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Are You Sure We Have To Rebuild?

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I kind of like what we've already got.

95.7mph average fastball, 29 at 96+

Many moons ago, I went to school with a friend of mine named Brandon. We had the same homeroom. One day in 6th grade history class we were told about a project assignment. We had to pick something specific from one of the three empires we had studied by that point and depict it in a piece of art. It didn't have to be much - we barely had a week to do it - but it had to demonstrate both sufficient effort and knowledge of the subject.

I spent a Saturday drawing and coloring detailed sketches of various Roman gladiators. Brandon prepared a twenty-minute movie about the Coliseum, complete with narration and self-shot footage.

Over time Brandon and I drifted apart as we found our own circles. Years later I heard he went to Berkeley.

95.6mph average, final ten fastballs

I feel kind of stupid now about my checklist. I guess Brandons tend to overachieve.

62 fastballs, 44 offspeed

I was careful not to expect too much. I was so careful, in fact, that not only did I expect Morrow to struggle, but I expected to be okay with it. Realistically, what was the alternative? It didn't make sense to expect Morrow to dominate, or to even pitch effectively at all. Not today, not against the Yankees, not with so little preparation. That would just be us getting our hopes up, and we all know what happens when we get our hopes up. They get dashed. No, I wasn't going to let that happen today. I wasn't going to let myself be disappointed. The one thing I've wanted ever since we took Morrow in the draft was to see him in the rotation, so I told - nay, forced myself to be happy about his simply starting a game. We could deal with standards and expectations later on. Tonight, all I wanted was for Morrow to get his feet wet and last long enough to show off one or two attributes that could help him down the road.

Morrow got his feet wet, all right. He might as well have been kicking water in the hitters' eyes.

60 pitches to lefties, 16 changeups

A handful of pitches into the game, my checklist felt obsolete. Not only did Morrow come out throwing 97, but he also dropped a ridiculous curve on Derek Jeter that looked like something Joakim Soria might throw at 100rpm. The ball missed just low, but the location didn't matter. What mattered was the break. What mattered was how the ball came in around Jeter's belt and dropped like Halley to the shin. That was a true power curve. A Royal Curve, even. I don't know if the title is up for grabs now that Felix has set it free, but if it is, I know who's got first dibs.

That was pitch #4. Pitch #5 was a 97mph fastball at the letters.

Bobby Abreu grounded out to end the first inning. Pitch #10 was a changeup at the knees over the outer half. Brandon Morrow wasn't just looking good; he was looking like a starter. I was happy to find that my pleasure cortex hadn't atrophied from underuse.

27 batters faced, 3.9 pitches per PA, 13.8 pitches per inning

Early on, I was tracking every pitch. I was more interested in this start than any other start I've seen in months. I made note of every fastball, looked at the velocity, and checked to see if he was losing any steam. I was concerned. Having expected Morrow to come in throwing 94-95, I was concerned that he wasn't quite sure how to pace himself, and that he'd wound up feeding off adrenaline and cutting loose in the first. I didn't want to see that happen. I could've understood, but I didn't want Morrow to treat this like one inning of relief and three innings of running on fumes. I wanted him to hold back. I wanted him to hold back and try to make it to the fifth, just to see if he could do it.

Pitch #86 was a 96mph fastball. Alex Rodriguez swung and struck out.

18 swinging strikes

As the season has crawled along, I've noticed that the Mariners' poor play has turned me away from being a fan and towards being more of an objective analyst. I think it's a defense mechanism. The less you live and die by a baseball team, the less it can hurt you. There are no feelings in analysis. Only questions, interesting and not, and answers, right and wrong. For months now, I've paid attention to the Mariners not so much as a fan, but as an impartial observer. Ages ago I weighed the costs and benefits and decided that this was the only rational way to deal with the disappointment.

I clapped when A-Rod struck out. After Jason Giambi flew out to end the seventh, I got up and danced.

9 fastball swinging strikes, 9 offspeed swinging strikes

It's a funny thing that happens when a young pitcher's working on a no-hitter. Unless he's just impossibly efficient, you'll always end up having the same argument with yourself about whether it's wiser to take him out or leave him in. On the one hand, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the pitcher, and people never forgive taking a guy out under those circumstances, regardless of how intelligent the reasoning. On the other, injuries are such a big concern that you don't want to jeopardize a pitcher's health by overtaxing his arm, even if he's headed for history.

There's no easy answer. All you can really hope for is that the pitcher takes the decision out of your hands, either by allowing a hit or by maintaining his stuff and forging on ahead with his eyes on the prize.

Pitch #99 was a low-inside fastball at 95mph. Hideki Matsui whiffed.

7.2 innings, one hit

It seems appropriate that the one hit Brandon Morrow allowed came on the one pitch that made him look tired. Pitch #106 exceeded Morrow's previous season-high by 24. It was an inside curveball to Wilson Betemit that approached the plate slower than any other pitch Morrow had thrown all night, and it lacked the late snap of the one he'd thrown Jeter in the first. Betemit reached out and yanked it into right-center, where it cleared Ichiro's head and allowed Matsui to come around to score. To Morrow's credit, he wasn't discouraged; when the ball came down, he ran to cover home with nary a flinch. Minutes later, the camera showed him smiling in the dugout. It's not that he'd wanted to allow the hit, but to get all up in arms about one bad pitch would be the pinnacle of short-sightedness. And Berkeley don't raise no idiots.

I was surprised to find that I wasn't all that upset, either. A year ago, JD Drew made me think about homicide. To this day I still think about buying enough tickets to be able to boo him once in every ballpark in the country. But tonight was different. Morrow didn't come in with Felix's expectations. He didn't come in having already been crowned the savior of the organization, and he didn't come in with people looking for him to be consistently excellent. He came in a virtual unknown. And he departed a hero.

It doesn't matter that Morrow allowed a double. Tonight wasn't about making history. Tonight was about catching a glimpse of the future, and if this is what the future looks like, then prepare to get tan. Rest assured that, if we just saw Brandon Morrow, Starting Pitcher, this won't be his only opportunity. A pitcher with stuff that good doesn't just dilly-dally around at the back of a rotation. A pitcher with stuff that good gets posterboard proposals. From men.

Brandon Morrow just gave me quite possibly my favorite Mariner experience since April 2007.

Brandon Morrow allowed a hit.

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