Ex-M's in the playoffs
By special request, a post that I would have done over at GrandSalami.net had I not given up on that site as too much work for too little reward. The topic of which is: After the Mariners are eliminated from the postseason (not saying it's going to happen for sure, but…it's gonna happen, for almost sure), which playoff team should a Mariner fan root for if said fan has no preexisting rooting interest in any of these teams?
One metric is, which team has the most former Mariners on it? Guys you remember from before, whom you might have seen in person, who you fondly recall rooting for in the navy and teal of the Northwest. Another might be, who are the most interesting players still in the mix that you don't know yet but would enjoy? I'm sure there are other metrics, but those are the ones for this post.
So, who's playing for whom now? Let's go down the list of 12 (ugh, twelve? Really, Manfred? OK, fine) playoff teams and find the former M's:
- Well, the Mariners themselves are one of the dozen clubs, so we'll just assume they're your first choice. Next!
- Tampa Bay Rays (2 ex-M's likely on the playoff roster): The "extra" team this year filling out the new cash-grab Wild Card round, the Rays still have Mike Zunino, but he's injured. They also have former Seattle reliever J.T. Chargois, who had a really nice season in west Florida (2-0, 2.42 ERA, 0.940 WHIP in 21 games), and fellow relievers Shawn Armstrong and Jimmy Yacabonis (who probably isn't going to be on the roster), both of whom were technically Mariners once. Non-former-Mariner players worth watching are likely Cy Young Award winner Shane McClanahan, the lefty ace of the Rays' staff, and first baseman Ji-man Choi, who defies his physique with athletic plays on the infield.
- Cleveland Guardians (0): The only former M the Guardians featured this year was relief pitcher Bryan Shaw, who was gawd-awful for Seattle in the mini-season of 2020. He was outrighted to the minors at the end of the season, though. But, Cleveland does have rookie outfielder Steve Kwan, who is worthy of attention, as is second baseman Andres Gimenez.
- Toronto Blue Jays (3): Toronto is Seattle's opponent this weekend, but should they beat the M's and advance, the Jays might be a team to pull for the rest of the way. Not for any ex-Mariner reasons, though. Toronto has former M's Yusei Kikuchi, who lost his starting job for a bit and had a pretty lousy campaign, and reliever Anthony Bass, who had a pretty good year. Also, David Phelps and fellow reliever Casey Lawrence, but the latter doesn't figure to be active in the postseason. No, the really interesting guys are the second-generation big-leaguers, shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- New York Yankees (2): You'd hardly believe it's the same guy, but the Yankees' best pitcher is Nestor Cortes, who stunk up the joint for Seattle in 2020. They also have reliever Lucas Luetge, who was in the Seattle ’pen in 2012 and 2013 (plus cups of coffee in ’14 and ’15). They've also got outfielder Aaron Judge, who hits a lot of homers, and third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is a jerk and nobody likes him.
- Houston Astros (1): Now, there's no reason whatever to root for the Astros—maybe unless they're up against the Yankees, but even then it's dubious—but they do have a former Mariner. But that former Mariner is reliever Rafael Montero, who was so bad with Seattle it'll be easy to root against him even though he's been really good for Houston. Or maybe because he's been really good for Houston. Either way.
- Philadelphia Phillies (1): I don't know how the Phillies managed to get this far, but they did, somehow winning 87 games. Their ex-Mariner is infielder Jean Segura, an All-Star for Seattle in 2018 who's been steadily solid for the Phils since being traded for J.P. Crawford. They also have Bryce Harper, who's really good, and Kyle Schwarber, who is not but can hit a ball a very, very long way if he makes contact.
- San Diego Padres (1): With all the dealing back and forth between the Mariners and Padres over the last couple of years you'd think there would be a lot of ex-M's there, but no. Just catcher Austin Nola, who was key to the trade that got Seattle Ty France, Andres Muñoz, Luis Torrens, and Taylor Trammell. There're a few other guys worth your notice, though—superstar Juan Soto hasn't hit well for San Diego since being traded there, but he's still Juan Soto; veteran third baseman Manny Machado had an outstanding season carrying the Friars' offense; and pitcher Yu Darvish is always interesting to watch. Oh, lest I forget their manager—Padre skipper Bob Melvin also helmed the Mariners in 2003 and 2004.
- St. Louis Cardinals (0): No former Mariners grace the Cardinals' clubhouse, but a former Mariner farmhand does. Outfielder Tyler O'Neill was a highly regarded Seattle prospect when the M's traded him for pitcher Marco Gonzales. O'Neill is injured now and had a rather poor season, so you won't see him anyway. But, the Cards have the legendary Albert Pujols, ending his career back where it started, and MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
- New York Mets (3): No, they don't still have Robinson Canó, they're just still paying him. But they do have some big names you'll remember: DH Daniel Vogelbach, starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, and relief ace Edwin Díaz. Vogey joined the Mets midseason after starting ’22 in Pittsburgh, and he's done pretty well—.393 OBP and six homers as a Met. Walker's been a solid back-end starter and Díaz has been lights-out with a career year. Oh, the Mets also have Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, two of the best pitchers to ever play in the Big Apple, as well as NL batting champ Jeff McNeil and NL RBI leader Pete Alonso.
- Atlanta Braves (1): The lone ex-Mariner on the defending World Champions is outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who had a terrible year but still gives Atlanta some value as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement off the bench. Their big star is Ronald Acuña Jr., but to me the guy to watch is rookie outfielder Michael Harris, who was one homer short of a 20/20 season (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases).
- Los Angeles Dodgers (2): Utilityman Chris Taylor has been with LA a while now, so it's not likely news that he's in the mix, but how about starting pitcher Tyler Anderson? After the M's passed on bringing him back to Seattle this year he hooked up with the Dodgers and had an All-Star year, going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Would the Dodgers be where they are without him? Well, yeah, probably, because they're the Dodgers and have the deepest roster in the known universe, including shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Mookie Betts, not to mention MVP candidate Freddie Freeman. These guys are loaded.
Who do you like? Mets? Blue Jays? Cleveland? Bo-Mel's underachieving San Diegans? The best teams here are the Dodgers and Astros. Please let that not be the World Series matchup again. Bleh.