The Mariners have IT: We’re looking at a contender

Mike Sweeney, Felix Hernandez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. hang out in the dugout on Opening Day. (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times)
Mike Sweeney, Felix Hernandez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. hang out in the dugout on Opening Day. (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times)

The Mariners have IT.

IT is not something that can readily be defined, but IT often breeds winning. The 2001 Mariners had IT.

The 1995 ballclub also had IT. Even the ’97 playoff team had some of IT.

The funny thing about IT is that IT can strike at the most unexpected times.

After a strike shortened the beginning of the ’95 season, hopes were low for your Seattle Mariners. The AL West belonged to the California Angels, and no team was going to stand in their way. Especially not a Mariners ballclub with a host of mediocre additions, the likes of Joey Cora, Luis Sojo, and Doug Strange, among others.

Fast forward 14 years and you have an eerily similar situation. A division ruled by one team, those very same Angels, albeit with a different geographic location (Los Angeles, Anaheim, and all points in between). A Mariners team with expectations so low they may as well be non-existent. And those unheralded additions to the roster: Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Sweeney, and some guy named Griffey.

This team can do what the 1995 club did and surprise us all. It won’t be easy. It won’t seem as effortless as the current .750 winning percentage has.

And it won’t always be pretty. A team that barely scores runs, instead relying on pitching and defense to overwhelm opponents, will occasionally run into the offensive juggernaut here and there.

But with a winning start early on, the ability to manufacture runs (as evidenced by the small ball that set up yesterday’s winning run), the “luck factor” (because you have to be lucky sometimes), the low-pressure situation, and the much-improved clubhouse environment (note the smiles), this team is set up perfectly to contend in a wide open American League West.

And for that, you gotta love these guys.

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