With 16 games left in the 2020 season entering play on Saturday, the Seattle Mariners sat five games behind the New York Yankees (LOL) for the eighth and final playoff seed in MLB’s cash-grab of expanded postseason due to (and in conjunction with) the pandemic.
Following a nice little six-game win streak – sandwiched around a three-game COVID-induced vacation while the Oakland A’s were being quarantined – against the woeful Anaheim Angels and pitiable Texas Rangers, the M’s seemed to have insinuated themselves into the postseason discussion.
But three losses in a row this week quieted that talk real fast. Sure, as Tom Selleck’s character on the mindlessly entertaining old TV show “Las Vegas” used to say, “Anything can happen,” but like tight slot machines and double-zeros on the roulette wheel, the house always ends up winning.
There’s just no money in betting on the Mariners to break an 18-year postseason drought.
More COVID delays may be coming in the future.
The San Francisco Giants on Saturday announced that a member of their traveling party tested positive, forcing the team to self-isolate in their hotel rooms in San Diego until contact tracing and negative tests can be obtained.
The M’s played in San Francisco last Tuesday and Wednesday and are scheduled to host the Giants this Tuesday and Wednesday. With luck, no further positive tests emerge.
This stop-and-start “season” of 60 games is really, if you think about it, one long extended interleague spring training, albeit traveling across the country instead of riding buses across Florida and Arizona.
If you take into consideration preseason workouts in February, then a normal 30-game spring season, the 2020 season really isn’t much longer than that. Considering the lack of crowds in the stands, the larger traveling squads and the remainder of the 60-player pool working out at the alternate training sites, and all the journeymen and prospects dotting rosters all over MLB, it does have the vibe of spring training.
Not until the expanded playoffs and national TV exposure will the intensity level pick up.
Taken into context, then, what to make of the 2020 season, especially from the Mariners viewpoint?
Well, watch and evaluate like you would in spring training, naturally.
We’ve said it in this space a few times, but it bears repeating: Kyle Lewis showing he can handle major league pitching every day is the most important development than can come out of this 60-day season for the M’s.
He’s slashing .299/.390/.484 with nine homers while playing a solid center field. Maybe as significant, he’s cut his strikeout-to-walk ratio way down over his initial appearance last season.
In 43 games this year, he’s struck out 47 times against 24 walks, which may not lead the league, but is a huge leap from his debut last year, when he drew just three walks against 29 Ks in 18 games.
Lewis becoming a legitimate answer goes a long way for this club.
Someday, quite soon, we could see a combination of Lewis, Jarred Kelenic and recently acquired Taylor Trammell roaming T-Mobile Park’s outfield, allowing the M’s to be patient with 19-year-old phenom Julio Rodriguez, as he’ll need next year in the minors to recover from his left wrist fracture sustained in July, the second time in his young career he’s suffered an injury to his left hand/wrist.
What’s left of the 2020 season?
Enjoy Marco Gonzales’ pinpoint control and the development of the young starters. Marvel in J.P. Crawford and Evan White’s defense. Admire Dylan Moore’s determination to prove he belongs at the big league level. Get to know newcomer Ty France. Appreciate veteran Kyle Seager. Dream on the prospects. Respect Dee Strange-Gordon and his message of racial inequity in America.
There are many ways to be a fan of a team, and most don’t involve winning baseball games or qualifying for the playoffs.
Dave Nichols can be reached at (509) 459-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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