Back in February, the Mariners began their annual spring training in Peoria, Ariz. ready for a long and normal season of baseball. As you can probably guess, this did not happen. The team was able to play about a week’s worth of spring training games before the camp was shut down due to COVID-19.
A few weeks later, the Mariners became the first Major League baseball team to cancel its first regular-season series. Unfortunately, this initiated a domino effect that triggered other teams to follow suit and before we knew it, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred decided it was best to postpone the season until further notice.
March through July were filled with meetings between the MLB and the MLB player union attempting to decide the best way to restart the season. This was a heated battle between the two sides but they eventually agreed on a 60 game regular season with expanded playoffs beginning at the end of July.
Here we are now and the regular season has come to the end. The MLB playoffs are in their second week of play.
Sadly, this will be season number 19 with no Mariners in the playoffs. Even after the expansion of up to eight playoff teams in each league it just wasn’t enough considering the Mariners finished 27-33, good enough for third place in the American League West.
Despite the obvious disappointment that we won’t be watching the Mariners in the playoffs, this season had plenty of positives. This is a team that will be contending not only for a spot in the playoffs but a championship in the near future as well.
MVP: Kyle Lewis
Kyle Lewis should get every Mariners fan excited for the future. Lewis got off to a scorching hot start at the beginning of the season batting .286 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs. He slowed down a bit towards the end of the year but still remains the front runner for the American League Rookie of the Year honor. Lewis is only 25 years old and will be a cornerstone of this Mariners lineup for years to come.
“He shows up every night. It’s so much fun to watch him hit and have him put it over the fence, but it’s the other things he’s doing to help contribute. He’s learning so much about himself. I absolutely think he deserves to be Rookie of the Year. He does something to help you win every day,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said when discussing the impact Lewis has had this season.
Cy Young: Marco Gonzales
The best word to describe Marco Gonzales’ year in 2020 is fantastic. Gonzales started 10 games for the Mariners finishing with a record of 7-2 to go along with a 3.06 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only seven walks. He came into the year as the number one starter in the rotation for the team, which will most likely not change heading into 2021 as he has solidified himself as the ace of the staff.
“I don’t think it’s going to go away,” Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers said when referring to Gonzales’s success, “Command has been excellent. He throws a lot of first-pitch strikes, but they’re quality strikes. He’s not just throwing the ball in the middle of the plate, so he’s getting ahead of a lot of hitters and that certainly has helped.”
Rookie of the Year: Justus Sheffield
Kyle Lewis would normally be the pick here but, since I already talked about him, I wanted to show some love for rookie starting pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield was the main piece of a trade that sent all-star pitcher James Paxton to the Yankees putting pressure on the prospect to pull everything together soon. In his first “full” season here in 2020, Sheffield posted a 4-3 record with a 3.58 ERA and 48 strikeouts.
He will be a breakout candidate for 2021 as the #2 starter in the Mariners’ rotation behind Gonzales. At only 24 years old there is a lot to look forward to in the young pitcher.
Yes, the next time you scroll through Instagram and see a post from the Mariners there will be people making fun at the fact this team has gone 19 seasons without a trip to the playoffs — the longest playoff drought in all of the professional sports. It is a long-running joke that, in my eyes, is getting old because there are almost certainly better days ahead.
Although I only mentioned three of the young stars for the Mariners, there are a multitude of players who made flashes this year and other top prospects — such as Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez — waiting for their call up to contribute to the team. If you’re a Mariners fan, be excited about the future. The tough times will end soon.