It’s always tough being a Mariners fan. This year was no exception.
Experts predicted they would make it all the way to the World Series. For some reason, I bought into the hype that this was their year.
Despite finishing with 10 more wins than last year, the Mariners fell three games short of making the wild card. Maybe that’s why this year stings a little more than others. They actually played well enough to make it, whereas in previous years, it was clear after a couple of weeks not to get my hopes up.
The last time the M’s went to the playoffs was 2001, which is the longest active playoff drought in baseball. That year, Mariners fans had every reason to be excited about the team. They had just won 116 games during the regular season, tied for the most in the history of baseball. And yet, they couldn’t even advance to the World Series, as the New York Yankees spoiled any chance of that in the American League Championship Series.
So, why haven’t the Mariners been able to take that next step for so long?
We know it’s not a Seattle problem. The Seahawks, despite not being relevant for almost all of the 90s, have established a winning culture, and have been to the playoffs four straight seasons and won Super Bowl XLVIII.
We know it’s not a problem of getting talented players to come to Seattle. The Mariners wooed Robinson Cano away from the Yankees, one of the most prestigious teams and markets in baseball, and locked him up on a 10-year, $240 million deal. They picked up Nelson Cruz two years ago in free agency, which added another slugger to the squad.
No, the problem with the M’s is a lack of player development. Since 2004, the Mariners have only had five players who have come up through their farm system that have made an All-Star team. Six, if you count Ichiro. All of those players, except for Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager, have either retired or now play for a different team.
It’s clear to me that without a better player development system, this team will stay mediocre until the best players have wasted the prime of their careers. Hernandez is already showing major signs of wear and tear, and the one-time Cy Young Award winner has never sniffed a postseason.
Oh well. There’s always next year.