As you've probably figured out by now, I'm one of those people who wants to see the Mariners picking first next June. I've made no secret of it. Neither have a lot of other people. Historically, the first overall pick has offered a far greater return than any other in the draft, and being able to select from every draft-eligible player in the world is a position in which I would like the Mariners to find themselves next summer as they look to add talent to the system.
This isn't about being a good fan or a bad fan*. This is about myself and many others thinking bigger-picture than the present day. We're willing to sacrifice whatever joy there is in winning meaningless baseball games in order to see the team end up with that first pick. Forget the name. The name doesn't matter. The position matters. The first pick is the best pick, and it's been the best pick by a wide margin. Landing on top of the list would give this team the opportunity to very rapidly right a lot of prior wrongs.
That's what we're cheering for. We're not so much cheering for losses as we are cheering for a win in something more important than a game in late September. I know that seems like spin, but it's true. Yes, we take pleasure in seeing the team fail now, but that's only because every failure now brings us that much closer to a shot at major success down the road. Major success that could help get the organization turned around quicker than you might think possible.
Some people watch the Mariners these days because they still want to see them win. That's perfectly fine. Admirable, even, and a little romantic. After all, we watch baseball more than anything else to be entertained, and when you're content to let the longer-term play out as it will, there's nothing more entertaining than victory.
But others of us watch to see the occasional highlight from a young player while the Mariners secure for themselves a higher pick. It's not a worse approach, and it's not a better approach; it's a different approach. But it's an entirely valid approach, as is the other. Which is why I'm kind of getting sick of people on both sides accusing those on the opposite side of being bad fans. It's a silly argument. We might disagree on what we'd like to see happen at the end of the day, but at the end of the year, we all want the same thing. We're all Mariners fans, and we all want to see the Mariners do well. It's just that at least a few of us have to keep an eye on the bigger picture, because not doing so is what got us into this wreck in the first place.
I wish the Mariners would've lost today. The Nationals gave them an opening to build a little cushion, but they blew it by coming back, and so they continue to lead the race by only the slimmest of margins. But as displeased as I was with tonight's turn of events, there are at least a whole lot of people who enjoyed it, and you know what? I'm happy for them. They deserved a rally like this. It's been a long time. I'll just have to suck it up.
It's funny to think about - it required an awful lot in the way of heartbreak and tragedy, but the Mariners have found themselves in the unusual position of being able to make a lot of fans happy every day, regardless of the final score. And really, that's something. If nothing else. What a weird year.
* I've never really understood the idea of there being "good" and "bad" baseball fans. Certainly there are more knowledgeable baseball fans, and there are more devoted baseball fans, but for every fan on the planet, baseball is simply a pastime, something with which we occupy ourselves for purposes of entertainment, the way a fisherman occupies himself with lures, or a birdwatcher occupies himself with binoculars. It seems to me there can be no "bad" baseball fans any more than there can be "bad" readers.