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 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.

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Spring Training 2014, Bullpen Preview

It’s Opening Day! Spring Training always seems to drag on for a week too long. I guess the promise of real, this-time-it-counts baseball makes everything in March drag on and on. I’m wrapping up my 2014 season preview of the Mariners with a look at the Bullpen. I’ve already covered the infield, the outfield, and the starting rotation. If you haven’t read those yet, take a look to get the full picture of where the Mariners find themselves at the start of this year.

It was a rough year of transition for the bullpen last year. The incumbent closer, Tom Wilhelmsen lost his job after his walk rate spiked to 5 per nine innings and his strikeout rate dropped to just under 7 per nine innings. Overall, the group had the second highest ERA in the majors at 4.58 but their collective FIP was just 3.79. Perhaps it was the relative inexperience of the bullpen that drove their ERA so high when their peripheral stats tell us they should be right around league average. The majority of the ‘pen is returning with a few new faces. Let’s hope that one more year of development from our young pitchers will be supported by these new veterans.

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Mariners Future is Now!

Week 13 & 14 Recap

Date Home Team Score Away Team Score Result
6/24
6/25 Mariners 4 Pirates 9 L
6/26 Mariners 2 Pirates 4 L
6/27
6/28 Mariners 5 Cubs 4 W/10
6/29 Mariners 3 Cubs 5 L/11
6/30 Mariners 6 Cubs 7 L
7/1
7/2 Rangers 2 Mariners 9 W
7/3 Rangers 2 Mariners 4 W/10
7/4 Rangers 5 Mariners 4 L
7/5 Reds 2 Mariners 4 W
7/6 Reds 13 Mariners 4 L
7/7 Reds 1 Mariners 3 W
  • After taking a week off, here’s my recap of the last two weeks of Mariners action, and it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. The Mariners dropped a five game home stand to end the month of June, losing to the Pirates and dropping two of three against the Cubs. That Cubs series was a fun one to watch as all three games went down to the wire, two of them in extra innings. The Mariners started the month of July with two road series against the Rangers and the Reds and surprisingly won both of them.

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Mariners Win, In Dogfight for Third Place

Week 11 Recap

Date Home Team Score Away Team Score Result
6/10 Mariners 3 Astros 2 W
6/11 Mariners 4 Astros 0 W
6/12 Mariners 1 Astros 6 L
6/13
6/14 Athletics 2 Mariners 3 W
6/15 Athletics 0 Mariners 4 W
6/16 Athletics 10 Mariners 2 L
  • The Mariners actually had a good week this week. We took two of three from both the Astros and the Athletics and Mike Zunino began showing us why he was such a valuable prospect. Getting the series win against the Astros was a relief despite losing a winnable game on Wednesday via a Tom Wilhelmsen blowup. Winning against the Athletics was a surprise, however. The Athletics had been one of the hottest teams in the majors going in to that series and we played them very competitively. All in all, I’d say it was a successful week.

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Mariners Hit Home Runs, Still Lose

Week 9 Recap

Date Home Team Score Away Team Score Result
5/27 Mariners 9 Padres 0 W
5/28 Mariners 1 Padres 6 L
5/29 Padres 3 Mariners 2 L
5/30 Padres 1 Mariners 7 W
5/31 Twins 0 Mariners 3 W
6/1 Twins 5 Mariners 4 L
6/2 Twins 10 Mariners 0 L
  • Blech, that was a week to forget. The Mariners split a four game, home and home series against the Padres and then flew to Minneapolis to play the Twins and lost that series. There were two more walk-off losses this week, raising the season total to six. Those kind of losses are particularly hard to swallow because a good team should be able to win those kinds of games and the way the Mariners are losing them really exemplifies our weaknesses. This is not a good team.

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Mariners Bullpen Implodes

Week 7 Recap

Date Home Team Score Away Team Score Result
5/13
5/14 Yankees 4 Mariners 3 L
5/15 Yankees 2 Mariners 12 W
5/16 Yankees 2 Mariners 3 W
5/17 Indians 6 Mariners 3 L/10
5/18 Indians 5 Mariners 4 L
5/19 Indians 6 Mariners 0 L
5/20 Indians 10 Mariners 8 L/10
  • A week that started off so well, taking two of three from the Yankees, turned pretty sour this weekend. The Mariners were swept in Cleveland and lost three of their games in walk-off fashion. That’s only par for the course. The Mariners haven’t won in Cleveland since 2011 and five of their last seven games against the Indians have been walk-offs. A optimist would call that fighting against a tough opponent. A pessimist would call a loss, a loss and would have stopped being a fan 10 years ago.

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