a chunk of a hefty pile of chips into the middle of the table, this would be that hand.
So if it isn’t happening now, maybe it isn’t happening ever. Maybe the boys gotta do it without the financial thump of a would-be world-class operation.
We’re not asking them to do anything they haven’t done.
This ball club’s won 90 games in back-to-back seasons when they had no business doing so. The 2022 Mariners—the most fun iteration of the M’s anyone has seen since Lou and Ichiro and Freddy and Bret—were ten games under in the back half of June.
They won 17 straight and played like one of the best teams in the sport all the way through that 18-inning affair the last time we were all out at TMo.
So now on Opening Day, with their playoff odds sitting ten points south of “More likely than not”—as low as they’ve been since that July winning streak had another 10 games in it—it isn’t all that difficult to imagine this team taking yet another step forward.
If there were a group to take a step that this franchise has never taken, this would be it.
I’ll be as clear as I can here, I believe Jerry Dipoto’s front office knows what the hell it’s doing. I’m biased, yes, as I got a window into its machinations that the dorky 20-something version of myself at LL could’ve never imagined—but I’ve always liked the way they think.
Andy McKay always said “People and process.” It’s not process and people.
And holly hell do the Mariners have some good people right now.
The first time I met Julio Rodríguez, he was 17 years old and coming in hot to the M’s’ High Performance Camp off an MVP campaign in the Dominican Summer League. It was for what would be his first-ever English interview, and I can’t remember if the Mariners player dev exec who was helping facillitate it said this before or after, but the way she so accurately captured Julio is something I’ll remember for as long as I can comprehend the game of baseball.
If someone would’ve told me then that we’d head into 2023 with him on the cover of every national publication with an MLB preview, I would’ve said “Yeah no shit, didn’t I say he was gonna be an MVP candidate someday when I got back up to Seattle?”
Julio is Julio.
This is an organization that’s had Junior and Edgar and ARod—and Julio could end up meaning more to this city than all of them. He’s that guy, he could take this team to the summit of a mountain they’ve barely scrambled the foothills of.
He can do that because, while this club’s entered a season with grand ambitions before, they haven’t done so with a roster quite like this.
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The pitching—oh the pitching.
Everyone always talks about how pitching is important, especially in the starting rotation. But you don’t appreciate the luxury it is until you’re a fan watching your team work their way through a season and, day after day, it’s a guy who can win you a ballgame. Most days, it’s a guy who will win you a ballgame.
The Guardians will get Luis, Robbie, Logan and Marco in a four-game set. George Kirby will set the tone for a three-gamer vs. the Angels.
You have a rock up top, a recent Cy Young winner (an extra tick or two for Robbie could be enormous for him and this club), two of the best young arms in the game and Marco as your prototypical #5 anchoring the back. The Zag has his detractors, but this guy was your ace not that long ago. They’ve upgraded nicely.
Though the lineup could use one more bat, it does already have quite a few.
Only a couple other teams have a potential seven- to eight- to ten-win monster like Julio, but you back that with veteran thumpers in Ty and Geno, Teo in a contract year and Cal Raleigh’s continued ascension.
Now, to get where they want to go, they’ll almost certainly need a once-heralded prospect to find his footing in the Majors and, hey, they’re due for that to work out once.
They’ll also have
one of A.J. Pollock, Tom Murphy or Cooper Hummel literally Tommy La Stella starting at designated hitter on Opening Day for a team with title aspirations—so it isn’t all rosy. They’re probably a piece away, but it’s better than being four pieces and a dozen lucky breaks away.
Still, as I mentioned up top, I trust that when the pieces are all put together, the complete picture will be better than the parts comprising it—and that’s in large part due to the dude at helm of this sloop.
Scott Servais is a good manager.
What does it mean to be a good manager? I mostly have no idea. Everyone mostly has no idea.
But if there’s one thing I know is the manager’s responsibility, it’s serving as caretaker of the vibes. Sure there are lineups and bullpen management and whatever else we can see, but baseball is a slog—it’s the sport most like a regular-ass 40-hour office job.
You gotta keep things steady, you gotta keep guys focused—but not too focused. You don’t have to always be the dude to set the vibes, but the state of them is your responsibility.
And Scott has always, but especially the last couple years, ensured the vibes are good.
They have the people—a combination of key acquisitions and homegrown blueblood talent. They have the culture they’ve long strived to build. And while they don’t have the resources many of us wish they had, that’s nothing new.
We’re not asking them to do anything they haven’t done before.
Besides win the pennant.