The Seattle Mariners And .500


It’s late September, which means the Seattle Mariners are playing games that they really shouldn’t have to play. These games hardly count for squat, and the number of people who are at all invested in dwindling significantly. The risk of injury is still very real, even though the stakes have never been lower. The Mariners’ playoff elimination number is one. They’re probably mathematically done by tonight.

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But recently the team’s been playing better. They’ve got a winning record this month, you know! The team still features a startling number of competent hitters, and now they’re getting a little bit more non-awful pitching as well. All told, the late season surge hasn’t been enough to put them within shouting distance of a wild card. But it does have them dreaming of .500.

.500! It’s such a hilariously non-glamorous goal, yet one that us M’s fans usually don’t get the chance to dream of when September rolls around. The Mariners gave us a reprieve from the normal routine last year, when they were so far above .500 that they spent the month battling for a literal playoff spot. But now they’re looking to finish .500. Which beats being worse, at least.

The Mariners are 72-79. They’ve lost two games in a row, meaning that they can lose no more than two games the rest of the way in order to avoid a losing season. Want to finish .500? Go 9-2. Want to finish above .500? Lose one or no games the rest of the way. It’s going to take a near-unblemished hot streak, basically.

Next up for the Mariners is a three-game road set in Anaheim against the Angels, who would very much like to win as many games as possible over the next week-and-a-half as they look to secure a playoff spot. The M’s then head home to face the Houston Astros, who are battling for the same spot as the Halos. And then they play three against the league-worst Oakland Athletics to close things out.

Sep 24, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) is congratulated by first baseman Logan Morrison (20) after scoring against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Two of these teams are good, one of these teams is bad. But. But! The good teams have been slumping as of late. The Texas Rangers are somhow closing in on a stunning AL West division title, but the Astros and Angels both are still in play for the second wild card. The games the Mariners play the next six days will have a lot of say in how the American League playoff picture looks at season’s end.

You know who the Mariners want to see in that second wild card slot? The Minnesota Twins. This is a golden spoiler opportunity, where the M’s can go on a tear against two division rivals and then tack on some bonus wins against the fifth-place team to boot. The result could be that only one West team makes the playoffs, and the division ends up being as tight and mediocre as it ever has.

Another bonus of finishing at .500? The thirteenth-best record in franchise history. No, seriously. Want to hear something even sadder? The Mariners current .484 winning percentage is already the fourteenth-best out of the team’s 38 seasons. So who’s saying the year’s been a disappointment now?

It’s a simple formula: win as many games as possible, ruin the seasons of two division rivals, and have a lot of fun. Winning baseball is fun. The Mariners have only had twelve winning seasons in the history of the Mariners, and this is exceedingly likely to not be the thirteenth. But it’s somehow got a chance one of the better finishes in franchise history, and we might as well cherish what we’ve got in that.

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