The carpet in my uncle's basement was blue. The walls were added on a few years later, and running water came even after that. His name was Eugene, and he was almost a priest before he wasn't, and then there were gray hairs and a deep, deep laugh that only your mother's brother could ever produce, which meant that you felt it, you felt it in your bones.
Eugene had a Mickey Mantle rookie card, two Hank Aarons, a frayed cigarette insert with the face of Christy Mathewson and a worthless 1986 Mets pennant won from a UPC mail-in on the back of a Wheaties Box struck through with metal tacks into his faux-wooden walls. They were each just as important as the last. Eugene used to watch John Smoltz on his box television from Great Falls, Montana, and one day he took me to see the Great Falls Dodgers and I caught a foul ball. His heart stopped pumping while he was jogging one morning, and I heard they had to cut his wedding ring in two to save his ballooning finger if he was to be buried in one piece.
I remember going into that basement and looking at boxes and boxes of yellowing cardboard and wondering why are you doing this, I'm supposed to be the kid, and then I forgot about it while we went out back and he taught me that if I was to catch his curve I had to place the mitt lower than I expected.
He gave me a box of unopened baseball cards once, but I was thirteen and my job was to be upset with my parents. This also meant that I was to be, by proxy, upset with anyone related to them. Wearing a Star Wars shirt, I shrugged my shoulders and told him that I didn't care, and that maybe I would look at them later, and thank you very much, that was so thoughtful of you.
I still have that box, and I have never opened a single pack.
Today Felix Hernandez stumbled into four first-inning runs, and for a moment, it was over. It was no less over than it will be tomorrow when Cole Hamels puts on a Rangers jersey, when Jack Z reports to work with one single, solitary bead of sweat dripping down his forehead, when Ichiro wonders if he could come back to the team that first trusted him now that he is 100 hits away from 3,000.
The Mariners now sit ten games under .500 in what was supposed to be the single greatest season since they tied the record for all-time single-season wins in the American League, and instead of even showing a bit of knee they just sat down on the tracks, tied themselves to their awaiting fate and said this is how it is. And now we wait.
We wait for two more months, sixty-something games, and we wait for the end of the most patient season we've ever had to endure since the time we thought this stuff used to just be handed to us. Since the days of a concrete ceiling and a tunnel of prospects and a voice named Dave telling us that it would all, all no matter what, be okay in the end. And yet, here we sit, today, wishing we could have both those voices.
We've said a lot of things on this website. There was a season preview, in which I talked about how wonderful the best-case was and our new editor and site dad Nathan Bishop bleakly fantasized about the fucking end of Felix Hernandez, and you can complain right the hell back to him on twitter at @lookoutlanding for being such a monster.
We've seen a hot streak from LoMo before a crater, a career worst start from Robinson Cano before learning about a stomach parasite, Fernando Rodney tipping pitches and a bald MLB exec trying to save his job by swapping the person who could have been the most valuable member of a ballclub for Carlos Peguero sans the credit card theft thing.
And yet here we sit. Two-plus months to go. Countless recaps to boot. Analysis pieces to give and trade rumors to analyze. And yet, the hardest thing comes with not knowing one bit who is going to lead this team to tomorrow once the days start to get shorter, the night gets just a little crisper. And yet, here, we, sit. Two months to go. Games to watch, games that happen, they happen, even though we might ask hey maybe we don't tonight, what do you think?
My uncle Gene never knew I became a Mariners fan.
I often wonder what he would think, except for the fact that he watched one of the greatest dynasties in all of baseball history win one single World Series and then combust into thin air. I think that he would have looked at me then, seven years old and thought kid you've got a hurricane in your midst.
I think about how jealous he might have been watching me cheer on the best centerfielder of a generation and the top shortstop prospect in a decade give run support to a ten-foot-tall left hander hitting Old Hoss numbers, and then I wish I could have shown him Wily Mo Pena, Endy Chavez, and Willie Fucking Bloomquist, and I wish I could have shown him how hard it has been to even keep watching this in Junes. JUNES.
