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Can the Seattle Mariners Finally Break Their Playoff Curse?

It's 2001. Nelly is a hit artist. America just endured a horrendous attack from Osama Bin Laden's crew on 9/11. Dale Earnhardt had passed away earlier in the year. George W. Bush is starting his tenure as America's president. While this was all going on, the Seattle Mariners were the hottest team in baseball. I'm talking about 116 wins in a single season, setting an American League record. They were kicking everyone's ass, dominating with the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki and a team built by Pat Gillick.

However, the postseason was a different story. The Mariners were soundly defeated by the New York Yankees, 4-1. After that, M's chairman Howard Lincoln went on a rager, canning manager Lou Piniella after the 2002 season. That led to a cycle of Seattle going through various managers and personnel changes, kickstarting a 20-year drought, and the West Coast's odd infatuation with weak, unaccountable owners (looking at you, Larry Scott).

During that span, the M's have signed awful talents, including Jack Cust, Milton Bradley, and Chone Figgins. They've also wasted the careers of Ichiro and Felix Hernandez, disenfranchising their fan base along the way. Mariner fans point at Lincoln's lack of accountability and baseball knowledge as a reason for their drought, and rightfully so: going through so many general managers and managers (i.e. Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge) shows you do not know about winning.

Fast forward to 2021. It looks like the same ol' M's are into fruition. Only a hot run and a collapse from the Red Sox or Yankees will make way for Seattle to make the postseason. While New York has won seven straight, Boston has lost four in a row, while the M's are 9-1 in their last ten games.

Despite the Red Sox having gimmes against the beltway teams in Baltimore and Washington, there's no such thing as a sure thing. That's especially true when you've had trouble closing out games as Boston has had. All this is a recipe for Seattle to be just a half-game out of the second wild card.

The M's have seen a young lineup emerge as one of the better squads in baseball, boasting Kyle Seager (35 homers, 100 RBIs) and Mitch Haniger (38 homers, 95 RBIs, .804 OPS). The 2021 season has also seen Ty France ( .293 BA, 18 homers, 72 RBIs, .816 OPS) emerge as one of the more underrated stars in the league.

Another part of Seattle's success has been the ability to handle pressure. The M's are an MLB-best 33-18 in one-run games, handling such intense pressure without any problem. That's due to arms such as Paul Sewald (1.01 WHIP, 2.77 ERA, 99 Ks), Drew Steckenrider (1.02 WHIP, 2.09 ERA, 12 saves), and Casey Sadler (0.77 WHIP, 0.72 ERA) shutting the door on the opposition. Having a team ERA of 3.89 (ninth-best in MLB) helps matters. Once the Mariners get the lead, you can bank on these pitchers to never give it up.

Can the M's catch the Red Sox and grab the last wild card? There's certainly a plausible case for this. For one, Seattle has owned Oakland all season, having the 14-4 advantage. After that, they'll play a sliding Angels team that's 2-8 in their last ten games. It's realistic to say that Seattle has a chance to win all four games.

There's plenty of reason to be excited in Seattle. There's a new hockey team in town, and the M's are finally in serious contention for the playoffs. Strangely enough, the Seahawks are starting slow while the Mariners are winning games. Still, Emerald City residents have to be excited about the prospect of October baseball.

If Seattle does extend their playoff drought by another year, Emerald City sports fans shouldn't fret. The organization has the best minor league farm system in baseball, boasting prospects such as outfielder Julio Rodriguez and shortstop Noelvi Marte. Reinforcements are coming, which means Jerry DiPoto will also have trade chips (that's what he's known for, anyway).

It's been a long time since Mariner fans have had something to cheer for. For the past couple of decades, they've dealt with horrible trades (hello, Erik Bedard), awful signings, and a lack of accountability. It seems the tides are turning in the Emerald City, with the M's getting set for a late October run. With the "Refuse to Lose" mentality, they might pull it off.

Photo courtesy of the Daily Journal

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