Our brains are hardwired to focus on negativity. The Mariners’ spectacular start to the season at this point has almost been forgotten as they ended up 3-4 in two series this week; a four-game series against the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros and a three-game series against the Texas Rangers.
Though the Mariners won the latter series against the Rangers two games to one, the former series against the Astros resulted in defeat. The Mariners were nearly swept three games to one and at some point, amidst the downfall, the habitual skepticism that plagues fans of this sport and this team in particular, began to solidify. It was only a matter of time. It happens.
In life, as in baseball, one’s focus generally does tend to shift toward the negative. As much as we consider the beauty of a home run or the wonder of a 1-2-3 inning, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits will sour and sully these events by an innate concentration on the unfavorable.
This often comes in the form of reflection and hindsight. Many have taken into consideration the events of this past week (technically, only the second full week of the season), and gone on to devise pessimistic assumptions about the Mariners and what they are capable (or not capable) of accomplishing. Those assumptions may be weighted on multiple truths, but they result in doubts about a team that at least has an off-chance of achieving greatness this season.
Baseball is a game that not only contains a myriad of factors, it heavily considers each and every one of them, drawing scrutiny at every turn. In matters considering a team’s offensive production, the factor that tends to generate the highest amount of cynicism from fans is the abandoning of runners in scoring position.
This past week, that same cynicism began to set in for Mariners fans. In each game, and particularly in each loss, it felt as though the Mariners could not score to save their life. It was as if the team was finally cementing themselves in failure; as if the first nine wins of the season were mere flukes.
But this is simply a feeling; a sentiment strengthened by our incessant need to overthink and obsess over the negative, over the factors that contribute to our losses. The truth is, the Mariners are not all bad when it comes to batting runners in, though they could be better.
Last year, the Mariners batted .273 with runners in scoring position. They ranked fourth in the American League in the stat, batting in a total of 522 runs when such situations occurred. This is also considering the fact that the Mariners ranked ninth in the American League when it came to on base percentage. When the Mariners got on base and advanced, they were able to, for the most part, score. Have we forgotten that Nelson Cruz led the American League in RBIs last year?
Now consider this year. In the first twenty games of the season, the Mariners have batted .280 with runners in scoring position, second in their division to the Athletics, who are batting .281. Let it be recognized that this has been accomplished by the Mariners without their intended lineup going into the season; Ben Gamel and Mike Zunino have only recently made their return and Ryon Healy remains on the disabled list.
Batting .280 with runners in scoring position is not ideal, but it also is not terrible. Let us not forget that the Mariners are still over .500 in their record and have started the season in stellar fashion. The only roadblock they have truly faced has been the Astros pitching staff. Upon facing the likes of Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton, the Mariners scored only four runs in fifteen hits combined.
But again, it is this failure to produce at certain moments that distracts us and claims our attention. Yes, the Mariners can sometimes struggle to create runs, but they have still managed to create them and win. The team has only lost one series, and continues to battle and succeed for the most part. If we consider the Fangraphs American League leaderboards in offense to be any indication of success, the Mariners are the only team to have four players in the top 25 as of this writing; Robinson Canó, Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, and Dee Gordon. This team has what it takes to compete, we know it to be true, we just tend to get distracted when things don’t go our way.
That is not to say that we shouldn’t make a note of our failures. It is important to notice our struggles in order to improve in the future, to make adjustments and succeed. Failure happens; the team will strikeout, they will lose at times, home runs will be robbed, and the front office will make decisions that are less than ideal. Every day is another chance for things to go wrong, but also for things to go right.
Because of this, let us not be plagued with negativity. The Mariners have a winning record as of now, and if they continue this unprecedented trajectory, they have more than an off-chance at postseason success. At least for today, let us try to keep that in mind despite all of the negative occurrences both on and off the field.