With the Mariners at 16-11, and finishing a road trip bludgeoning one of the American League’s hypothetically best teams two days straight, I am in the unfamiliar situation of having to choose which really exciting thing about the team to focus on this morning. What an odd, strange, and frankly mildly uncomfortable situation. Ah well, we press on.
For the rest of the 2018 season, April is exactly what this team needed. They have survived injury and a bizarre schedule with a combination of luck and a maelstrom of massive dingers. The starting pitching has not been great, and will not be great, but the back end of the bullpen, particularly Edwin Diaz, has been dynamic. Having to beat a professional baseball team over nine innings is very difficult. Having to beat them over seven innings, and then turning the last two into an awe-inspiring ritual of human sacrifice to the god of Edwin Diaz’s Velocity, is slightly easier.
If you’re a schmuck like me who wants more out of the Mariners than one final season of Wild Card contention before slipping back into the muck of .500-dom, April also had plenty to offer for 2019 and beyond. The Mariners offense has bashed, and done so with balanced contributions from many players with years of theoretical prime performance left. Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, and even much-maligned (by me!) Marco Gonzales have been key contributors to the season’s enjoyable first month.
Above it all, is a refreshing return to the Mariners having what may just be a superstar on their hands. While this franchise has very little experience with winning, it has been rich with individual players performing at the game’s very highest level. Mitch Haniger is not to that point yet, and his utter lack of charisma is regrettable, but in the six months he has been in Seattle, he has hit like one of the game’s finest hitters in half of them. His April was a masterclass in approach, power, and overall acumen. If he is anything remotely close to this for the rest of the year, the Mariners have indeed found their next great star. That, that would be very fun.
So, there it is. One month of good baseball. It’s important to contextualize here. The team has surpassed most expectations for a month, and the reward is a hypothetical win or go home game in New York as the second wild card. When people say things like “best Mariner April since 2009” or “This reminds me of the start of 2016” well, those are both seasons that ended, like all the rest, without playoff baseball in Seattle.
But, it’s not the time for that. Today’s an off day. The Mariners are 16-11. They are hitting their ass off. But they still have a run differential of -2. The starting pitching is one injury away from likely catastrophe. There is plenty of reason to think it could be a blip; just a lucky few weeks where things broke their way. But in the desert, every oasis seems a mirage, until you’re so close you put your head down and take a long, deep drink.