Our default is towards profundity. We begin with that familiar, syrupy midwestern accent pulling us in over stock footage of spring grass, with a brisk sun reflecting off an ocean of empty green lawn chairs bolted together as if were the only way we knew how to cram a rural pastime into a modern concrete envelope of excess and exchange. And unlike anyone, by god, just about anyone else, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from the bottom toe of Texas all the way to the shores of Lake Ontario, it all ends before the leaves even get a chance to turn.
And that's really something, when you think about it. The design of this game seems to fit so neatly with that too-simple metaphor of birth and death, following the changes in the weather--for just as all thirty teams find quickly themselves stumbling into new routines while the April grass is still a little too wet, only the brightest and the best of them get to stick around after they learn they need to hit the ball just a little harder under an orange October sky.
Not for us, however.
No, the upper left hand corner of the country takes a couple of extra weeks to wear off that thick layer of ocean air, as if it were a hangover clouding our eyes so much we forgot what it felt like to be normal in the first place. And when that final pitch is thrown at the corner of Edgar and Dave, it is almost always, inevitably, under a beaming sun shining down not on decaying leaves but on a green that should know better than to think it still has reason to grow. In short, boy it sure sounded nice from Ken Burns, but the world doesn't end outside New England, my friend.
So facing our reality--an eternally underperforming baseball club, weather which refuses to provide the aesthetic recipe for a living metaphor of birth and death--we turn to second rate profundity. We make it up. Find something bigger than ourselves into which we can empty all our meaninglessness in order to be transformed into Meaning, sitting there, staring at us and declaring that it all actually makes sense, as long as we just look at it the right way. I mean, that's why this website was started in the first place, right?
We do it when we talk about the Mariners to our friends, we do it when we talk about the Mariners to each other. Hell, we do it right here on this website, and if we're being totally honest with each other then I'm doing it right now, because I don't really know if there is an outside of the whole thing. It's just what happens when you're a fan of this godforsaken franchise and you have to experience a game 162 again, and again, and again. You turn to literature, you turn to poetry, you turn to something written in an old baseball book filled with words from long dead men and you throw it all in a pot and smoosh it together with some cumin and salt and then step back and say by god, look at it, it's Beautiful.
Today the Mariners won, and then they threw some t-shirts at fans and then they went and took their uniforms off and probably, I don't know, all went out and drank some alcohol or something. Okay, they took showers somewhere in there too, but you get what I'm trying to say: there was no Lloyd wiping away tears as he took a saluting Felix off the mound, there was no contextual scoreboard watching, there was no thinking about how close we almost made it this time. It was just another celebration of the end of mediocrity. Again. Oh yeah, and Ichiro threw a breaking ball in Philadelphia.
It's probably quite telling that the most important highlight from today's final Mariners game came from a game in which the Mariners didn't even play, but then again, you'd be lying if you told me anything else. Seth Smith hit a dinger to break up a 2-2 tie in the 8th, and the crowd cheered louder on my radio than I have heard it cheer all season. You almost believed Rick Rizzs was surprised with his Holy Smokes! before you realized they probably just had the crowd mics a lot lower than normal and were caught off guard by the whole thing.
There were some other things too, like hits by Ketel Marte and Robinson Cano. Kyle Seager drew a high-stakes walk, and Tom Wilhelmsen earned his 13th save of the season by striking out the side in the ninth, which if you ask me, ended this whole thing on a note reminiscent of 2012 which I would frankly have liked to have forgotten altogether. No the Mariners won the game and as a result, if they soon sign a Free Agent with a qualifying offer, they lose a draft pick. I don't want to talk about that part any longer so, I will not do that.
There was also the annual shower-the-fans-with-free-shit bribe they all took part in after the final pitch. But unlike last year, even that was buried under a blanket of disquietude as the Mariners get set to enter yet another tumultuous offseason under what should, hopefully, finally, be a competent front office. With dry eyes this time, Lloyd McClendon waved at fans with a terse smile in a shallow loop, removed his hat, and tossed it to a young fan in the front row above the home dugout before burrowing into the safety of the clubhouse.
He probably knew he wasn't going to be wearing it again.
Meanwhile, any number of Mariners played their final game as a member of the organization today. Most, but not all, had no idea if they were even a part of that group in the first place. Mark Trumbo, James Jones, and Brad Miller all skirted the chalked grass with goodies in their hands, either wondering what city they would find themselves in, what level of play they would be lucky to call home, or even what position they would be playing by the first of April, 2016. Hisashi Iwakuma, himself balancing between stability and radical, unforeseen change, decided instead to just give this old lady what looks like the greatest gift she's ever received in her entire life.
Eh, who are we kidding, he's probably going nowhere. She'll have one more thing to be excited about.
But mostly there was just an end--and end we all knew was coming, circled on a calendar like a doctor's appointment or your boss' birthday. It's here now, and for as sullen and forlorn as all this has sounded up to this point, we all know we are going to be missing the bejeezus out of this game come January--that we'd settle for a losing team actually playing baseball over a winning team sleeping back home in its place.
So as we get to these final few pages of the book that is 2015, I want to just close with a few words. Rather than quote some hifalutin bit of nonsense in order to give this whole thing the illusion of sophistication, as we turn our heads to the setting sun with the knowledge that it always rises again, or something like that, I just want to tell you a story. So here's my story:
I drove into Boston last night, and on the way I had set my iPhone to get me directions back home so I wouldn't have to fiddle with it with the wheel in my hands. I didn't realize that the turn out of the parking garage would be onto a one way street, and neither did the app, apparently, but I had to do what the sign said when I got there, phone be damned, so I just...turned to the right and drove down the street, alone, in the opposite direction of the directions which had been laid out before me.
On I drove, trying to reset the map while simultaneously staying between two imaginary lines delineated only by paint. Thing is, being surrounded by really tall buildings can mess with your GPS signal. I did not realize this. So instead of correcting itself to provide an alternate route, my phone's GPS function just kind of sat there, spinning, with those obnoxious words burning into my phone's 4.7 inch LED screen: REROUTING...REROUTING...REROUTING. I just kept on driving.
The whole thing was stressing me out, and other cars were passing me like crazy and there were toll roads coming up, and construction, so I pulled over off the road and turned my flashers on to see what the hell was going on, if I could figure out how the hell I was going to make it back home in one piece. Someone honked at me (Boston), and there were people yelling and generally being obnoxious because it was late on a Friday night, and I probably should have just looked at the directions to the end before getting on the road in the first place. But after finally figuring out where I needed to go, I put my phone back and it sat and thought for a while and then loaded directions and after those little dots spun around in a circle it said these four words:
PROCEED TO THE ROUTE.
PROCEED TO THE ROUTE.
PROCEED TO THE ROUTE.
Luckily, it was the same way I had been going after following the one way sign in front of me, and it was, as it turned out, the way I had been wanting to go all along.
PROCEED TO THE ROUTE.
So I proceeded to the route and then I went home.