Seattle Mariners Fall Painfully Short


Illustration by Claire Revere

Quinn Salkind, Sport's Reporter

As the Major League Baseball season drew to a close, the Seattle Mariners were one game behind securing an American League wildcard spot. In order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the Mariners had to win their final two in the 162 game season, and hope that the Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles would lose their respective games. However, in an extra inning heartbreaker, Seattle failed to win game 161 against the Oakland Athletics, and were therefore mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

“I was really not prepared to make the end-of-the-season speech,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters, expressing the team’s disappointment with the result.  Mariners fans everywhere were heartbroken as the team’s playoff drought entered its 15th year.

In many ways, game 161 was representative of the Mariner’s streaky season. They stormed out of the gate hot, scoring two runs in the first inning, much like how they quickly accumulated one of the best win-loss records in the MLB by the end of May. What followed was giving up five runs to the Athletics over the next two innings, like their abysmal June, where the team went 10-18, undoing all the work from the start of the season. The Mariners fought their way back, with Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz each having huge home runs in the fifth and seventh innings respectively. After the ninth inning, the two teams went into extras tied 8-8.

The Athletics brought in one run in the top of the tenth to take the lead, leaving the Mariners in a do-or-die situation. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Mariner’s Ben Gamel made it to second base with no outs, bringing up the Mariners three best hitters, Cano, Cruz and Seager. Just like they did this season, the team fell painfully short. Gamel advanced to third, but failed to score, ending the Mariners hopes of postseason baseball.

The last time the Mariners came this close to making the playoffs was in 2014, when they ended up one game out of the AL wildcard slot. In 2014 the team was carried by their spectacular pitching but brought down by their modest offensive production.

2016 showed us the complete opposite. This year’s starting pitchers moved up and down from the minors, were constantly injured and performed well below their career averages. 2010 Cy Young Winner Felix Hernandez, the heart and soul of the team, had arguably his worst season since 2007. Despite pitching woes, the Mariners had one of their best offensive seasons in a long time. Cano, Cruz and Seager, the middle of the order hitters, combined for 112 home runs and 307 runs batted in.

Perhaps the most painful aspect of the season was the team’s unwillingness to invest in big name players before the trade deadline, instead trading Mike Montgomery, one of their most reliable bullpen arms for a first base prospect. Prior to the season, the Mariners also traded away a struggling Mark Trumbo for a backup catcher. Trumbo went on to lead the league with 47 home runs on the year.

Heading into the off season, the Mariners need to focus on revitalizing their veteran pitchers and adding depth to their rotation and bullpen. This year the Mariners had a new general manager in Jerry Dipoto, who constantly made adjustments and trades throughout the regular season, even when it seemed like the Mariners were out of contention.

“You have to feel good about…the adjustments for needs they’re going to make over the winter,” said broadcaster Mike Blowers. The Mariners finished the year with an 86-76 record, three games behind the wild card slot after losing their last two games.

“Hopefully this prepares us for next year,” Cruz told reporters. “Everybody had a taste of what it’s like to be in a playoff atmosphere because it was like that for like a week.” Mariners fans have reason to be hopeful for next year. Their strong core will remain on the team, allowing Dipoto to continue building around them. The Mariners remain the holders of the longest active playoff drought, and are one of two teams to never play in the World Series.