For as exhilarating as Saturday and Sunday were, the past two days have been crushing. Two very winnable games despite poor efforts from James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma were wasted with bullpen meltdowns, and the Dodgers walked it off twice in a row. Fernando Rodney coughed up a lead for the second time in three games, and while last night's tank job was far less egregious than Saturday's, this one cost the Mariners the game. That little devil that sits on your shoulder screaming "this dude doesn't know what the hell he's doing" whenever he's on the mound is getting louder. Almost unbearably. It's only April 15th.
It's still incredibly early in the season, which means we don't have enough data to draw any meaningful conclusions about a lot of things. You can't say, at least with any confidence, that Hisashi Iwakuma is as cooked as he was down the stretch in 2014. In the same way, you can't say that Nelson Cruz is going to hit 95 homers. You can only go on visual evidence and assumptions, true or false, about what you're seeing. A mix of scouting, emotion, optimism, but mostly pessimism. This is the Mariners, after all.
Bias is going to creep in, inevitably. When you see guys like Iwakuma or Rodney lose their usual command -- even for Rodney -- you call back memories of when they were at their worst. Seattle-based social media is horrible at perpetuating this, and Rodney's reputation that preceded him doesn't help. It's the Fernando Rodney Experience! All aboard! It's fun. I do it. You do it. We all do it. It's how we cope with a pitcher who seems to throw baseballs in the general direction of a brown glove and a white thing in the middle of some chalk and dirt and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about where it ends up.
So we react with emotion, because there is little statistical foundation to stand on, yet. We can look at two starts from Iwakuma or Paxton and attempt to figure out what's going on, knowing full well that we're two more starts away from going hooooo boy we overreacted. That's never a great feeling. But you know what else sucks? Last night.
It sucks to sit back and take it after last night, to tell yourself that you're not worried, or even upset. It's baseball! That even though Rodney didn't locate like he should have, he rarely does, and his stuff is just so good that most of the time it ends up working out. That he'll revert back to his usual self, provide thrills and chills (but mostly thrills, the good kind) and be the excellent reliever he has been for years. Alternatively, you can have a mini-meltdown, think he's toast, the Mariners are wasting away winnable games, and that they need to replace Rodney as the closer. There's also somewhere middle, which is where I tend to lie -- thinking that this bullpen is plenty deep enough to give other pitchers shots when Rodney doesn't have it, and encouraging a shorter leash or temporary timeout from his established role wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. All of these emotions suck. Even having to think about replacing Rodney or warming somebody else up the second he walks somebody isn't appropriate on April 15th. Yet it's though.
The common denominator to all these reactions is that we can all agree the Mariners have now lost a small handful of games they could have easily won. And while that will always be the case in every season, the stakes are higher this year. After all the unfair hype and expectations, it feels like a lot of us weren't really prepared for the lows that baseball can provide, even though we thought we were. Even though we knew it wouldn't be easy, it seemed like everyone else was telling us it might be this year. I want to believe. Don't you? Games like the past two nights hurt more than they did in years past because the media has already erected a statue of the Mariners holding an AL West trophy that only shows the end result, not the blood, sweat, and tears it took to build it.
I'm still in pain over last night, and I was just then getting over the pain from the night before. Now, if the Mariners lose tonight, we'll all have Thursday to stew on a series sweep with a minimum of two walk-offs. At 3-6. When there's so few games in the bank, swing games close to .500 feel like everything, especially when you view them in an unfair and illogical context. The M's "should" be going for 5-4 tonight. Instead, they're trying not to go 3-6. See how that's framed? Pessimistically. That's an emotion. That's ok. That's what makes this fun.
By going way down with this team, you will -- at least in theory -- be able to go way up when things turn around. And they will. But if you want to get mad, go ahead and do it. There are legitimate things to start getting concerned about, and while it's still too early to call them by name (even though they're being referenced and alluded to), you can think about them. I certainly am.