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At the start of the month, guys like Balentien, Clement, Green, and the rest of the group were promoted to the Majors as a reward for their hard work with the affiliates. I think they would've been better off being granted an early offseason. Joke's on you guys - you get to suffer with the rest of us. That's what you get for showing off.

Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +16.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeff Weaver, -33.7%
Most Important AB: Johjima single, +12.8%
Most Important Pitch: Inge homer, -18.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -48.0%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -14.3%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +12.3%

(What is this chart?)

I wish I could accurately convey just what this feels like to people who haven't been paying real close attention, be they bandwagon Mariner fans, Mariner fans who've been away for a few weeks, fans of other teams, or even people who don't follow baseball. I wish I could put into words what it's like to invest yourself in something as much as we have for as long as we have, only to have it go all Icarus and crash down in a dead heap just as it looks like it's about to reach the heights for which we've been longing.

Make no mistake - this isn't as simple as the Mariners regressing. This is a nosedive of historic proportions. As Geoff Baker wrote, "Seattle has become the first team in modern baseball history, dating back to at least 1901, to drop 13 of 14 games after being at least 20 games over .500 as late as the Mariners were this season. There have been quite a few 1-13 records down the stretch in recent years, but not by a team at least 20 games over .500 after the 126-game mark of a season." Put another way, no team as good as the Mariners were two weeks ago has ever collapsed this badly this quickly. Yeah, there are certain legendary wrecks like the Angels in 1995 or the Red Sox in 1978, but in terms of the sheer haste with which a team has dropped out of contention, the 2007 Mariners take the cake.

And that's how this season's going to be remembered. Not for bringing five months of competitive baseball back to a city that hadn't seen it in years, but for the catastrophic conclusion. I've talked to a lot of people who think I'm entirely too cynical and pessimistic when it comes to the teams I follow, but it's stuff like this that only serves to reinforce my mental approach. Remember how nervous we all were back when the Mariners were actually playing well? Remember how we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop? Well, it dropped. It dropped hard. So how are we supposed to take this team seriously the next time it's in a similar situation? What reason do we have to believe that they'll actually get something accomplished? They fell apart this year. They fall apart last year. They sucked in 2005 and 2004. They were in first place in late August 2003 and blew it. They were in first place in late August 2002 and blew it. The won 116 games in 2001 and blew it. Everybody points to 1995 as proof of how baseball can be good to us sometimes, but the fact of the matter is that ever since then it's been one misery after another. Even the successful seasons are clouded by awful memories. By and large, our collective existence as Mariner fans has not been a pleasant one.

History is why this slump feels how it feels. It's not that we're surprised - it's that we're disgusted. Disgusted by the hitting, disgusted by the pitching, disgusted by the fielding, and disgusted that, if only for a little while, we were duped into believing that this team was somehow going to be different from all the previous ones. Disgusted that, while we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop, there was a little part of all of us that thought it never would. Disgusted that, for a moment, we let ourselves get carried away by sunny daydreams instead of protecting ourselves from the fate which now seems like it was always inevitable. As much as we're disgusted with the team, we're also disgusted with us. We should've seen this coming the whole time, right?

That's the point that's giving me trouble. When I try to tell people just what this feels like, I have difficulty explaining how the Mariners have robbed me of my innocent optimism, and what that means to me as a fan. Being a sports fan is supposed to be all about believing that better things lie just around the corner. About forgetting what's already happened and focusing on the hope of the future. It's why the average baseball fan is at his happiest in Spring Training. Nobody knows what's going to happen, and in that situation the good always seems every bit as likely as the bad. Being a fan should mean always keeping an hopeful eye on the future, even if the present isn't very rewarding.

I don't have that. At least, not with the Mariners. I used to, many many years ago, but as I've gotten older and become more familiar with the team and how it works, that side of me has all but disappeared. The reason I'm so big on Felix and Adam Jones is because they're basically all that's keeping my spirit afloat. They're the hope for the future. God knows I can't trust this front office to put together a roster of which I approve, nor can I trust the executives to re-staff the front office with guys who don't suck. My "hopeful eye on the future" is basically shut, so unless the Mariners are playing well in the present day I'm left questioning just what I'm getting out of this. And in the present day, of course, the Mariners are not playing well. So here I sit, a little bit angry, a little bit frustrated, but primarily lost. How did I get myself into this? How did I let myself become such a diehard fan that I don't even feel like a fan at all anymore? Something's wrong here. People shouldn't have to ask these questions of themselves.

These two weeks have been arguably the toughest I've ever had to endure as a Mariner fan. Certainly the toughest in the regular season. Losses used to roll off my back, but now they bring about this renewed sense of agony, even though I know the games don't mean anything anymore. It's equal parts hating to be embarrassed and hating knowing that I'll never be able to tear myself away from this, even when it seems like there isn't any upside. The dangers of being pot-committed, I guess.

This slump just needs to end. Fans and players alike need to know that baseball can be good sometimes, because at a rough point like this it's impossible to see any blue in the sky. Win for pride. Win for money. Win for women. Just win, because even if it doesn't make any difference in the grand scheme of things, the longer this goes on, the more it's going to hurt. And you've already hurt us enough.

Ichiro was safe, and RRS threw a strike. Felix Day tomorrow morning.