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A Cruel Reminder

By and large, things have been pretty good since the new executives came into power. Where previously a series of bad decisions and team disappointments had conditioned us to expect the absolute worst, the hiring of Jack Zduriencik was met with cautious optimism that got stronger when he filled out the front office and grew to a fever pitch when he went about assembling the roster. With his cohesive plan and pattern of informed decision-making, Zduriencik gave us the gift of confidence in the management, which soon thereafter blossomed into confidence in the team. We saw an opportunity to compete for the division, and a good start to the year only fanned the flames of positivity.

The Mariners are 15-15. Last Sunday they were 15-10. Since winning in exhilarating fashion what was billed as a 'statement game' against a division rival, they have lost five in a row, getting swept by the Rangers, getting swept by the Royals, and getting blown out by the Twins. Having thrown away their early-season division lead, the Mariners now find themselves in a bad place, needing to break out of this tailspin before it cripples their season.

And all of a sudden, I'm having an awful hard time fighting off the negativity. All the familiar old negativity, all the pessimistic expectations, all the hopeless fatalism - it seems that, instead of being wiped out by the new administration, these feelings simply went dormant, lurking beneath the surface and just waiting for an opportunity to erupt. They were always there. They were just biding their time. And though I recognize them and don't want them to come back, this embarrassing losing streak has them pushing up on the lid of my personal Bavasi-era Pandora's box, and it's taking all of my strength to push it back down.

The last thing I want to do right now is get exasperated, surrender, and give up on the season. There are a lot of reasons to stay optimistic. Even with the losing streak, we're only 1.5 back of the lead. The defense has been great, most of the pitching has been pretty good, and we're standing at .500 despite several players performing well below reasonable preseason expectations. If fans of the 14-15 Yankees and 14-17 Rays can stick with their teams in a way tougher competitive environment, then there's no way any of us could rationally defend waving the white flag. Not now. Not this early, not in this division.

And yet there's still that wicked little birdie on my shoulder, reminding me that I've seen this movie before and that the worst is yet to come. I don't want to listen to it, but it's hard not to pay attention to a voice in your ear. I don't feel negative yet. I don't yet feel like the season is a lost cause. But so what? I'm thinking about it, and I'm thinking about it because the fan I was a year ago is still a big part of the fan I am today, whether I like it or not. As much as I'd like to think that Jack Zduriencik allowed me to move past the Bavasi years, all of those feelings that I associated with the previous regime still gnaw at me now.

And I imagine they will continue to do so at times like this until the Mariners become legitimately, convincingly good. Good enough for me to be able to believe with all my heart that the past is ancient history. Maybe it'll take a division championship. Maybe it'll take a World Series. Maybe it'll take five World Series. I don't know what you need to change your identity as a fan, because I've never done it. What I know is that it's going to take a lot of success to undo what was impressed upon my mind over so many years.

The Mariners need to win, and they need to win a lot. They need to win enough that I can forget this losing streak ever happened. Because otherwise I fear the roar of the nigh-indelible past will only get louder, and I don't know how much longer I can fend it off.