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The Mariners should not sell, get a grip

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Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Do you want to win or not?

I thought about the title being the extent of the article, in the classical style of the earlier days of this site. “Less is more” has rarely been my mantra, however I promise brevity by comparison to my usual 1000 word tomes today. The thesis is thus:

  1. The Seattle Mariners have are 49-43 (a .533 winning percentage, jokes jokes jokes)
  2. The Seattle Mariners are playing an uninspiring and wretched brand of baseball that is not only awful to watch every time they come to the plate but has them at a mere +4 run differential, a sign of a more mediocre club.
  3. The Seattle Mariners are in first place in the AL West by 2.0 games and should not hold space for any stops to improve their current roster.

You’re forgiven for not recalling what this feels like. It’s the latest the Mariners have had a multi-game divisional lead since 2003, and if you were born on that day you are a month and a half from being able to legally drink anywhere in the United States. The past two decades of competitive Julys, the Mariners have been in a different space. Prior to games on July 9th, Seattle’s station was simply more dire.

2024: 49-42, +2.0 games up in the AL West (1st), 1.5 GB of WC 3, trailing 1 team (in theory)
2023: 44-44, 7.0 GB of the AL West (3rd), 4 GB of WC 3, trailing 4 teams.
2022: 43-42, 13.0 GB of the AL West (2nd), 2 GB of WC 3, trailing 1 team
2021: 46-42, 8.0 GB of the AL West (3rd), 3.5 GB of WC 2, trailing 1 team (tied for as yet nonexistent WC 3 w/Toronto)
2019-2020: No.
2018: 57-34, 3.5 GB of the AL West (2nd), ahead in WC 2 position by 6.5 games
2017: 42-47, 17.5 GB of the AL West (4th), 4.0 GB of WC 2 & 3, trailing 4-5 teams
2016: 44-43, 9.5 GB of the AL West (4th), 4.0 GB of WC 2, trailing 3 teams (3 GB of WC 3)
2015: 39-46, 9.0 GB of the AL West (4th), 7.0 GB of WC 2, trailing 9 teams (4.5 GB of WC 3)
2014: 49-41, 8.0 GB of the AL West (3rd), ahead in WC 2 position by 2.0 games
2010-2013: No. (WC 2 introduced in 2012)
2009: 43-41, 4.5 GB of the AL West (3rd), 3.5 GB of WC 1, trailing 4 teams (2.5 GB of WC 3)
2008: No.
2007: 49-36, 2.5 GB of the AL West (2nd), 1.5 GB of WC 1, trailing 1 team (5.5 games up in WC 2 position)
2004-2006: No.
2003: 56-32, +7.0 games up in the AL West (1st), +5.0 games up on WC 1 (in theory)(+9.0 games up on WC 3)

Go ahead. Take your time. Hit CTRL+F and search for (1st), or even the + symbol. I’ve got all the time in the world. You’ll find what Jerry Dipoto, Justin Hollander, John Stanton, and the entire M’s ownership group are recognizing when they stare into their cost-benefit analyses. There’s not been an opportunity like this for the Seattle Mariners in over 20 years.

So the lineup stinks and it feels insurmountable. Guess who hasn’t surmounted it? The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. The terrors of the AL West for the past decade (with deference to the Matts & Mark A’s of 2018-2020) have stepped on rakes, slipped on banana peels, faceplanted in crème pies, and generally peed down both legs at the same time for most of 2024. It couldn’t matter less if the Mariners as constructed are a merely average team so long as their lineup insists on underperforming expectations. They are here, two games up in the division, with a shot at home field advantage in the playoffs and a division title like they’ve not had since before Lazaro Montes, Colt Emerson, Jonny Farmelo, Michael Arroyo, and Tai Peete were born.

If the M’s are truly so underwhelming, then they might as well change that fact for themselves, because being two games up on the division and not “deserving it” can be addressed by simply improving the roster until they play like they do. If Julio, Cal, J.P., and any of the others start performing like they’re reasonably expected to as the weather heats up, suddenly you’re looking not just at a comparably capable team, but a possible powerhouse. A possible first round bye contender. A possible title threat. Do not let our familiarity with expecting and accepting mediocrity for the sake of the eternal competitive window blockade this ray of sunlight. Luis Robert Jr. improves the Mariners in 2024, 2025, and 2026 as much or more and as likely as most of the youths in their system. To a lesser degree the same is true of many of the other high-caliber bats out there under contract for multiple seasons. If the M’s can uncover another gem like Emerson, hit on IFA seemingly like they’ve done with Montes, and mold from humble origins players like Logan Evans, then years of contention in MLB only push back the pressure for their new prospects and draft picks to gestate.

Fasting often ends in a feast. Seattle’s lengthy withholding of their own indulgence in contention has been far from tantric, but it has in some ways addled our minds. We are, collectively, unaccustomed to what is worthwhile for a team genuinely in the driver’s seat. Yes, the steering wheel may be coming loose, but is that cause to simply Carrie Underwood ourselves? Or should we grab a screwdriver, demand the right to repair, and begin making adjustments? I believe the Mariners recognize the horseshoe shoved amidst their nether regions in many ways this season, at least in the ways that other clubs have floundered. There’s no bonus points at the end for cowardice and efficiency.

Pursue greatness.

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