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The Mariners are playing for more than they have in a long time
Pennant race baseball returns to Seattle.
This season marks the Seattle Mariners’ 47th year of existence. They have made the playoffs six times. They’ve made the Postseason in back-to-back seasons only once. They haven’t hung a division banner in 22 years.
Now, out of nowhere—they’re playing to raise one.
I know there are many people whose Mariners fandom stretches back far beyond my own, but time is a fickle thing. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I moved to Seattle in the fall of 1999. Moving across the country serves as quite the dividing line, but so too does a new millennium and a new ballpark.
For a long time, that’s felt recent. But a quarter-century can sneak up on you.
That’s close to how long I’ve been an M’s fan. That’s close to how long since it’s been since the Mariners have been in the position they’re in now.
In those first four seasons, they were competing for the division in September three times—with one, of course, being the 116-win boat race that wasn’t much of a competition.
The 2003 campaign, two decades ago, was the last time they entered September within two games of the AL West lead. That year, they never got any closer.
I struggle then to describe this, to compare it to any past season—because there isn’t an apt comparison, and definitely not one in my own memory.
People will jump to 1995, some because they experienced it and others because of the stories they heard. As painful as it is to contemplate, for mortality reasons, that magical run is more and more escaping the living memory of this Mariner fan base.
If you moved to Seattle since the dot com bubble, you don’t know that team. If you’re in college now as a lifelong Mariners fan, you don’t know that team. You could have children of your own you’re raising to be M’s fans and if you’re under the age of 35 or so, you don’t know that team.
Alright, you probably get it.
Subscribe and get everything for free or go paid to buy me a $5 High Life at the ballpark.
So what is this like? How does this feel?
When I worked for the M’s, I had a colleague say that, in all of sports, there’s nothing like a pennant race and the hold it takes on a city and region. Every day, every night—a new development.
“You see the ballgame last night?”
“You going this weekend?”
“See what happened with Texas? And Houston?!”
It is Friday afternoon and I am so damn excited to go to the game tonight. The first thing my wife said to me this morning was “You excited for tonight’s game???”
It is the biggest part of every day. And it is, right now, so fucking fun.
So you just settle in, you appreciate it, you be present in it. So much of life is mindfulness—and it’s a whole lot better when you pause to be mindful about your team chasing down a pennant than, like, a Zoom call you’re supposed to be paying attention to.
(Like I’ve said, I write these posts as much for me as I do for you.)
Aside from enjoying the enjoyment, chasing down a pennant, hanging a banner from the rafters would mean something big. It’d mean this—all this—it worked.
I’ll always wish the Mariners and their front office folks had more resources to operate with and, barring a parade downtown, will wonder the impact those could’ve had on this year’s club.
But a division title is a division title.
It’s validation that, over the course of the regular season, you weren’t only good—but great.
It’s validation for years of building a culture, building programs and building a team that can contend for a title, even if it may not be this era of Mariners Baseball’s best club yet.
There’s a reason you hang that banner—because it’s something to be proud of. Especially when you haven’t seen one in a long, long time.
Beyond what it signifies in the longterm, both retroactively and moving forward, it’d means a whole hell of a lot for 2023’s final chapter.
There’s no guarantee the Mariners even make the Postseason, but if they do by winning the division, they’ll jump to the ALDS with the opportunity to line up the game’s best starting rotation just the way they want it.
And if they get that far, if they manage thread the needle on balancing the workload of Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo without a trade deadline addition or going six-man (RIP, Emerson), all of a sudden another potential question mark—having enough guys in the bullpen with swing-and-miss stuff—is answered by those very dudes.
They win the division, and everything is stacked in their favor to move to the ALCS.
Then, whatever, let it ride.
But boy we’ve got a long way to go. There will be times when it feels like the season might be over. There will be times when it feels like this might be in the bag.
Come Friday, September 22nd, we will have ten consecutive days of the most stressful regular season baseball this city has ever seen.
Three in Arlington, three vs. the Astros, a four-game final series vs. the Rangers.
Best-case scenario going into that they’re up, what, two or three games? Like, provided an absolute dream run before then, that’s as good as it’ll get.
Yeah, it’ll all come down to that.
Just, what a world. I don’t know what that will be like. I don’t know what the coming few weeks before it will be like. Hell, I don’t have a great sense for what tonight will be like, scoreboard-watching two games on the left field board with 40,000 other Mariners-drunk nutjobs.
And maybe, just maybe, the night ends with moving that Mariners flag to the far left up on the roof tracks.
It’s going to be joyous. It’s going to be a nightmare.
But this is baseball. This is the best of baseball.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s go win the West.