It was July 23rd, 2012 and I was riding the bus home from school. I don't remember anything about what I did in class that day, or even honestly what classes I was taking at the time. But I do remember scrolling through my twitter feed and seeing that someone had retweeted ESPN or MLB Trade Rumors or something like that, and the tweet said that the Mariners told Ichiro Suzuki to walk to the visitors clubhouse before game one of their series with the Yankees because he had been traded. The next tweet was from the twitter account of this very website, and all it said was "wait what"
I bring this up because that day was honestly the weirdest I've ever felt following this baseball team. Not rage, not anger, not even necessarily sadness. Instead, it was confusion, bewilderment, surprise. Nothing comes close--not annoying Jaso trades, not Griffeys falling asleep mid-game or Don Wakamatsus and toxic clubhouses, not even the Geoff Baker article. Nothing. Just...weird. And that day was its apex.
In a way, the weirdness following the Ichiro trade has never really subsided. It has instead turned into this foreboding cloud hovering over my fandom, one that breaks apart to let in peaks of sun like Robinson Cano and Felix perfectos but ultimately reforms into its cumulus form, reminding me that that feeling of confusion in the pit of my stomach has turned into a normal and expected byproduct of Seattle Mariners fandom. This brings us to all the weird shit that happened today--the end of the Wolf saga, the starting rotation behind Felix, and one Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariner on March 25th. In November, all these things were supposed to go a different way. But now, here we are.
First, the game, which is why I'm writing this in the first place. Felix threw five innings and struck out six Royals. He was touching 93 with his fastball early in the game, and his curve was as good as it has looked all spring, if not better. He ran into a little early trouble, but settled in quickly by the second inning and was mixing his pitches well. Felix is Felix, and it's not like we were going to learn anything from him today, other than Wow we have a Felix Hernandez! or It's okay, he's trying things out for the spring. After the game he said he feels completely ready to make his opening day start in Anaheim.
While Felix was pitching well, the Mariners got to Royals' lefty Bruce Chen pretty quick, manufacturing a few runs in the first and second and then dragging him out to sea in the third with six runs. One of these runs was a no-doubter first pitch dinger from Mike Zunino, which you can see below:
Stefen Romero continued his bid for the opening day roster with a two-run home run during Chen's third inning meltdown, and while it would be pretty self-deprecating at this point to say Robinson Cano has found his coveted right-handed bat, Romero is all but a lock on the team at this point. He was even sent out to cover first base in the seventh inning--which we'll get to--and made an incredible jumping catch on the first play, showing an athleticism that runs counter to the usual archetype of a 2010-2013 Mariners outfield prospect. Progress!
But here we can welcome back that foreboding cloud that Felix, Zunino, and Romero had managed to dissipate earlier in the game. Like usual, the late innings saw Lloyd McClendon emptying his bench and sending some starters to the showers, including Brad Miller (who went 3-4 with two doubles) and Abraham Almonte (who went 2-4 with an out-ran routine grounder that was pretty incredible). Yoervis Media opened the bullpen door and trotted out with glove in hand for what would be a perfect seventh inning. John Buck threw on his full catching regalia and swatted Mike Zunino on the helmet on his way out, probably saying something endearing and folksy so as to fulfill all those parts of his one-year contract that were suggested in between its lines. And then, Nick Franklin took Michael Saunders' glove and trotted out to right field. On March 25th. Less than a week before opening night. I believe the quote was
Look, I'm not suggesting this is a bad thing. Scott has been suggesting the M's look into this for quite a while now, and most of us wish they would've maybe started this a little earlier if they weren't going to trade him. It's just that well, here we go again. Opening day roster construction. Less than ideal circumstances. Lack of depth. Turning the steering wheel 180 degrees. Weird.
The Mariners played a lot of spring training games this year, and a lot of things happened in them. Some of these things will be or have already been forgotten, like what happened in Logan Morrison's seventh at bat or how many pitches Tom Wilhelmsen threw on March 15th. Some of these things will be remembered well into the season and beyond, like the moment when everyone realized that Roenis Elias might be really good at throwing baseballs, and that time that Scott Baker hit three batters in a row.
But if what happened in the seventh inning of tonight's game goes beyond what Lloyd McClendon laughed off as "just tinkering," then it's going to fit into this latter category. If the Nick Franklin, Outfielder experiment has started, tonight was page one of Genesis. It was the scrolling text at the beginning of Star Wars. It was the middle part of Pulp Fiction, you know, cause it starts all out of order and everything. It happened, and it happened so fast and everyone I've talked to has a different opinion because it seems that cloud of weird is kind of everywhere right now, and everyone is getting rained on, just a little bit. Weird.
And I'm not comparing this move to the Ichiro trade. That would be hyperbole of the nth degree. It's just that after such a bizarre day--the 45-day Wolf contract thing, seeing Hector Noesi's name on twitter as a possible starter, meltdowns in multiple threads featuring both cool heads and people diving off the boat head first--man it would have been nice to just have a good Felix game with a Mike Zunino dinger.
Some types of cumulus clouds can form acid rain, hail, and tornadoes. But other types of cumulus clouds generally indicate good weather. The good news is that I don't know a single damn thing about clouds and had to look all this up on Wikipedia five minutes ago. See, Nick Franklin might make a solid transition into the outfield and give the M's some depth, despite starting the whole thing so late. Or Nick Franklin might not even play another inning in the outfield, proving that worrying about all this was a lot of wasted energy. And the Mariners might have four weird starts in April but quickly return to having a solid rotation. Scott Baker and Randy Wolf could go pitch on the Rangers and then be in a whole hell of a mess when Derek Holland and Matt Harrison come back. But none of this makes weird go away. And I think that we've had enough weird for a while.
Maybe they should just stop playing games in a city named "Surprise." Seriously, whose stupid idea was that?