Sorry, Seattle Mariners, your World Series trophy is in another castle. And if Bowser is in that castle, it would be the most on-brand one of these we’ve done.
The Mariners didn’t win the AL West this year, but they hung in there, surviving until the end and competing for a wild-card spot. For a team with blemishes, and new leaders both in the front office and in the dugout, that has to be taken as a positive. They finished ahead of the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals and the much-hyped Houston Astros. There are things to build on in Seattle.
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Mariners, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Mariners were a pretty good team across the board. They scored runs, hit homers, their pitchers were in the top 10 for both starting ERA and relief ERA. There was nothing particularly bad about them — except maybe the month of June. It was their worst stretch of the season, as they went 10-18 and fell as many as 11 games back in the division. That’s because the Rangers went 20-8 in June and really set themselves up as the team to beat in the AL West. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
This was a big growth year for Seattle, who looked like a competitive team for the first time in years. They shed themselves of manager Lloyd McClendon and GM Jack Zduriencik and brought in new blood. Scott Servais was hired to manage, and Jerry Dipoto, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, would be their GM. With the air cleared, the team itself began to flourish. Second baseman Robinson Cano, after two years of low home run totals, smashed 39 home runs and hit .298/.350/.533. And if we’re talking homers, DH Nelson Cruz has to be mentioned. He hit 43 this season, just one shy of the career-high he set in 2015. Yeah, the Mariners finished nine games out of first in the AL West, but that was good enough for second place, and they kept themselves in the wild-card conversation until almost the end. After years of futility, this is a move in the right direction. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
A late-season surge wasn’t enough to get Seattle into the postseason, but they at least made it interesting. A 3-2 win over the Angels on Aug. 15 was the Mariners’ 10th win in 11 games, and really revived their wild-card hopes. Felix Hernandez – pitching on the four-year anniversary of his perfect game – struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings and Nelson Cruz launched one of his trademark home runs. This year wasn’t the year for the Mariners, none of them since 2001 have been, but their play down the stretch did give fans reason to be encouraged. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
Consistency is not something you can buy in free agency or acquire in a trade, but it’s the one thing the Mariners need more of headed into next season. This season they had five winning streaks of at least four games. By the same token, they also had six losing streak of at least four games. Those streaks always seemingly came right when they emerged from the hole created by the previous streak. They surged hard the end, but must find some consistency to take the next step. (Mark Townsend)
WARP INTO THE FUTURE
Seattle’s major impact prospects are young, and remain years away from reaching the majors. First baseman Dan Vogelbach did appear in the majors in 2016, and could play a role with the club next season with Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee headed for free agency. D.J. Peterson may also be close, but he’s a first baseman as well, so that could complicate things.
Outfielder Kyle Lewis, the team’s 2016 first-round pick, got off to a hot start in his professional debut, hitting .299/.385/.530. He tore his ACL in July, however, and should miss a fair amount of time next year. He’s already considered the club’s best prospect. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets.
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