There is an MLB team here in Seattle falling so fast that it has redefined terminal velocity. Heading into Wednesday night’s game vs. the Astros, it had more wins through its first 15 games than it did over its next 39.
There was a recent 24-game stretch in which opponents outscored this club by 91 runs. And if there aren’t bobbleheads, fireworks or light sabers, empty seats have been outscoring filled ones by about 30k a game.
Despite Wednesday’s blowout victory over the Astros — the Mariners are really bad.
So what do you do if you’re a fan with four months left to endure this plunge? Well, you find anything you possibly can to make this interesting.
Here are a few things to wonder.
Who will be the Mariners’ All-Star?
There was no way that question was going to end in a plural word. If it wasn’t league-mandated, the M’s likely wouldn’t send anyone to Cleveland this year. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t intrigue around who the representative will be.
Could it be designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, who came into Wednesday with 15 home runs and a .928 OPS, the latter of which was ninth in MLB? Might it be Mitch Haniger, who also had 15 home runs and leads the team in WAR? Could Omar Narvaez sneak in in a catcher-thin American League? Outside of the hydros, that might be the most compelling race for fans to watch.
Will Felix Hernandez have a send-off moment?
No, Hernandez is not the Mariners’ equivalent of Kobe Bryant. But like Felix, Mamba was a shell of his once elite self in his final year in L.A. Somehow, though, he strung together 60 points in his last game in what ended up being the greatest regular-season walk-off ever.
Hernandez isn’t going to do anything that dramatic, but might there be six or seven innings of magic after he returns? He deserves that moment given his loyalty to the franchise, and his fans do, too.
Will the Mariners finish with the worst record in MLB and snag the first pick of the draft?
One of this club’s biggest choke jobs over the past 15 years came on September 28, 2008, when it came from behind to beat the A’s by one run in the last game of the season. A loss would have secured the M’s the top pick in the 2009 draft, where they would have selected three-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg. Instead, they wound up with infielder Dustin Ackley, who hit .241 in his 4 1/2 years in Seattle.
Heading into Wednesday, the Mariners (25-39) had the sixth-worst record in baseball, but given their last 40 games, it seems they have the tools to make a run.
Who will be the next player traded?
This could be a raffle that fans play every few days. Draw a name from a hat and wait for general manager Jerry Dipoto to move. And he will. Often.
Pitcher Mike Leake seems like a good possibility given his ostensible dissatisfaction in Seattle. But as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported earlier in the week, the team is preparing for a fire sale, so it could be almost anyone.
Unless it’s an overpaid veteran or a highly-touted up-and-comer, don’t get attached. Just have fun with it.
Will the Mariners end up with the most errors for a season in over 40 years?
If you’re going witness something awful, you might as well witness something historically awful.
Heading into Wednesday, the M’s had committed 69 errors over 64 games, good for a pace of 174. That’s impressive, but still scheduled to fall short of the 1979 Braves’ total of 183, which is the most in the past four decades.
Again, if you’re a hardcore fan trying to keep your sanity, you can laugh or you can cry. Embrace the E.
What play will top the Mariners’ Not Top 10 of 2019?
The current favorite took place during the Astros’ 4-2 win Monday night, when M’s shortstop Dylan Moore opted to throw out Alex Bregman, who was trying to score from third. Only issue was that Narvaez left home plate to back up first base, figuring Moore would try and turn a double play. The result was Moore throwing to a ghost as Bregman scored.
Said Mariners announcer Dave Sims: “Wow. I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.”
There are, however, 97 more games.
Will the young guys provide confidence that Seattle will be competitive soon?
This is the most important question. When declaring that 2019 would be a “step back” season, Dipoto said that he expected the Mariners to be competitive by 2021. And a lot of that confidence was centered around the 23-and-under crowd. So how have those guys done? Pretty well, actually.
Outfielder Jake Fraley, playing in Class-AA Arkansas, won Texas League player of the month for May. His teammates Evan White and Kyle Lewis, both first-round picks, have also shown signs of improvement. If those three all make it up to the Majors as September call-ups, that should inspire optimism.
And though top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield has struggled in Tacoma (5.15 ERA in 50 2/3 innings, 19-year-old Jarred Kelenic has dominated in Class A West Virginia and Modesto (.318 average with 13 home runs in 55 games), while shortstop J.P. Crawford has performed well in his 17 games for the Mariners.
So do what you have to do get through this season. It’s no easy task. Just know there are signs that these struggles won’t be incessant. That may not be too far away.