They have to go for it.
Doesn’t matter that they came into Monday night’s game with a minus-52 run differential and a 23-8 record in one-run contests.
Doesn’t matter that Lady Luck has been on their payroll for the first four months of the season, gifting them wins via walk-offs and wild pitches.
With the July 30 MLB trade deadline looming, questioning the sustainability of this season’s success is out of the question for the Mariners’ front office. The fact is that the M’s have a chance to end their 20-year playoff drought — and might not get this chance again anytime soon.
The long-suffering Mariners (54-46) took three of four games from the A’s last weekend to move to 1.5 games out of the American League’s second wild-card spot. It’s a position that would have seemed farfetched six weeks ago, when they were 34-36.
Due to the nature of Seattle’s wins, fangraphs.com’s formula still gives them just a 5.2% chance to reach the postseason — a percentage lower than three American League teams with worse records. But who cares? Given their place in the standings — fortunate as it may seem — the M’s have to be aggressive at the trade deadline.
They have to go for it, because they have a responsibility to their fans. For two decades the Mariners’ die-hards have watched the team fritter away chances to advance to the playoffs.
For years the King’s Court would whoop for Felix Hernandez near the left-field foul pole but never saw him get to a 163rd game. Fans have endured a roster teardown by seventh-year general manager Jerry Dipoto, who keeps telling them to be patient. Now’s not the time for patience from Dipoto, though. Now’s the time for action.
They have to go for it, because it’s hardly a given that they’ll be better next year. Why would anybody assume that? Three of their star relievers — Kendall Graveman (0.84 ERA), Drew Steckenrider (2.08) and Paul Sewald (2.37) — are at the end of their contracts. That trio has been monumental in the team’s ability to hang on to tight leads.
Players who were supposed to be at the forefront of the rebuild — such as Kyle Lewis, Evan White and Jarred Kelenic — have given negligible contributions. Who’s to say they’ll prosper next season?
More than anything, though, if run differential truly is an indicator of a team’s prowess and the M’s are the beneficiaries of luck, then logic would suggest they are likely to regress to the mean next year.
On Monday, Mariners manager Scott Servais wasn’t all that subtle about wanting the franchise to be in win-now mode. He said he drove to T-Mobile Park thinking about who the M’s might acquire at the trade deadline, whereas in years past he’d wonder about who they’d be giving up. He said, given the depth of their farm system and quality of their prospects, just about any MLB player was in play from a negotiation standpoint.
He emphasized how the team’s unwavering belief in itself has helped it notch all those one-run wins. As for luck? Yeah, it’s been there. So what?
“Is there a luck factor involved? Yes there is. And every team that’s ever made it to the playoffs and win the World Series, eventually you need some things to go your way,” Servais said. “You need a little luck. You need a little magic, mojo, whatever you want to call it. I’d rather be on the right side of it than the wrong, and I think we’re benefiting from that because we have a good process and we’re doing things the right way and we’re staying consistent with it.”
Nobody is saying the Mariners have to get Mike Trout and Jacob deGrom. A decent starting pitcher could prove invaluable. A steady hitter such as Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, as mentioned by colleague Ryan Divish, could be a difference-maker.
Yes, screaming, “Go out and get them!” is a lot easier than actually going out and getting them, but the Mariners should feel urgent to improve.
These words aren’t aimed solely at Dipoto and his staff. They are aimed at the ownership group as well. Any decision Dipoto makes must be cleared by his bosses, and now isn’t the time to be stingy or scared.
It has been 20 years since the Mariners reached the playoffs. That’s the longest drought in major men’s American professional sports. The guys in charge need to go for it. If not, then they need to go.
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