There used to be a time when we all had hopes and dreams of the 2015 Mariners. There was a day that the sun would be shining over Safeco Field at the end of September and beginning of October. The entire community would be gathered, some online, some in person, and we would be celebrating the end of the playoff drought -- that corner we were all promised by a new regime, finally turned.
We here at Lookout Landing wrote things such as this:
"All together, the Mariners lineup looks surprisingly complete. There are question marks, but they are much smaller than the anemic offenses of years past. A 3-4-5 of Cano, Cruz, and Seager is a formidable group. After scoring more runs each progressive year after 2010, this may be the year the Mariners finally break out and crack 700 runs."
"However, they have the arms and the depth requisite to be a very successful group of pitchers and will likely once again finish near the top among MLB bullpens."
"According to FanGraphs, the Mariners have the highest odds at making the playoffs at 68.9 percent. They also have the highest odds in the AL at winning the World Series at 9.6 percent."
"This is a legit team. Wrap your head around it. Beat the pessimism and snark out of your skull. The Seattle Mariners should make the playoffs. It's not a joke. It's not blind optimism. This team has the baseline of talent to succeed and the upside to soar. It's been a long time coming. Always the underdog, underachieving and under-delivering, the Mariners are poised to finally regain their status as AL West contenders. Buckle up and enjoy the ride."
I could go on forever.
Instead, the Mariners have done a lot of this:
The only M's hitter who has ever been worse than 2015 Zunino (given 400 PAs), by wRC+, is literally Mario Mendoza. https://t.co/Hc2bn1MuMa— Colin O'Keefe (@colinokeefe) July 9, 2015
Mariners W-L since that awful homestand: W-W-L-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-W-L-L-W-L-W-L-L-W-W-L-W-L-W-L— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 7, 2015
And that is why I decided to unplug.
Stehekin is an unincorporated community at the other end of Lake Chelan. There are less than 100 people who live full time in the valley, and it is a gateway to the North Cascades National Park. Apparently Stehekin is a Native American word meaning "the way through". It is also one of the more beautiful places I have ever been.
I try and plan at least one multi-night backpacking trip per year, and Stehekin has been on the list of places to try each time another set of friends went, came back, and said they had just been someplace wonderful. For me, it was the perfect time to go.
Last Monday, I joined some of my Internet writing friends at this game. I left early. I never leave games early, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I ever have. If not the first, then just the second or third. That is how the Mariners have left me feeling -- hopeless, angry, and defeated. I look forward more to the bike ride through traffic home along the waterfront than actually attending the game.
Juanita Lake might have been a bigger lake at one point. Because of this past winter, it is now more of a pond. There are multiple ways to get there, but if you are like me, you backpack for pain to make it to the view. Behind the Golden West Visitors Center in Stehekin, where the Rangers station is, there is a trail for Purple Pass. After nearly 6,000 feet of elevation climb over around eight miles, you make it to the top, and you make it to your view. It is a strenuous trail, one we didn't see a single person on. All we saw, the entire time, was the view of a massive gouge in the Earth. Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the world, and combined with the 8,000 foot peaks scattered around its western edges, is the deepest gorge in North America.
We saw a couple of smoke jumpers up at the campsite and talked with them about fires. We didn't talk about the Mariners offensive woes, how Cano has struggled, how Cruz has had two polar opposite months, how Zunino is being more Zunino-y than anyone would ever imagine. Instead, we talked about forest fires and helicopters. They offered us food and offered to take our trash. At no point did I think about the result of attending this game.
The way down was along the Boulder Creek Trail. The green map pointed out that there had been a fire in the area in 2010. It didn't point out that there had been a fire there last year, which would have been good information to have. After climbing elevation nonstop for hours, my old man knees appreciate a good bit of reprieve. Unfortunately, what goes up most come down, and so we trekked down the ridge and were spit out into a valley full of Ponderosa Pines, meadows and wildflowers. It was a scene that reminds you why all National Parks are National Parks -- scenery pulls a 180 and leaves your jaw hanging onto the valley floor each time.
We hit the 2014 burn area, appropriately dubbed the Lone Mountain Fire, and it provided a shocking, dystopian wasteland of fallen trees, scarred terrain, and a whole lot of nothingness. In the midst of the wreckage we pulled the most Pacific Northwest thing possible and spotted morels, which were added to the night's meal of mac and cheese. All I needed was my Sigur Ros vinyl and I was the poster child for everything cliched, right, and wrong, about our neck of the woods.
My two friends and I trudged along in silence much of the way, in that backpacking way that is 50 percent tired, 50 percent in awe of the terrain. At no point did we mention baseball, how Mark Trumbo is a worthless tub of lard, or if it should be considered getting Felix-ed or getting Mariner-ed in starts such as these that I made the poor decision to witness in person.
We only went a shade over 22 miles on the trip, by rough estimations. The Boulder Creek Trail spits you out onto the Rainbow Creek Trail, and then back out onto the main road of Stehekin. Along the way there is the Stehekin Pastry Company, which if you ask anyone, will say is one of the best bakeries they have ever been too. I will add to this chorus of praise. It isn't the best because you are coming out of the woods and have been eating like a WWII soldier for the past few days either, the bakery deserves every damn bit of praise that comes its way. It is a a lovely beacon of hope in an area that is already brimming with positivity, relaxed vibes and beauty.
We walked the final 1.9 miles back to the ferry, finally having the chance to admire the view from the valley floor. We got to the ferry landing and chatted up with an apparently local (or he chatted up with us). We learned about real estate, the history of the town, and how the matriarchs of one of the founding families had died and her family was busy selling off pieces of property. A lake front huge log cabin goes for $400,000. The man wasn't sure how much the other house was going for. A group of hikers, presumably trekking the PCT, were busy divvying up almonds from a box of food into separate containers. At no point did anyone think about how a team made up of Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Logan Morrison, Seth Smith, Brad Miller, Austin Jackson and others would have the fourth-least runs scored in the league, the fifth-worst run differential, and sit 7.5 games out of the division they were supposed to take home.
I took time off to clear my head, not on purpose really. The schedule of the Mariners insane futility, yet absurd promise, just happened to coincide with my backpacking plans and the All-Star Game. I've now gone a full week without any semblance of baseball anything, and to be perfectly honest, I'm feeling all the right amounts of refreshed.
I know that this team will start to string together series more resembling W-W-W-L-W-W-L-W-W-W instead of the usual, because they just flat out have to. I know that Cano's semi-recent change in production is going to be consistent and nearly clean off the shit stain that was the first half of the season in his jockstrap. I know that when Felix says he wasn't having a good first half, he means it, and Felix is going to run away with the Cy Young because he is Felix and that is what he does. I know that the Astros will continue their dramatic fall back down to Earth and that the Angels will crash and burn in a dramatic implosion of drama, gossip and headlines because seriously fuck the Angels and everything they choose to be.
I know that I am also not a life coach and in no position to be giving out life advice. But if you are struggling, as I struggled, emotionally and mentally, as you watched this team piss away everything in more and more exciting and enraging ways, I recommend taking a break -- just a short one. You deserve it.