The longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports continues, with the Mariners extending their postseason drought to 17 years. But hey, at least they won their regular season finale on Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
For the many kids who filled the stands at Safeco Field on Sunday, simply happy to spend one last afternoon at the ballpark with their family, where potentially getting cotton candy or a souvenir was the important reward, the significance of the Mariners’ failure in 2018 was largely lost upon them.
The Mariners’ 3-1 victory over the Rangers on the final day of season wasn’t a “meaningless” game to them, because they were at a baseball game instead of doing something else. Some day soon that will change and they will begin to think otherwise. Kids become adults and things like Kyle Seager’s diminished on-base percentage, Mike Zunino’s strikeout rate, Felix Hernandez’s worst season and the failure to play beyond the regular season will become more important than seeing the Moose.
That’s happened for a generation of fans who were kids in 2001, the last time the Mariners played in the postseason. They’ve watched the last 17 seasons end for Seattle after game No. 162. Only once in that span — 2014 — did that final game have postseason meaning — and that was only for five innings.
The longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports continues. The Mariners finished with an 89-73 record, which is the fifth best record in club history.
That accomplishment isn’t lost on Mariners manager Scott Servais or his players.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Servais said. “Eighty-nine wins is a pretty good year. I’m proud of our guys the way we went out and finished things off; we kept playing hard all the way to the finish line.”
Said Kyle Seager: “It’s a strange thing. It’s hard to feel too bad about 89 wins, but at the same time our goal was the playoffs. That’s something we thought could accomplish, and we certainly tried to. It’s bittersweet.”
It still feels hollow as they all prepare to go their separate ways into the offseason. The goal was to reach the postseason, and that was unmet.
“I felt that we failed,” Servais said. “We didn’t get over the hump. We didn’t get into the playoffs. Some of that was out of our control. You look at what Oakland did, and they pace they were on. They just didn’t back off, so you have give them a ton of credit.”
For the first three months of the season, the idea of the first postseason appearance since that magical 116-win season in 2001 seemed very real. The Mariners overachieved past middling preseason expectation and the suspension of Robinson Cano.
The numbers have been mentioned before, but on the morning of June 16, the Mariners were 45-25 and 11 games up over the A’s, who were 34-36, for the second wild card.
“For a couple of months, we were electric,” Servais said. “Everything we did went right. It was driven by our pitching staff, and we got enough timely hitting that we were able to overcome some things and we were riding a high wave.”
But that wave crested.
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The Mariners posted a 44-48 record after that date to finish 89-73 while Oakland went on a stunning run of .700 baseball, posting a 64-28 record and finishing 98-64 while earning the second wild spot. For as much as people want to believe the Mariners gave the postseason spot away, Oakland probably did more to rip it away from Seattle, who would have had to post a 53-39 to keep pace.
“We did a lot of good things,” Servais said. “We didn’t do enough. I guess that’s how I will look back on the season.”
Why did it go so bad?
“The only thing I could control was how I performed,” Seager said. “For me personally, I felt like if I had done a better a job it could have been a different ending. For me moving forward, that’s going to be a driving force.”
A crowd of 21,146 watched the season finale on Kids Appreciation day. It gave Seattle a preliminary season attendance of 2,300,162, which is the most since the 2008 season.
“That’s great. I didn’t know that,” Servais said. “You feel the passion coming out from our fans. I can’t say enough about our fan base. I know they are starving to get back to the postseason as we are, and we’ll keep working to get there.”
The Mariners got two runs in the second inning on a David Freitas RBI double and a run-scoring single from Andrew Romine. They picked up another in the fifth inning on Seager’s sacrifice fly. Five pitchers, led by starter Roenis Elias, combined to limit Texas to one run on four hits.
In what could be his final game in a Mariners uniform, Servais gave Nelson Cruz a start in right field, so he could remove him from the game in the middle of the fourth inning. A free agent after the World Series, Cruz got a standing ovation and removed his hat to thank the crowd.
“I cannot be more thankful for them,” he said. “I never imagined I’d have that in my career. It’s something that you only see great players do. It’s going to stick in my mind.”
Will his future include the Mariners?
“Time has gone quick,” he said. “It feels like it was yesterday when I got here. It’s been a great four years. I hope for the best. Hopefully we can get something done, and I will be able to come back. But if not, I understand it’s a business.”