You know what? Forget it.
You don’t need this article. You don’t need me to close your eyes and paint a picture of another disappointing October, one where Felix finally lost the tick on his fastball that counted, where Nelson Cruz’s hamstrings regressed to career norms, where the bullpen made us nostalgic for Ayala and Slocumb. You don’t need to be told to imagine 200 Stefen Romero plate appearances, or Vidal Nuno starts while Walker gets third opinions, or Ketel Marte hitting like Chris Taylor hitting like Spike Owen. The concept of a Mariners team battered in April and then heaving, dragging itself to autumn is all too easy to conceive, because it’s the experience we’ve had nearly every year in recent memory. It’s hard to remember anything else.
Optimism is a virtue in the world of baseball. It’s an asset to the players, who have to hypnotize themselves into greatness by dismissing any alternative outcome. It’s valuable to baseball clubs selling twenty-game ticket plans, and garlic fries yet-uncooked. And it’s equally vital to fans, who are measured if anything by the strength of their convictions. In fact, the mysticism of optimism is so powerful, so necessary that to admit the possibility of failure is to be morally complicit in it. You come here for the analysis, but what you really want is the affirmation. You want to be told that this is the year, that this is the time to believe, that this time is special.
You want to live in the air. You want to believe the 90th-percentile projection, not because it’s true, but because it hasn’t yet been proven false.
The problem with equating positive thinking with positive results is that, technically, it's a lie. Chone Figgins believed his slump was ending every day, that he still deserved to be at the top of that lineup. But it’s not unfair. Though there’s philosophical disagreement over cheering in press boxes, one thing is true: There’s no honor in hate-watching the game. Your participation is entirely voluntary, unless you’re a stadium usher or a blogger. But you cannot live in the air. And so that opening paragraph, when the ground comes rushing at you, is a paradox: it can never happen, because you probably won’t be there to see it. If failure isn't an option, the only logical path is to eject.
And so if it all goes wrong: summer afternoons at the beach, reading pop psychology on too-hot sands. Commutes on well-worn streets, dodging slow vehicles, barely listening to Jeremy Irons growl Lolita. Late nights at work trying to figure out why that one report doesn’t reconcile against that other report. Nights spent lying on the couch with your significant other watching Storage Wars, accidentally breathing in their hair, wondering how people lie together on couches, logistically. Bowling poorly under fluorescent lights, drinking tepid beer and talking about second mortgages. Children crying; always, always crying. Symphonies. Dental crowns. Hospital trips. Drywall. Life.
And maybe once, on a Sunday afternoon in September, as you rake leaves and reflect on another year of misspent gardening, Kyle Seager hits two home runs in his first two at bats and you get excited. Free of the context of a lost season, a string of disappointments, of a denial of the process toward championships you’d been programmed to appreciate, you wait for that third at bat. For that moment, baseball is still everything it was, everything it will be. Even without the backdrop of triumph. Even when it all goes wrong.