Fann: The Mariners are once again worthy of your emotional investment

OK, be honest. How many of you were ready to walk away from this Mariners team three weeks ago after that disastrous five-game home streak against the Angels?

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You were right to be on the brink. Mike Trout hit five home runs in as many games and continued his well-documented ownership of the Mariners organization. to Aaron Rodgers and the Chicago Bears.

Seattle fell 10 games below .500 at 29-39 after that streak against the Halos, one in which they were shut out twice. Recalling the emotions of that infamous low point makes these past three weeks even more incomprehensible.

That’s because the Mariners are the hottest team in baseball as winners of 16 of their last 19 games, including a current eight-game winning streak. This weekend’s four-game sweep of the Blue Jays gave Seattle a 45-42 record. If the season ended today, the Mariners would be in the playoffs as the American League’s third wild card team.

Now you have to decide once again how much emotional investment you’re willing to put up with a team that owns the most infamous playoff drought in sports. And while you’re reasonable enough to keep these Mariners at arm’s length for now, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that things may finally be different this time around.

For starters, this team is easy to root for. We learned that during last year’s fascinating and inexplicable playoff push. Now, liking a team is just as measurable as “fun margin,” but we can surely agree that there is value in both. This two-decade playoff absence has been filled with apathy and seasons that ended before the calendar turned to summer. The Mariners have lost 90 games seven times during that drought, with two of those teams reaching 100 losses. Seattle has finished last in the AL West 10 times since 2001.

We’ve all gone to games over the years as a fun summer activity with family and friends without any real hope of being entertained by the product of the field. So yes, the joy of watching objectively entertaining players like Julio Rodríguez, JP Crawford, Ty France, Eugenio “Good Vibes Only” Suarez and countless others is important. Mitch Haniger’s Player’s Tribune column, Paul Sewald’s buzz after every save, and Jesse Winker’s willingness to battle the entire Angels Pit also factor into the overall likeability of this list.

Suffice it to say, if the Mariners fail this year, you can be sure that your pain will be shared by everyone in the clubhouse.

Beyond this team’s intangibles, and of course most importantly, its recent success could be sustainable. Seattle’s hitting staff has been the best in baseball with a league-leading 2.99 ERA since June 1st. In that span, Mariners shortstops rank third in opponent batting average (.260), fourth in walk percentage (6.9%), first in left field percentage (82.9%) and 11th -ti in xFIP (3.90). Robbie Ray looks like reigning AL Cy Young winner Logan Gilbert deserved a spot on the American League All-Star roster and Marco Gonzales has regained form as a reliable pinch hitter.

In the competition, Diego Castillo, Andrés Muñoz and Sewald have become a dominant trio after a collectively slow start to the season. You could argue that Penn Murfee and Erik Swanson are potential regression candidates, but they’ll remain valuable weapons even if their production dips a bit. This hypothetical regression is also contradicted by the arrival of Matt Brash in the pen.

Seattle’s lineup is where a positive regression is likely, if not expected. There’s no arguing that the Mariners pitching staff has brought the team back into the playoff picture during this run. Seattle ranks 14th in wRC+ (106), 22nd in slugging percentage (23.2%) and 23rd in BABIP (.275). That won’t cut it. But Ty France is getting healthy and the imminent returns of Jesse Winker (suspension), Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger should improve those numbers.

Carlos Santana has also been a revelation since arriving via trade from Kansas City. Santana hit three home runs over the past two games against the Blue Jays on Saturday and Sunday, and he has posted a .282 average and a .404 on-base percentage in 12 games with the Mariners. Seattle is 11-1 in those 12 games. It would be shocking if Santana was the only signing before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.

Finally, Seattle’s schedule is extremely accessible. The Mariners last 20 games are against teams currently under .500. Additionally, the last time they will face the AL West-leading Astros (56-29) is July 31st.

The roaring train is pulling out of the station and picking up steam with every Goldsmith Growl. To reiterate, it’s completely understandable if you don’t want to get on board. But to quote the great Michael Scott, “there’s no doubt about it. I’m ready to get hurt again.”

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