After an offseason that saw the team ship out some of its best players, and with the club in 'step-back' mode, there's little reason for hope this season.
This is usually the time of year when the anticipation begins. Instead, it’s when the deflation continues.
This is generally when folks start dreaming of the breakthrough season. Instead, folks are preparing for the get-through season.
We are now less than a month from when Mariners’ pitchers and catchers will report to spring training, a day that once inspired hope. But after that offseason decimation, it’s more likely to inspire Zoloft.
Before I continue, I should say this: Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was right to drop those two tons of TNT on Seattle’s roster. The M’s didn’t have the personnel to compete for a playoff berth, and tearing it down was the only way to provide a chance at contending in the near future.
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Still, it’s one thing to accept one’s temporary fate in the doldrums. It’s another to actually experience it.
Granted, the Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001, so you could argue this isn’t entirely new. But they have had seven winning seasons over that span. The only stretch that resembled what might be ahead came from 2010-13, when they had four straight seasons below .500.
But even then there was a Cy Young season from Felix Hernandez, who was worth the price of admission regardless of record. There was Ichiro and, of course, some front-office drama.
And even though the M’s have come up short in the five seasons since, they were in the playoff hunt in September in three of those years.
Were the end results infuriating for the fans? Sure. But they weren’t boring.
This year is almost sure to be.
Yes, assuming he isn’t traded, it could be interesting to watch how third-year starter Mitch Haniger develops after an All-Star season. It might be intriguing to see if Kyle Seager bounces back after a subpar year.
It could be fun to see how prospects such as Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn fare in the minors. And you never know when a random no-hitter, or cycle or three-homer-game might pop up — but as far as the rest of this season goes … it’s gonna be rough.
For the past few years, M’s fans wondered how the starting lineup was going to do. This year, they’re wondering who the starting lineup is going to be.
For the past few years, M’s fans wondered “will the playoff drought end?”
This year, they’ll wonder “will this season end?”
Fans are generally adept at tricking themselves into thinking a miracle could happen, but when the team’s own GM admits this is a “step back,” can they still conjure that imagination?
That’s gonna be hard when there is no James Paxton, Robinson Cano or Jean Segura. It’s gonna be difficult when there is no Edwin Diaz, Mike Zunino or Nelson Cruz.
Yes, a shell of the old Hernandez remains on the roster, and if the baseball gods have any heart, they’ll allow him to show glimpses of his former self in what may be his final season. Other than that, the real suspense will be whether the M’s are inept enough to earn the No. 1 draft pick.
Unless you’re the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers — whose payrolls rarely require rebuilds — this is part of the cycle for an MLB club. They have to break themselves down before they can build themselves up.
The Cubs did it. The Astros did it. Each now has a World Series trophy.
But when there is no guarantee that a resurgence will occur, these types of waits can be brutal for fans. It’s like starting an intense workout without knowing if your muscles can grow.
But that’s life for Mariners die-hards right now. They know pitchers and catchers will report in less than a month — but have almost no idea what will happen after that.