Last weekend, I wrote this big whole thing about how excited I was that baseball stuff was set to begin this week. After it was posted, I made myself a sandwich and plugged in my DVD of Felix's perfect game and let the beer go to my head, and my heart. Today I'm still excited about baseball, but I'm already tired of this stupid season, and there hasn't even been any real baseball yet.
First, Wednesday brought news that Hisashi Iwakuma is going to miss 4-6 weeks because he got his finger caught in a net or something while exercising in January. This means the Mariners will go through all of Spring Training without their number two starter and oh, yeah, Tanaka is on the Yankees. Then Jesus Montero showed up to camp with a fat tire taped to his belly and claimed he just sat around eating after winter baseball, which doesn't quite ruin any of the Mariners 2014 plans but is kind of obnoxious. Shortly afterward, a precautionary-yet-fear-inducing "soreness" diagnosis was given to Taijaun Walker, who was all but expected to be the Mariners fourth or fifth starter after they failed to sign a "true number two" guy this offseason. Then, yes. Franklin Gutierrez, who deserves so much more than a brief sentence at the end of a descriptive paragraph such as this, and quite unfortunately sums up much of the experiences this franchise has had for the past twelve years. Except worse, because baseball teams as abstract entities don't have subjective desires, personalities, and emotions.
This is a very strange way to start the offseason. Last year the Mariners came into spring training with Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales and hit about nine thousand home runs and didn't lose a game, ever. They were so amazing that fans everywhere felt this strange emotion others call "optimism," and a beloved Mariners writer left the home he built so many years ago and in a way, everything felt different and new and frightening and strange. But he knew, he knew, and here we are a year later with another shitty season under the belt so vividly contrasting the promise shown earlier that spring. Maybe this week is just setting us up for the other end of that dichotomy this fall. It would certainly make all this feel better.
But as awful as this one-two (three, four) gut punch has been, it actually doesn't change much for this team going forward. No baseball team has ever made it through an entire season without some sort of injury, and even though the Mariners are on pace to break the record for broken things in a single year so far, it's only February. So what does any of this do? Not that much:
1. Hisashi Iwakuma
Yes, this feeds into the narrative that the Mariners should have signed that number two/number three guy earlier. Perhaps they still will after all this, as some have suggested that talks are picking up between Santana and the M's now. I don't know. But let's say that Hisashi Iwakuma misses April. We're talking about six games, give or take. Perhaps less, as the Mariners have four days off in April, and while its more likely they give those starts to a veteran guy like Scott Baker, they can be flexible with that schedule (which, by the way, includes series with the Astros and the Marlins).
Now sure, six games can be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. And sure, an argument could be made that those forty, forty-two innings from Kuma are just as valuable as 243 innings of Kyle Seager catching the random dribbler and hitting .260, at least for leverage's sake. I wouldn't make that argument. Because it's six games. There's a good chance we aren't even thinking about this in June.
And this is probably the worst of the news to come out of this week, or at least the only one that really has much of an impact on the rest of the season. Because...
2. Jesus Montero
This one is easy. Very few people expected Montero to even wear a Mariners uniform past March this year, so anything lost through this wasn't even something the Mariners had available to lose in the first place. Except for maybe dignity and minor-league flexibility. Well, wait, let me take that back. A Montero call up and dinger in one game would have made for the easiest recap I've ever had to write. But that would only complicate things further: Now what are we supposed to think about Montero? Will the bat continue? Does he have an eventual spot on the team? How does he fit in with what appears to be a DH spot filled with players who can possibly be in the outfield? Or a trade? Gah! These are all problems! Hard to think about! My head hurts! Thanks to all of this, I don't have to go through any of that. Win-win.
3. Taijuan Walker
These strange shadow injuries can sometimes be the most insidious, sure. Keith Law tweeted this little tidbit earlier today, which oscillates between the Oh-This-Isn't-A-Big-Deal-Then side and its opposite, the Oh-Shit-This-Is-Worse-Than-We-Thought:
Shoulder problems can result from a pitcher finishing too upright, which Walker started doing last year.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) February 13, 2014
But the (award-winning) Mariners medical staff felt safe enough to let him play catch today. So far this year, he hasn't pitched a single inning, recorded a loss in velocity, or heard any snaps and pops that might send him into that white room that currently holds a drawer of stethoscopes, someone named Danny Hultzen, and a medical professional who knows Guti's cell phone number by heart.
There is a best case scenario about this, and it is as follows: I tweaked my arm trying to put a hardcover book on the top shelf of my bookshelf last night. I'm 26 years old and drink too much beer and don't really exercise, so this isn't exactly a story of a medical calamity as much as it's called Thursday night. Taijuan Walker is a healthy young athlete who throws baseballs at one hundred miles an hour a lot, sometimes one hundred times in a single day. There isn't much about the two of us that you can compare, but one of them is that we are both human beings and we both have arms with the same amount of bones and veins and tendons and stuff. Throwing baseballs is hard and anyone is going to hurt sometimes.
The worst case is something we have absolutely no power to control right now, or ever. Unless deliberately caused by inept medical staff or poor pitching coaching, injuries are not only freak and random, but an inexorable part of a game that pushes humans to do things their bodies weren't really meant to do. We have no control over this. Nobody has control over this, unless they stop playing baseball altogether.
I think that says something about what has happened this past week. I think it also says something about what has happened for the past twelve years. I probably wouldn't have traded Adam Jones and uniforms to the Orioles for Erik Bedard, but I have never been or will be the General Manager of the Seattle Mariners, so I have just about as much say over that as I do over how dumb it is that Franklin Gutierrez is still broken. And yet, I keep watching this team day in and day out, as if my continued support will actually do something to help them win baseball games. As if my one share in Comcast's sure-to-exist database logging everything I've ever watched registers a three-hour block on ROOT Sports every day, translating to something like electricity, or juice for the team to win baseball games. It doesn't work that way. Nothing in life works that way.
And yet here we are, still doing the same thing, watching the same games over and over. After twelve years of disappointment. After a bunch of stupid injuries we can't control. So relax! The mess of this week is going to wear off in April when you see Robinson Cano hit his first home run as a Mariner into Safeco's left field bleachers. Then Felix is going to make a bunch of people look silly and Brad Miller just might be amazing. You're going to forget about how this week felt and you're going to be happy there is baseball, and you have just as much control over the good things as you do the bad things. Maybe that's why we watch it in the first place.
But if that's not convincing, just know that the Mariners lost an outfielder today and then apparently stopped talking to Nelson Cruz. If that doesn't tell you that we are all in a rudderless boat floating in an ocean with waves coming from every direction, I don't know what else to say.