Sept. 27, 2 p.m. ET
As the Seattle Mariners head into the playoffs, they still have the chance to set the single-season record for team victories. To break the American League record of 114 wins set by the 1998 New York Yankees, the Mariners need to finish 6-3.
To break the major-league mark of 116 set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, they won't be able to lose more than one of their final nine games. But despite the pressure of being that close to all-time greatness, I don't think the Mariners can do anything that will take them out of their rhythm.
|Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki hit .600 in the AL Division Series vs. Cleveland.|
They are having the type of year the Yankees had in '98. And it's not only the wins that make the Mariners special. It's the attitude. They show up every day expecting to win. The Mariners know that if they get a few runs, the starting pitchers get into the sixth or seventh inning and they turn it over to that exceptional bullpen -- well, nine out of 10 games will be theirs.
As for the A's sweeping them last weekend, it may have upset them a bit. But it also helps them know that if they face the A's in the playoffs, they can't take them lightly. They know the A's are good. They know the A's can compete almost at their level. But they remain confident enough to not doubt their own strengths. And, most importantly, they have three games with the A's this weekend in which they can send a message of their own: that 14-game lead in the AL West is not a mirage.
In the end, baseball is not complicated. Seattle manager Lou Piniella stresses cutting down on mistakes and not beating yourself. That's pretty simple. But pulling it off over 162 games and through the postseason is much harder than you think. Still, the Mariners know that if all 25 guys give their utmost, they won't lose very often. They show their opponents respect while maintaining that attitude of "we're still going to kick your ass." They know they are BAD. They know it.
In case you think I'm overstating things here, remember this. Rarely does an athlete get a chance to play on a team this good. It is literally why you play the game in the first place. Most guys never get close to being on a team this good. I was lucky enough to do it in 1990 with the Reds, and we all very much appreciated the experience. We were truly blessed, and I know the Mariners feel the same way. They won't waste this opportunity.
But the Mariners haven't won anything more than the division yet. They still have to play the postseason games, and the other playoff teams won't be envious or awestruck. And they certainly won't lay down and say, "We must let the Mariners march to history; this is their year." They'll want to leave their mark on the 2001 season. That's incentive enough for every team fortunate enough to play deep into October.