I wish I could go back to that afternoon when he handed me that stark white box filled with baseball cards, and I read on his face pure as day the disappointment as he thought I didn't care, that I was rejecting everything that he meant to me as I let my pubescent disdain resound like a fucking churchbell on the Last Day--that nothing he could ever do would mean anything whatsoever to me, that what was important was me, me, me, and Me alone.
But mostly, I wish I could show him the words I've bled on these pages, how it felt when Adrian or Cliff or even John Jaso was shipped off for something they didn't want or need, after I remembered why I even gave a shit about any of this in the first place. I wish, more than anything else, that I could go back to that morning when he tried to connect with me, and I threw him off like a soggy newspaper and tell him it won't always be like this.
I wish I could share with him what it felt like to watch Felix's perfect game, and what my tears tasted like on the last day of 2014, when Felix departed to a cacophony of emotion this city hasn't seen since I don't even know when. I wish I could have told him I sat through an entire college seminar monitoring Robinson Cano's flight on my laptop as he flew to sign the biggest position player free-agent contract in club history, or even the fact that I cried, cried like a baby when the entire 2013 Mariners team turned their hats backwards as they welcomed Ken Griffey Jr. into the franchise hall of fame.
But mostly, I wish I could go back to that day and tell him that I'm still holding that box of cards, that it meant something, that I'm here today bleeding on my keyboard and giving a shit about these stupid millionaire athletes because he told me that it matters, that it really fucking matters even though it doesn't. I wish I could find myself at thirteen and hit my stupid dyed brown hair head up on the side and maybe let some adolescent nonsense drip out the side of my ear like it should have.
I wish I could see him one more time and tell him what this all means, what it did for me, why I was led to believe that a baseball team could give you anything besides sorrow and misery and sadness. But instead, I've watched these idiots trip on their own shoelaces for over a decade, stumbling into last place and I wonder if maybe I don't deserve this, just a little bit as the box continues to gather dust and lose its color under the burning rays of the sun, now nearing two decades after I first acquired it.
I think about this and then I think about all the words I've spilled on these pages--even all of us, everything we've given to this ballclub. I think about the responses--understandable in their frustration for a losing team directed towards a group of writers seemingly more interested in masturbatory nostalgia and poetics that mean very little for the future wRC+ of a backup catcher that Jack will never fucking sign. We hear your frustrations, and we feel them too, and we don't know what to do. We don't, we really don't.
I think about that, and I think about this team, and I think that maybe, just maybe, we all need a day off. That Mike needs to stop swinging outside the zone. That Robbie needs to sleep in until noon. Felix pretends he isn't a Mariner, and just like, watches TV or something. That we all need to stop caring so much. I think that maybe your complaints about our ramblings have been taken to heart, and that we'll all leave you from what this site could be for what it might.
Eugene was fifty-four years old when his heart stopped beating. He saw his Braves win one World Series and I think it really meant something, but I didn't know because I was two states away when it happened, but what I didn't realize is that it was much more important than some stupid sports game or what it meant to anybody or anyone at all, no matter what I thought back then.
And yet, here I sit, heartbroken over a baseball team rightfully playing their course of power-over-strategy as it runs right into the gutter, and I'm forlorn nonetheless. I think about Eugene, and I think about myself as a child, and I wish, I fucking wish he could see me now, that he could see that I've tried to atone for my teenage sins and grown the hell up and figured it out.
It won't happen. But perhaps the best thing we all can do is to unplug for a day. To stop these excessive and selfish pieces. To just give you the facts. Maybe that would be an easier way to handle this godforsaken team. Just the got dang facts--nothing more, nothing less. Like a newspaper.
So until the weekend, that's what we've got. Just the facts. No pictures, no feelings, Just a few numbers and anthropology given to try and make sense of whatever the hell it is that the Mariners have decided to gift us with during a special season that was meant to be something.
I'm hoping for the Wheaties pennant, myself. And the box, that box I have waiting for me in the attic. But until then, we're going to play it cool.
So go m's, until they don't. But before that, just cool it. That's what they are asking for, anyway. So let 'em have it.