I was the first reporter at Safeco Field today, partly because I wanted to avoid the traffic and parking zoo that always occurs on Opening Day, and partly because I enjoy soaking up the atmosphere. The grounds crew has been busy putting last-minute touches on the field,and now a few players have trickled out for stretching and warmups. For the record, Mark Lowe was the first player out, at about 10:15 a.m.
Glancing at the standings today, it’s still striking to see the Mariners on top of the AL West with a 5-2 record. That compares with 2-5 at this point last year, when they were already 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Angels,.
But they’re not the only team that jumps out after a week.
How about the Orioles, also 5-2? They haven’t had a winning season since 1997, and are coming off a 93-loss season.
How about the Royals at 4-3? They lost 87 games in ’08, and have had one winning season (83-79 in 2003) since 1994.
How about the Padres at 6-2? They lost 99 games last year and were universally picked to battle the Nationals for the honor of worst team in the National League.
How about the Pirates at 4-3? They lost 95 games last year and have not had a winning record since Barry Bonds left after the 1992 season — 16 years and counting, the longest streak in professional sports.
How about the Braves at 5-1. They lost 90 games last year and finished 20 games out of first place, almost completely distancing themselves from the Atlanta dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s.
The point, I guess, is that it’s too early to get too giddy about the Mariners, or any of these teams. I checked the standings from last year after the Mariners had played seven games, and it included the Orioles at 5-1, the Padres at 5-3, and the Royals at 4-2. Don’t ever forget that the baseball season is the most perilous and unforgiving in sports.
But that’s pretty obvious. The other, and perhaps more pertinent, point is why not get giddy about the Mariners, or any of those teams, if you’re a fan? It’s a new year, with new hope, new dreams. Chances are that out of the Mariners, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Padres and Braves, one of those teams will have a breakout season. Maybe more than one. I’m sure hardened Rays’ fans were preaching restraint early last year.
If you can’t believe on the day of the home opener, when can you?