Every baseball season starts with varying degrees of expectation and hope. Fans and team start the first game on different but parellel paths, with both leading to the same idealistic zion: The Playoffs. As the season progresses there is nowhere to go but down each party's respective path. But as losses begin to pile up the paths stop being parallel and begin to curve and wind their separate ways. Fans begin to look for scapegoats for failure, be they players, managers, coaches or front office executives. They look for hope in the success of young players, at times to the point of forcing a mirage of success somewhere beyond pure results just to give them a hook upon which to hang their sanity. The fans yell for the promotion of prospects.
The players begin to worry about keeping up their health and production to earn a job for the next year. They cling to whatever friendships they can find among the culture of the clubhouse. They try to explore cities on road trips. They kill time. How in the world does losing create all that damnable time?
When there's winning, or at least enough winning to keep hope alive everyone is striving towards the same things, players and fans alike. But, as they do every year, the Mariners are giving us ample reason to start looking left and right. We've been down similar roads.
2010: 11-11 on April 28th. They lose 15 of the next 18.
2011: 43-43 on July 5th. 17 game losing streak.
2012: 11-10 on April 27th. Lose 13 of the next 18.
I didn't expect this team to compete for a playoff spot this year. But I hoped, I still hope that they can give us something enjoyable at least until the weather gets nice enough that they are easier to ignore. The last 5 days have felt like the the needle skipping, playing over and over the worst part of the lamest track of that dumb record we're too lazy and stupid to change out. The next week will determine if we'll be spending the next four months talking about baseball or contorting ourselves ridiculously to talk about anything else with just enough baseball-flavored coating to appease our overlords.
Baseball is really fun. I'd like to have reason to talk about it awhile longer, please.
- Just a few bullet points because while writing can often be easier in defeat tonight it is not. Aaron Harang was terrible tonight. Why? I'm sure there are many reasons. There are many, many factors that can lead to a pitcher performing poorly. Aroldis Chapman, arguably the best relief pitcher in all of baseball had a bad game that may be directly attributable to consuming 18 pastries prior to the game. Felix Hernandez just had a particularly poor showing and he's one of the 2-5 best pitchers alive. I wouldn't begin to try and explain why this particular outing for Harang was so atrocious. But I will offer at least a glimpse into part of a reason why, maybe:
2013 American League batting line: .256/.323/.415
After 1-0 count: .267/.380/.453
After 2-0 count: .283/.502.514
Tonight Aaron Harang faced 20 batters. 8 of them got to a 1-0 count and 6 to 2-0. That's a lot of numbers saying Aaron Harang could not locate worth a damn tonight. At times when pitchers fall behind in the count they are credited with "not giving in." The meaning behind this phrase, like many baseball phrases, is nebulous but I think it means that the pitcher refuses to throw an easily hittable pitch despite everyone knowing he needs to throw a strike. Well Harang spent the 1st and 4th innings giving in tonight. Rather than allow free passes he elected to make the Angels put the ball in play. They did, often, in the air and with frightening velocity.
With the team's tough week and Harang's poor showing this year he has quickly become the easy and predictable target for demotion. Jeremy Bonderman, Blake Beavan and any other starting pitcher in Tacoma with an ERA under 5 are now the baseball equivalent of a backup quarterback; fans scream for them not so much because they are good but because they are different and because fans must scream. I don't know if Harang will be demoted/DFA'd soon but I do know the team doesn't have many better options. The hordes may get their execution, but I hope it comes as part of a thought out plan. When it comes to the Mariners I often hope that, and rarely think it.
- At least Harang showed the grit and fire of a leader in his defeat. From commenter runfast, a GIF: Quake with fear, gatorade bottles!
- Mark Lowe came up with the idea for the 2009 bullpen to brand themselves as Spartan Warriors, a ploy born out of such genuine Junior High, Monster Energy-riddled thinking that I couldn't help but find it lovable. Between that nonsense and Mark Lowe enthralling me in 2006 with a 100+ MPH fastball for 18.2 precious innings when his arm was free from the scar of the surgeon's knife I have always thought fondly of him. With the Mariners losing their 5th straight, 12-0 against my least favorite baseball team of all time I was faced with a choice: Sink into the abyss of Mariner fan self-loathing, or find something to be happy about. I saw Mark Lowe pitching. I smiled.