My hunch is that we’re going to look back on that Saturday game – June 16th against the Red Sox – where Wade LeBlanc mastered the Magical Sword to the tune of an eventual 1-0 victory that saw the Mariners get to 21 games over .500, as the high-water mark on the season. It’ll never be as good or as promising as it was on that day.
We’re starting to see the cracks in this roster, as the M’s have lost 4 games in a row for the first time all year, and we all come to grips with the fact that there are the Haves … and everyone else in the A.L. It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, as the Red Sox are surely looking for some revenge. Also, there’s some lowkey rumblings about Paxton’s health ever since he recently complained of a little forearm tightness that he was able to pitch through (as he’s been pretty pedestrian in his last two starts), which is absolutely not an injury this pitching staff can afford to sustain. As everyone is aware, the rate of winning the Mariners were on up through last Saturday was pretty unsustainable. As Robbie Cano isn’t walking through those doors anytime soon, and as the Mariners are otherwise as healthy as can be expected (with the return tonight of Nick Vincent from the DL), this is more or less the team we’ve got to roll with the rest of the way.
The fact that the Mariners – AS IS – aren’t in the same league as the Yankees, Astros, or Red Sox is bad enough. The M’s have built up enough of a lead in the wild card standings to pretty much coast the rest of the way into the playoffs; but it’s looking like more and more of an impossibility that we’ll be able to do any damage once we get there. What’s worse, of course, is that not only are those teams significantly better, but all three of them have room to improve and the resources to go out and make those improvements a reality.
Those organizations are STACKED with minor league talent, stuck behind already-talented Major League rosters with no way to advance other than to be traded to other teams looking not only to dump salary but pick up prospects in the process. On top of that, there are SO MANY teams all across baseball who are terrible, who are playing for nothing in 2018, and who will be looking to bolster their rosters with high-level prospects while trading away proven talent to the few contenders remaining.
I mean, what’s it gonna look like if one or two of the best relievers in the game get dealt to the Astros? What if some amazing starter gets dealt to the Red Sox? I don’t know how the Yankees can get any better than they already are, but they have the will and the prospects in their farm system to make it happen. That doesn’t even factor in the Angels – where money is no object – and any potential surprise contenders for the second AL wild card I haven’t even considered to this point.
It’s gonna be a tough road the rest of the way, because as Mariners fans, our expectations have shifted as this team has ballooned its record while feasting on the dregs of the American League. Can they continue winning at an unsustainable clip? Or, are we going to see a long stretch of .500 baseball for the foreseeable future as this team coasts to a date with the Yankees or Red Sox in the wild card game? I don’t want to say the rest of the season is just a formality – as it’s entirely possible this team collapses and gets overtaken by someone else – but I’m pretty confident that we can rule out any competition whatsoever with the Astros for the division title.