The Marinerless postseason is here (again)
Whom to root for now?
October 5, 2021
They came closer than they have in a long time. 90 wins for the first time since 2003. Fewer games behind the division winner than any year since, again, ’03. Contending through the very last hour of the season. But not quite enough to play on.
So, here we are, set to begin yet another postseason without Your Seattle Mariners. Hopefully, that won't be the case next year. Odds are better than they've been in a good while for that. But in the here and now, what's a Mariner fan to do?
Some, surely, will simply not engage with the current postseason. That's fine. But for the rest of us, who love and follow baseball in general and would be fans even if there were no Seattle Mariners, we'll watch many if not all of the games and, inevitably, find ourselves rooting for one team over the other in any given game and perhaps even one of the whole pool to go all the way to World Series champs. But as we get started, we may not have a rooting interest.
Let's see who did make it in and see if we can't find a favorite, shall we?
Starting very very soon, the American League Wild Card game will get underway between the visiting New York Yankees and host Boston Red Sox. Both clubs have insufferable fanbases that vie for the title of Most Obnoxious in Baseball, especially when the teams play each other. In recent years, they both have had plenty of success and really ought to learn to share. Just in the two decades of the 21st Century, the Yankees have had 16 postseason appearances and the Red Sox 10. Boston has won four World Series in that time to New York's one, but over the long history of both—the Sox are an original AL team, the Yanks replaced the original Baltimore Orioles in 1903—the Yankees own 27 pennants to the Red Sox's 12. Plus, the Yankees are still the Yankees, so... Go Sox.
It'll be sticky-stuff aficionado Gerrit Cole for New York vs. 2018 postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi for Boston.
The National League Wild Card game will pit late-season dynamos the St. Louis Cardinals against preseason favorites the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won 106 games and still finished second, so to defend their 2020 World Series title they'll need to win the play-in game. The 90-win Cardinals made it in thanks to a September surge that saw them go 22-7 for the month including a whopping 17 wins in a row. The Dodgers are weathering the scandal of still-suspended pitcher Trevor Bauer and are without perennial ace Clayton Kershaw (injured), and 2017 Rookie of the Year/2019 MVP Cody Bellinger had a flop of a season, yet they're still a powerhouse. St. Louis has a few great players—Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Adam Wainwright—but are not as stocked 1-9 as LA is. Both clubs have a ton of success in their histories, with the Dodgers owning 12 pennants and 6 World Series titles, with a dozen 21st-Century playoff appearances and one championship; St. Louis has 19 pennants to its name and 11 World Series championships, with 13 playoff appearances in the 21st Century that include two World Series titles.
The rest of the field consists of the following clubs:
- Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have only existed since 1998, but since 2008 they've been contenders more often than not and have two pennants already (six playoff appearances), including last year. They've never won it all, though. The Rays have a pair of former Mariners that Seattle fans may want to root on, DH Nelson Cruz and catcher Mike Zunino. Also reliever J.T. Chargois, but you may not even remember he was ever an M.
- Chicago White Sox. The Pale Hose have been retooling for a while and have finally seen it pay off. They last won a pennant in 2005, when they beat the then-National League Houston Astros in the World Series. A solid team managed by a divisive figure (at least in fan and media circles) in Tony LaRussa, the ChiSox are a curious bunch that it will be interesting to watch.
- Houston Astros. We hate them. Screw those guys.
- Atlanta Braves. The National League East was a weak division this year, but Atlanta surged in August to take control and finished with 88 wins. The Braves are a regular participant in the postseason, having made the playoffs 11 prior times in the 21st Century and own 17 pennants in their long history that goes all the way back to 1876 (as the Boston Red Stockings/Beaneaters/Doves/Rustlers/Bees/Braves). This year's Braves are led by first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had a monster season that fell just short of being a .300/.400/.500 campaign.
- Milwaukee Brewers. Here's a Seattle connection perhaps worth rooting on. The onetime Seattle Pilots are in the postseason for the sixth time in this century if you count the Wild Card game as the postseason, fourth if you don't. They have never won the World Series and their only pennant came in 1982 when they were in the American League. The Brew Crew of today includes ex-Mariners Omar Narváez and Daniel Vogelbach, both of whom had pretty good years for Milwaukee even though Vogey was out for a while with injury. Like this year's Mariners, the Brewers' success hinged on pitching—they have an excellent starting rotation and a premier closer, plus strong setup relief from onetime Mariner Hunter Strickland.
- San Francisco Giants. The Giants were not supposed to be here. Going into the season, it was thought the best the Giants could hope for was to finish above .500, yet here they are with the best record in the Majors. They won 107 games and held off the heavily-favored Dodgers all year long. It's a fun case of an underdog achieving greatness, but on the other hand, the Giants as a franchise have had plenty of success already. They've had six prior 21st-Century playoff appearances and have won the World Series three times in that span. They own 23 pennants and 8 World Series titles overall.
The field gives up some interesting potential World Series matchups, too—we could see Brewers-White Sox, a network television executive's nightmare that encompasses a geographic area no greater than, what, 90 miles or so? Or Milwaukee-Houston, which would feature the only two teams to ever switch leagues playing against each other. Braves-Red Sox would be a meeting of the original Boston teams. The Yankees and Giants have a storied World Series history, having faced each other seven times, likewise the Yankees and Dodgers (nine times). Could be fun.
I don't know about you all, but for my part I'll be rooting on the Brewers to win it all.
Which team are you rooting for in the postseason?