When it comes to the Mariners, know what I’m sick of? Everyone saying it’s early. I know they’re right, we’re 42 games into a 162-game season. These people are basically telling you that you can’t make any concrete determinations about this team because the sample size is too small, and if you do it anyway, you’re somehow ignorant.
They’re the same people who bring up what happened last year, as if last year has some bearing on this year. They’ll tell you about that atrocious series the Mariners had in San Diego where they were swept without putting up much of a fight. The Mariners rebounded nicely from that fiasco at Petco Park, winning 90 games and nearly earning a wild-card playoff berth.
I’m also sick of being told to be patient. I’m old enough to have watched the Mariners since they were formed in 1977. They went 15 years before they even broke .500 in a season. Now we’re going on 21 years without making the playoffs. As for this season, we’re somehow supposed to be patient with certain players, waiting for them to either hit the ball where opposing players can’t catch it or field it and throw them out or just plain make contact instead of striking out again.
We’re supposed to be glass half full with this team, which is hard to do when the past is filled with completely empty glasses all over the place. If you’re a true to the blue Mariners fan, you’re supposed to buy what general manager Jerry Dipoto is selling, that this rebuilt team is ready to contend for the playoffs. But keep in mind that if this season plays out the way it’s gone so far, he’ll tell you that 2023 was the actual target year for this team to make the playoffs, and if 2023 doesn’t work out, what he really meant to say was 2024.
Keep in mind that I’m wrong more often than I’m right when it comes to predictions and comments and personal and professional choices throughout my 64 years. But how can you watch what we’ve watched the last two weeks and think that this team is going to somehow snap to life and contend for a wild-card berth or an AL West title and beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and beat the Dodgers in the World Series?
Answer: They won’t. Their season is over. I know it’s not even Memorial Day weekend yet, but I don’t care, it’s over. I have a $20 bet with a co-worker that they won’t get over .500 the rest of the year. Every time I hear manager Scott Servais say that things will get better, I always think, maybe so Scotty, but it sure as hell could get worse too. I mean, he has to say that stuff, but if you gave him eight shots of tequila, here’s what I think you’d hear him tell reporters:
“Hey fellas, there’s only so much I can do. You’ve seen us, you watch us every night. We’re not very good. In fact, we suck. I thought Winky (Jesse Winker) would be better than he’s been. And Eugenio Suarez, he’s been OK, as advertised, an all-or-nothing guy, and like you, I’m tired of watching him strike out. Good Lord, what’s the record for strikeouts in a season? He might break that sucker.
“I still like our rotation, but to be honest, Marco Gonzalez is average at best, and Robbie Ray has been good, not great. I keep wondering when that Cy Young Award winner is going to show up, don’t you?
“And the bullpen hasn’t been as good as it was last year, but that’s the least of our problems...”
“Hey skip!” a reporter says, interrupting Servais. “What about Diego Castillo? When will he be released?”
“Released?!?!” Servais answers. “We can’t release him. I know he’s been awful, gawd awful in fact, yet a little better of late, but if we release him, it’s an admission that Tampa Bay got the better end of that trade, and Jerry doesn’t want that to happen because it makes him look bad. And as you know, Jerry never wants to look bad. Even when things aren’t going well, he’s the master at spinning things and making you think that even a bleak situation isn’t so bad after all.
“If it were up to Jerry, he’d tell you that Jarred Kelenic is just going through some minor growing pains, he’s a young player who will be fine in time. We still believe in him and look forward to many productive All-Star seasons in the years ahead. Jerry doesn’t say that to me privately, he just says that kind of garbage for you guys.
“And on top of that, I know some of it is because of injuries, but you tell me who can win with Abraham Toro, Cal Raleigh and Luis Torrens as mostly every-day players? Those guys should all be in Tacoma.”
Many think the Mariners need a new manager, but along with the no-namers already mentioned, how could any manager consistently win with Dylan Moore, Taylor Trammell and Mike Ford in the lineup?
We hear about Mitch Haniger’s high ankle sprain being season-crippling, as if the return of the starting right fielder will magically make this team a contender. That’s nonsense. The Mariners need four or five more Hanigers for that to happen
Dipoto’s the one who needs to be held more accountable because Servais can only do so much with the players on his roster. Dipoto put them there. I’ve always felt that Dipoto gets too many benefits of the doubt because he comes across so well in interviews, looking sharp and sounding good. There’s this perception that he’s being candid when the truth of the matter is that he might be covering up the possibility that he’s full of it and actually hasn’t done that great of a job building this team.
Yet we buy in because whatever comes out of Dipoto’s mouth makes sense in the moment, and maybe some of that has to do with wanting to believe in what he’s telling us. I don’t know about the latest metrics and alphabetic equations that seamheads are using these days to measure players and teams, I’m still using two eyes and they’re telling me that this team is terrible. And if it’s not terrible, it’s certainly not good enough to make the playoffs.
Mariner fans let their emotions out at the ballpark and on social media. One guy nailed it when he said on Twitter that the Mariners typically have good seasons when expectations are moderate to low but fall short when expectations are high, like they are this year. And another forlorn fan, Ashley Lauren, recently tweeted:
“The Mariners are like a long-term relationship you really need to get out of for the sake of your mental health, but you’ve come too far and keep holding onto the hope that a ring is right around the corner.”
She’s right. So instead of bailing, we’ll watch the Oakland series at T Mobile Park this week, and if they sweep the A’s, we’ll start to believe again, ignoring the fact that the A’s are terrible themselves. And if that happens, then we’ll start to think that maybe the Mariners will win the weekend series from the Astros because, after all, they already took two of three from Houston in April.
We’ll take it one step farther and talk about the difficult schedule thus far being the real culprit in the team’s issues - 26 of the first 42 games were on the road, and maybe the Mariners are more like the 11-6 team that started the season than the 6-19 team we’ve seen the last month. Dipoto will talk about the team’s resilience because resilience is a cool-sounding word, and Servais will talk about the team “battling” and naturally trotting out the time-honored “they never quit.”
Take your pick between annoying and aggravating, and let’s be honest - we all want a new car, but with the 2022 Mariners, what we’ve got is just another lemon.
Jim Moore has covered Washington’s sports scene from every angle for multiple news outlets. You can find him on Twitter @cougsgo, and on 950 KJR-AM, where he co-hosts a sports talk show from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays.