As fans of the baseball team that this site features, I feel we all too often think of ourselves as victims of circumstance. We've certainly had ourselves some awful years of on-field product met with what seems to be a copious misunderstanding of how to run a sporting franchise. I'll agree to some of that. But even though we as fans have been through the exact same 1,874 consecutive games of playoff-less baseball, our experience of said games is by no means uniform. Nor is our fandom.
Every franchise has their fans, and every fanbase has their thing, it seems. We can talk all day about obnoxious Red Sox bandwagoners at Safeco, but to many of us, that just what most Red Sox fans outside Boston are. Yankees fans are, well, we all know about Yankees fans (as best summed up by this, the greatest thing ever written on the internet). Cardinals fans have their own Twitter account, which does nothing but retweet the awful things they say from time to time as representatives of their sporting team on the world wide web. Somewhere down the line, somebody decided that "our" thing is pedantic but extensive statistical analysis and quality writing spurned on by years of misery and failure, driving us to educate ourselves to alleviate the pain of watching the Mariners play baseball (See what I did there?).
As much as I would love to use that as a blanket statement for all Mariners fans, I think we all know that it's not really true. For every Jeff and Dave Cameron, we have a whole bunch of other people that I won't mention here so as not to be an asshole. Every franchise runs the fandom gamut. Today there were people chanting "Let's Go Sox!" like an assembly filled with twelve-year-old children, but it doesn't mean all Red Sox fans are idiots. There are a lot of stupid Mariners fans too, I'm sure. I think it's just people who are stupid.
So I got thinking about why we all watched today's Mariners game, and why some of us are are still following the team in mid July, now that they are all but mathematically out of contention. You probably are, if you're reading this. Some of us watched today's game because we wanted to see Erasmo Ramirez come take Jeremy Bonderman's roster spot, even though he had a bit of a rough outing. Some of us have felt somewhat inspired in recent days due to the productivity of our young guys who seem to finally be showing progress. Some of us check in from time to time, and some of us sit down on the couch and watch every single game, even though baseball happens for three hours every day, six months out of the year.
But ultimately, everyone who identifies as a fan of the Seattle Mariners arrives at that point through their own lenses and their own experiences, interpreting the play of the team with whatever tools they have equipped themselves with. But here on July 11th, 2013, after the Seattle Mariners lost yet again to the Boston Red Sox in extra innings, 8-7, I wonder what the whole experience of Mariner fandom is across the board. I wonder where these people are, here, years into a constant rebuild, watching consecutive losing seasons and glimmers of hope first blossom and then drown in winter's rain. I wonder how they all would describe today's game, one in a 162 game season: either meaningful or meaningless, another failure or a move to finally stepping over that bleak horizon.
Today the Mariners lost, again, to the Boston Red Sox. It was a lot like Tuesday's game, with an early offensive explosion and back and forth between the two teams, leading to a bullpen battle favoring the Red Sox. I yet again have to come away from this game feeling quite a bit different about a loss than they have typically made me feel. Erasmo Ramirez had a bit of a rough outing in his first 2013 start, giving up 6 hits and walking 4 through 4.2 innings. On Tuesday, Hisashi Iwakuma lasted 3 innings and gave up 8 hits. Hisashi Iwakuma is an All-Star. The Boston Red Sox are the best team in the American League. Erasmo Ramirez is not Jeremy Bonderman.
And there was yet again production from players who are conceivably part of the team's future plans. Kyle Seager hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second off Ryan Dempster, and moments later, Brad Miller hit a ground-rule RBI double. Everyone who started hit.
It's paragraphs like the one above that make me wonder what the rest of this season will be like. I've already seen it changing the way Mariners fans talk to each other, even down here in Portland. It goes from the super drunk guy at the sports bar down the street from my house, who is convinced that the Mariners are going to catch stride and make the playoffs, to people who have gotten so burnt out they just know Franklin and Miller are going to bust because Mariners. We can say SSS, and we can look at inflated BABIP, and we can argue regression all we want, but the one thing we can't say is that we don't know for sure what is going to happen with the young core of this team. Yeah, maybe it will all fall apart again. But maybe Erasmo is going to rebound in his next start and prove to be a reliable 3 or 4 starter for the rest of the season.
I guess what I'm getting at with all this is that it feels really weird to watch the Mariners lose and be okay with it. Maybe it comes from being worn down into the ground for so long, but maybe not. Maybe the Mariners, in their quest to make new fans of us all, have created an entirely new breed of sporting fanatic: the tempered rationalist, who feels hope but quickly suppresses expectations with reason. I don't think I'm alone. Maybe that will be "our" new thing. Though it won't be quite as exciting as a parody twitter account.
So to recap: Yes, Mariners lose, again, but the young guys hit. Erasmo Ramirez gave up a leadoff home run to Jacoby Ellsbury, but Jacoby Ellsbury is a pretty good baseball player on the best team in the American League. Tom Wilhelmsen once again showed progress with only 1 hit and 1 run, while facing 7 batters. He also walked two of them, though, so who knows what's going on there. Kyle Seager is moving closer to .300 every day, and at the very least, Dustin Ackley's outfield defense has been manageable. We are still watching baseball because we are excited about this team, and even if we lose, sometimes fun things happen. Today Dave Sims and Mike Blowers rattled on and on about how Steven Wright was a great pitcher and he almost looked like a knuckleball thrower. Almost. Steven Wright is a knuckleball pitcher. If we can't get it on the field, get it from the booth.