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Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Seattle Mariners, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
The Mariners approached this season unlike any team we’ve ever seen. General manager Jerry Dipoto made a crazy amount of roster moves — 14 offseason trades, an MLB record, and adding 18 new players to the 40-man roster. It was a bold offseason, but you’ve got to be bold when you’re trying to break baseball’s longest postseason drought.
And it didn’t work. It wasn’t because Dipoto wasn’t committed to his mission. He kept the trades coming during the season, trying to find a way into the postseason. But the Mariners just had too many issues — injuries to their pitching staff being the main one — to shuffle their way into a wild-card spot.
Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in Seattle:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
Most Mariners would say nothing, and we’d have a difficult time arguing given the expectations coming in and the frustration of continuing baseball’s longest postseason drought. Still, there were some positives worth noting. Of course, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager were all their usual selves, but the supporting cast looked improved too with Jean Segura at the top of the order and Mike Zunino finding his power stroke. Closer Edwin Diaz wasn’t consistent, but flashed dominance when locked in. Meanwhile James Paxton pitched like a top-of-the-rotation guy, but wasn’t healthy enough to make a real difference. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
Every team deals with injuries, but the Mariners were hit especially hard in the starting rotation. Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly were non-factors. In fact, Smyly didn’t even make a regular season start. Felix Hernandez and James Paxton are Seattle’s two best starters, but they will combine for less than 40 starts. That’s left Yovani Gallardo as their most durable starter, which would have been fine anytime between 2009-2015. In 2017, he posted an ERA just under 6.00. Needless to say, those pitching injuries were too much to overcome. (Mark Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
Maybe this is cheating, but two great Mariners moments this year came in baseball’s most famous exhibition game across the country from Seattle. Out in Miami for for the All-Star game, both Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz made their mark on the Midsummer Classic.
Cruz gave us the most viral moment, when he whipped out his phone and posed for a photo with umpire Joe West. And Cano? Well, he had the game-winning hit and won the MVP award. Sure, some postseason hoopla would be nice, but being the stars of the All-Star game isn’t bad. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
It feels weird to say that the Mariners, home of King Felix, need help with pitching, but that’s where they are. James Paxton was brilliant and Erasmo Ramirez was decent, but everyone else — King Felix included — underperformed or was injured. They need to find some solid rotation options, or they’re going to be sunk. They can only wait so long for their young pitching to mature into some kind of usefulness. If it doesn’t, they’ll either need to buy what they need or erase the board and start over. What they really need is some better luck, at least injury wise. But since luck isn’t something the Mariners can fix, they’ll have to hope the chips fall right in 2018 if they want to make another, possibly final, glorious run toward the postseason. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
Jerry Dipoto has walked a dangerous line over the past few years. His core is aging and he knows it. Their window of contention is closing fast. Dipoto has tried to strengthen the club since he took over, but he hasn’t made any huge moves. He may need to do that if he wants the Mariners to make one more playoff push.
The farm system isn’t all that impressive. Yes, outfielder Kyle Lewis and pitcher Nick Neidert are promising, but they probably won’t be in the majors next season. Thaygo Vieira, Dan Vogelbach and Max Povse should get some run in the majors next year, but all three might be role players. A rebuild is probably inevitable, and will likely happen soon. It’s up to Dipoto to decide whether he wants to give it one more go before Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez are no longer effective. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES
San Francisco Giants | Philadelphia Phillies | Cincinnati Reds | Chicago White Sox | New York Mets | San Diego Padres | Atlanta Braves | Detroit Tigers | Pittsburgh Pirates | Oakland Athletics | Miami Marlins | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles
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