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If it all goes right: 2018

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Hope is not a strategy, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
per aspera ad astra
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Kate: Every year we write one of these things, and every year it’s the same, even if the writing is different: a beautifully constructed dreamland on paper that slowly becomes more and more damp over the long rains of the season until finally the fibers give way and it shreds apart, unrecognizable. For so long, the only successful Mariners season has been the one written here, a beacon of light shined down from the top step of early April, way before we hit the trick-stair a third (a half, an eighth, a quarter) of the way down. So why do this at all? Why have hope, when this year, especially, it feels unwarranted?

John: Because this is it. This is the final moment of pure possibility before 7:10 PM PT, March 29th, 2018. As soon as Félix Hernández throws the first pitch that matters™, the months of potential energy we have built together with frustration and worry and hope and fury all dissipate into nothingness. This indulgence that we endeavor into annually together is our ultimate attempt to control a process that neither recognizes us as individuals nor heeds even our basest desires. This matters, not because it is any more likely than the opposite occurring, but because habit without hope is unsustainable. It goes beyond the fact that hope, however foolhardy it may seem this year, is merited. It is something this fanbase deserves.

K: When I was in junior high and obsessed with Edgar Martinez, a signed bat of his was an item in our school’s auction and I wanted it more than I’ve ever wanted any material object. My parents were extremely kind and tried to win it for me and as the price started rising (there was a collector present), people were getting up and throwing money on their table in support. That’s what I feel like it would be like if the Mariners made any kind of a playoff run; outside of some AL West fans, I guess, I think most baseball fans would do the equivalent of throwing money on our table. It could be a great Cinderella story, one of the great baseball stories, and we could be part of it. We deserve to be part of it, finally. And there’s a not-insignificant part of me that thinks we could be, that this rotation could be surprisingly competent, that even the weak parts of this lineup are underrated.

J: I look forward to the populist uprising by the dregs of the AL Central to support our M’s as those strangers aided you, foiling the Twins’ hopes of coasting on an inferior schedule to a second straight WC2 spot. The truth is, however, it’s attainable. Anyone who went to bed furious as a teenager knows the experience of screaming into their pillow to muffle their rage. Our rage comes pre-muffled as fans, but this is a moment for catharsis - let out that winter’s worth of frustration, the rage at signings passed over, trades regretted, and the saga of one Mr. [REDACTED]. A shout, a roar, a sustained bellow, whatever fully expels that rage, even just for a moment, because that’s all I need to tell you that this team could still do the damn thing.

K: They could ENTIRELY do the damn thing. May I direct you back to Mike Zunino gleefully catching Marco’s bullpen, exclaiming over the cutter like it’s a particularly large and gleaming fish his buddy caught? Marco hauling himself off the ash-heap of TJ, coming back to his adopted hometown and becoming a 3-win pitcher anchoring the back half of the rotation seems not just like a feel-good story, it feels like something that’s more likely than not.

J: And that stability ripples throughout the roster. The bullpen, freed up by a dependable Marco, Mike Leake, and Paxton, piggybacks Félix into a productive season. The team asks only that their starters show up each day, and the offense takes care of the rest.

K: And boy do they. As much as the rotation hangs on someone like Marco taking a step forward and everyone else reliably gobbling innings, the offense just needs everyone to mostly hold course, and for one or two things to break the Mariners’ way: my bet is that first base is the most productive it’s been in years, either from Ryon Healy being better than projections have him, or Daniel Vogdor Vogelbach to swoop in, short arms a-flapping, and rain the same kind of fire down on AL West pitchers—who, non-Astros division, are not the most terrifying crew—he did over spring.

J: And when it happens it can be beautiful to watch. The sequence of “Dee Gordon single. Dee Gordon steals second. Dee Gordon scores on Jean Segura single.” may become so commonplace, vendors at Safeco Field start selling scorebooks with that result pre-penciled into the first inning of home games. The unrelenting offense will keep the team in games, and the bullpen, finally locked in all at once, will shut the door. It’s a brand of baseball we’ve seen in spurts over the past four years in Seattle, and sustaining it for a full season will put the rest of the American League on their heels.

K: Well, the American League, non-Astros, non-Yankees division. But for all the projections that had teams like the Blue Jays or the Rangers (!!!) or Tampa Bay (!!!!) landing ahead of the Mariners, well, all those will be swept under the rug as quickly as Scott Boras erasing the “Rich Ankiel is the next Babe Ruth” quote from the internet. The Twins and the Angels may have been rewarded by pundits for winning the off-season, but guess what, it’s the real deal now. And now they’re dealing with a pissed-off Mariners team with a chip on their collective shoulder and an off-season of hearing about how much the farm sucks, how bad the trades were, how not enough got done, and how the players here aren’t enough.

J: Whatever it… requires for the team to maximize their talent and health. The team has been maligned, and their fan base further still as a result. And yet when September rolls around it will be a sight for sore eyes to see James Paxton and Corey Kluber starts be circled on the schedule by national broadcasts as the two Cy Young candidates race to the finish. The discussion will shift from “will the team will make the playoffs” to “who should start the Wild Card game,” to “where are your seats for the game,” to “you ready for the Supreme Court in Game 2?”

K: I can’t even imagine the atmosphere at Safeco if the team is in it down the stretch. We got a small taste of it in 2016, you and I and all the wonderful, wacky, passionate parts of this fanbase who hugged us and jumped up and down. I am ready to hug a stranger who is screaming, who smells a little of sweat and a lot of beer; I am ready to scream and smell and jump up and down. I am ready for Safeco to roar like the ocean and bear our Mariners aloft on an untamable wave of power and noise and emotion. I am, like Kyle, fucking ready.

J: Today is Opening Day. We know the odds. We know what’s likely. We know what we expect. But we’ve seen the unexpected before. A Perfect King. An Impeccable Bear. An Indomitable Cruz.

K: We know what’s likely, and yet. We’ve seen players rise from the ashes before. We’ve seen a team do it, in the unlikeliest of victories.

J: We’ve witnessed ancient magic and immaculate precocity.

K: Balls hit so hard they’ve rendered professional baseball talkers silly.

J: Defensive Mastery, both Stoic and Jubilant.

K: Old Time Religion and New Age magic.

J: A seemingly hopeless career, saved by Edgar Martinez.

K: A seemingly hopeless franchise, saved by Edgar Martinez.

J: We’ve had 40 years of unlikely moments. It’s time for an unlikely season.

K: We’re throwing our money on the table, Mariners, figuratively and literally. Let’s win this thing.