For the third year in a row, the Mariners will again be True to the Blue. It was a slogan that first accompanied that doomed 2013 team, and is now returning, as we've seen, in this year's crop of commercials.
I don't have any problem with the phrase, though it did at first seem a bit odd as the Mariners wear navy blue, and it isn't their most recognizable color. But nevertheless, it always seemed like a phrase that was meant to accompany a good team—and the Mariners have grown into it like a pair of hand-me-down skis.
And now, you can expect the phrase to be a bit more prominent in 2015, starting with this:
When the 2015 commercials came out, I was surprised to see there were a handful of people disappointed this phrase was returning—not that I feel particularly strongly about it myself, just that people care enough to want it gone or to see a new one.
Well, for this latter crowd, they won't be seeing a new official slogan, but there's one floating around that might be brought up from time to time—and actually already has. Here's something 710 ESPN's Brock Huard tweeted out last week.
The "Enjoy the Journey" phrase was something I'd seen Mariners Marketing VP Kevin Martinez tweet out a couple times, but it seemed familiar beyond that—and to some of you it might already be.
It's a Lloydism—and as I'll take about any opportunity to write about Lloyd McClendon quotes, it only seemed fitting to do so here. "Enjoy the journey" is a phrase the Mariners skipper has been using since he first took over as Mariners manager, with the first appearance (that I've been able to unearth) coming in an excellent Bob Nightengale piece outlining McClendon's path from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Seattle:
"They've got the right man for the job,'' said Leyland.
"I've been shocked for years why he didn't get another shot. I couldn't figure it out. He's going to do great. They're going to love him in Seattle.''
Who knows, after all this years, maybe McClendon came along just at the right time.
"I've learned to enjoy the journey,'' says McClendon, the Mariners' seventh manager in six years. "I've always been a resilient person. I take my blows, get off the mat, and move on.
"I'm totally at peace at who I am, and where I am.
"My heart is in Seattle, and I'm not sleepless.''
As it turns out, the phrase's use by McClendon goes back to his former boss, as noted in this April, 2014 piece from Kerry Eggers in the Portland Tribune:
"One thing I learned from Jim: just enjoy the journey. It’s a tremendous opportunity for anybody to sit in this chair. I’m having fun with it. I have good players. I’m going to let them play."
Even before then, he was using it with specific players, as referenced in this Greg Johns story from March on Corey Hart.
"I told him, he's got to understand the journey, he's got to respect the journey and he's got to enjoy the journey. At some point, he's going to get it back. Don't try to speed up the process because that's only going to make it worse. I like what I saw last night, now we need to get him more at-bats. He's real close to being where we want him to be."
Lloyd's use of the phrase increased dramatically as the season reached its pinnacle, a playoff chase that ended up falling agonizingly short. In September, McClendon recalled telling his players to "Play your asses off and enjoy the journey." In a Shannon Drayer story before that, he uses the phrase to set the tone for the race in early August:
"As I was telling someone earlier, the season just started," he said before the Mariners' 7-3 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. "August 1 is when the season starts, particularly if you are in a race. I think you see better pitching, better defense. Games will be much more intense."[...]
"I think our guys are enjoying it," he said. "I don't see anyone getting tight or anything like that. I told them to just enjoy the journey. We don't know what is going to happen, but enjoy it, see what happens."
It's funny to me, this attitude. Well, endearing—or appropriate. Seattle sports fans are quite familiar with Pete Carroll's "always compete" mantra, and those around these parts and elsewhere are quick to point out that, for a number of reasons—the season being ten times longer the biggest among them—that doesn't really fit in baseball. Instead of "rah rah rah, let's all go whoop some ass," we have "everyone relax and enjoy this."
It's very Seattle, no?
Reading through all these quotes reminded me of another, one from Robinson Cano in a column from MLB.com's Richard Justice on McClendon's leadership attributes.
"He cares about you as a person," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "He sees you as family. That's what we love about him. Is everything good with you? Your family? Your health? If everything is good with you, he knows you'll perform the right way. You want a manager to be on your side."
Maybe it isn't so anti-Pete after all. And while the message here seems to be said with a focus on taking that first step towards making sure "everything is good" with the players, it's a mantra fans should embrace as well. It's fitting that it was at its most prominent as 2014 turned from surprisingly fun to gravely serious, and we see it ramp up now as the Mariners enter the year as legitimate World Series contenders.
This is going to be stressful. At times, unbearably stressful. As it is in sports and life alike, it's worthwhile to pause enjoy a big step in a lengthy process. Because if it's as good as we anticipate it being, the Mariners legitimately contending for a division crown and title, we've all gone through a hell of a lot to earn it.
There's no avoiding the dramatic mood swings that accompany a legitimate pennant race, but remember this is supposed to be the good part. Now, there's going to be plenty of bad within that, but in both the macro and the micro, it's the bad that makes the good worthwhile.
So relish in this, Seattle. There's a chance it all goes sideways, as there always is in baseball. But if it doesn't, it's going to be something special. So whether it's walks over to the ballpark for a big weekend series, checking the division standings in the morning or just watching this new lineup in a random mid-May game, remember to pause and consider where things stand.
Though this feels like a culmination of a long journey, it also may be the beginning of another. Remember to savor it, because while it feels absurd to see the M's where they are now, this doesn't come frequently enough.
Well, at least not yet.