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A Storm’s Brewing

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Watching a storm and playoff baseball from a hotel room in Florida. Yeah, you’re jealous.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning and welcome to the best day of playoff baseball...ever?

With four Cy Young winners facing off today, plus a few other aces on the mound, there’s a lot of good baseball to be seen. And I’ll be watching all of it.

You see, right now I’m holed up in a hotel room in Gainesville, Florida, watching a hurricane (technically, I think it’s more of a tropical storm here, but that’s neither here nor there) rage outside and with nothing to do. My work for today? Cancelled. The LSU-Florida game I was going to attend tomorrow? Postponed. Lesson learned: Always be prepared for a hurricane in Florida.

But in a way, this hurricane seems appropriate for a day of watching playoff baseball without the 2016 Mariners. The torrential rain and howling winds serve as constant reminders that I can pretend that everything is fine in my hotel room, with Netflix and television to distract me, and yet there’s still a looming storm.

That looming storm, of course, is the offseason. Trader Jerry worked his magic last year, trading everyone in sight and coming out with a completely revamped bullpen, a couple new starters, and a fairly successful first season. Yet that debut will mean nothing without a playoff appearance, and soon - which puts all the pressure on this offseason.

The eight remaining teams still playing are all built differently. Some were torn down for years before a long rebuilding process put them on top, while others were manufactured through constant tweaks and nudges, small changes that allowed them to remain relevant without hitting rock bottom.

Given the current core, Dipoto and the rest of the front office will have to pursue this latter path. There isn’t a lot of time to work their magic, of course: Robinson Canó and Félix Hernández, as good as they are, will only keep getting older, taking their production down with them even as they collect the same checks. The minor league system, though far, far better than the barren wasteland that Dipoto & Co. inherited, remains a ways away. And Scott Servais still has a number of questions he must answer, namely his bullpen management (here’s hoping he can be more Terry Francona than Buck Showalter, given the last few days).

Is there hope? Certainly. But with the Rangers on top of the West, with the Astros looming not far behind, and with the Athletics Angels rest of the AL still playing competitive baseball, the window is narrowing. We’ve seen the danger in fighting for 162 games, just to have a one-game, winner-take-all contest. Though I’d obviously prefer that outcome to what we have now, it’s still a crapshoot, and this team must aim for more.

The wind has slowed for a second outside. Perhaps it’s a metaphor. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so pessimistic, and perhaps this team can make some magic happen in 2017.

Perhaps.

Either way, I’m spending the rest of the day watching playoff baseball and imagining how this team can be better next season. At least I’m comforted by the fact that I’m sure Jerry Dipoto is doing the same thing from 3,000 miles away.

Go M’s.