Sports fans are prone to emotional outbursts and dare I say, overreaction. After all, there’s very little about rooting for our favorite teams in the face of long odds that makes rational sense. That’s what makes sports fandom so absurdly wonderful. However, sometimes our anxiety levels ride unnecessarily high, and a little perspective can ameliorate the pressure.
It’s May 24 and the Mariners are seven games under .500 (18-25). It’s not welcome news. After a gut-wrenching sweep in Boston, helmed by a Trevor Story bullying campaign, Seattle cleansed their palate Monday night with an 7-6 win over the A’s. But despite yesterday’s victory, public sentiment about the M’s fate this season remains skeptical.
If you want to visit a truly terrifying place that might be mistaken for a Stephen King setting, check out the comments section on Mariners articles. I get it, forty plus years of losing writes its own horror novel.
But panic seems to be more prevalent now than it was at the same time last season. Maybe the new dead ball era has people stressing. Or the fact the Angels decided to be good (we have to worry about Taylor Ward now?!) and muddy the AL West competition. Add Jarred Kelenic’s struggles, mercurial starting pitching performances, and sporadic offensive woes to the mix, and it’s clear why fans might be sweating at this point. I won’t try to dissuade anyone from pessimism because the success rate of those endeavors is low, and y’all should feel your fan feelings without shame. I will however offer a little a perspective on the season if anyone is hankering for an anxiety reprieve.
The 2021 Mariners season was the year of chaos ball. It was an alchemy of oddity, wonder, joy, and surprise. Despite missing the playoffs, that team won 90 games. Ninety. So how did their start compare to that of this year’s squad?
|2021 Mariners (through May 23)||2022 Mariners (through May 23)|
|Biggest Losing Streak||6 games||6 games|
|Biggest Win Streak||3 games (x3)||4 games (x1)|
|Number of times shut-out||6||6|
|AL West Rank||3||4|
|Games out of 1st place||6.5||9|
|Latest Date Under .500||June 17||–|
|Full Regular Season Wins||90||–|
Despite playing a few more games by this date in 2021, both starts look remarkably similar. A 90-win season might seem like wishful thinking at this juncture, but didn’t it seem more improbable last May?
Maybe you were displeased with some of the M‘s offseason moves, or like me, had a hankering for more free agent signings. But with additions like Adam Frazier, Eugenio Suárez, Jesse Winker, and Robbie Ray, plus the call-up of Julio Rodríguez, it’s hard to argue the Mariners failed to improve their roster from the previous year.
Thus, Seattle seems entirely capable of lacing up their hot streak shoes and going on a run.
If that does nothing to assuage your panic, let’s add two recent World Series winners for comparison: the 2019 Washington Nationals and the 2021 Atlanta Braves. What did their early starts (through May 23) look like in their respective world champ seasons?
|2019 Nationals (through May 23)||2021 Braves (through May 23)|
|Biggest Losing Streak||5 games||4 games|
|Biggest Win Streak||2 games (x4)||4 games (x1)|
|Number of times shut-out||4||3|
|Games out of 1st place||10||2|
|Latest Date Under .500||June 26||August 4|
|Full Regular Season Wins||93||88|
By this date in 2021, the Braves looked more like a serious contender than the 2019 Nationals, but Atlanta remained under .500 until August 4. They were eight games back in the NL East on June 16, before finishing first.
In 2019, Washington was 10.5 games behind first place Atlanta on September 14. They clawed their way into the playoffs with 93 wins and a Wild Card spot. It wasn’t the easiest, most linear path to a championship, but the Nationals did it.
The point is, there are plenty of ways to make it to October baseball. Especially with the new 12-team expanded playoffs. It doesn’t mean the path won’t be bumpy or nausea-inducing. Just don’t abandon the ride quite yet.