I tried. For 45 minutes, I sat, and I stared, and I paced, and I played chess, and I re-watched highlights, all in an effort to get my brain jump-started so I could come up with some way to adequately describe what I saw this afternoon. Nothing. Maybe I'm just not feeling as inspired as usual, but I just can't find the proper means of doing a game like this justice.
I mean, do you know how bad Jose Lopez has been this season? I feel like maybe you don't know. Maybe you don't check statistics. Maybe you used to check statistics, but long since gave up following the that closely. I couldn't blame you. Who could blame you? Perusing the 2010 Mariners' statistical record is an exercise in self-mutilation. You know damn well what you're in for when you do it. Even if you don't know exactly, you have a pretty good idea. Teams don't get to this team's position if the numbers are pretty.
So in case you hadn't checked Lopez's numbers lately, or in case you had checked Lopez's numbers but have become so numbed to the whole ordeal that they've lost their meaning, allow me to refresh your memory.
Jose Lopez came into action today with a .234/.264/.319 batting line. Among players with at least 500 plate appearances, that's the fourth-worst average, the worst OBP, and the fifth-worst slugging percentage. If you take a trip through Mariners history, you see that Lopez's OBP is better only than Todd Cruz's .246 in 1982 among regular players, and his OPS+ beats out only Brian Hunter's 46 in 1999. On the heels of what many considered a breakthrough 2009, Jose Lopez has had one of the very worst offensive seasons anyone in Seattle has ever seen.
One of the very worst. Jose Lopez hit 25 home runs a year ago. Before today, he hadn't hit one since August 16th. He posted a .610 OPS in the first half, and then followed that up by getting worse down the stretch. For as much effort as Lopez may put forth on a day-to-day basis, he's been completely helpless, and he's been helpless from the start. The numbers bear that out. Jose Lopez hasn't put up bad numbers. He's put up numbers so bad that, when you see them, you feel compelled to check if they're historic.
So that set the scene. That was the context. That was the context in which many of us approached this game irritated with Daren Brown because he was starting Jose Lopez over Matt Tuiasosopo or Matt Mangini. It wasn't just about the fact that Tui or Mangini may have a future here, while Lopez is two weeks away from having his Seattle career swim with the fishes. It was also about the fact that, why? What's the purpose? It's one thing to play veterans over kids because they're helping you win games, but what if they're helping you lose them? Then what's the point? What is it that you're trying to accomplish as the manager of a 57-93 baseball team when you start Jose Lopez and bat him #3?
I've seen bad players. Even though I didn't start liking the Mariners until 1992, and even though I didn't get to start watching them regularly until 2004, I've seen bad players. I've seen Scott Spiezio. I've seen Carl Everett. I've seen Wilson Valdez, I've seen Willie Bloomquist, and I've seen Jose Vidro. I've seen players who sucked and players who sucked harder, and 2010 Jose Lopez has been the worst of the worst. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player as bad as Jose Lopez has been over the past six months. I asked, why play him? Why play him now?
And Jose Lopez went out and hit three home runs.
There are things you could say about that. Funny things, and enlightening things. I can't find any of them. I just have the written equivalent of sitting with your mouth agape. Lopez's evening was a resounding ¿QUÉ? in a season of WHAT?, and if I'm ever able to make sense of it, I'm sure it won't happen until long after he's gone.
After his first home run, Lopez returned to the dugout with a smile on his face. After the second, the camera showed him joking around with other players. After the third, Felix was busting up where he stood, and Lopez circled the bases with an expression of triumph. In the post-game handshake line, Felix looked around before slapping Lopez on the ass, and as Lopez responded to Brad Adam during a celebratory interview, he didn't sound like a man who'd just had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders. He sounded like a sweet, confident man who'd had a good game.
Maybe that's how it has to be when you're Jose Lopez. When you're struggling that bad, maybe you can't afford to carry your struggles over day after day. Maybe you need to wake up with confidence and attack every day like it's a new opportunity. Maybe you need to forget about the past and just focus on what lies ahead. Keep your numbers on your mind and you put too much stress on yourself to make them change.
I don't know. I know that, no matter Jose Lopez's perspective, and no matter his outlook, he just had the game of his life. He just had the game of his life when he could've gone 0-4 with four double plays without my batting an eyelash.
I'm not sure from whence this came, but, Jose Lopez - the day is yours. You won it. May you smile your smile to bed. Despite all these words, you've left me utterly speechless.
- The David Pauley, and missed with 14. They swung 18 times against David Pauley's offspeed stuff, and missed with ten. For all intents and purposes, the Blue Jays are Wladimir Balentien. They're a team full of what people thought Wladimir Balentien would become. It's not dull, but it's probably a great deal more fun from far away than it is from up close. swung 52 times against
Michael Saunders only went 1-4, but that '1' was a long, 400+ foot home run to straightaway center on an outside fastball, and a few innings later he lined another outside fastball to Vernon Wells in center field. For one, it was good to see evidence that Saunders don't only have power to right. For two, it was good to see him drive two balls that weren't exactly located in his wheelhouse. I choose to see this game as a sign of development because I am an eternal, sunny optimist.
- The neat thing about having Chris Woodward in the lineup is that it gives you opportunities to go to the bathroom or see what's on other channels or what have you without having to wait until the end of the inning.
Girlfriend: Hey, do you have a minute?
Niehaus: ...grounds out, and that'll bring Chris Woodward to the plate.
Fan: I have a few.
- The official attendance was recorded as 12,302, and I think three-quarters of them were fans from Japan who gave Ichiro a standing ovation for his eighth inning single.