On September 28th, 2014, the Seattle Mariners jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Felix Hernandez was on the mound and was pitching a gem. In the bottom of the fifth inning, almost 41,000 fans all rose to their feet, giving the team a standing ovation. The Oakland Athletics had just finished off the Texas Rangers, giving them an 88-74 record and the final Wild Card spot. The Seattle Mariners had been eliminated; the magical run had come to an end. After an out in the fifth, Lloyd McClendon walked out of the dugout with tears in his eyes to get Felix. This was one of the more memorable moments in my Mariners’ Fandom.
The 2019 Seattle Mariners got off to a historic start, winning 13 of their first 15 games. Thirty-five games later, they were 20-20, five hundred on the year for the last time. They ended the year with a 68-94 record.
Last year, the Mariners had an amazing run, snapping the 21-year playoff drought and winning the Wild Card series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The next game, they took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth before losing 8-7. Their strength, the pitching blew a late game lead again in the second game of the ALDS, losing 4-2. They finally got home and hosted the first playoff game since 2001 and went 18 innings before giving up a run to lose the series to the Houston Astros.
I bring these years up, not to rub it in, or to just be mean and remind us of other failures, but to address a common theme with Mariner fandom. Disappointment. There was a season preview once written that was either called or contained a section where the author claimed, "The Seattle Mariners will always disappoint you." This statement has been living basically rent-free in my head since, even though I have not been able to find the article again. Perhaps I imagined it, perhaps my google-fu simply needs work. On some level, we have all experienced disappointment with the Mariners: prospects not working out as we hoped, the team not making signings we wanted, seemingly ignoring the free agent market, or just simply not having on-field success.
Going into this year, while I was disappointed with the moves they made in the offseason, I thought they would be at least like they were in the 2022 season. The phrase I found myself saying repeatedly was that the team had "punted" the offseason. This was taken by many as me saying the team had given up or that I expected a significant step back from last year. When I said it though, I was saying that I felt this team would be basically the same as last year’s version. The season started off very slow, and by the end of June, I was ready to move on to next year. Then, in the ninth inning of the game on July 19th, Jarred Kelenic struck out, and on the 20th, he was placed on the injured list. The team was 48-48, and I was ready to "officially change my expectation to 80-85 wins at the end year."
The team, however, decided to go on a historic run and have their winningest month in team history. They battled back and got themselves back into the discussion and even led the AL West for a bit before falling off in September. Fortunately for them, the rest of the AL West also has faltered of late and the Mariners are still very much in the race. But still, in the back of my mind is that phrase, "The Seattle Mariners will always disappoint you." For all I know, they will. Perhaps they won’t. Even with losing the first two to the Rangers in Arlington, they are just two games back in the division and a half game back in the wild card race. Will the Mariners make it? Will they do anything in the playoffs if they do? Will I be left disappointed again now at the end of the regular season or after a deep run?
Honestly? I don’t care. Disappointment is a part of fandom, especially Mariners’ fandom. If I didn’t have expectations, I wouldn’t be nearly as invested in this team. If the Seattle Mariners are really going to disappoint me, then I say let them. I will be here. I will be watching. I will hope for the best but will prepare for the worst. As I was driving home from Growler Guys today, that damn sentence, "The Seattle Mariners will always disappoint you," was running through my head. It’s going to be a hell of a week to wind down the season. Even though you have given me my mid-season adjusted expectation, get out there and give us the good ending Mariners, we all know you can.
But should the worst happen, I am ready to be disappointed again.