“That was the coolest thing in my life on a baseball field. When you have the whole stadium chanting your name, you gotta come through.”
J.P. Crawford’s quote is proof, folks: the energy in the Mariners fanbase is beginning to grow, and at no point was it more evident than in his late-game at-bat against the Rangers last Friday. Despite going down 0-2, I feel comfortable in assuming I was not the only one feeling certain that Crawford would come up big, as he has time after time (Worth noting that Crawford ranks second in FanGraphs’ clutch metric, while Kyle Seager occupies the third spot).
It felt nearly scripted; a scene taken straight out of a baseball movie. The rising star has a moment to push the comeback to completion, allowing for a raucous T-Mobile crowd on re-opening night to watch as Kendall Graveman locks it down for the save and sends all of us M’s fans to bed with a smile on our faces.
But, that didn’t happen. After all, this is no scripted movie; this is the 2021 Seattle Mariner ballclub.
There’s lots of talk about the sustainability of this model of success the Mariners seem to employ. This circus-like collection of performances night in and night out has somehow got them to a record of 45-41 at the time this writing, winning six out of their last 10, putting them 3.5 games back of a wild card spot. A July schedule filled with middling to below-average teams could see that record only diverge further from the .500 mark, leading to a potential flirtation with contention deep into the season.
Combine this recent run of form with potential trade deadline acquisitions contributing, as well as the eventual return of Jarred Kelenic to the majors along with the debut of Cal Raleigh, who knows what this team is capable of? Folks seem quick to dismiss the Mariners, pointing towards the lack of contention for the playoffs in years past, a lack of superstar names on the roster or statistics that indicate the Mariners are potentially more lucky than good. And when I say “folks,” I mean both Mariner fans themselves, as well as fans around the league.
It seems like it might just be self-protection—an emotional shield of sorts to watch the Mariners and tell yourself that this is going to end like 2014, 2016 and 2018, or any other year that the Mariners built you up only to knock you down. The Mariners have a run differential sitting at -53 right now, as well as an expected win/loss of 37-49 according to RPI rankings.
But I’m here to say: who cares? Throw as many numbers at me that supposedly show that the Mariners are actually bad and this is a fluke, and I’ll show you a record that has more wins than losses at this given moment. If there’s a team to win 90 games and get outscored by 50 runs on the season, of course it would be the Mariners. Chaos ball exists outside of the realm of normalcy and reality; statistical probability doesn’t apply here. Who’s to say this doesn’t continue for the second half of the season? What’s been done once can be done again, regardless of what predictive data may have to say about it.
The purpose of sports is to provide enjoyment. The Mariners exist with the intention of entertaining all of us, and to search for reasons not to believe in them is to deprive yourself of enjoyment for the sole purpose of either saying “I told you so” to those who had faith, or to prove your narratives that you have staked so much claim to (Looking at you, Jerry Dipoto hater crowd).
So I beg of all you Mariners fans, some of which seem so content in never acknowledging the possibility of success: open your heart to this team! No, there’s no star known around the country on this roster, but there is J.P Crawford showing up and showing out every night. They may not have a frontline ace like Jacob deGrom, but they have starters like Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Flexen—one confirmed All-Star and another whose performance merited his inclusion in the conversation. This collection of personalities and ragtag success should be enjoyed as it happens.
Will these Mariners win the World Series? Most assuredly not. But neither will 28 of the other 29 MLB teams. This team shouldn’t be judged in the same lens you may view teams like the Yankees, the Astros and the Dodgers because the Mariners, as they exist, are the antithesis of establishment baseball, and to turn your head on that recipe and the success it has somehow whipped up is a travesty.
Embrace this success while it happens, and drink the Mariner Kool-Aid. The worst that happens is the Mariners shatter your heart one more time, something we all know we can handle as we’ve done before. The euphoria of success does not exist without the tragedy of failure, and by god do we all know tragedy. That’s what will make it special when that page is finally turned though, and I think we should all hop aboard the Mariners train to make sure we don’t miss it.
If in some way this is the year that all the pieces happen to fall where they may, and they sneak into the postseason, don’t allow yourself to miss out on the chaotic experience surely to follow between now and October.