God the Mariners have been terrible. How have we done it these last 10 years? The Internet dawned, fully bloomed and gently began its decline, and with its glorious, overwhelming CONTENT we've been exposed to a million new ways to poke, prod, taste, smell and absorb the essence of futility. It used to be a joke that Mariner fans run the Internet and it did seem, for a time, like the majority of quality analytical baseball writing was coming from writers who identified as fans of the Mariners. Perhaps the high level of education in the Pacific Northwest combined with the aforementioned failure turned all those analytical minds into a frenzy of knowledge gathering as a means of coping with the team's failure.
Whatever the reason, probably per chance, Mariner fandom traditionally comes with one of the worst products and the greatest coverage of any sporting team in history. I've been privileged. I have learned, I have laughed really, really damn hard at time. A few times I've wanted to cry. Actually, many times. That's sports. But it's also this era, in this city and with this team.
It's easy to gloss over the past decade with the Mariners and be angry and cynical. This is the team of LollaBlueza, of vetoing Jarrod Washburn trades, of Miguel Cairo at first, of Carl Everett as hand-picked designated hitter. This is a team who's management continues to baffle us with its disastrous, public resistance to the return of the NBA. They've had some of the greatest players in the history of the game, many of them simultaneously, without a championship. The simple, painful truth is that the Mariners are easily the hardest team in this city to root for, and by a wide margin.
We're about to start another season. It's going to be so long. There are going to be so many boring games. Eric Wedge is going to misuse the bullpen and piss you off. He will start Jason Bay in a crucial game against a right-handed pitcher. Felix will probably get shelled a few times. It's going to suck. Be sure of one thing: This baseball season is going to suck and suck hard. You are going to skip many games because the weather is beautiful or you just want to play with your kids or the number 77 just got picked out of a raffle and you're lost in the nation of Columbia.
Before all of that happens, and it will happen, look at those last 10 years again. Remember when this happened? And this? And this? Remember the first time you sat in the King's Court and Felix got two strikes on the hitter? Remember Thunderstruck and J.J. Putz running out onto the field (I can see the Win Expectancy Chart rocket North when I think of this. Woooooo!)? Even 2010, the worst season I've ever experienced as a sports fan, gave us joys like Felix carpet bombing the Yankees. A lot of it has been bad, but not all. I think that last part is important to think about, at least for me.
A lot of people are viewing this season as the year the team finally, to paraphrase Josh Ritter, begins to put the suffering verbs to sleep in the night. The writers who've had a chance to be around the team during Spring have spoken glowingly about the tenor of the clubhouse, the leadership provided by Ibanez, Morse, Bay, etc. The more traditional construction of the lineup has given hope of a vastly improved offense. It's hard to read a dispatch from Baker or Divish and not reach for the fool's tonic of Spring Hope. By contrast we have the stark projections from ZiPS, an utterly brilliant projection system, created by truly brilliant minds. ZiPS sees this year's team as an only mildly improved version of 2012's team. Eyes and spreadsheets are once again at odds.
The 2013 Seattle Mariners may just win 100 games. Felix might win his second Cy. Iwakuma and Saunders might provide a rock solid 200 innings a piece. Brandon Maurer might win AL Rookie of the Year. Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen may combine to shrink every opponent's chance of beating the Mariners to six innings per game. Morse, Morales, Montero, Saunders, Seager and Gutierrez may all hit 20+ home runs and catapault the offense into the upper reaches of AL potency.
The 2013 Seattle Mariners may just lose 100 games. The fringy stuff of Joe Saunders might be exposed in the smaller dimensions of Safeco, Iwakuma might only start 10 games due to injury. Brandon Maurer might be back in Tacoma by May to recover from a rude welcome to the majors. The volatile nature of relief pitching may leave this team unable to hold what few leads it gains. The offense, so dependent on slow, low OBP hitters may turn into the 2010 team played at half-speed.
The 2013 Seattle Mariners are something greater than the greatest novel ever written. They are something that exists beyond the knowledge of the greatest minds to ever live. They are more real than any story, and unquantifiable by any metric. They are the greatest and worst thing possible. They are the future. The future starts tonight.
Give me a beer. Crank the Sunshine and Lollipops. Let's go Mariners.