Heading into the Seattle Mariners‘ series against the Boston Red Sox, there were many fans throughout the Pacific Northwest who had the faintest hopes of the Mariners making a 1995-esque type of run into the playoffs this year, myself included. Seattle was streaking, had been arguably the hottest team in baseball in July, and was getting Michael Morse back from the DL.
Things in the Emerald City, for the first time in quite awhile during baseball season, were looking up.
That all changed, however, when the Mariners touched down in Boston. Facing an opponent who was at the top of the AL East, fans of Seattle knew that this series would define where the team would be headed from this point on. Unfortunately, things haven’t really blossomed against the Red Sox.
Losing the first game 8-2, the Mariners suffered a heartbreaking, 5-4 loss in fifteen innings on Wednesday night and followed up that effort with one of the biggest breakdowns in closer history, as Tom Wilhelmsen allowed the Sox to come back from a five-run deficit to eventually win the game 8-7. Now sitting at 50-58 on the year, Seattle is 13 games back in the AL West and 10 games in the AL Wild Card.
It’s still not impossible for them to make a miraculous run, but let’s just say that they would need to get to the .500 mark before we even think about them making a run at Cleveland, who currently finds themselves in the final wild card slot at 60-48 on the year.
But while many would object to my above point and say that I shouldn’t doubt the Mariners just because they’ve lost two games in a row, I’m basing my opinion that they won’t be contenders for the sole reason that Boston is a much more complete team than Seattle, and so are the teams currently ahead of them in the AL Wild Card Standings.
Had I looked at this a few days ago, yes, I would say the Mariners could potentially contend with teams like the Red Sox, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. However, after two games where it always seems like Boston is threatening to score, it’s easy to see that there is a different aura surrounding a contender when compared to the Mariners.
This isn’t to say, however, that Seattle is a bad team. In fact, I’d still argue that they are a solid middle-of-the-pack team and one of the better ones when Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma is on the mound. They’re in a great position to contend in 2014, and they still could prove me wrong this year, but they just don’t have the consistency needed of a playoff contender, especially on offense.
While Kyle Seager has been a beast and is one of the better third basemen in the league, there’s not really any other player on the Mariners who you can consistently rely on to produce (a case could be made for Nick Franklin or Kendrys Morales, however).
On the pitching side of things, all Seattle fans know how nerve-racking it is to watch Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders, or Erasmo Ramirez/whoever fills in the 5-spot on the mound. They can either be brilliant or look like a pitcher who really needs to find another job.
Now Saunders isn’t that bad and has been very good at times, but Harang and Ramirez really just need to figure their crap out. They’re way too inconsistent to be considered reliable, and the only bright thing about the back-end of the rotation is that the Mariners currently have some of the top prospects in the minors getting ready to make an impact at the next level.
Speaking of Seattle’s future, the trade deadline came and went and the Mariners didn’t do much in terms of adding any pieces to their roster for future concerns, indicating the organization is currently content with that they have.
Obviously there is still a whole offseason to go through after this year, but it does appear as though the front office believes the pieces are in place for the Mariners to make a run at the playoffs in the near future.
The development of Franklin and Miller playing a big role in this, players like Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak will need to prove they belong with the club and can overcome some adversities they have faced.
Also playing a big role in the future could very well be Morales or Morse, two players Seattle was rumored to be shopping around but ultimately decided to keep.
If this is the case, it does appear as though the focus in Seattle right now is getting that team to gel together and find that consistent rhythm to put a great product on the field day-in and day-out. They’re not their yet, but the Mariners are very close.
For those of you reading this who desperately wanted at least some trade analysis, Robert Andino was traded to the Pirates in a minor league deal that will see Seattle given a player or cash, something that is still to be determined. Playing a few games with the club in 2013, it was clear Andino wasn’t going to do anything for Seattle, so the Mariners sent him to the minors and waited until the opportune moment to get rid of him.
He never figured to be a player in Seattle’s future, and seeing him go doesn’t exactly break my heart.
So, Seattle fans, sit tight, the club is almost there. They’re putting together better games and have young talent in place to allow them to succeed in the near future but just aren’t consistent enough to be considered a contender just yet. Let’s hope 2014 will change all that.