Photo courtesy of Ted S. Warren | AP Photo
I was six years old the last time the Seattle Mariners had made it to the promised land of Major League Baseball playoffs. I was still losing teeth, hitting growth spurts, and transitioning from first to second grade. The posters on my wall were of Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, and Dan Wilson. This team was set to be among one of the greatest to have hit the diamond as they tied the record for most wins in a single season with a 116-46 record.
After a nail-biting series with the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) and winning 3-2, the Mariners were sent off in a hurry in their series against the Yankees after a blow out 4-1 series loss in the AL Championship. Since then, there has been nothing but pain and sorrow in the Pacific Northwest. Multiple seasons of agony and turmoil. Consistently being the worst team in the AL West. We saw the rise of the Houston Astros into the now dominant franchise they are. We have seen the likes of Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez go on to have tremendous success at other ball clubs.
Seattle even had their own piece of royalty never get his taste of postseason glory with Felix Hernandez. The same Felix Hernandez who has the most recent Perfect Game pitched on August 15th, 2012. The ‘Kings Court’ hailed for our newfound royalty as he went from being one of the youngest prospects in MLB history to a 2010 Cy Young award winner. Yet, they still could not get the job done.
Since the last time the Mariners were in playoffs, their neighboring sports teams have had the excitement of seeing the confetti fall on the field and hoisting trophies overhead. The Seattle Seahawks saw their first Super Bowl victory in a dominating performance over the Denver Broncos. The Seattle Sounders were introduced into Major League Soccer in 2009 and have won every trophy a professional American soccer team can win. Even the Seattle Storm have won four championships. But something still felt lacking inside of T-Mobile Park.
The winds seem to be shifting in favor of the Seattle Mariners. After building a quality farm franchise and having multiple seasons of mediocrity, Manager Scott Servais, President of Baseball Operations Jerry DiPoto and company seem to have something special brewing with this ball club. There is a certain swagger and confidence about this team that, as a dedicated Mariners fan, I have not seen in decades.
They may not be the richest team or the most talented, but they have a certain appeal to them that is drawing the attention of many in the league. The personalities are big, and the bullpen is even bigger.
This Mariners team has the best mix of talent I have seen in a long time. You have players like J.P. Crawford and Jesse Winker. Guys who are known for contact and getting on base, but also known for a veteran presences in the dugout. You have up and comers like Julio Rodriguez, Sam Haggerty and Cal Raleigh. They were thought to be a welcomed energy but little did they know the impact they would have in the batters box and on the field. Then you have an extraordinary bullpen. Guys like Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, who may not be having a Cy Young season, but is still an ace, nonetheless. Recent pickup Luis Castillo who has been nothing short of dominance upon his arrival this summer. George Kirby, who was called up out of necessity and has not been sent back down because of acceptance and dominance.
The list could go on and on, but I should not have to. The Mariners are the most fun team in baseball this season and they will dance on you after winning a game against you to show it. The outfielders huddle and the infielders do the same. After showing how much better they were, they do a little jig, shake some hands, and walk away with a win on your own turf. Other teams are left wondering how they did it and the Mariners simply will not care.
Seattle fans can finally be excited about the Mariners with them holding the number one AL Wild Card spot over Tampa Bay and Toronto. Be hopeful and don’t be scared of the hope. In the wise words of fictional coach, Ted Lasso, “There’s a little phrase around here that I hear thrown around a lot…It’s the hope that kills you. ‘ Y’all know that? I disagree, you know? I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you.”
Be brave, be hopeful and be optimistic Mariners fan. If 27-year-old me is willing to hold on to the same hope six-year-old me had, you can have the same hope.