Five weeks ago, I asked the Mariners to give season ticket holders a discount or a refund after a miserable weekend – at the very least, a symbolic gesture to those who have been so loyal for so long.
But they can pay their fans back with something even better: Making the playoffs - finally! -by continuing to play competitive and winning baseball.
Yes, the Mariners lost two of three to the Astros this weekend – a series that started with such promise with the M’s handing Houston its worst loss of the season. But the M’s are still 18-10 in their last 28 games, among the best in baseball, they’re once again sitting at .500, and they’re healthier than they’ve been most of the year. And, until late in today’s game at least, they looked competitive against the best team in the American League.
Winning the division is a stretch – they’re 13.5 games back. But the Wild Card is definitely in play. And really, all we’ve been asking for since 2001 is a playoff game – just one! – and we can finally stop holding this team to what some might feel is an unfair standard.
As we said at the start of the year, this roster might be different than every one of them the past 16 years, but the team will be judged by many, unfairly or not, on the big picture. It’s no fault of their own – just a product of mediocrity for so long.
Now, don’t get me wrong: That the M’s have scraped back to where they are today is incredibly commendable. We all see a bright future with Ben Gamel and Taylor Motter. We find relief that Mike Zunino has finally found his bat. And we’re encouraged by all the young pitchers forced into action because of injuries. Down the road, the Mariners SHOULD BE a major force.
But many of us no longer view this franchise in terms of the future, because we’ve been spoon-fed that philosophy too long. “Trust the process” has worn out its welcome – “Show me now” is here to stay.
So, take a look at the schedule, 22 of the next 32 games are at home. In order to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs, the Mariners need to take advantage of wins at Safeco Field. Because August features 20 of 27 games on the road – from Kansas City to Atlanta to Yankee Stadium. Get ahead of the game now, or pray to the road gods during the Dog Days of Summer.
Frankly, by turning it around when it seemed like all hope was lost, the Mariners have shown us a lot. But they’ve still got a long way to go.
The marathon doesn’t end with a .500 record, Mariners. It will finally end with a playoff game at home.
And after this incredibly long rollercoaster ride, that will be the best gift of all.