The year was 2007. Still hungover from the record-setting success of the early aught-naughts, the M's were coming off three consecutive abysmal seasons, predicated by the ill-conceived multimillion-dollar signings of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre (he's pretty good, but we overpaid). Hence, expectations for 2007 were modest, to put it mildly.
What ensued was one of the most pleasing Mariner campaigns of all time. The team didn't end up in the post-season, thanks to an epic late-season collapse. But it stayed in the race until mid-September, the gamest of longshots coming up a few lengths short.
This year reminds me of that year, despite statistical evidence to the contrary.The 2007 team was fraught with big sticks, notching a cumulative batting average.287. But the pitching was so bad -- a 4.77 team ERA, to be exact -- that those M's opponents actually outscored the team by a couple dozen runs or so, in spite of Seattle's winning record -- a pretty unheard-of feat.
This year's squad is, in many ways, a funhouse mirror version of that one. The pitching has, by and large, been superb (although Carlos Silva needs to go the way of Sexson). The woodwork (.260 team batting average) has been okay, but the middle of the order -- namely cleanup hitter Beltre, who's yet to homer -- has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.
As in 2007, nobody's expecting much of the 2009 M's in light of the team's 101 losses in 2008. In fact, this is supposed to be a rebuilding year, which it may ultimately end up being. But every day the M's remain atop the AL West -- or in the hunt, for that matter -- is one day longer than anyone expected them to be there. And both squads have exhibited a penchant for winning close games in dramatic fashion. Hence, in a sense, it feels like 2007 all over again.