We've touched on a few of our favorite memories since the season ended. But with Christmas approaching I thought it would be fun to do a more formal presentation and reminiscing. Many things about 2015 were disappointing, but the Mariners still provided us with some incredibly fun moments. Please note that this advent calendar is only 10 days long which is obviously because the team was bad and not at all because I'm scrambling around during the busy season and just thought of it.
Day 1 - 04/24: Felix obliterates the Twins
- The boxscore
- The LL recap
This has been our decade of Felix. Halfway or so through that decade the Mariners started the King's Court, which didn't really create anything as much as it codified and gave visual organization to our love. Through that time, through mostly abject misery when Mariner fans have seen the team, their fandom and the very idea of baseball in this city dismissed by parts of its sporting populace, we have spent 15 or so days every Summer having a family meal with our favorite son. The one who made it. The one who has never once forgotten where he came from, or who loved him first and who still loves him best. He feeds off that love, and we feed off his relishment of it. It is a kind of cold fusion of pure, unabashed affection.
- Player quote
"I had the stuff to throw a perfect game, but it didn’t happen," he said.
In April 2002 I was in Los Angeles wrapping up my sophomore year of college. I was fortunate enough to share a floor with a member of my college's baseball team, and his dad just so happened to be an ex-Angels player. So on a Thursday getaway day he offered to take a few of us to the matinee Mariners-Angels game. Not only did he get us in for free, but he got us right behind home plate. The demand for Angels tickets wasn't much that day, as LA sports fans' brains only have room for one team at a time and the Lakers were in full swing.
The short story is the Mariners won, 8-4. The slightly longer story is that they completely dominated Anaheim, breaking open a 2-2 game in the sixth with a 6-run rally keyed by RBI hits from Carlos Guillen, Desi Relaford, and Jeff Cirillo. Freddy Garcia got to the seventh, handed the ball to Shigetoshi Hasegawa and that was it.
I remember calling my dad after the game, full of confirmation bias. The recent past told me the Mariners were great, and the Angels were bad. "That is what a great baseball team does to a bad one", I told him. Of course the Mariners, despite winning 93 games, would finish 3rd in the division. The Angels went on to not only win the wild card but then go ahead and won the danged World Series, proving something you, dear reader, should keep in mind when I make bold proclamations: I don't know what I'm talking about.
I thought of that memory when I remembered Felix's dominance of the Twins. The Mariners were supposed to be great, and the Twins very, very bad. Felix was Felix; our saint, our icon, our paragon. The game was early enough that no narrative existed beyond the one the projections and our hearts had concocted. There was Felix with the full fury of the heavens contained within his right arm, blasting the Twins with the force of all his talent and our dreams. For that night, 2015 was what it was supposed to be.
With the presumed imbalance of the contest and Felix's pitch count at 45 through 4 spotless innings there seemed the very real possibility that Felix was going to make a run at being the first pitcher in history to throw 2 perfect games, and that felt so right. We as Mariner fans live in an odd paradox where we have experienced so much losing, but within it has been mixed some of the greatest individual baseball the game has seen the past 50 years. Felix was the latest, and he was going to make history for us, something the game had never seen. It was the only way to justly balance the scales to account for all that pain and defeat.
It wasn't to be, and Felix settled for a 5 hit, 9 K 0 BB, shutout performance. We didn't know it at the time but it was his last great performance of the year. His legs/hips/ankles/etc. never seemed right, and Felix Days became an every fifth day test of endurance as we tried to will our hero back to full splendor. The Twins recovered to become arguably the surprise team of 2015, hanging onto wild card contention until the season's final week.
Baseball, of all games, will never allow you to feel comfortable with your knowledge and expectation. There's too little precision in a game with so much roundness. The days when things are right, when things are as we perceive they should be, are the ones worth celebrating. On April 24th, the 2015 Mariners were never more right.
Long live the King.