Until this season, it had been tough to be a fan of the Seattle Mariners.
Poor front office moves, inconsistent play, and dreadful coaching have plagued the once-great franchise.
However, this year's Mariners squad as shown what can happen when you add a pinch of hope and change to the franchise.
No, I am not trying to endorse President Obama through this article, although I am one of his supporters.
The point that I am trying to make is that the main ingredients to the Mariners' success thus far have been strictly the concepts of hope can change.
Look through all the moves that new Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has made throughout his tenure, and you will see that change has immensely helped the Mariners to be in contention for a playoff spot.
The most influential change? How about donning Russell Branyan with a Mariners uniform?
Currently hitting .255 with 27 home runs and 67 RBI, Branyan has been without a doubt the largest offensive catalyst for the Mariners this season.
The knock on Branyan? He has struck out 101 times and counting. For those Mariners fans who remember Mike Cameron, the similarities pop out.
Cameron could hit for power, and plenty of it. While in a Mariners uniform he hit four home runs in a single game.
But, like Branyan, Cameron had horrible plate discipline. For both Branyan and Cameron, one could assume that on any given at bat, either player would either strike out, fly out, or hit a home run.
If Branyan did not strike out so often, it would not be too zealous to assume that he would be batting above .300.
What about other Mariners contributions this season?
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez has also proved that he is reliable offensively. Gutierrez is having a career season. Currently batting a solid .300 with 14 homers and 50 RBI, Gutierrez has shown that he can hit for average and power.
If the season ended today, 14 home runs would not seem like great power numbers, but at the rate Gutierrez is hitting them, he is on track to end the season with 20+ home runs, a much more acceptable number for a power hitter.
Don't forget his contributions on defense either.
How many times have we seen Franklin make an awe-inspiring diving catch, or rob someone of a home run?
Another offensive contributor to the Mariners success thus far as been Jose Lopez. Currently batting .278 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI, Lopez is also on track to finish the season with 20+ homers.
However, offense is not the main reason why the Mariners are winning games. The Mariners have remained in contention for a playoff spot with their defense and their pitching.
There are only two teams with above .500 records that are being out-hit by the teams they've played, Seattle and Florida.
Florida has a modest difference of -1, which is a good example of why the Marlins are only six games above .500.
The Mariners' difference? -41 runs, meaning for a team that is only six games above .500, they have given up 41 more runs than they have scored.
This shows plainly how much the Mariners have relied on their pitching and defense to win games.
Only eight of the Mariners 59 wins this season have been blowout wins, meaning wins by five or more runs.
The rest? Decided by mostly one or two runs.
Let's not discredit Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez, or Franklin Gutierrez. Without their offensive production, the Mariners would most likely be in the same situation they were last year.
However, their contributions still do not fill the gaping hole which is the Mariners' offense. Like I've said before, it has been strictly the Mariners' defense and pitching that has put them in contention for the AL Wild Card.
The Mariners are currently four and a half games behind the AL Wild Card leading Boston Red Sox.
Boston's schedule starts getting easier from here on out, so the Mariners will really need to buckle down and get back to playing the way they were the first month of the season if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The Mariners are looking stronger and battle-hardened thanks to the many nail-biting games they've played this season. The Mariners have won five games out of their last six, and six games out of their last 10.
So let's bring in the "refuse to lose" mentality that was the Mariners' trademark in 1995. Every time the Mariners lose, they need to get back up of the ground, wipe the dust off themselves, roll up their sleeves, and get back to work.
The Mariners have instilled in themselves the power of hope all season long. Right now, they need to harness that hope inside themselves and continue battling on, because as of right now, the Mariners are in the heat of the AL Wild Card race.
There is no margin for error. Let's get going Mariners.
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