The Cure for Cynicism

When Ken Griffey Jr. reached 500 career home runs, Joe Ponanksi wrote this in a commemorative piece for Sports Illustrated:

“There’s an old baseball man I knew who saw Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson and Albert Pujols all hit home runs. He loved baseball with an intensity that never stopped surprising people around him. Wherever he went, people would ask him to name his favorite, and he never could do that. He loved too many of them. He would talk about Ted Williams’ swing, and he would talk about the way Roberto Clemente threw, and the way Willie Mays’ cap flew off, and the way Cool Papa Bell ran around the bases.

‘But your favorite,’ the people would say, coaxing him, and he would smile, and he would say, ‘Well, I sure like that Ken Griffey Jr.’

‘Why’s that?’ people asked.

‘Because,’ Buck O’Neil said. ‘He’s having so much fun.’”

Baseball is many things to many people. It’s the greatest metaphor for life and the preferred sport for the aspiring philosopher. It’s simultaneously a marathon and a sprint; excruciatingly boring and intensely exciting. It’s a sign of hope after a long winter and can bring heartbreak in the fall. It’s both loved and hated. Above all else, baseball is fun. It’s fun to play, fun to watch, fun to talk about. It’s ten guys on an open field, trying to hit a tiny ball with a long stick, running around making fools of themselves. It’s pure, unadulterated fun.

The Seattle Mariners reminded us of this fact this year. It has been so easy to be cynical about the Mariners—they haven’t been a good team since 2002. They’ve been so frustrating that “Mariners” has become an adjective to describe long-expected disappointment (as in, “Taijuan Walker pitches his best professional game of his career but a gork double that falls in no-man’s land is his undoing, because Mariners.”). It’s been downright frustrating to be a fan of the Mariners. And frustration breeds cynicism.

Sometimes it’s easier to be a cynic. You don’t have to give a shit. You can go about your life without any emotional attachment, removed from the best parts of life like a robot. I see cynicism everywhere in our culture. Just look at the state of our political discourse. The most important conversation we could have as a society has devolved into petty bickering. The defining characteristic of an entire generation is cynicism. Sometimes it feels like no one cares about anything.

Because caring about things can hurt, especially if you throw your whole heart into the endeavor. Getting hurt sucks. It’s not fun. It has hurt to be a fan of the Mariners for the past decade; so many promises gone unfulfilled, so many wasted hours trying to care about a team going nowhere, so many meaningless games in June and July.

Until this year. This year was different. I’m not sure when it happened. Maybe it was that three-game series against the A’s right before the All-Star Break. It could have been the homestand at the beginning of August where they went 8-1. Whenever that moment was, the Mariners became fun again this year. They played 162 meaningful games where each emotion, whether it was joy or anguish, was magnified exponentially. The fact that we were actually feeling anything with regards to this team was an accomplishment.

You see, the cure for cynicism is hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for something, anything different than the dreariness of the past decade. We allowed ourselves to hope for an end to the playoff drought and even though we came up short, the optimism that hope produced is not easily thrown away.

The 2014 Seattle Mariners made it easy to hope again. King Felix is ours and you can’t have him and now he has a partner in crime in Robinson Cano. Kyle Seager continues to be a boss and we can now call him one of the best third basemen in the league. Dustin Ackley had his best season yet. Tom Wilhelmsen did this.

So here we are, eagerly anticipating the next season and all the disappointment, joy, agony, and delight it may bring. Who knows what will happen and, for once, that’s an exciting prospect. The Seattle Mariners are fun again!

Mariners Attempt to Squeeze Every Drop Out of Offense

Yesterday, the Mariners acquired Kendrys Morales from the Minnesota Twins and, in exchange, sent Stephen Pryor packing. It seemed like the writing was on the wall since this offseason, the Mariners wanted their man and they would go ten rounds to get him.

Round 1: The Mariners extend a qualifying offer to Morales during the offseason. If he agrees to the offer, he would earn $12 million on a one year contract. If he doesn’t agree to the offer and signs elsewhere, the Mariners would receive a compensatory draft pick from the signing team.

Round 2: Morales doesn’t accept the Mariner’s offer and doesn’t sign elsewhere.

Round 3: Morales spend the first three months of the season as a free agent, the compensatory draft pick looming over him like a shadow.

Round 4: After a rough April, the Mariners continue to build momentum and find themselves in the midst of a playoff race by June.

Round 5: After the draft in June, Morales is free to sign with another team without having to worry about the compensatory draft pick.

Round 6: Just two days after the draft, Morales signs a prorated $ 7 million, one year contract with the Minnesota Twins.

Round 7: Even though the Mariners are holding a playoff spot in the Wild Card race, its clear that they will need an upgrade to their offense. They’re linked to a number of different names—Marlon Byrd, Ben Zobrist, Billy Butler—but they keep their eye on the prize.

Round 8: Without a Spring Training to get himself ready for the season, Morales sputters out of the gate, hitting just .215 in June.

Round 9: After the All-Star break, the Mariners offensive woes hit an all time high, they’re hitting just .235 as a team.

Round 10: After a long dance, the Mariners finally get their man. The Twins paid him $3 million to play for them for 2 months and get a busted relief prospect in return.

