The Earth is flat and up is down. The Seattle Mariners are in first place and the Portland Trail Blazers look like a playoff team.
The first two facts may not be true, but the last two are, at least for now.
Let’s start with the Mariners. Yes, they really are in first place in the American League West. And though it won’t last, it at least gives fans something to feel hopeful about, which is more than can be said most of the time around here. As has been duly noted, the Mariners haven’t made the post-season in twenty years, so even a kernel of positivity can go a long way.
And when you consider that it’s shorts-and-short sleeves weather across the region this week, and fans are in the stands again for the first time in two years, maybe it’s time to forget the past for a few days and enjoy the present.
To review their season so far after about two weeks, there are signs that the Ms might be ahead of schedule on their rebuild, what with their roster full of young and ostensibly underdeveloped talent. They opened the season going 1-2 against the San Francisco Giants. They followed that series by getting clobbered a couple of times by the Chicago White Sox—something that many teams will experience this year—but then surprised a few people by stealing the last game of that series. From there, they won their series against the Minnesota Twins, 2-1, before beating the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 this past week. This weekend they host the division foe Houston Astros. This should be a good measuring stick for how the Ms will fare within their own cohort. The ‘Stros are fresh off an embarrassing series against the cellar-dwelling Detroit Tigers, who actually broke out the push brooms in an AL matchup.
But the baseball season is very young. The NBA season is not, however. There are only a few weeks left, and at this point, it looks more and more likely that the Portland Trail Blazers are heading for the post-season.
This is due in part to the new playoff format. There will be six teams from each conference with automatic bids, plus a new play-in tournament for the 7th and 8th spots. This, in effect, means that ten teams from each conference will participate in the post-season, which is two more than we used to have. (Last year, of course, was unique in that there were 22 teams total who were invited to participate in the Bubble, which included the playoffs).
Right now, the Blazers are in sixth place in the Western Conference and have been in roughly that position for some time, so there is no reason to expect that to change. If anything, the Blazers could move up the standings, especially if Zach Collins returns from injury, which is likely when the postseason rolls around.
Dame Lillard is, of course, the main reason for the Blazers’ success. He is playing at an MVP level and is certainly in that conversation. But several other role players are contributing every night, including Robert Covington, who is shooting around 40%, and CJ McCollum, who is averaging 23 points a game.
We have become inured to certain things around the Pacific Northwest, such as rainy weather and sports teams that don’t deliver.
But right now, maybe up is down. Break out the positivity and enjoy the sunshine and the Mariners and the Trail Blazers’ relative success.