The Halfway Mark
Will these banners ever get any company atop Safeco Field?
Even though the All-Star break traditionally marks the start of the second half of the season, in terms of games played, the Mariners are there now. Having swept the Baltimore Orioles, the M's are now 51-31, 82 games into the 162-game campaign.
Aside from their AL-record 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners have never had a 100-win season. But that's what their pace is right now. In a typical year, 90 wins will get you into the playoffs, and in this modern Wild Card era of postseasons (e.g., since 1996, the first full 162-game season with the WC), the best record to miss the playoffs was 93-69, twice—the 2005 Cleveland Indians, and (ahem) the 2003 Seattle Mariners. But in both of those seasons, 93-69 would have made the cut under the current Wild Card format; in '03, the Wild Card Red Sox would have had to defeat the Mariners in a play-in game to be the Wild Card entrant (and, likely, the M's would not have fired Bob Melvin, but that's another story), and in '05 the Red Sox would have hosted Cleveland in the do-or-die WC game.
So things look good. Seattle even had a taste of first place for a while, spending two weeks in the top spot until stumbling in a ten-game stretch against Boston and New York. Hopes are high and the team has a confidence not seen around these parts in at least 15 years. But...
As Seattle baseball fans, we have been conditioned in those 15 years to expect failure. So those high hopes are tinged with doubt. Maybe the phenomenal success in close games—25-11 in one-run decisions, 8-0 in extra innings—in unsustainable. Maybe Big Maple will get hurt again. Maybe Robinson Canó will return from suspension and stink it up without his PEDs. Maybe maybe maybe. The disaster scenario is the go-to habit of the wondering Mariner fan.
But go the other way with me here, just for a minute. Maybe the hiccup in New York and Boston is the worst stretch the season will see; there are no more Red Sox games on the schedule and the three remaining against the Yankees are at home. Maybe Jerry Dipoto will shore up any weak spots (*cough* middle relief *cough*) in fine fashion before the end of next month just like he did by trading for Denard Span and Alex Colomé last month. Maybe Hisashi Iwakuma returns and pitches like he did two years ago. Maybe the extraordinary defense continues to impress every single day, netting Gold Glove awards for Seager, Haniger, Segura, and Zunino. Maybe the M's will continue to handily win most series against under-.500 teams (they're 29-12 vs. such squads now) and pad their playoff cushion. Maybe Houston will hit their own rough patch and make things really interesting during those 13 remaining contests between the M's and Astros.
This has easily been the most entertaining and exciting Mariners season since 2001, and it shows no signs of being any less exciting at the halfway point. I'll go out on a limb and say no, the disaster scenario will not happen this year because, in the words of John Irving's T.S. Garp, they've been pre-disastered: Canó broke his hand and then was suspended, something that by all rights should have hurt the team significantly, but they've instead been better without him.
Believe in these M's. They'll continue to surprise us.