Are the Mariners collapsing?
Mitch Haniger is just one reason the M's still have hope
With yesterday's loss to the woeful Toronto Blue Jays, The Mariners have been overtaken by the Oakland A's in the Wild Card race. The M's had held either first place in the division or a Wild Card position from May 18th through August 1st, but after their fantastic June—when they won 19 out of 28—they stumbled badly, playing under .500 for the month of July (10-13) and they've now dropped the first two games in August. Meanwhile, Oakland has surged, going 18-8 since July 1st, and the Astros and Yankees have held their own to hold onto their playoff positions.
It's disappointing, to be sure; 2018 has been the most enjoyably fun season for Mariner-rooters in more than a decade, and fans across the Northwest even began to lose our defeatist attitude and believe Seattle would host postseason baseball once again. But that defeatism is ingrained, nurtured by years and years of mismanagement and failure, and overcoming it is easier said than done. The poor July record and losing so much ground to Oakland—Oakland!—has brought it back with a vengeance, and the prevailing attitude is now one of a mark who's been conned. We've been had! (To be fair, the greater world outside of baseball—the far, far more consequential world—is sapping hope from us all on a daily basis as the entire country finds out what it's like to be taken by a conman, so our perspective may be skewed.)
But let's try to be objective—teams go through peaks and valleys all the time, even championship teams. The dominating, wire-to-wire juggernauts like we saw here in 2001 are rare, and there's plenty of season left to catch not only Oakland, but Houston as well. Some context from recent history may be helpful:
- Last year's World Series winners, the Astros, played .393 baseball in August of 2017 (11-17) but recovered to go 20-8 in September.
- The Cubs held a record of 52-27 on July 1st, 2016 (compared to the '18 Mariners' 53-31 record on July 1) and dropped 14 of 26 in July. They recovered to cruise through August, winning 22 of 28, and finish at 103-58 on their way to their first World Championship since 1908.
- Toronto had a record of 41-38 on July 1st in 2015, was a game under .500 in July, and went 40-18 the rest of the way to finish 93-69 and win the division.
- A .500 July in 2012 left the Giants at 56-47; they went 38-21 the rest of the way and won the World Series.
- The Red Sox of 2008 were two games under .500 for July and sat at 61-48 on August 1st with the Yankees right on their heels; they went 18-9 in August and put seven games between them and New York, eventually winning the Wild Card berth at 95-67.
- The 2005 White Sox were 53-24 entering July of that year, then played .500 ball for the next two months and saw their lead shrink from 15 games to 1½ games; they rebounded in the final weeks to finish six games up and win the pennant.
Those are just a few examples. It's not unusual for a summer slump to give way to strong finishes. So let's maybe not give up hope on the M's just yet. Canó is coming back soon, the bullpen should be stronger after the trades, and there are 20 head-to-head games left with Houston and Oakland. Anything can happen.
Think positive, head out to the ballpark, and GO M'S.
The M's have played badly since July 1. What's the season prognosis?