Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Drought Over. Now What?


Last year, two of the longest active playoff droughts in sports ended at the same time. You can make the case that this was the result of Rob Manfred expanding the playoffs and allowing for more underdog teams to make it in, but I honestly think both the Mariners and the Phillies had come a long way and had earned the playoffs. The Ms were able to take down fellow hopefuls the Blue Jays, the Phils annihilated the Cardinals, Braves and Padres, all of whom had bigger playoff cases than they, and they both took this progress as a win even if they both got clobbered by Houston.

Now...those long-gestating, decades-long goals have been met. And so now the Phillies and Mariners need to shift to different goals. Conserving the progress. Staying competitive. Not buckling back under the heft of the division. Going further.

My controversial opinion is I think the Mariners have the better chance of improving on 2022 than the Phillies. 

It may not be controversial in that, oh, the Phils are projected to finish third anyway and the Mariners are still projected to do well, but looking at it in the sense that...the Phillies went and got Trea Turner this offseason, and made their roster even more complete, and they're still not expected to beat the Braves or Mets. The Mariners comparatively did far less, getting fundamental pieces like Kolten Wong and Teoscar Hernandez and more just keeping what has been working together. Julio Rodriguez, Robbie Ray, Luis Castillo, J.P. Crawford and Dylan Moore are gonna be around for a while, and if he ever figures out how to stay healthy at MLB level again, so will Evan White. 

The Mariners are also looking at an AL West which, while the Angels and Rangers are looking to fare marginally better, the Astros...I dunno, maybe this is the year they fall back to earth a little. Without Verlander and some sure answers at some positions, they're seeming a bit less superhuman than usual, and this could be the season that someone finally takes advantage of that. Or...they do what they always do and piss me off. But the big difference is the Mariners have a very young core while the Astros' big guns are only getting older, especially with Jose Abreu joining the team.

I mean, with much respect to Jose Abreu, the Mariners' big bat addition is Teoscar Hernandez, and he's still in his prime. Hernandez, Suarez, Rodriguez and, potentially, an on-target Kelenic could be very dangerous this year, no matter who you are.

The Phillies may still do well, but even with Turner and everything they're gonna need to get very lucky again to get past the Mets and Braves. I've been keeping an eye on their spring accomplishments, and a lot of teams are trouncing them so far. Even Wheeler hasn't been 100%, Taijuan Walker isn't on yet, the back half of the lineup is still needing work, Brandon Marsh needs to build a running start to get to where he was last time, and Castellanos is still not 100%. I think the main issue is that, like the first half last year, the lack of a Harper-type foundational figure is crushing to this team, and they need to figure out how to get around that or they'll only be good in spurts this year.

I want both of these teams to succeed this year. I'm not sure if they will, but it'd be really good for baseball if they did.

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