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At Least We Never Saw Francisco Rodriguez

I hate that guy.

For a few hours now I've been trying to think of what to say, how to make sense of what we've seen over the past three games. This is what I came up with:

We just got blasted.

There's really no other way around it. We got absolutely throttled by a better baseball team. No, they're not this much better. They're not sweep-on-the-road-and-outscore-22-to-8 better. Jered Weaver isn't better than Felix Hernandez, Garrett Anderson isn't a better hitter than Raul Ibanez, Jeff Mathis isn't better than Kenji Johjima, and Dustin Mosely isn't better than the top of our bullpen. They were better for three games, but given what Kansas City did in LA not too long ago, we should always be careful not to arrive at too many specific conclusions based on such a limited sample.

Overall, though, the Angels are a demonstrably better team than the Mariners. That point wasn't made this week, but it was certainly driven home. They're better on the mound, they're better in the field, and they're just as good at the plate. People will talk about alleged differences in team attitude and confidence, but even if those statements are true and the differences exist, they don't mean nearly as much as the fact that Los Angeles just has more talent than we do. That's never pleasant to hear, but in a way it is a little comforting to know that we haven't been relegated to runner-up status by virtue of bad managing alone. We're in second place because we're the second-best team in the division.

The hype, the excitement, the potential - in a red blur, it all disappeared. While the crowds were never that enthusiastic to begin with, I am a little concerned about the next time Safeco hosts a big series, because a lot of people are going to remember this and wait to be impressed before they allow themselves to get all the way back into this team. This was as deflating and demoralizing as any series can be, and I can already hear the snarky remarks about Lollablueza Returns. It sucks, but can you blame them? When's the last time they really - really - had something to cheer for?

People are going to respond to this series differently. There are two main camps: one that feels like the season is over, and one that points out how we're still tied for the Wild Card with a decisive series in the Bronx coming up next week. There will be clashes and a lot of name-calling as one group tries to claim that they're the better fans, while the other group wonders out loud why the optimists can't see the writing on the wall.

At their hearts, neither one is wrong. This isn't a debate about the standings; everybody knows that the Mariners are still in the hunt. No, this is a matter of emotion and psychology. Some people have it in them to remain hopeful in the darkest of circumstances, while others have watched this take place enough times before to see a pattern. To argue against somebody's opposing viewpoint is to think you can change who they are as a person, which is really kind of a silly and selfish thing to attempt. Some people are optimists. Some people are pessimists. Because of their nature they're going to interpret the Mariners' current situation in different ways, and it just isn't worth all the arguments we're going to see.

Fortunately, the neat thing about baseball is that we don't have to wait very long to see how this all plays out. Win tomorrow and a lot of people are back on the wagon. Extend the slump and we'll have more jumping off. The arguments change every day, and never are they more intense than when the team's riding a streak or a slump. There's just something about extreme performances that always manages to get the emotions running high.

Right now, nobody knows. Everyone has their suspicions, but just when this team has looked dead, it's sprung back to life. When the Mariners lost six in a row in April, they took seven of their next eight. When they dropped six more in June, they won ten of their next eleven. And the seven-game skid in July was followed by possibly the best run of the season. You never like to be put in a position where you're waiting for the good because the bad's already happened, but here we are, and it's all we have. Maybe this is just the nature of the beast. Maybe this team actually has it in them to make another run. Maybe they'll find a way to bounce back from this letdown and get the last laugh. Maybe this is all part of their plan to give us a true storybook ending.

And if they don't, and if it's not, at least we'll always have this. No matter what happens now or down the road, that's ours forever.