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Mariners now have longest playoff drought in four major sports

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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.

Astros’ Verlander to have elbow surgery, miss rest of season

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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner announced the news Saturday on his Instagram account in a 1½-minute video.

“In my simulated game a couple days ago, I felt something in my elbow, and after looking at my MRI and conversing with some of the best doctors in the world, we’ve determined that Tommy John surgery is my best option,” Verlander said.

He threw to hitters on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured in the team’s opener on July 24. He threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before throwing about 25 pitches to hitters in two simulated innings.

“I tried as hard as I could to come back and play this season,” Verlander said. “Unfortunately, my body just didn’t cooperate.”

Verlander has been on the injured list with a right forearm strain. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019.

“Obviously, this is not good news,” Verlander said. “However, I’m going to handle this the only way I know how. I’m optimistic. I’m going to put my head down, work hard, attack this rehab and hopefully, come out the other side better for it.

“I truly believe everything that everything happens for a reason, and although 2020 has sucked, hopefully, when this rehab process is all said and done, this will allow me to charge through the end of my career and be healthy as long as I want and pitch as long as I want and accomplish some of the goals that I want in my career.”

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