During the dark days of the Mariners’ existence — circa 2004-2008, also known as “the Bavasi years” — the hope died early. Real early. I suspect that’s part of what makes this early run by the 2009 Mariners so exhilirating to fans, beyond the fact that it’s largely unexpected. It’s the promise of meaningful games all season, something that’s been sorely missing around here except for a short-lived, ill-fated run by the 2007 Mariners.
In recent years, the Mariners have been out of contention so early that they reached the “playing out the string” portion of the schedule by May — June at the latest. The one “pennant race” in which they were involved still ended with a bad taste. The 2007 Mariners were one game behind the Angels on Aug. 25, with a chance to pull into a tie if they beat Texas. But they blew that game, and proceeded to lose nine in a row (including a three-game sweep at home to the Angels), and 13 of their next 14 — an epic collapse. No need to recount those sad details again, except to say that by the time the dust had cleared, the Mariners were 9 1/2 games back on Sept. 11 — hopeless yet again.
Here’s a look at their record after 19 games in each of the last five years (the ’09 Mariners stand at 12-7, with a four-game lead in the AL West, and also on May 31, which has always been a traditional line of demarcation in baseball.
After 19 games: 6-13, fourth place, 5 games behind
On May 31: 19-31, fourth place, 11 games behind.
Final record: 63-99, fourth place, 29 games behind.
After 19 games: 9-10, tied for third, 2 games behind.
On May 31: 21-30, third place, 9.5 games behind
Final record: 69-93, fourth place, 26 games behind
After 19 games: 7-12, fourth place, 2.5 games behind
On May 31: 23-32, fourth place, 6 games behind.
Final record: 78-84, fourth place, 15 games behind
After 19 games: 9-10, third place, 1.5 games behind
On May 31: 26-24, second place, 4.5 games behind
Final record: 88-74, second place, 6 games behind
After 19 games: 9-10, third place, 3 games behind
On May 31: 21-35, fourth place, 11.5 games behind.
Final record: 61-101, fourth place, 39 games behind
As you can see, things weren’t looking too good by this stage of the season, but they really fell apart in the next month. The current Mariners, however, have put themselves in good position to remain relevant for much longer than most of their recent versions.