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Seattle Mariners
Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Out of Right Field: COVID-19, wildfires cost M’s a playoff shot

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 26, 2020

Smoke from wildfires fills the air at T-Mobile Park as the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics play with the roof extended during the sixth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Seattle.   (Ted S. Warren)
Smoke from wildfires fills the air at T-Mobile Park as the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics play with the roof extended during the sixth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Seattle.  (Ted S. Warren)
By Gene Warnick The Spokesman-Review

A single case of the novel coronavirus and wildfires in the Pacific Northwest might have cost the Mariners their first postseason appearance since 2001, the longest drought in the four major professional sports.

Far-fetched?

Not exactly.

The Mariners played five “home” games in San Francisco and San Diego from Sept. 15-20 because of poor air conditions in the Puget Sound area from the wildfires.

And they were forced to play one of three makeup games from a Sept. 1-3 series against Oakland originally scheduled for T-Mobile Park in the Bay Area on Saturday. Those games were postponed because of a positive COVID-19 test in the Athletics’ organization, with two of the games made up in a Sept. 14 doubleheader in Seattle.

That means the M’s played six “home” games on the road. Their record in those games was 2-4.

In games actually played at T-Mobile Park this season, the Mariners went 14-10, a .583 winning percentage.

Considering the M’s had an eight-game home winning streak snapped in the second game of that Sept. 14 doubleheader, it’s not hard to imagine they might have gone 4-2 or 5-1 in those games against the Giants, Padres and A’s had they been played in Seattle, not 2-4. Sure, the odds are still long, but they might have had something to play for Sunday in the regular-season finale.

Granted, 2020 is anything but a normal season.

The pandemic cut the regular-season schedule from 162 games to 60 and Major League Baseball has expanded its postseason for this year, to eight teams in each league.

Still, the M’s weren’t eliminated from the chase for second place in the American League West (the top two teams in each division make the playoffs) or the two AL wild-card spots until Thursday.

For a team in “step-back” mode, that should be considered a step forward.

Upon further review

A colleague brought up an interesting point about a previous Out of Right Field column about how the current M’s might have the largest – and most promising – collection of young talent the franchise has had since the mid-1980s.

The 1986 club featured several players in their mid-20s, including first baseman Alvin Davis (age 25), second baseman Harold Reynolds (25), shortstop Spike Owen (25), third baseman Jim Presley (24), outfielders Dave Henderson (27), Phil Bradley (27), Ivan Calderon (24) and Danny Tartabull (23), catcher Dave Valle (25), plus starting pitchers Mike Moore (26), Mark Langston (25) and Bill Swift (24).

It was noted that management was too cheap to keep those players with the M’s, who were still five years away from the franchise’s first winning season.

But what did the M’s get in return for those youngsters?

We did some digging via BaseballReference.com to find out. We’ll exclude Davis, Moore, Reynolds and Valle, who each walked away as free agents. We’ll include the statistics of each player acquired while with the M’s, and grade each trade with a win or loss:

Owen, Henderson: The duo was traded to Boston on Aug. 17, 1986, for SS Rey Quinones (.251, 24 HRs, 115 RBIs in 318 games over four seasons) and three players to be named later – RHPs Mike Brown (0-2, 8.44 ERA in seven games) and Mike Trujillo (4-4, 5.12 ERA in 20 games) and OF John Christensen (.242-2-12 in 53 games). Owen and Henderson helped the Red Sox reach the World Series that fall. The mercurial Quinones, who once blamed visa problems from his native Puerto Rico for being late to spring training (even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and you don’t need a visa), never lived up to his promise. Loss.

Presley: Traded Jan. 24, 1990, to Atlanta for RHP Mike Eave (0-3, 4.80 ERA in eight games) and minor league 3B Ken Pennington (never reached the majors). Presley had a decent season with the Braves but played just one more in San Diego to wrap up his career. Loss.

Bradley: Dealt Dec. 9, 1987, to Philadelphia with minor league LHP Tim Fortugno for OF Glenn Wilson (.250-3-17 in 78 games), RHP Michael Jackson (23-26, 3.38 ERA, 34 saves in 335 games over five seasons) and minor league 1B/LHP Dave Brundage (never reached the majors). After batting .301 in five seasons in Seattle, Bradley failed to hit better than .277 again. Wilson never became the run-producing machine the M’s had hoped after a 100-RBI season with the Phillies, but Jackson ended up being a reliable reliever. Win.

Calderon: Traded July 1, 1986, to the Chicago White Sox for C Scott Bradley (.259-18-180 in 562 games over seven seasons). After two-plus seasons in Seattle, Calderon played seven more in his career. He hit .293 with 28 HRs and 83 RBIs for the White Sox in 1987 and had a career-best 87 RBIs in 1989 for them. Also had two seasons of 30-plus stolen bases. Loss.

Tartabull: Dealt Dec. 10, 1986, with minor league RHP Rick Luecken to Kansas City for RHPs Scott Bankhead (33-31, 4.16 ERA in 102 games over five seasons) and Steve Shields (2-0, 6.60 in 20 games) and OF Mike Kingery (.255-12-67 RBI in 208 games over three seasons). Tartabull played 11 more years and was an All-Star for the Royals in 1989, when he batted .316 with 31 HRs and 100 RBIs and led the American League with a .593 slugging percentage. He had five 100-RBI seasons and hit 25 or more HRs seven times. Loss.

Langston: Traded May 25, 1989, with a player to be named later (RHP Mike Campbell) to the Montreal Expos for RHPs Gene Harris (2.6, 5.48 ERA in 51 games over four seasons) and Brian Holman (32-35, 3.73 ERA in 81 games over three years) and LHP Randy Johnson (130-74, 3.42 ERA in 274 games over 10 seasons). Langston finished out the season with the Expos before signing as a free agent with the Angels. Johnson won the AL Cy Young in 1995, going 18-2 with a major league best 294 to lead the M’s to their first postseason appearance. Win.

Swift: Traded Dec. 11, 1991, with RHPs Dave Burba and Michael Jackson to San Francisco for OF Kevin Mitchell (.286-9-67 in 99 games) and LHP Mike Remlinger. Swift went 41-49 with a 4.33 ERA in seven seasons with Seattle (including 11-9 when he returned in 1998). Mitchell, the 1989 NL MVP when he batted .281 and led the majors with 47 HRs and 125 RBIs for the Giants, played one season for the M’s before being traded to Cincinnati for LHP Norm Charlton. Remlinger pitched 14 MLB seasons, but never appeared for the M’s before signing with the New York Mets as a free agent before the 1994 season. Loss.

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