Mariners fans have been here before.
The 2019 club began 13-2, a record that turned into the biggest pop culture false positive since Milli Vanilli.
The Mariners ended up 68-94, finishing 39 games back of the division champ Houston Astros, who at that point were under suspicion for sporting dirt-baggery, but not convicted.
Two years later, the Mariners are again exceeding expectations in April. This time, they don’t appear to be lip-syncing.
They are 10-6 and atop the American League West after taking two of three over the weekend from the freebooter Astros, who were subsequently convicted in 2020 of rules skullduggery.
Part of the punishment included hectoring, mockery and shaming from fans at every road yard. Unfortunately for the executioners, they were denied admission to all parks in 2020 by the pandemic. This season, some of them were allowed to return.
Though their numbers are smaller (8,959 Sunday), their indignation is undiminished. While baseball has a rich history of tawdriness when comes to cheating the game, something about the Astros brings out the bile.
Mitch Haniger noticed.
“They’re definitely bringing energy this weekend against the Astros,” he said, smiling and ever-polite, after his double, triple and three RBIs helped the Mariners win 7-2 (box) to accompany maybe the most improbable one-hitter in club history. “It was cool, and fun.”
Manager Scott Servais made no effort to hide his snicker over the fans’ critiques.
“It’s been very noticeable this series,” he said. “It’s certainly their right. We’re entertainment and they have a right to voice their opinions. I’ve enjoyed it.”
A sign held up in the stands was Friday was my favorite, non-profane division, Seattle smart-ass category:
“You can’t steal this sign.”
The Astros (7-8), losers of seven of their past eight, were missing five players because of COVID-19 protocols, including stars 2B Jose Altuve and 3B Alex Bregman. Nobody cared.
Doesn’t matter that the sign-stealing shenanigans supposedly ended by mid-2018. The legacy lingers, fueled by the lack of punishments for individual players and the mild to no contrition expressed by the guilty. How they were not named the Trump administration’s sports mascot remains a mystery.
All of which made the weekend more fun for Mariners fans.
Even the 1-0 loss Saturday was tolerable, due to the admirable pitching brilliance of Zach Greinke, who arrived in Houston after the outlaws had ridden out of town with the women, horses and whiskey.
Besides, Mariners pitchers Sunday punched back, freakishly.
Starter Nick Margavecius retired nine consecutive batters before having to leave the game with arm fatigue (no injury) after facing one batter in the fifth inning. He was followed to the mound by relievers Ljay Newsome, Casey Sadler, Anthony Misiewicz, Rafael Montero and Drew Steckenrider, who combined to give up no hits.
The Astros’ lone hit was a ground-rule double by Aledymis Diaz in the second inning when LF Jose Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun. If he catches that ball, the Mariners are the national story of the weekend: Newsome, 24, would have won his first-major league game as the winning pitcher in a no-hitter.
Newsome is part of a bullpen that has unexpectedly combusted from mud and leaves into a force. Relievers also held the Astros hitless for the final two innings in Friday’s 6-5 comeback win.
“Awesome series,” Servais said. “I’m so excited about winning this series.”
Although it is unwise for any MLB team to pile on another over cheating, every team is entitled to some grievance regarding the Astros. Revisiting the 2019 season again, the Mariners’ aggravation is clear: They went 1-18. Hence, the Servais giggles.
Before indulging the fantasy that the Mariners are finally heading up as the Astros are coming down, fans might want to wait a couple of days after they get a look at what a fully loaded MLB team looks like.
The world champion Los Angeles Dodgers are in town for a pair, Monday and Tuesday. The Mariners are tied for the AL’s second-best record, and the Dodgers lead the baseball world at 13-3 with triple the Mariners’ payroll.
Despite the pending humblings, the chance to pants the class cheater is a 2021 moment that will stick.
It will me necessary for the run production department to feature more than Haniger and France. The bottom half of the order so far is lame with the exception of number nine guy Crawford’s average contribution. I like J.P. and if he continues this level of production, we have a fine SS into the future. But Moore, Murphy, Trammel, Marmo and White need to raise their batting skills. The return of Lewis will provide some punch.
As to pitching, yes the BP has exceeded expectations this early in the campaign. Certain starters have yet to really prove out and there is 146 games left. As a diehard M’s fan, I’ve seen it all and I just hope the rails stay intact.
Murphy hit more than decently a year ago. He’s disappointing. The guy with the most pressure on him is White. He got the contract without a minute of MLB play, and has to grow up faster than anyone.
Points due for some smart at-bats, some key hits and these often delivered late in the game. It’s a good sign. Haniger looks great. But let’s hold off on the “horses, whiskey and women” till they get through this next brace of games. It isn’t just the Doyers. The Red Sox and Angels are on the calendar and all three teams hit really well. When the M’s land in Texas to play Houston down there those boys will have their big bats back. We’ll have a good first evaluation of the Mariner staff by the first week of May. Till then…surmises.
Doyers. A name I don’t think is well-known to many outside SoCal. That, and “Blew Crew” for the News Corp-era. 👍🏾
I’d forgotten the Blew Crew. Thanks,
The “wrecking crew” might fit either the Dodgers and Angels lineups this year and would mirror the name for the wonderful L.A. studio musicians who backed both Sinatra and the Beach Boys.
Hey, if I waited a month to use a good line on M’s positives, I’d burst.
And Doyers is my second favorite alt-language nickname behind Gigantes.
‘something about the Astros brings out the bile’ – yes. for me, beyond the cheating, and the lack of contrition, it was the way MLB punished the easy targets: the GM and the manager took the fall. Punishing the players, or the owner, would have been too damn hard. That’s America for you: the rich and the powerful get a free ride. not a surprise, but still annoying.
The M’s didn’t play the Astros. They played the Dis-Astros…..Cole, Springer and Miley gone…and Verlander, Maldonado, Altuve and Bregman out.
Granted these aren’t the Astros of old, but ya gotta play the hand you’re dealt. It is concerning though that the M’s struggled in the first two games against basically the Astros bench players, except for Zack G, he was in a zone. The M’s have been bad for so long that perhaps it’s gotta catch on that they can compete at the MLB level regardless of their opponents. Still a looooong way to go.
Increments. Gotta accept increments.
For 43 years.
Be glad the M’s dodged the meanies.
The imbalanced punishment was at least as aggravating as the misdeeds themselves. Baseball has a knack for making bad situations worse.
Whaaaaaaaat? Sign stealing in baseball? It’s only been happening for 130 years. What’s next— catchers trying to cheat strikes by “framing?”
The Astros deserve every loss handed to them. I hope this is the season they replace the M’s for the longest playoff drought.
You forgot already? If the Astros were a college team they would have been given the SMU death penalty last year in sanctions.
Like any Mariner fan, I am watching that other shoe teetering at the edge, wobbly as ever. That said, this year, I don’t care. This is fun, it’s a team looking up, there are moves to be made momentarily (Kyle Lewis, Logan Gilbert – especially if Margevicius’ dead arm is more than that – and the highly anticipated moment when we can say that JD/SS went to Jarred), and a little life in the ballpark. Fun. It’s underrated.
The hell you say — fun? Aren’t we supposed to be in perpetual self-flagellation?
Arm fatigue after 4 1/3? SMH. Robin Roberts pitched 4,688 innings, 305 complete games and 45 shutouts.
Roberts wasn’t obligated to throw 95 mph to keep his job.
He kept his job by winning 286 games.
“…the biggest pop culture false positive since Milli Vanilli.”
Damn, Art. You rule!
I liked that one too. Thanks.