You're Derek Lowe. You're 38 years old. You have a wife and three kids and a home down in Florida. You're making millions of dollars, and you've made millions of dollars, and though you don't brag about it, you can't remember the last time you looked at a price tag. You're Derek Lowe. Your life is comfortable. You're having to make do with a place in Cleveland, and if you had your druthers you wouldn't have a place in Cleveland, but your life is comfortable. You don't have too much to complain about.
You've done everything. Professionally, at least, as a ballplayer, you've done everything. You've allowed a home run. You've hit a home run. You've pitched in the American League. You've pitched in the National League. You've pitched in the pre-season, and the regular season, and the post-season. You've pitched in the Midsummer Classic. You've been traded. You've been a free agent. You've started. You've closed. You've been beloved. You've been reviled. You've pitched a no-hitter, and while it wasn't a perfect game, you missed by a walk, to Brent Abernathy, so you came close enough. You've won the World Series. You've been the winning pitcher in the clinching game. You've ridden around Boston in a title parade after having snapped the most famous curse in sports history.
You're Derek Lowe. You've pitched more than 2,500 innings. You've been around, and because you've done everything, you're pitching now for pitching's sake. You aren't what you were, and you damn well know it, but as long as someone gives you a ball, you'll throw the ball for them. You're Derek Lowe, and you're a veteran pitcher. You've had good games and bad games, great games and terrible games, and you know that when you start a game off by allowing a home run to Chone Figgins, you're in for some laboring, because you've been around long enough to know when you just don't have it. You can remove yourself then and save everyone the hassle, or you can battle, because when you've accomplished what there is to accomplish, what's left is facing challenges for the sake of facing challenges.
You're Derek Lowe, and you start a game off by allowing a home run to Chone Figgins. You keep pitching, because that's the thing to do. You're curious. You pitch with what you have and you see what it's worth. It's not worth much, and you're pulled. You're Derek Lowe, and you sucked against the Mariners. But you found something out, and because you're you, that's a day well spent.
If you allow me to make this more personal for a bit than you'd probably prefer, there was quite the confluence of events for me around 7:25pm. Leading off the bottom of the first inning against Derek Lowe, Chone Figgins worked a full count and hit a home run. Chone Figgins hit a home run, and so a home run was hit, by Chone Figgins. I remember that Figgins hit his last home run on Opening Day 2011, and with memories still fresh of Rob Johnson's own Opening Day home run, I started to think that there might be something about shitty players hitting home runs on Opening Day. It had been a while for Figgins. There wasn't any Chone Figgins Home Run Watch, the way there's probably an Albert Pujols Home Run Watch (ed. note: lol), because you don't expect Chone Figgins to hit home runs, but this is a guy who once hit nine of 'em for the Angels in 2006. Chone Figgins hit nine home runs! He's not that guy anymore, and or so his home runs are delightful and extra hilarious. There are home runs that make one team feel superior. There are home runs that make one team feel superior, and the other team feel embarrassed.
A few minutes after Figgins' home run - a few minutes, and four pitches - Ichiro hit a home run. Ichiro home runs are weird, precisely because they're not weird. They're infrequent, but they're not weird, because he has such a legitimate home-run swing. We've seen Ichiro driving the ball with great frequency in the early going, and it was comforting to see him send one over the fence, because if Ichiro's going to be a line-drive hitter now, he's going to need some power. That power was put on display, minutes after Chone Figgins' power was put on display.
A few minutes after that, the Ottawa Senators scored an overtime goal to beat the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their playoff series. I've talked about hockey enough so I don't need to go into detail, but within five or ten minutes, I'd seen Figgins go deep, Ichiro go deep, and Kyle Turris beat Henrik Lundqvist. Ottawa is the complete and total underdog, by the way, and there's nothing like an overtime goal at home in the playoffs. At that instant I think I achieved sports fan nirvana. To have two different teams come together to deliver so much in such proximity - at that instant I didn't want to hug Figgins, or Ichiro, or Turris, or Munenori Kawasaki, who I haven't mentioned yet but who seems like he'd be fun to hug. I wanted to hug Sports. That was a happiness I wouldn't have felt were it not for sports. And it's not necessarily a fleeting happiness. All happiness is fleeting happiness, but these are memories that make me smile just thinking about them. I'm smiling right now, thinking about Figgins going yard. It's genuine. On those rare occasions that sports deliver, I can rationalize to myself why I've apparently devoted my life to writing about them.
Figgins and Ichiro were unquestionably the highlights of the Mariners game. After they did their yardwork, there were three runs scored the rest of the way. The game calmed down in a hurry, and you could tell that it was being played in front of Safeco's smallest-ever crowd. After the first inning, the game was a lot more languid. But I'd already had my excitement, and when the game did perk up, it was usually because something went the Mariners' way. The game went eight and a half innings, but what people are going to be talking about are the Figgins and Ichiro home runs. And I think it's better like that, because this way the Mariners didn't blow a comfortable lead like last night, and this way Figgins and Ichiro's home runs didn't get buried. They are sufficiently infrequent that they might as well be the memorable events when they happen.
The Mariners did well against Derek Lowe, a night after doing well against Justin Masterson. This time, the pitching held up, allowing us to recognize that there might be signs of an offense, here. This team might be a fun team. This team might be the fun team we wanted it to be.
I'm going to cut off here and maybe re-visit some stuff in the morning because I just hit a mental wall and I'll be fresher after coffee. Plus the commercial breaks that might've been spent jotting down notes and generating ideas for bullet holes were mostly spent watching Ottawa highlights anyway. Stay tuned!