It wouldn't be right for me to sit here in front of you and say "I'm worried." It would be wrong because first, it would require that I track you down so I could sit in front of you, and despite living in a relative golden age of world travel, that's just not going to happen. It would also be wrong because the emotion I am currently feeling--as are, I'm sure many of you--is not worry. It's something else.
I've been trying to think of the English word for this emotion, and to be perfectly honest with you I'm not sure that one even exists. But you know exactly what I'm referring to. It's that feeling on the first day of classes when that weird trenchcoat guy from last quarter's Sociology course stumbles into your theory and methods seminar, sits down next to you, and once again starts eating chips and quoting the best of Reddit's nuanced and thoughtful political and social critique. It's that feeling when you take your car in to get that light checked out, and after the mechanic names off a bunch of car parts you've never heard of and takes one thousand of your dollars before sending you on your way, you find yourself staring, yet again, at another ominous light, and then you're sitting on the side of the road.
Those are not situations in which you will worry. Those are situations in which you know goddamn well exactly what is happening, and also that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You don't worry. You weep. And there has to be a word for this feeling--it's not exactly The Mariners, although we've covered that ground here before. No. It's something different altogether, much more insidious in its suggestion of promise and its refusal of anything even aesthetically pleasing in the breakdown.
Now does this mean we shouldn't be worried about the Mariners? Oh, I don't know. It's a bit upsetting that the Astros are currently playing like the '27 Yankees, but then again they've been doing this since 2013 against the Mariners, so hey, maybe we've just been trying to provide a sustainable and accurate predictive forecasting model for the rest of the league all this time. But on the other hand it's kind of infuriating that the A's and the Rangers--and to an extent the Angels--are basically handing out the keys to the car, and that instead of grabbing them the Mariners just sat and watched the Astros snatch 'em up like one of those old-timey mail bags on the railroad.
Today the Mariners lost to the Astros with a score of 11-4, and if that's really upsetting to you then know that the Mariners could have lost to the Astros 11-10 and hoo boy, that would have been a heartbreaker! Then again, it would also imply that the Mariners were competitive through most of the game. Most of the game. Here, want to actually get upset? Today the Mariners lost a baseball game in which Nelson Cruz hit two home runs, the final falling for his 13th of the year. Today the Mariners lost a baseball game in which they hit three separate home runs in the second inning alone. Today the Mariners lost a baseball game in which Mike Zunino struck out only once.
Today the Mariners sent out Taijuan Walker, who was probably the best pitcher in the entire Cactus League, and then he gave up three dingers and watched as the little scoreboard behind that expansive Texas outfield notched a number 8 next to the word Houston. He threw 70 pitches and lasted three innings. It wasn't so much that he completely fell apart as much as it was like the Astros hacked into his brain and Inception-ed out how to get under his skin before leaving a little post-it note on the way out convincing him that the way out of trouble was a path leading directly over the plate.
In a nutshell, Taijuan had some trouble but was getting good speed and movement on his pitches as he is apt to do. He started off the game by throwing a whole bunch of fastballs per Rick Waits, except some were landing by knees while others were landing on the edges of the plate. In the third inning he walked George Springer. After that, and with a runner on, he achieved full Maurer and only seemed to be able to throw baseballs in three places: somewhere off the plate, straight down the chute, or into the dugout because he airmailed one of his many pickoff throws. Deciding the second option was probably the most feasible, he offered a curveball right to Evan Gattis, who made it go very far away. Then Taijuan did this:
This right here is baseball at its most abstract. I was trying to explain the game to a friend from the UK the other day, and while he got it pretty quick he ultimately seemed hung up on the utility of the strike zone. Obviously pitches can get away from their target, and likewise, you don't need to always just underhand those little guys right to the big men with the big sticks. But shouldn't there be at least a little more agency to the whole thing? When do you decide to throw what? How can advanced statistics factor in decision-making on such a volatile, cognitive-based activity? Well, apparently if you're Taijuan Walker here, you N64 the shit out of the whole thing, pressing 'B' for a ball and 'A' for a strike. And ah, well see you later.
It wasn't entirely Taijuan's fault, really. And if we're being perfectly honest, we should take a little of the blame off Medina and Olson, although I don't really feel like going that far. No, today they decided to wave a huge fucking baseball magnet over the opened roof of Minute Maid Park like that episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns decides to build a giant disc designed to block out the sun so the residents of Springfield would be forced to consume more electricity that Mayor Quimby stupidly decided to privatize into the hands of one megalomaniacal billionaire.
But Matt! You may be asking. That episode of The Simpsons was less suggesting a realistic scenario than it was providing a bit of sharp-witted social commentary in the form of hand-drawn animation! You may be right, but listen to these fans and tell me that these are the residents of the city that used to be the biggest joke in baseball, that couldn't even watch their own team's games on television, that didn't give two shits about the sport played in that gigantic metal box sitting downtown by where the Rockets play. Tell me that and I'll tell you this isn't part of some big conspiracy to suck out more dollars from the Houston economy.
The Mariners did some good stuff too, I guess, and I don't just mean not wet themselves on the field or throw any more bats into the stands. We had those Nelson Cruz dingers. We had a Mike Zunino dinger. A Logan Morrison dinger. But the problem about all of this is that we are talking about Trenchcoat Guy, not the last day of class. We are talking about a bunch of Astros home runs and an otherwise anemic Mariners offense and a pitching staff that is starting to regress because maybe we should have seen this coming last year. We are talking about a growing defensive problem from Brad Miller, and some creative fielding from a dancing Nelson Cruz, who could quickly turn into 2015's Raul Ibanez if the rest of this club doesn't stop calling in sick.
We are also, unfortunately, just talking about stupid luck. It's luck that Trenchcoat guy happened to take two classes with you, and trying to read anything else into it is pure nonsense and a waste of your time. It's also pure luck that Jake Marisnick climbed that stupid centerfield abomination and stole this ball from Logan Morrison, which would have been out in any other ballpark, and maybe even scored Morrison in the process had it dropped with a face-down outfielder sliding in the grass.
So worry? Ah hell, I don't know. If anyone is still worrying about the Mariners in 2015 without owning the names of Lloyd McClendon or Jack Zduriencik, I would tell them to drop everything they are doing and go see a cardiologist at once, because after this much time that thing must be a molten pile of brick. No, the Mariners are probably going to get better, and if they don't, then well...the rest of the division still kind of sucks. It would be nothing new. I don't know.
I would show deeper concern but we've been down this road before, you and I, and if we've learned anything from following this here base ball club around like the fools we are its that not a single day does a hero or loser make. Besides, you know there is no way in hell the universe lets this go unpunished: