In a perfect world, we all root for success. We root for our team, they win, or they lose. Either way, our interests our pure and noble. We cheer on our heroes to succeed, and give little to no thought to the fates of fellow teams, or their fans. Should somehow our team fail to win the day, we shake hands with our combatants, and wish them well.
This is not a perfect world.
No this is a world full of the seven deadly sins, at least four of which we as Mariner fans experience viscerally with great regularity: Pride, envy, lust, and wrath. These sit in the top drawer of the Mariner fan toolbox, and we reach for them often. As such we have learned to not only root for the Mariners to win but, to our shame, to root for the failure of others.
I asked a few of the staff to share, in the blackness of their hearts, what pestilence and famine they wished upon MLB. They were more than happy to do so.
Who do I want to fail? For starters, the Angels. Those rich, spoiled brats finally seem to have dug themselves a hole they can't spend their way out of. They're paying Josh Hamilton to sit on the DL for a rival. They're paying Jered Weaver to lob pitches over the middle of the plate, and they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. And yet...they won 85 games last year. I credit our lord and savior Jerry Dipoto, and of course Monstars center fielder Mike Trout. I pray that this is the year our friends down in Anaheim -- not Los Angeles, they haven't earned that right -- feel the pain this year.
Who else? How about Austin Jackson. I don't know exactly why, but Jackson really bugged me during his time in Seattle. Maybe it wasn't his fault -- he should have never been leaned on to be a top-of-the-order bat -- but watching him try to punch the ball past the first baseman like an overmatched child who couldn't catch up to the good stuff felt pathetic. Normally a player going the other way should be praised, but with Jackson it felt forced and a last resort at relevance.
Any others? Well sure. Mark Trumbo, Mike Morse, and any other one dimensional right-handed power hitter. And last, but not least, Kenta Maeda; because there's only one Kuma and I will accept no substitutes.
It's not that I don't like Dallas Keuchel. It's that I can't stand him. I can't stand to look at him. It's not just that sophomoric unimaginative awful body of hair on his face. I can't even stand the sound of his name.
It's abrasive. It compels me to make a face like a bug flew in my mouth.
But then there's Dallas Keuchel the pitcher who really wasn't even supposed to be here today.
A 7th round draft pick sandwiched in between household names Egan Smith and Brad Stillings, Keuchel was described by a scout as having "the pitchability and determination...(to)...make him a no. 4 starter in the big leagues." Ooh, blood pressure rising!
He soft-tossed and slurved 134+ innings at AAA Oklahoma City, giving up 147 hits and posting a 4.69 ERA with a 4.7 K/9 rate. Four point seven! You know who had a 4.7 K/9 last year? Mike Pelfrey. Dallas Keuchel looked like the left handed version of Mike Pelfrey.
Everything was fine and good when Dallas Keuchel was on a last place team having the pitchability and determination to go 9-18 between 2012 and 2013. But last year was just stupid. Forget the 5th overall in MVP voting, forget his All-Star pin, forget his Cy freaking Young. He anchored the upstart Houston Astros who absolutely bludgeoned the Mariners in 2015, beating them 12 times in 19 games, outscoring them 105 runs to 79. And it always seemed like there was Dallas Keuchel, stoically staring at us, expressionless through that unkempt muskrat on his chin.
I want...no, I need Dallas Keuchel to fail. I want rock-bottom failure. Going-to-go-home-to-Tulsa-to-work-on-my-mechanics-and-clear-my-head failure. Clean shaven failure. Change your last name to Smith failure.
Ergo, Astros failure.
The Royals. Do I think they'll win 77 games, like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus project? Probably not, although it's not unimaginable. Do I find projection systems in general to be a heartless whitewashing of idle offseason dreams at best, and a mouthpiece for statistical authoritarianism at worst? Maybe just a little. But worse than that authority is the bleating demand for its favor. It's a common current phenomenon among certain fans of a certain powder-blue-soaked fanbase.
Seasons and lives are small samples. When the Royals defied expectations and projections to win the World Series in 2015, the trophy and parade weren't enough; their achievement had to be a triumph over the computer. There was something the nerds weren't measuring, whether it be contact ability, the importance of relief pitching, or the Will to Win. It couldn't be that a team in the most fortune-buffeted of all major team sports just got by on equal parts luck and skill. The takeaway is that projection systems are bad if they're not 100% accurate, as opposed to people, who generally fail to eclipse 50%.
But it's more than just the usual flavor of local hubris. It's the wheedling demand for Respect, that all-important currency of sports: the need to not only see the standings, but the power rankings; the need to be patted on the head by the Experts and be consoled, to be told that they are Very Good Fans. It's insecurity writ large. It's the worst kind of metaphysics. To live to frustrate your enemies to acknowledge them, to give them power. Enjoy your baseball for its own sake, instead of worrying what other people think.
