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71-64, Thank Goodness It's Over

Sports are entertainment. Right? I think we can all agree on that. I mean, yeah, I know that sometimes the picture starts to get blurry and each team can take on the feel of being just another business, but sports wouldn't exist in their current capacity if they didn't entertain. We tune in, we pay attention, we discuss because there's an unspoken understanding that we're going to derive enjoyment from immersing ourselves in the whole experience.

That enjoyment, however, doesn't come with a daily guarantee. Sometimes the viewer will come away dissatisfied. And when the viewer comes away dissatisfied, that implies either

(A) failure on the part of the entertainers
(B) failure on the part of the viewer

The majority of the time, you're dealing with A. Teams play bad games, or ugly games, or unexciting games, or long games, and generally do little to capture one's interest. In these situations, the viewer will reflect on the experience and see it as a waste of time, a waste of hours that could've otherwise been used to do something worthwhile.

On rare occasion, though, you end up with a game like tonight's. A game that looks pretty good in the box score but feels like torture to watch. I don't know about you, so I'm only really speaking for myself, here, but I didn't enjoy that at all. For the most part, I found those to be nine miserable innings. But why? Was it a failure on the part of the entertainers? That's a difficult position to argue, considering

-Franklin Gutierrez went deep
-Bill Hall went deep
-Kenji Johjima went deep
-the Mariners won
-the game was pretty close
-Jack Wilson made a hilarious error
-David Aardsma looked good and flashed a great splitter
-Ian Snell escaped a bunch of jams
-It took less than three hours

Pretty much all the elements were there for this to be a fun game to watch. In addition to the above, the M's are playing some pretty decent baseball these days, and I even got to listen to the familiar broadcast that I love so much. On paper, this shouldn't have been so bad. If anything, it should've been a satisfying experience. Maybe a solid B on the A-F scale.

So if it wasn't them, then, that means it was me. But that just leaves me trying to answer the question of, how does a viewer fail? If the entertainers are providing good output, but the viewer doesn't take it in, what's going on? Where's the obstacle?

This is what I found myself thinking about as the game wound down. And I couldn't come up with an answer. It's not like I was in a bad mood. I was as ready for baseball as ever. I wasn't distracted. I'd already eaten, no one was here, the phone never rang, and I wasn't preoccupied by other things. I was the same as I usually am, so it wasn't a problem with temperament or focus.

Then what? Why wasn't I entertained but what should've been at least a moderately entertaining game? Snell wasn't good, but he got himself off the hook, and I've gotten more out of worse. Eventually I narrowed it down to Oakland having a crummy, dead atmosphere, and the pervasive silence bringing everything else down with it, but as soon as I did that, I thought to myself, why should that matter? Why should you need a lively crowd? It's not even your own team's crowd. Do you even like baseball? Are you a fan of the sport, or are you just a fan of people reacting to the sport?

That's where I've been for the last few hours. The Mariners beat the A's in such a fashion that, rather than celebrating the victory, I've sat in one place and questioned my own fanhood. I guess maybe that says it all right there. That's the kind of game this was. This was the kind of game that makes me wonder why I love baseball so much in the first place, and though I can't quite put my finger on why I found this to be so unwatchable, I did, and that's not how anybody wants to react to a win. When I sit down at my computer for a game, I'm looking for fun, not introspection.

What a tedious evening.

  • Said Baker earlier tonight:

    But Snell has to pick things up a bit....The Mariners have worked with him on his tempo between starts. Let's see how quickly he delivers his pitches tonight.

    I didn't have a stopwatch on hand, so I don't know if Snell's pace was any quicker, but his at bats sure as hell weren't. He wound up throwing 107 pitches to 26 hitters, falling behind 18 of them, and getting into nine three-ball counts. For most of his five innings he couldn't locate for beans, and though his postgame quotes show that he's aware of what was wrong, awareness only goes so far, and this marks the fourth time in eight starts that Snell hasn't even thrown 60% strikes.

    I'm going to be patient with Ian Snell. I'm going to be patient because I have to be patient, because the team believes in him, and he was never going to be an overnight fix. However, patience doesn't come easily, and to be perfectly honest, I'm finding it difficult to not be disappointed. And I know that's not fair, since from all indications Snell's working his ass off on a million different things and it's bound to take a while for many of them to sink in, but I'd be lying if I said I'm pleased with what I've seen. Though things could change, and though I remain optimistic that things will change, I have to imagine that Pirates fans feel about us the way we feel about Detroit. Because through eight starts - only eight starts, but still eight starts - Ian Snell has been bad.

  • When Bill Hall squares a ball up, not only does he hit the crap out of it - he knows he hit the crap out of it. Today's bomb off Brett Tomko flew 448 feet to straightaway center, unaided by wind or the atmosphere. Whether or not he gets his offensive game turned around going forward, he's still arguably the strongest utility player in the league, and dingers like the one he hit tonight are enough to make even the hardiest skeptics concede that this is probably a worthwhile experiment. Because, who knows?

  • When Kenji Johjima squares a ball up, he doesn't really hit the crap out of it, but it's still interesting to see that he's equaled last year's home run total in half the trips to the plate. Although we're dealing with a feeble numerator, his HR/BIA of 9.0% is the best of his career. He's not real good, but he's not yet dead.