Aah, the beginning of baseball season. The grass is a brilliant green, sunflower seeds are flying in every direction, and the thick, pure crack of baseball flying off bats, rings throughout the ballpark. Well, at the preseason camps in Arizona and Florida, where hundreds of Major Leaguers currently congregate, that may be the case, but right now in the Pacific Northwest there is no sun, only perpetual gloom and rain.
If you're a Mariners fan, this weather probably matches your mood towards the coming season. That's what 61 and 67 win seasons will do to a fanbase. Still, every season is a clean slate and hope springs eternal, so why don't we throw away realistic, intelligent outlooks and indulge in some insane, optimistic speculations for a change?
After all, the Mariners chance of winning the World Series isn't zero, although it's probably about as close to zero as you can get (.0000001 by my calculations). Buy why don't we round up from that number? Now all of a sudden the Mariners chances are 1% and if we logically continue on this train of thought and we round up further, their chances are suddenly 100%! Now that may not be how percentages actually work, but let's ignore that fact for now and focus on this alternate reality where the Seattle Mariners are the 2012 Major League World Series Champions. Here's how it happens:
1. The Young Players Make the Leap to Become Superstars
Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero is a fantastic young core, but there are still questions surrounding the latter two. Dustin Ackley should continue to develop and be awesome and the Mariners best hitter, but there is still a lot of doubt over whether Smoak or Montero will develop into something more than just above average bats.
However, if we look at these two with our teal-tinged glasses, we suddenly have one of the best offenses in the league. Let's assume that Smoak's thumb injury is gone and he returns to the player he was at the beginning of last season, driving the ball and hitting for a decent average. Except instead of simply being solid, he magically becomes a switch-hitting Jay Buhner with a better average, but a worse face. Let's also assume that Jesus Montero isn't an overrated career DH and is really the second coming of Miguel Cabrera. This year, he becomes the greatest hitter the Mariners have seen since Edgar Martinez, but with more mobility and while playing an above average defense at catcher.
The trio produe 80 home runs and 300 RBI's, and appear on the cover of the August issue of ESPN The Magazine, each wildly flexing under the title M.A.S.S. - The Mariners Youth Explosion (Saunders is on the cover as well, as he too had a breakout year, holding down left field and being good instead of bad).
After winning the 2012 World Series, this young core sticks together for the next ten years, bringing multiple championships to Seattle. The Mariners become the most popular franchise in baseball, they replace the Yankees as the team everybody loves to hate, and soon everyone is constantly harping on the northwest-coast media bias.
2. Ichiro, Chone Figgins, and Franklin Gutierrez Step Into the Rejuvenation Machine and Come Out As Productive Major Leaguers
You're right, this is too crazy. Chone Figgins shouldn't be on that list, him returning to productivity is impossible. Still, if Ichiro and Gutierrez returned to their 2009 forms, the Mariners offense could really have some life to it.
Let's assume that Ichiro was bad last year because he secretly wanted to be moved to third in the batting order so he could prove all of those people right that said Ichiro could hit for power if he really wanted to. With 'Phase 1' of his plan complete, Ichiro goes on to execute 'Phase 2': easily breaking Barry Bonds home run record, batting over .400, and retiring at the end of the season to pursue his true passion: glassblowing. He revolutionizes the art-form and the practice becomes wildly popular throughout the world. Over time, people forget that Ichiro ever played professional baseball as they gaze serenely at their Ichiro-made glass art along their windowsill.
Franklin Gutierrez no longer has that terrible bowel problem and his improved fitness allows him to no longer hit like Chone Figgins' human-sized clone.
3. Felix Hernandez Wins 100 Games
Tired of seeing his teammates attempts at pitching, King Felix makes the bold choice to pitch every single inning for the Seattle Mariners. He posts a Major League record-best: 100 wins, and a Major League record-worst: 62 losses. After leading the Mariners to their first World Series victory, Felix's right arm falls off and he is forced to actually reinvent himself as the lefty junkballer, Jerry Hernandez. Many years later, Jerry Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame, but Felix is snubbed.
4. Major League Baseball Loses 28 Teams, Mariners & Royals Are All That's Left
America decides that the money spent paying Major League baseball players could be better spent on education and job creation, so Congress dissolves every team except the Mariners and Kansas City Royals, because everyone thought that would be funniest to watch. Thanks to Felix, the Mariners claim first place in the Major League regular season and face off against a series of Division I college baseball teams. The Mariners nearly fall in the first series against Rice, but manage to pull it out thanks to a miraculous Carlos Peguero walk with the bases loaded (yes, in this scenario, Carlos Peguero is still in the Majors). The Mariners cruise through the rest of the playoffs, before winning a nail-biting seven game series against South Carolina in the World Series. There is much rejoicing.
See? It's not so crazy that the Mariners will win the World Series. All they need is a few million variables to fall in their favor. Sure, Mariners will most likely be somewhere between awful and not very good, and will win around seventy games, but why not dare to dream? Because before the season begins--when zero caught-looking strikeouts by Chone Figgins have been recorded and the Mariners have yet to go on a fifteen game losing streak--why don't we all live in a crazy fantasy where the Mariners are good and fun to watch? Why don't we close our eyes and imagine another season like 2001 is right around the corner? Because once we open our eyes we'll have to realize that we're all in for another slow, long slog of Mariners baseball.