Rationality and Baseball

So this has been a pretty crazy 24 hours for Mariners fans (yeah its been crazier for many other teams, but who cares about them). The news of Anaheim signing Pujols (and Wilson) has caused many Mariners fans to believe the Mayans were predicting specifically for them when they decided the world was ending in 2012. It is natural, to feel disheartened, when your chief rival (sorry Padres) signs the best player alive. However, after the initial shock, I have felt something different, excitement.

Somehow, the Angels signing Pujols, has brought me to the unequivocal belief that the Mariner’s are going to be better than the Halos in the long run. I even called it, stating (on Facebook, but whatever, it leads somewhere) that over the lifetime of the Pujols contract, the M’s will win more games than the Angels. My friend decided to call me out on that and bet me a week’s worth of beard growth (or a six pack) for every win difference between the two teams. After some quick google docs work to see if the M’s had ever actually won more than the halos over a recent 10 year period, I accepted his bet. Why? Because I believed! It felt awesome, and I realized that sometimes, we all need to leave rationality behind, and just believe!

That led me to the idea for this fan post (it started out as a comment, but I realized I had more that I wanted to say and to hear). Where do we all draw that line between reviewing the facts, the playoff odds, the predictions, and simply saying ’Fuck It! I sincerely think that the M’s are going to win it all this year, because damn it, they’ve got the heart!’

As a group of sabermetrically inclined fans of a recently bad team, it’s easy to become despondent. We see our team get out of the race early, and then all that’s left is trying to find some reason to pay attention. We’re Mariner’s addicts (or at least I am) but by July we’re left rooting for the next year’s championship because there’s no chance in hell we’re winning this year’s one. I know for me, I didn’t always used to be this way. I used to be an ignorant M’s fan that believed in things like heart, grit, and that chemistry would take us to the top. In some ways I miss it.

I am going to share my story, of how I came into the fold of the analytical baseball community. Where I feel my balance between analytics and irrationality takes me as a sports fan, and I would love to hear other’s stories as well.

Like many others, I became an M’s fan in 1995. I was 5 years old, and they had one of the most exciting seasons ever, who wouldn’t become a diehard fan. I have watched the movie MyOhMy probably over 100 times, and still have trouble not tearing up at the end. I loved Griffey! I loved Edgar! I loved Buhner! I loved then hated Arod! I even loved Rich Amaral, because hey, I was young and that dude would steal home and shit. I stayed true through the early 2000’s (who wouldn’t they were awesome!) but fell off in the Bavasi years, because they sucked. 2007 brought me back into fandom, I drank the cool-aid and thought they would be awesome in 2008. That hurt. Then in 2009 they signed Griffey and everything changed.

I was a huge Griffey fan; I went to all three games when he came back to Safeco as a Red in 2007 and I was ecstatic when he re signed with the M’s. During the days of the will-he-sign, won’t-he-sign mystery between us an Atlanta, I searched for any information about the deal that I could. That brought me to USSM, and my worldview changed forever. Reading Dave and DMZ’s posts, was an epiphany. I suddenly realized that the crazy world of this sport had an underlying language that if read correctly made it all make sense. It was like organic chemistry, but Baseball!

Eventually reading USSM led me to LL and I’ve been addicted to this site ever since. Jeff, and Matthew give great analysis, with great writing; it’s a sports fans dream site.

However part of me wishes I had never been enlightened. That I could believe that if only the M’s added Prince Fielder, their win total would increase by 30 games. Somehow, being a rational sports fan has made parts of being a sports fan less fun. Today, in making that bet on facebook, some part of the old irrational me came back. I dunno, but somehow this makes me more energetic about the M's. Signing Fielder would be awesome, but even if we don't, I could still believe something like this:

Screw Pujols! Screw Fielder! We don't need em. Do you know who's gonna be the best 1st baseman in the AL West? Justin Fucking Smoak. Wanna know why? Because Justin Smoak is the next Randy Johnson. Yup Justin Smoak is the guy that after the tragic death of his father is going to fulfill his immense potential and lead the woeful M's back to the promised land. He's got a young crew of up and comers around him, and that eclectic band of youngsters is gonna take us to the promised land!

In the end, I think like most fans on this site, I’ve found a happy medium between my analytical self and the side of me that is a believer. I see predictions, of a 75 win M’s and I hope beyond hope that they will show all them doubters wrong and win it all. Then when they don’t I explain to my friends why Miguel Olivo’s dingers don’t make him the best hitter on the team.

So now I want to hear your stories, and your thoughts. Was finding the smart way to look at baseball as sudden a realization as it was for me, or did you get there slowly over time? How do you balance being a rational analytical fan and finding ways to stay excited about the Mariners? I am very interested in hearing what other people have to say about this and feel that this time, when our most hated rival has gone and made themselves really freaking good, is the time to talk about why sometimes its worth saying ‘screw it!’ and just believing.

Finally, if you have made it to the bottom of this post, awesome, it sure wasn’t short. I have been a lurker for a few years now, with occasional comments here and there, but today’s events inspired me to share a bit, and hopefully spark an interesting conversation. If this subject has been talked about recently, or if this is not the place for it, I apologize, but otherwise I would love to hear your thoughts.

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