Would you like to know the truth, or would you like to have fun? That's a question that being a Mariner fan often makes us feel we must ask ourselves. Should we analyze this team, dig deep into its history of mismanagement, public relations gaffes, and of course incessant, brutal losing? Or should we simply use them as a backdrop, as social lubricant, as inspiration for whatever our minds can conjure to entertain, distract, and humor?
This duality, this schism, and the way we vacillate between it is at the core of being a Seattle Mariner fan. Lookout Landing has had among its readers and authors brilliant scientists, filmmakers, poets, physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and on and on. This is a community and a fanbase that adores knowledge, that fetishizes it. Over our long history this place has been a bastion of appreciation and discussion over principles and ideas that have helped revolutionize the way professional baseball looks at itself.
But when every new tunnel, every new solar system, every fresh discovery casts the failures of our team into greater and greater focus how long can this be sustained? Inevitably, our thirst for knowing waned, and we let ourselves get silly. We created games, quizzes, memes, fake histories, AP Day, Feels Day, GWAR, and on and on. Something, anything to help us smile as day after day, year after year, the Mariners disappointed us.
Truth or fun. For far too long this has been our choice, as though the two things were inherently opposite, and could not be combined. The time has come, hell it's well past, for us to have fun knowing the truth, that the Seattle Mariners are a quality playoff team. It's time for us to look at our bank account in July, and start to figure out where the deposit for playoff tickets is coming from. It's time for celebrations, and smiles. It's time for us to envelop Safeco in our pagentry during October, and for viewers in places like California, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and on to look at us, and be amazed by how much fun we are having.
This is the task facing Jerry Dipoto and company. He will be portioned less grace than he deserves, as our patience was out ten years ago. Give us truth, and give us fun Jerry. Nothing else will do. Give us the playoffs.
AL West Rivals
"It was an active offseason in Seattle, and one that inspires hope for the future under the current regime. The front office entered with a plan and a vision, and were able to execute to the fullest. The window is closing and the system is barren, but Dipoto may have managed to hold it ajar while not mortgaging the future. We still need to see how the new regime handles player development and the draft, but when it comes to constructing a big league roster, they've proven their worth."
"Despite the overwhelmingly negative results produced by the old regime in the development department, they did manage to leave behind a promising and intriguing 2015 draft class. The class–which makes up for 8 of the Mariners' Top-30 prospects on MLB.com–boasts several players worth keeping an eye on in 2016."
"When all is said and done, the 2016 Mariners appear to be an average to slightly above average team in terms of their offense. Dipoto addressed the gaping wound that was the Mariners catcher position and also seems to have secured a fairly significant upgrade at first base. However, these gains will likely be tempered by Nelson Cruz and Franklin Gutierrez returning to earth and no longer slugging at ~Ruthian levels. If Leonys Martin bounces back from his disastrous year (a woeful wRC+ of 50 in '15) and if Marte avoids a sophomore slump, this team has the potential to be pretty potent at the plate."
"There are signs for positive regression, as the M's rotation had the 4th-highest HR/FB rate in the league last season at 13.6%, which contributed to the single largest difference between a team's rotational FIP- (106) and xFIP- (96) in 2015. After injuries tanked much of last season's hope, new general manager Jerry Dipoto has combined his own moves with trades made by his predecessor, and the result is depth that figures to keep the Mariners afloat even in the stormiest of seas."
"Just two years ago, Mariners relievers posted a 2.60 ERA and an excellent 3.24 FIP. Both of those marks led the American League, topping the celebrated Royals bullpen. Most of the main contributors returned in 2015, but what was a team strength quickly soured. Mariner fans soon abandoned any trust in relief arms they may have gained the year before. Fernando Rodney lost all control of his fastball. Danny Farquhar left too many cutters over the heart of the plate. Dominic Leone forgot how to pitch. There were a few bright spots to be sure, the emergence of Carson Smith and the steady rhythms of Tom Wilhelmsen most notable. But both of them are gone now, replaced by a pile of relievers as tall as Tom's big, bending curveball."
"Dipoto went right after the Mariners’ most inefficient members of the infield in 2015, dealing away fan favorites Logan Morrison and Brad Miller. While the other half of the first base platoon remains an enigma, Adam Lind should hold down a steady enough first base in addition to bringing more offensive pop to the position. I will love LoMo forever, but his UZR for last year was a sad -2.9, with -7 DRS. Lind, on the other hand, recorded 3.8 UZR with 5 DRS, although it should be noted that 2015 was an aberration, as he didn’t put up anything nearly that positive while with the Blue Jays. Maybe he’s just really bothered by Canadian spelling? ("In God’s country we spell it c-e-n-t-e-r, dangit!") Given his career, however, it's fair to say Lind is a below-average fielder, like most first basemen."
If It All Goes Wrong
"Optimism is a virtue in the world of baseball. It’s an asset to the players, who have to hypnotize themselves into greatness by dismissing any alternative outcome. It’s valuable to baseball clubs selling twenty-game ticket plans, and garlic fries yet-uncooked. And it’s equally vital to fans, who are measured if anything by the strength of their convictions. In fact, the mysticism of optimism is so powerful, so necessary that to admit the possibility of failure is to be morally complicit in it. You come here for the analysis, but what you really want is the affirmation. You want to be told that this is the year, that this is the time to believe, that this time is special."
If It All Goes Right
"I think, sitting here in October, what is most striking is the contrast between this past season and 2015. The difference is rather slight, beyond those fifteen more wins. That's all it was. Yet, somehow, those fifteen changed outcomes bear the distance of infinite space. The Seattle Mariners won ten percent more games this season. That's it. That's baseball. That's life, all. That's how small the margins are in one-hundred and sixty-two games. But I think it's important to remember how devastating 2015 was. Personally, it was the very worst season I can ever remember. It was an endurance test of how many times you could be given hope, only to have it snatched away. It mirrored too closely the happenings of my current affairs. It gave me no solace. There was no cataclysmic failure that lead to eighty-six losses. There was a fighter who kept slipping on the mat every time they stood back up. The knockdowns were palpable. We slipped with them."
Asking for the 2016 Seattle Mariners to be a playoff team is asking much. Not only does the team itself have to rebound from a disasterous 2015 it does so with aging stars, and in a division poised to be one of baseball's toughest. It's possible, of course, that Cano's spring is real and he is a borderline MVP candidate. Felix could rebound, and inspire hope that his early 30's will not be heartbreakingly ineffective. Ketel Marte could be the 2nd best shortstop in the division. The bullpen could catch fire.
The truth though, is that almost all these things have to happen simultaneously in order to see the team winning enough games to make the postseason. This is a fine team, in my opinion perhaps the most complete and deep Mariner team of this decade. But there are still too many holes, and even if Jerry Dipoto is the man to undo all the carnage the final Zduriencik year wrought, he has had precious little time to do so.
2016 Record: 82-80
Division finish: 3rd
Games out of 2nd Wild Card: 5
May I be underselling them. To a season of truth and fun, together. Go M's.