Continue reading

Mariners Earn Home Field Advantage in World Series

Week 16 Recap

Date Away Team Score Home Team Score Result
7/14
7/15 National League 3 American League 5 W
7/16
7/17
7/18 Mariners 2 Angels 3 L/16
7/19 Mariners 3 Angels 2 W/12
7/20 Mariners 5 Angels 6 L

A short week with the All-Star game and the surrounding break early in the week. Felix, Cano, Seager, and Rodney all helped the American League beat the National League in the Midsummer Classic and secured home field advantage for the Mariners in this year’s World Series. (If you want to take a brief look at home field advantage, check out my post on the King’s Court)

The Mariners resumed play with a three game series against the Angels. There was a ton of hype surrounding the three game series against the Athletics right before the break but this Angels series was just as important, if not even moreso. The Mariners and Angels needed ten extra innings to settle these three games and, after two walk-off wins, the Angels emerged triumphant. So this marathon of a series and the Athletics series last weekend have shown us that the Mariners can play competitively with the top two team in the division and AL. We’re not at the point where I’d be confident in a one game playoff but we’re close. The trade deadline is July 31, just a week and a half away. Let’s see if Jack Zduriencik has any more magic up his sleeve.

Continue reading

Mariners Mid-Season Report Card

Week 15 Recap

Date Away Team Score Home Team Score Result
7/7 Twins 0 Mariners 2 W
7/8 Twins 2 Mariners 0 L
7/9 Twins 8 Mariners 1 L
7/10 Twins 4 Mariners 2 L
7/11 Athletics 2 Mariners 3 W
7/12 Athletics 2 Mariners 6 W
7/13 Athletics 4 Mariners 1 L

The Mariners head into the All-Star break after taking two of three from the division leading Athletics. This week seemed like a good way to gain some momentum for the second half but a stinker of a series against the Twins put a damper on any hope of a hot streak. In the two series against the White Sox and Twins, the Mariners scored a grand total of 9 runs in 7 games. We owe our two wins to excellent pitching performances by Felix, Iwakuma, and the bullpen. The two wins over the Athletics were pretty decisive. It definitely felt good to get two strong wins against the best team in baseball right before the break..

For this week’s recap, I’m going to go through each position group and give a mid-season report. The stats included will be to-date season performances instead of the normal two-week period.

Continue reading

Mariners Sweep Spacemen, Get Hosed by Sox

Week 14 Recap

Date Away Team Score Home Team Score Result
6/30 Mariners 10 Astros 4 W
7/1 Mariners 13 Astros 2 W
7/2 Mariners 5 Astros 2 W
7/3
7/4 Mariners 1 White Sox 7 L
7/5 Mariners 3 White Sox 2 W/14
7/6 Mariners 0 White Sox 1 L

That road trip felt worse than it actually was. Its probably recency bias because of the terrible time the Mariners had in Chicago.

  • Did you know that the Mariners are just 5-23 when playing the White Sox in Chicago since 2008. Woof.
  • All four runs scored by the Mariners in the series were scored in the ninth inning or later. Yikes.
  • The Mariners were shutout by Hector Noesi. Yes, the same Hector Noesi who ran a 6.13 ERA as a Seattle Mariner. Ugh.

But, hey, at least the Mariners outscored the Astros by twenty runs!

You’ve probably heard about the massive trade between the Cubs and the Athletics. The A’s gained two premier pitchers to bolster their run for the World Series. Of course this is bad news for the Mariners because the A’s are a division rival and we had been in the market for starting pitching depth. But its not as bad as it seems. The Mariners just got Taijuan Walker back from injury and he’s a certain upgrade over Erasmo Ramirez. James Paxton is about a month away from rejoining the team too and that’s another upgrade. Plus the teams who were really looking for starting pitching help are all in the AL East and if the Mariners are going to make it to the playoffs this year, we’re going to have to go through the Wild Card against those teams from the AL East.

Continue reading

Mariners Crush Defending Champs

Week 13 Recap

Date Away Team Score Home Team Score Result
6/23 Red Sox 3 Mariners 12 W
6/24 Red Sox 2 Mariners 8 W
6/25 Red Sox 5 Mariners 4 L
6/26
6/27 Indians 2 Mariners 3 W
6/28 Indians 5 Mariners 0 L
6/29 Indians 0 Mariners 3 W

 

Continue reading

Mariners Sweep Away Royalty

Week 12 Recap

Date Away Team Score Home Team Score Result
6/16 Padres 1 Mariners 5 W
6/17 Padres 1 Mariners 6 W
6/18 Mariners 1 Padres 2 L
6/19 Mariners 1 Padres 4 L
6/20 Mariners 7 Royals 5 W
6/21 Mariners 2 Royals 1 W
6/22 Mariners 2 Royals 1 W

Early in the week, the Mariners split a four game, home-away series in which the losing team scored only once in each game. We also gave away another gem of a performance from King Felix (7 IP, 10 K, 3 H) on Wednesday. Over the weekend, we took on the Royals, who had recently been on a 12-game winning streak. The Mariners juggernaut swept away that pitiful band of royalty. We’ve firmly entrenched ourselves in the AL Wild Card race and have refused to give up any ground.

Continue reading