Mariners now have longest playoff drought in four major sports

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
15 Comments

The NFL’s Buffalo Bills ended their playoff drought, dating back to 1999, when they won their final regular season game against the Dolphins on Sunday. They also needed the Ravens to lose to the Bengals in order to sneak into the AFC Wild Card game. As a result, MLB’s Seattle Mariners now have the longest playoff drought in the four major professional sports, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes.

In 2001, the last time the Mariners reached the postseason, the club won a record-tying 116 games during the regular season. After just barely escaping the Indians in the ALDS, going all five games, the Mariners were stopped in their tracks by the Yankees in the ALCS, dropping four of five games. They haven’t been seen in postseason play since.

What was life like back in 2001? George W. Bush was President and, of course, there were the 9/11 attacks. The iPhone hadn’t been invented yet; people were using flip phones and those awful Nokias. Windows XP was released near the end of 2001. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox; Nintendo released the GameCube. Enron had their scandal in 2001, which led the Astros to rebrand their stadium as Minute Maid Park in 2002. Bryce Harper was nine years old in 2001; Mike Trout was 10. The first Legally Blonde movie was released, as was Shrek. What a year.

The Mariners have had some good teams in the time since, but the AL West was very competitive in the early 2000’s. In 2002, the Mariners won 93 games and finished in third place! From 2008 to 2012 — the last year the AL West had only four teams — the Mariners finished in last place four times in five seasons. They had two more fourth-place finishes and a third place finish from 2013-15 after the Astros joined the division. After a front office overhaul, the Mariners improved to 86 wins and a second-place finish in 2016, but mustered only 78 wins and ended the year in third place in 2017.

Will the Mariners make the playoffs in 2018? FanGraphs is projecting an 81-81 record. The Astros are expected to win the AL West while the Yankees and Angels pick up the AL Wild Card slots. These projections, of course, are far from sacrosanct as any number of things could happen during the season to improve the Mariners’ fortune. But it seems realistic. After all, the Mariners are playing in the same division as the defending World Series champions as well as a team that has Mike Trout, retained Justin Upton, and added Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart, and Ian Kinsler. Odds are in favor of the Mariners extending their playoff drought to 17 years.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.