A revamped lineup with the Japanese star and Dee Gordon might not have been good enough to take the division away from the Astros, but it would have been good enough to make the playoffs.
It would have been better if he nixed from the get-go. It would have been far kinder if he refused to even speak the Mariners’ name.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. But it’s not better to have met with someone and then lose him to a division rival.
Two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani splintered Mariners fans’ hearts Friday when he announced he will sign with the Angels. The M’s were one of seven “finalists” in the Ohtani sweepstakes, but their pitch wasn’t a hit with the hitting pitcher.
So now, Seattle is not only without its potential franchise-defining star, but it has to face him 19 times next season. It’s a microcosm of what Mariners fans have endured for 16 straight seasons — get your hopes up, and you’ll get crushed.
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Seriously, how pumped would you be had Ohtani chosen the Northwest as his home for the next few years? Not just because Seattleites would have had the chance to watch a supreme talent develop in front of their very eyes, but because the Mariners would have had the opportunity to win now.
Before a wave of injuries doomed them last year, the M’s were in the thick of the wild-card race following the All-Star break. There was even a day in August where they owned the final spot.
But with the addition of Dee Gordon and a guy who’s led the Japan Pacific League in OPS and ERA? They wouldn’t have likely caught the Astros, but a playoff berth would have been theirs to lose.
The hope centered around Ohtani was like jumping into an outdoor hot tub on a freezing night. It felt fantastic for a minute, but torturous once we had to jump out.
Plus, the Mariners don’t tend to fare too well when facing superstars — especially those from the Angels. Nobody in baseball has roughed Felix Hernandez up worse than Mike Trout, and now Ohtani stands to ramp up the abuse for years to come.
This had the potential to be a bigger phenomenon than Ichiro ever was. Ohtani is a guy who could throw a no-hitter and hit for the cycle in the same year.
We’re not talking about a prospect who might end up as a proverbial “4A” player. We’re talking about a guy who dominated the second-best circuit in the world.
Ohtani’s pitching numbers in Japan bested those of Yu Darvish, and he hit better than Hideki Matsui. There really isn’t a precedent for the value he could bring.
Imagine him producing six wins above replacement with his bat and speed, and six more on the mound. Suddenly Trout — perhaps the most talented player since Willie Mays — wouldn’t even be the best player on his team.
OK, sorry. No reason to yammer on about this. We all know what this could have meant for the Mariners, and we all know what it could mean for them now.
In the words of Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who wished Ohtani luck in Anaheim: “Had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League.”
This isn’t necessarily a death blow to the Mariners, who could still make a playoff push if they stay (extremely) healthy. But it is a not-so-subtle reminder of the victories that have escaped this franchise for most of this century.
Ohtani is going to be a Halo, and he’ll likely give the Mariners hell.