The 2017 season begins for the Seattle Mariners on Monday, with the squad opening on the road against the Houston Astros with a game that begins at 5:10 p.m. PDT, and the big question surrounding the M’s this season is whether they can finally end their 15 years of postseason futility.
The last time Seattle made the playoffs was during their magical 2001 season, when they tied the major-league record with 116 wins before getting upset by the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Since then? Nada. There have been a few close calls — in 2003 the Mariners won 93 games to finish two games out of a wild-card spot, and in 2014 it came down to the last day of the season. But for the most part during this stretch Seattle was safely out of playoff contention by August.
Will this be the year that ends it? The Mariners return all the key components from their encouraging 2016, in which they went 86-76 and remained in playoff contention until the final weekend of the season. They’ll have their lights-out closer Edwin Diaz available all season rather than beginning in June. They’ve added a potential high-impact bat in shortstop Jean Segura, as well as a possible quality starting pitcher in Drew Smyly. It seems Seattle has the pieces to break their playoff drought.
But there’s also plenty of pitfalls. First, the team has to avoid sudden aging. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz is 36 going on 37, and second baseman Robinson Cano is 34. They are both gifted hitters, but how much longer can they go before the inevitable decline phase kicks in? Then there’s concerns about the health of the pitching staff, with three of the top four starters (Smyly, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton) having injury histories — Smyly is already sidelined for up to two months. Finally, there’s the questions about whether Segura and ace pitcher Felix Hernandez will had 2016s that were outliers or the new norm.
So there’s lots to consider when predicting Seattle’s fate in 2017. What do you think?