It Wouldn’t Shock Me If The Mariners Are Worse In 2022

There is a tremendous amount of hype and buzz around the Seattle Mariners right now. This team is coming off of a 90-win season, they were able to shed some aging high-value contracts to free up extra spending money, and there appears to be a good young core of guys to build around into a real, bona fide contender. The first contender we’ve seen around these parts since the turn of the century.

Recently, we just learned Baseball America named the Mariners as having the number one farm system in all of baseball, for the first time in franchise history. There were some tweets floating around that a crazy high number of teams in recent years who have had the top farm system have gone on to at least appear in a World Series not long after. Considering the Mariners are the only franchise to have never made it that far, this is tremendously exciting to hear! You have to like those odds, even though – obviously – nothing is guaranteed in this life.

This is a unique position to be in as a Mariners fan. The duration of this franchise’s existence has been defined by disappointment. Even when we had good teams – in that 1995-2003 span – they all underachieved in some way, shape, or form. The 1995 squad couldn’t complete the miracle that seemed destined to take place through the ALDS. The 1997 squad squandered one of the very best offensive power lineups in MLB history with terrible bullpen pitching and even worse trade decisions. The 2001 squad tied the mark for most regular season wins in MLB history, only to hardly make a dent in the ALCS. And the 2002 & 2003 squads both won 93 games only to fail to make the playoffs entirely.

Then there’s the two decades preceeding that stretch, as well as the two decades since, losers all. So, if you’re a Mariners fan, and you think this is all too good to be true, I don’t blame you. I’m not so irrational as to expect the playoff drought to continue on indefinitely; it WILL end, at some point. Even if it means the MLB expands the playoff field again and we somehow back into it through unsustainable luck, we’ll get back there at some point before the Earth is swallowed up by the sun.

But, there’s a non-zero chance that it doesn’t happen with this current rebuild. That’s what’s scary. Just imagine if it doesn’t work again. Just imagine that we keep falling a game or two short, over and over, until ownership has enough and tries a different tactic. How long will it be until the NEXT rebuild comes to bear fruit? If it doesn’t happen in the next 3-4 years, it might not happen again for another decade or more. Because at some point, we’re going to start dipping into that farm system via trades to bolster the big league club for a final push towards glory. Once the farm system is inevitably depleted, it’ll take that much longer to rebuild. There’s no Win Forever in baseball; that doesn’t exist. The chickens are even coming home to roost for the cheating Astros, who have one of the very worst farm systems in the game. That seemed impossible the way they were chugging along a few years ago.

In my heart of hearts, though, I don’t believe all of that. I actually DO believe the Mariners are on the right track. I DO believe this is the group that’s going to take us back to the playoffs. I also believe that barring a crazy amount of bad injury luck, this could be a championship-contending team within the next 3-4 years! We’re on a thrilling upward trajectory, and for the first time in my baseball-watching life, there’s a realistic scenario where this team goes all the way.

The part of me that believes has a plan in mind for this team. It technically started in 2021, with the Mariners coming from out of nowhere to win 90 games. That number is higher than I would’ve expected, but what I’d hoped for was to see enough progress from the young core to believe that real change was happening in this organization. With that in place, it’s now time to start infusing this roster with outside talent, to come in right away and fill in the holes. We’ve started on that, with the trade for Adam Frazier and the signing of Robbie Ray. Those are potentially huge pieces of the puzzle we’ve locked into place. With more to come, once this lockout ends and the CBA is finalized.

But, the fact of the matter is that we can’t fill all the holes in a single offseason. We can fill some of them – we’ll need to, if we want to make the World Series in 3-4 years – but some of them will be placeholders. A number of spots are going to be reserved for the best of our best prospects. Julio Rodriguez needs to play his way onto the Major League ballclub. One or two of our starting pitchers needs to bust out and get his feet wet in Seattle. And, of course, our young hitters who’ve already gotten their feet wet need to develop into legitimate Major League producers. Guys like Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh, and maybe even Abraham Toro need to take big leaps, or it’s not going to work.

Kyle Seager was on the downside of his career last year – and indeed, has gone on to retire – but he still papered over a lot of what was wrong with the Mariners last year. He produced at a high level, and we’re going to need SOMEONE to fill in that huge gap. Maybe multiple someones. My hunch is a lot of those young guys I just mentioned will continue to improve, but they’ll also continue to have growing pains and be mired in prolonged slumps. That’s going to cost us ballgames.

Then, there’s the bullpen. They were freakishly effective in 2021, which was a big reason why we won 90 games in spite of a -51 run differential. I would very much expect some significant regression in the bullpen’s ability to lock down one-run games. That will also cost us in the standings.

How do we recover from that? We need the starting rotation to pick up more of the slack. We need the hitters to build bigger leads. Do we have the horses to achieve that right now? I doubt it. Can we add to our talent pool before the regular season starts? I think we’ll have to.

Even with that, it’s not hard to see the Mariners winning fewer than 90 games in 2022. That doesn’t mean we’re not on the right track; that doesn’t mean we’re destined to be losers forever. That just means maybe 2023 is a more logical target to break the playoff drought.

If all of your hopes and dreams rest on 2022 being The Year, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed. Sure, it would be amazing if I’m wrong, and this year’s team wins 95 games and makes a deep playoff run; that could happen too! But, I’m going into this year a lot like 2021. I’ll hold out a sliver of my expectations toward making the post-season, but for the most part I still want to see improvement from the young core. I still want to see what the high-level prospects can do at the Major League level. I want to go into 2023 with fewer holes than we have in 2022.

I want to go into 2023 with a Playoffs Or Bust mindset. I want to go into 2023 expecting an A.L. West Championship and nothing short of an ALCS appearance. Granted, it’s delayed gratification, but there’s still gratification in there.

2 thoughts on “It Wouldn’t Shock Me If The Mariners Are Worse In 2022

  1. It does not matter how good or how much potential the players have, you need someone who can manage the team. The Mariners do not have that at the present time. I do not see the current manager getting any better. Until they find someone who can manage the Mariners will be what they have always been, wait till next year.

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