On The Awesome Power Of The Walk-Off

The dread had set in. I think I heard its footsteps on the driveway during the Texas series. It knocked on the door during the home opener, and by the time the Indians finished off their weekend sweep the two of us were making familiar conversation over coffee. The kind of conversation you have with somebody you haven't seen in a while, but who never feels like a stranger. Ms. Jeff has a friend back home with whom she rarely talks, but when she does, she feels like they talk every day. That's us. That's dread and me.

At 2-7, I was prepared to give up. I saw the hopelessness in the team built before us, and more, I figured I was being realistic. Jack Cust's numbers have been trending poorly for years. Milton Bradley's numbers have been trending poorly for years. Chone Figgins is toast. Miguel Olivo swings like he's clueless. Justin Smoak is a guess hitter who guesses wrong. Michael Saunders has an unfixable approach. And so on and so forth. I was aware of the young talent on the roster, and of the young talent soon to arrive, and that gave me hope for a sunny future. But as for 2011, it took just a week and a half to leave me feeling defeated. When the Mariners fell behind the way they did last night, I knew we were in trouble. I knew we'd have another five and a half months of basically watching last year on syndication.

And then, yeah. I have literally watched the Luis Rodriguez clip 15 or 20 times today. I spent ten minutes rooting around through dusty cardboard boxes, trying to find a set of speakers I could hook up to make my computer sound louder. The Seattle Mariners are 3-7. They have one more win right now than they did last night. But, psychologically, so much feels different.

For one thing, I'm not disappointed that I have to watch another baseball game tonight. But for another, today I'm just seeing the players and the numbers in a more positive light. Look at Saunders. Look at Saunders! Look at the adjustments he's made! Smoak has lately worked some tremendous at bats. The same goes for Bradley, who's swinging a good stick. The pitching staff has the AL's fourth-best xFIP. And the offense has the AL's second-best walk rate.

Yesterday, being realistic allowed me to see how ugly things were. Today, being realistic gives me reason to hope. Reason to think this could turn out to be an enjoyable season after all. Probably not a playoff season, but a satisfying season, a season with enough high points to cancel out the lows. This change in perspective, all because the Mariners scored eight runs in three innings and won a game in the ninth.

Being realistic doesn't mean you have to see things in one way or another. Reality, it turns out, is open to several simultaneously reasonable interpretations, and so much of the way we see things is dependent, whether consciously or subconsciously, on our mood. It's an important thing to keep in mind, and I don't know that it's ever been made clearer to me than it was last night. Perspective is two twins on a see-saw when it's raining outside.

It was gloomy yesterday afternoon when I went for a jog. Today there's nary a cloud in the sky. I and the world love a walk-off.

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