It’s a good thing the Mariners are prone to take baseball one day at a time. The alternative – pondering the big picture – is to realize they’re facing the kind of long odds that induce hopelessness.
Going into the road-trip finale at Colorado, 110 games were left on the schedule. Assuming 90 victories to be the cutoff point for the second wild-card berth, the Mariners will need to play at a .609 clip just to get their feet in the door.
As of Monday morning, only five teams, out of 30, had won 60 percent of their games: The Astros and Yankees in the A.L., and the Rockies, Dodgers and Nationals in the N.L.
A miraculous turnaround is not out of the question, but given the rotten luck that corrupted their season at every turn, merely putting together an interesting stretch for a month or two will be the miracle.
What qualifies as “interesting?”
I’m setting the bar low.
Interesting is a lineup card containing eight position players who are healthy at the same time.
Interesting is relying a five-man starting rotation that’s steeped in veterans who know how to pitch their way out of jams.
Interesting is a bullpen stocked with power arms that fill roles predicated on righty-lefty match-ups.
General manager Jerry Dipoto envisioned this team over the winter. There’s a lot to like about the blueprint: speed at the top and bottom of the batting order, sandwiching a heavy-hitting core. The outfield defense appeared to be upgraded, benefiting a starting rotation built to coax fly-ball outs in Safeco Field.
So much promise, so much to anticipate, and it all came apart before the sun returned from a seven-month hibernation. Rebounding from a 2-8 start was going to be a chore anyway, but injuries made the chore an untenable challenge.
If the baseball gods were fair and balanced, the Mariners could be reassured they’re due some payback for weathering the storm. This just in: The baseball gods are indifferent. They don’t keep score.
When right fielder Mitch Haniger finally returns from the oblique strain that derailed his Rookie-of-the-Year candidacy in April, there’s no guarantee the lineup will remain intact.
At some point, Dipoto will be required to make some white-flag decisions preceding the July 31 interleague trade deadline. Slugger Nelson Cruz could return a package of prospects. Same with shortstop Jean Segura, whose contract runs through next season.
Every position player on the roster looms as trade bait except second baseman Robinson Cano, guaranteed $24-million annually through 2023.
Before Dipoto makes any moves to rebuild the roster, I am inclined to allow him opportunity to enjoy what he built in 2017. Depleted by injuries, mocked by fate, the roster has playoff-caliber talent.
Let’s see that talent play together, bond together, have some fun together. There’s little hope of the Mariners playing .609 over the next four months, but there’s every hope they can pique our interest.
And if they a get on a roll, and go on a six-game winning streak that precedes an eight-game winning streak, well, nothing is impossible.
A grueling road trip that found the Mariners bottoming out in Boston is posing a chance for them to return 4-4. You take some little steps, baby steps, whatever-it-takes steps, and suddenly the season isn’t the lost cause it looked to be on Saturday.
One day at a time.