It is such a strange, disquieting feeling being the team with the aspirations. We are used to the occasional pundit, sniffing after those glorious literal or metaphorical clicks, getting his name out there with a sound bite: "The team I'M going to be watching that no one is talking about is the Seattle Mariners!" This is typically followed by the record scratch and four ex-players going "wooooooaaaahhhhhhh" before one of them punches his trick toy gnome. The gnome farts. The woahs turns to laughs, an appropriate ending for the thought of a great Mariners team.
But this year no one's laughing, or at least not at the Mariners. Maybe at the Phillies. Maybe at the Lakers. Okay definitely the Lakers.
Anyways the Mariners have the highest chance of making the World Series of any American League team per Fangraphs. That's something. That is really something. It's a really nice something. It is a really nice and amazingly uncomfortable something. It is like putting on your first really nice suit or driving your first new car. You know it's awesome but there's no way this is right right? Who's coming to take this away from me? No one. At least not for three more days.
Tonight the Mariners played the Rockies, who are the Mariners of innumerable years gone by. They have some stars they hope stay healthy, some promising young players and they have a large amount of whatever the tide has rolled in. The Rockies World Series odds are probably right around where I imagine they feel: 0.1%. I take no joy in this because Denver is a lovely city. Truly the only non-coastal city in America I would live in. But the Rockies season is going to be some dingers and a whole lotta:
"Oooooh child, things are gonna get easier."
The Mariners, like every team, and you, and me, are good and fed up with Spring Training. The primary purpose of today and tomorrow is to 1) stretch out pitchers and 2) keep healthy. To that end we were only given 4ish innings of starters in the game. It was sufficient. We are plenty used to watching baseball games between a good team and an overmatched team but suddenly it's us rooting for the lions and the other side who has a friend out there in the pit and they grew up together and ew! Look away friend, look away.
We are hypothetically going to have to get used to this. If this season continues the way we hope there are going to be times in August and September when the Mariners are hopping around, creating handshakes, cornholing and having a good ol' time while the other side looks longingly towards the end of the season. This is all so strange. But it's real. At least for three more days.
Schnell! Zu den bulletpoints!
- J.A. Happ is going to have to earn whatever love Mariner fans give him this year. He was traded for a popular player. He has a middling track record. He does not throw hard. He does not get ground balls. He has had a lousy Spring. He is, most damningly, not Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma or Taijuan Walker. What he is is just kind of a taller, thinner, whiter Jason Vargas. He feels expendable, particularly with Roenis Elias hanging around in Tacoma.
Tonight he showed a bit of what the Mariners looked for in 4 shutout innings. Happ's fastball sat 90-91 and he had excellent command, sitting on the precarious and pleasing edge of each corner of the strike zone. The 5-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio isn't likely to be common but for the first time this Spring Happ looked like the pitcher he will need to be this season if he wants to make it through the year.
- We talk often as Mariner fans about how spoiled we have been by Dave Neihaus. Generally I think most fans are quite fond of Aaron Goldsmith and they should be. He is awesome and the Mariners need to keep him as long as they possibly can. But the last few years I have been struck by how good Mike Blowers has become as a color man.
Tonight on two occasions Blowers seamlessly dropped into a replay of a Mariner hitter and discussed the mechanics behind their success. He did so quickly, clearly, and understandably without being overly technical or condescending to the viewer. In 10 seconds he added to your knowledge of hitting and how major leaguers approach their craft.
When he first came on air Mike Blowers could not have seemed more uncomfortable. He was stiff, quiet, and prone to three word sentences. The improvement he has made as a color man can only be the product of someone putting in a large amount of dedication and commitment. He's turned himself into one of the most indispensable parts of the Mariner broadcast experience and we're lucky to have him. Also I like to imagine he personally killed Rally Fries.
- Nelson Cruz pros: Strong. Handsome. Very white teeth. Breathtaking, borderline-Cespedes grade eyebrows. Hits baseballs very far. Has a dad named Nelson Cruz. Has a son named Nelson Cruz.
Cons: Not a great fielder. Very expensive with questionable lifespan. Does not care if pitcher is nibbling the strike zone like it's a bar of To'ak he is going to hack. Nelson Cruz is going to hit a lot of home runs for the Mariners this year. He is going to have many more at-bats like the one below:
- Would you like to see something very cool? I am going to show you something very cool:
(Mariner gifs courtesy of Jose Rivera, who is basically a carbon based gif bot but one that works)
That's Vladimir and Gabby Guerrero ripping about 800 feet of home run. Can you hit a baseball 400 feet? No? Don't feel bad. Your uncle is not Vladimir Guerrero.