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Vince Grippi: Mariners tease fans, including many who had already checked out

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 3, 2017, 10:31 p.m.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has made a few moves of late that have kept Seattle in the wild-card race. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has made a few moves of late that have kept Seattle in the wild-card race. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The calendar tells us fall arrives Friday, Sept. 22, this year.

We all know that’s not true. Fall arrives, actually arrived, over the weekend.

Football season began.

And why is that important to the Mariners?

Sadly, because of their lack of success the past 15 years or so, the M’s become an afterthought to most in the Northwest after football season begins.

And why not?

The other professional teams in Seattle, the Seahawks, the Sounders, the Huskies – sorry, my UW friends (or more accurately, friend) that’s just a little joke coming from a guy whose college didn’t have a football team – seemingly invest whatever it takes to win.

And they do. Win, I mean.

The Mariners, on the other hand, celebrate 1995. Or Edgar. Or the great season of 2001, the last time they appeared in the playoffs. That’s easy.

Actually returning to the postseason, that’s a bit harder.

So when football season begins, it’s easy for Northwest fans to tuck the Mariners into the back of their mind, safely put away until next spring, when irrational exuberance is allowed to sprout again.

The M’s certainly didn’t do themselves any favors by ending August on a five-game losing streak. Even if the slide didn’t bury their American League wild-card hopes – like the wights causing the traffic jam on Westeros’ equivalent of I-5, no one is ever really dead dead in the wild card – it allowed fans to justify turning their attention to the Cougars or Seahawks or, heck, even their fantasy football team.

It doesn’t help the Hawks and the Huskies and the Cougars and even the Sounders, if you are a millennial or a boomer with a soccer bent, are all title contenders this season.

Many Mariner fans were looking for reasons to continue to hope. It’s been so long since Seattle has appeared in a postseason baseball game, there are kids driving to their high school cross country meet who haven’t experienced the thrill.

That’s sad.

But it also leads to ship-jumping. And that happened at the end of last month.

The splashes could be heard from CenturyLink to Martin Stadium.

So what do the Mariners do? Jerry Dipoto casts a line and reels in Mike Leake, a once-dependable starting pitcher who has been less so since signing a sizable free-agent contract with St. Louis.

Dipoto works his magic. He gets the Cardinals to pay part of Leake’s salary. And Leake takes the mound at Safeco on Friday night, pitches like it’s 2013 again and supplies a hope-retrieving 3-2 win over Oakland. Two more wins follow.

All of a sudden the Mariners have a winning streak, they’ve pulled above .500 one more time and seem to have life again.

And, with the Hawks’ opener six days away, maybe some folks in the Northwest decide to grab onto the life preserver and climb aboard the good ship Mariner again.

Why not?

Twenty-five games remain. Just under half are at home. All but three (versus the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians) are against the West. There are six teams within four games of the Minnesota Twins, the current holder of the coveted second wild-card. Seattle is in the middle of that group.

It is possible. Maybe not probable, but possible.

And if not?

The Hawks may just make the Super Bowl again.