Of course, if the Royals do lose, it'll just be some other fanbase to be annoyed by next year. We'll circle back then.
In many ways Cubs fans feel like pilgrims much farther down the same path as Mariner fans. As a group they have suffered, and learned to turn their suffering into a badge of honor, and somehow over the 97 years since their last championship they have almost managed to make losing look like fun. There is a lot to admire about the ability to smile when things beyond your control ceaselessly try to beat you down.
But there are things with the Cubs that rankle me, some old, some new, some timeless. The first is not original, nor, as it goes with these things, is it logical. We don't need to rehash the circumstances surrounding Stever Bartman or the ill-fate that accompanied both him and the 2003 Cubs World Series hopes. But whereas fanbases from New York, Boston, and Philadelphia have reputations for coldness and brutality Chicago is the only one that so publicly, and viciously shamed, bullied, and tormented one of their own.
Then there is the hype. Oh that hype. The 2016 Cubs are without question the darling of the preseason. They are young. They are deep, They are projected by both media and analytics to be the best team in baseball. Envy. Lust. You know what's longer than 97 years without a championship? Try forever. I feel no sympathy for the plight of Cubs fans. The last time I rooted for a long suffering fan base to win a championship it put on a pink hat and filled Safeco Field.
Do not talk to me about suffering, Cubs, and do not walk around telling me about how your team and front office have assembled one of the greatest teams of all-time. The Dodgers were unbeatable, the Nationals a "superteam". At the core of baseball, at its very center, is failure. The Cubs should know that better than most. They have forgotten.
Even before they hoisted the trophy and were crowned champions last postseason, The Kansas City Royals rankled me. All season long. It was the stupid fights over meaningless shit to start the season, the whole "feel sorry for us because we didn't win the past World Series", a forced and fake Cinderella story, Hosmer, Moustakas, but most of all, it was Kendrys Morales.
Here is a player who all he had to do was hit one more double somewhere along his stint with the 2014 Mariners and they go to the playoffs. Instead he took the first few months of 2014 off, had a little antepasto with the Twins, and then when he was finally reacquired by an M's team needing just a liiiiittle more punch, decided to just polish his own, personal floor. We all remember how that season ended, but then Kendrys decided to be something else in 2015. He decided to be, shall we say, a little more Royal in his offensive output. He helped them towards a World Series Crown.
As such, I want to watch the Royals fail for their many sins. The inferior style of barbecue, the insufferable fans, but most of all for Kendrys and Hoz and Mous. I want the failure to be absolute, but not the sort of abject failure that leads to a season where everyone can just mail it in the final months. I want the Royals, with three weeks left to play, to have a two-game lead for the second Wild Card. But then, without any sense of remorse or tragedy, I want them to loose fourteen games in a row, but by one-run each. It will be senseless. It will be painful. It will be brutal for all involved. But it will make me smile.
I want Kendrys Morales to go 0-30 to end the year.
I want them all not to cry, but to feel those certain, special tears that only rest within our stomachs. They sit deep within us, and dredge the very depths of our human souls. They dredge our personal seabeds for the errors of the past, every person you have let down. All those little hells you forgot you caused. They hurt too much to cry. Because you have failed. And only you.
And it's all your fault.
This season, I am rooting for the Alex Rodriguez Redemption Tour Wagon to fall apart in the middle of the road, catch fire, and block up traffic on I-95 for hours, long enough that everyone recognizes that he has not changed; the scales have not fallen from his eyes for he is an actual SNAKEPERSON. I thought we were all on the same page with hating A-Rod but his strong offensive performance last year, plus his success in announcing the World Series and going on late night talk shows, changed the rhetoric around him. People started talking about him as likable, self-deprecating, funny; a leader in the clubhouse. Hitting a home run in his first at bat in spring training seemingly confirmed the narrative: the man is healed, the baseball player is healed.
WAKE UP SHEEPLE. Alex Rodriguez is not your friend. He's a liar, a cheater, and allowed himself to be photographed kissing his own reflection. He is Glenn from Accounting who somehow always manages to get out of cleaning the work kitchen but is always first in line for a slice of birthday cake. Don't give me this "he served his time and apologized" song and dance; he fought tooth and nail not to serve that sentence, and has played his way back into relevance. The devil himself masquerades as an angel of light. But, if he hits poorly this year, that might be enough to subvert this redemption narrative. The true A-Rod will come bubbling back to the surface and sow hate and discord in the locker room, the Yankees will become the Tank-ees, and their overpriced, concrete-moated-stadium (and its stupid anti-reseller policies) will echo as hollow as the man himself.
If you have some lust for schadenfreude that we haven't addressed here, or if you think we have focused our displeasure unfairly, I encourage you to lest us know in the comments. Recs are out there!