Playoffs or bust: Mariners have talent to end drought

You’ve heard it time and again, but it seems the Mariners really do have the potential to make the playoffs in this season of hope that begins Monday in Houston.

HOUSTON – Some teams carry the heavy weight of expectations into the new season. The Mariners hope that’s next year’s problem. For now, heading into their season opener Monday against the Astros, they are once again lugging the burden of fervent hope.

Yes, it’s leavened by ingrained doubt. Yes, there’s a sense of fatalism that now attaches itself to Mariners fans in their 16th year of waiting for the next playoff berth, which is why so few “expect” that drought to end.

They merely look at the pieces of this year’s team, see the potential for so many good things, and hope like heck this is the year it all comes together. And try not to think about how it could fall apart.

There is reason to believe that it’s not just wishful thinking this time (yeah, I know, you’ve heard that before), but rather a realistic dream. That lineup could be a powerhouse. Only two American League teams scored more runs than Seattle last year — division winner Boston and pennant winner Cleveland — and it seems only more potent with Jean Segura, Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger added in.

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The defense should be formidable, with three center fielders in the outfield and Segura upgrading at shortstop over erratic rookie Ketel Marte. The bullpen has an anchor in Edwin Diaz, who legitimately can lock down a game. The entire team has a hunger to get it done, after coming so close last year (and three years ago, for those few players who were around then).

Second-year manager Scott Servais pondered all this Sunday, sitting in the dugout at Minute Maid Park as his players warmed up for a workout. He pondered my question of whether this was a “playoff or bust” season for the Mariners, who know throughout the…

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