Before the season began, we had the audacity to wonder if this would be the year the Mariners finally wouldn't suck. The team's play in the first week of the season sent a resounding message: no, we really suck. How bad has it gotten already? Holding a players-only meeting after only eight games bad. Baseball's (absurdly) long season means there's plenty of time to still turn things around (and finally winning a home game this afternoon on a Dae-ho Lee walk-off homer helps), but at 3-6 things already look bleak. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the club shows almost no signs of life on offensive and there's no pitching consistency outside of Felix Hernandez.
According to Fangraphs' analytic standings (before today's action), the Mariners chances of making the playoffs are already down to 23.8 percent. With no playoff trips since 2001 (depressing context: I was still in junior high), the longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball doesn't look like it'll end this year. On the plus side, checking out on the team early means plenty of free time not wasted watching baseball this summer!
But the early swoon has planted a powerful hypothetical question in my brain, and I can't shake it. Who makes the playoffs first: the Mariners or a long-rumored Seattle NBA or NHL team?
Is this an epically sad—but realistic—question to ponder? Yes. Are the Mariners more depressing than Seattle's weather? Certainly in the summer. When does football season start again? Not soon enough. Is this all an elaborate attempt at a reverse jinx? No comment.
Let's break it down...
Prospects for Seattle franchises in the NBA and NHL aren't as promising as they were during Chris Hansen's big arena push in 2012. The NBA doesn't seemed to be primed for expansion anytime soon, and the league's owners consistently use threat of moving their team to Seattle as a way of exploiting local governments to build them new arenas (see: Sacramento and Milwaukee).
On the other hand, the NHL seems bullish about adding an expansion franchise in Seattle. One problem: no one in Seattle has their crap together. While multiple Seattle groups have publicly expressed interest in owning a team, without a solid NHL-first arena plan—which currently doesn't exist—it's not gonna happen. During last year's NHL expansion bidding process, no Seattle proposal was submitted.
Currently, the Seattle Mariners exist.
PLAYOFF TRACK RECORD
The Seattle SuperSonics have made the playoffs more recently than the Mariners. Twice (2002 and 2005). Take a moment to let that fully sink in. Let the sorrow seep into your pores.
The Seattle Mariners have only made the playoffs four times and are one of only two teams to never make the World Series (the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals being the other). Meanwhile, the Sonics won the NBA title in 1979, made three trips to the NBA Finals, and earned a spot in the playoffs 22 times. Heck, despite only existing for nine years (1915–24) the Seattle Metropolitans managed to win one Stanley Cup in 1917 (the first by a U.S. team).
The Sonics haven't resided in Seattle since 2008, but the squad still manages to be more beloved and popular than the Mariners. The new car smell of an NHL team would (at least initially) vault them past the M's too.
The Mariners have Felix Hernandez. Felix Hernandez rules. If Madison Bumgarner was able to (for all intents and purposes) single-highhandedly pitch a decent-at-best San Francisco Giants team to a World Series win in 2014, there's no reason to believe Felix couldn't do the same. But unfortunately, one ace pitcher can't carry a team to the playoffs. (Oh, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz can be cool on occasion too.)
A new NBA or NHL team would likely struggle to add top tier talent right off the bat. Significant players aren't made available via expansion drafts, and teams loaded with stars aren't likely to be the ones seeking relocation.
MLB: 10 of 30 teams make the playoffs (33.3%).
NBA: 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs (53.3%).
NHL: 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs (53.3%).
Former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik came to Seattle with a reputation as a draft ace. During his tenure with the M's, he proved to be catastrophically bad at drafting. Entering 2016, the Mariners had zero top 100 ranked prospects according to both ESPN and Baseball America. That's a nearly an impossible feat to achieve while annually missing the playoffs. Worse yet, the Mariners have baseball's worst developmental track record, consistently turning the top prospect they do have into total busts (Jeff Clement, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Mike Zunino, Carlos Triunfel, I could go on for days...).
Despite not existing, Seattle NBA and NHL teams literally could not be worse in this area.
ADVANTAGE: NBA/NHL, somehow
NBA/NHL takes it 4–2.
The Mariners make me sad.