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If it all goes right

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There's a whisper on the night-wind...

You have suffered, starved, and triumphed. You have grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.
You have suffered, starved, and triumphed. You have grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.
Joe Nicholson - USA Today

Have you ever wondered if it is only you that remembers certain, small instants of the past? Not those utmost seconds, those that all gathered recollect. I mean the brief images, the way a sentence sounded or the way they glanced at you. The specific wrinkle of a face in a precise light. The fleeting look in a lover's eye. A quick vision of an occasion larger than that split second, yet defined by this imperfect and lucid melancholy. I remember nothing from the last game of the Seattle Mariners' 2001 campaign except for the very last swing. Mariano Rivera pitching. Mike Cameron lines out to Shane Spencer. Yankees win 12-3. The Yankees advance to the World Series. Lou Piniella's promise of coming home to Safeco unfulfilled. I always wonder if anyone else remembers the way that final out looked.

Since then we have been soaked in failure, cradled by loss. That series, those stakes, that energy, momentum, whatever you deem it, has eluded us. Every so often it is rekindled, like a demon lover from a long-ago life. There have been nights in SoDo where we found them again, that lover. They never stayed. There was the night Ackley first came up. The day they carried The Kid off the field. The Night Court, the final run-in of 2014. There was Opening Day last year. The days that a certain energy swirled around, wafted through the nostril, stung the senses, primed the sinews for battle. Yet, the scent never carried, never kept. The spine never stayed tingling. Our eyes would dim after briefly coming alight. Fifteen years have passed.

I think, sitting here in October, what is most striking is the contrast between this past season and 2015. The difference is rather slight, beyond those fifteen more wins. That's all it was. Yet, somehow, those fifteen changed outcomes bear the distance of infinite space. The Seattle Mariners won ten percent more games this season. That's it. That's baseball. That's life, all. That's how small the margins are in one-hundred and sixty-two games. But I think it's important to remember how devastating 2015 was. Personally, it was the very worst season I can ever remember. It was an endurance test of how many times you could be given hope, only to have it snatched away. It mirrored too closely the happenings of my current affairs. It gave me no solace. There was no cataclysmic failure that lead to eighty-six losses. There was a fighter who kept slipping on the mat every time they stood back up. The knockdowns were palpable. We slipped with them.

Campaigns like the one preceding have defined us as a fanbase. Allowed us to laugh at ourselves before we ever answered someone asking, "Who is your favorite team?" We never had to take it too seriously, because how could you with all this loss? We laughed at ourselves as a means of never having to believe. We wanted success but also maybe we didn't. Maybe it was easier not to care. To simply go to the game for the beer and the people you were with. We let ourselves slip in 2015. When we chose to care too much. Remember how that team was the favorite to win the whole damn thing? Of course it fell apart. The ship was bound to be smashed to bits upon the reef. Yet, what we earned from the wreckage was a new captain.

Looking back, it shouldn't really be a great surprise that this team made it to where it is today. When Jerry Dipoto came in at the end of the 2015 season, we could almost smell fresh air. There was, and indeed is, a lightness to his being, yet a dedication in his words. It was all, of course, meaningless at the time. The new guy always needs to say the right things. But then he started doing the right things. He took a roster with strange talent and dollar allocations and made it whole by making it deep. He turned the outfield from a position of dire need, to a previously unseen level of competence. He piled the relief arms high, and in doing so, bolstered the starting rotation as well. The offense only needed to hold course for this team to contend.

They did more than that, though. All Robinson Cano has done is put himself at the front of the MVP ballot. It is our fault for attempting to build him a ceiling. As we all know, though, Robbie isn't the story of the offense. Maybe that should have been the sign. It wasn't the forty-plus homers from Nellie, nor the consistent hitting of Kyle, not even Adam Lind's hot July. The basepaths were always lively thanks to O'Malley and Martin, and Ianetta's August surge made the bottom three a legitimate threat, but not them either. Seth Smith just hit, and that was perfectly fine. It felt like Ketel or Aoki were always on when the heart of the order would come up, yet it wasn't them still.

Felix found something new in that famous bag of tricks, and wiped away all the worries of last season. He was the star agleam to guide us. The King reigned and every single start at Safeco was an absolute riot. His Court set the stage for those rowdy homestands of August and September. Yet, something else happened. Taijuan found the stuff we had always heard of. Dreamed of, really. He started April nasty, and kept it. Remember in August when it felt like the only competition he or Felix faced was each other? Remember how the AL West was tamed by Walker and Hernandez? The rotation found itself. The best in the American League. The bullpen held firm enough. Do you remember how it wasn't them either, though?

It was Franklin Gutierrez. It was a constant, broad smile from a man pronounced dead years ago. It was twenty-two home runs from Death to Flying Things, who plied his wares at the plate, still earning the name. Every time the moment seemed to have risen above this team, there was Guti soaring ever higher. It had to be him. For this team to burst forth from its own proverbial ash pile, so too, did the man. There was the walk off shot against Kansas City, the three-run blast to chase Kuechel in September, the three two-bomb games against Texas. But there was something else. There was a deep breath. And that smile.

I want to talk a moment about the present, not even about the mauling the M's just gave Houston in three games. Think about what has happened in this city this summer. Think about how every single night was a party in SoDo, and everyone was invited. We, collectively, as a city decided that evenings and weekends no longer belonged to ourselves, but to communion with one another. The bars were louder, the streets denser and bubbling over, and when the Boys were in town, hell. The loudest place on Earth was Safeco Field. Afternoon games in August meant work finished at noon. The long, hot days of a Seattle summer had a soundtrack again. The crack of lumber's heart against leather ball. The slap of the mitt. That certain wave-like sonation of a hard slide into second. The loud shouts of player, performer, and proponent alike. The fireworks weren't only reserved for special occasion.

I was wondering if, for one, brief second, you could imagine the next fifteen years. What little moments will you remember from this season past? The O'Malley single? Marte taking third in Boston? That pinch-hit, walk-off bomb from Mikey Z sending the Blue Jays home, swept, just a few weeks back? Who will you be then, when those fifteen years pass? Do not fear investing every atom of your soul, now. Let there be nothing left to wager, nothing left to save. That version of you fifteen years from this day, made stronger and smarter by time, would be markedly wrathful. Believe now in this Mariners team. Sell yourself for their estate. For Edgar and Felix, Kyle and Cano. For us. We want you with us. Ride out with us. Bathe yourself in these magic waters.

Remember how distant that Shane Spencer catch feels? Now remember who is coming to town today. Who sits between us and a World Series, once again. It always was going to be this way. Longer than it should have been, sure. Yet before us stands that same old song and dance, just with far different players upon the stage. We should have seen it coming. Soon, in a few hours here, we will be awash in the glory of facing those familiar foes. Those damn Yankees. The American League Championship Series.

What rivers will you have crossed in fifteen years? How far from this present self will you travel? In a life where little can be promised, I can pledge that you will look back with love and in awe at these past four months. You will tell your children, or your friends' children, or maybe even your children's children about the Seattle Mariners. About what Safeco Field means to you and these past summer nights. And she is calling. Safeco, that wild bastion of baseball. That pulpit at which a few handful of men have called us to service these past close, airless, sultry dog-day evenings. That placid palace interrupted by rapturous roar. That gathering place. That temple we deem home, calls us all tonight. The Wild is calling.

Let us go.