Those of you who enjoy reading these retrospectives because of their historical significance and nostalgic value should probably just go ahead and skip this post, because the game itself was as irrelevant as they come. Neither the Mariners nor the Indians were going anywhere, with each team dropping further and further behind the division leaders as the season progressed. By early September, there was little reason to care about what was taking place on the field, and on this particular Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, fewer than 14,000 fans showed up to watch two pitchers you've never heard of go head-to-head for two lousy ballclubs. If you listened on the radio or watched on TV, or even if you were there, you don't remember this game, because there's no reason to remember. It was just another necessary stepping stone along the path to the merciful end of the season.
That is, unless you're me. For, you see, it was on September 6th, 1992, that Mike Blowers hit his first career home run as a Seattle Mariner.
I wasn't even seven years old at the time, but I remember playing some augmented variation of Wiffleball in the front yard with my brother that afternoon while listening to the local sports radio station. They'd give out-of-town score updates at the top and bottom of every hour back then, and in the days before a realtime scoreboard on MLB.com, that was all we had to go on. We'd eagerly await the next update, and the thirty minutes in between were always grueling and torturous, like the nights you'd spend lying awake in bed as a child on Christmas Eve.
In the middle of one of our frontyard ballgames, we heard the scoreboard update beginning on the radio, so we immediately stopped what we were doing so that we could listen in. Towards the end of the update (since it was an irrelevant game, after all), they came to the Mariners and Indians, and for whatever reason I can vividly recall this brief dialogue:
Broadcaster: "A Mike Blowers-"
Me: (thinking to myself) "Who's Mike Blowers?"
Broadcaster: "-home run has trimmed the lead..."
And that's how it started. I'd never heard of the guy before in my life, but all he needed was a meaningless home run in a meaningless game to plant himself rather firmly in the front of my brain.
Mike Blowers was the first of my irrational player favorites in the 1990s, joined in later years by such luminaries as John Marzano and Russ Davis. My reasons for liking each player were different, but they could each be grouped under the same category header, one which read "Guys Who Don't Deserve Nearly As Much Praise As I Give Them." They weren't real good ballplayers, but that didn't mean anything to me, because they were Mariners, and they were cool, and I liked them, and that was the end of it. I liked Mike Blowers so much that I even remember him hitting a walk-off home run against Nolan Ryan, a dramatic achievement which I only today found out never actually happened. I don't create false memories for just anyone.
Those three players - Blowers, Marzano, and Davis - make for a pretty accurate representation of what kind of fan I was in the 90s. I knew who the best players on the Mariners were, and I liked them too, but I found it so much more enjoyable to root for the "unknowns," so to speak, the less popular guys who had won me over without doing anything particularly incredible.
Maybe it was because of those three players, or maybe it was something else entirely, but for whatever reason I was a fiercely loyal fan in those days. I'd never even dream of booing a single Mariner player regardless of what he had done on the field, and I'd do whatever I could to support them when my brother made fun of me for liking a crappy team. I'd follow three-hour games in six half-hour segments, crossing my fingers and nervously hoping that nothing would go wrong in between scoreboard updates on the radio. In the morning, I'd be out on the driveway picking up the newspaper at six o'clock (I didn't sleep much as a kid) so that I could tear through to the Sports section and find the box score for the previous day's Mariner game.
I think what's most notable, though, is that even when a season was a lost cause, I'd still pull hard for the Mariners in every game. I wouldn't get apathetic or distant; I'd still be the same excited little kid leafing through the newspaper looking for the box scores the next morning. If the Mariners losing one game would mean that my most hated team would miss the playoffs, I still wouldn't hear of it, because the difference between the M's winning 66 and 67 games in a season was just that important to me.
I'm not sure what happened, but things now are different than they used to be. A younger me probably would've loved Willie Bloomquist, but instead I feel a rather mild distaste, my respect for his style of play overwhelmed by my disdain for his ability. I can't help but become rather indifferent towards the team as it crawls along through another disappointing summer campaign. And if the Mariners finishing 70-92 instead of 71-91 meant that Anaheim missed out on October baseball, you'd better believe that I'd be happy to take it without thinking twice.
I'm still not really sure what to make of that. I'm guessing that most of the changes are related to the fact that I'm much more of an analyst now than I used to be, an approach that isn't really conducive to the kind of optimistic, overly-enthusiastic loyalty that I used to have as a child. That said, I don't think it makes me any less of a fan now than I was 13 years ago. Although I express it in a different way, I still love the Mariners every bit as much as I did in 1992, and to this day I'm still getting the same level of enjoyment out of the game, if not a little more.
Something I think all of us lose sight of, though, is that, as much as we can talk about EqA and strikeout rate and furthering our understanding of baseball through numbers, there are millions of people out there who are perfectly happy rooting for their own Mike Blowers or John Marzano without giving a damn how often he gets on base or hits a triple. It's a different approach, but who cares? In the end, we all want the same thing.
And hey, that September game against the Indians? Thrilling.
Biggest Contribution: Ken Griffey Jr., +35.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Mike Schooler, -80.0%
Most Important Hit: Griffey doubles, +21.1%
Most Important Pitch: Martinez homer, -45.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -74.7%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +22.4%