The thing about baseball is that it is made up of a lot of small moments that have the potential to matter a great deal, or fail to matter at all. The thing about fan bases that have long been disappointed by their franchises is that we come to live in those moments. We all watch baseball for our own reasons and we all get something a little different out of it. But as we go into Opening Day, what's at the top of the wish list? What is the one thing we wish we could see and experience in the 2016 season more than any other? Some members of the Lookout staff gave their answers.
I've played countless baseball video games in my lifetime. From Backyard Baseball to Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest to All-Star Baseball to MLB 2k to The Show to OOTP Baseball, I've poured hundreds of hours of my life into guiding virtual teams full of virtual players to virtual championships, typically resulting in an awkward cutscene where a bunch of guys raise a trophy while doing a series of programmed celebrations. Moments later, you're taken back to the main screen with nothing to do but start it all over and try again. To put it simply: I need to see it for real.
I know wishing to see your team win the championship isn't exactly unique or snowflake-like, but the idea of the Mariners winning the World Series is something that crosses my mind at least once a day. I'm not much of a crier (unless you put the dog episode from Futurama on), but I've already informed my significant other that the day the Mariners win the World Series, I will single-handedly end Southern California's drought with tears. Something about this year's team makes them all the more likeable. I need to see them do it. I need to see Guti and Felix and Cruz hug each other so tightly that the temperature in Seattle raises a degree (I don't know how science works). I need to see Wade Miley pour cheap beer all over Kyle Seager's bald head. I need to see Charlie Furbush do whatever the hell Charlie is going to do. I need it.
Also, I hope Robbie hits five home runs in one game at Yankee Stadium. That too.
I want Tony Zych to be awesome. I want him to absolutely dominate hitters like he did last year and this spring and work his way into being the Mariners' highest leverage reliever. I want his fastball to be explosive and his slider to be devastating. The team needs this, and I want it for them. Go M's.
So here we sit. The cobwebs fully brushed off from the offseason, which always feels too long, and the final two weeks of Spring, which somehow feel unspeakably longer than the previous six months. What do I wish for from this season? I'll cast aside the obvious "the Mariners in the playoffs" answer, and I'll go for something a little far-fetched but really not that crazy. I want Robinson Cano to win the AL MVP.
I want it for a lot of reasons. It would likely mean the Mariners are in the playoffs. It would be the Mariner's first MVP award since Ichiro in 2001. It would be amazing to watch and would cast aside all of the bullshit stories we've had to deal with in the offseason surrounding Cano. I want him to do it for all the hells he's had to endure since coming over. I want him to do it to shove it in the face of every Yankees fan who boos him while cheering Jacoby Ellsbury. But most of all, I want him to do it for that silly little smile he has. That "Ooopsie, was that me?!" grin. I want the bubble gum pops, the home run trots, and Robbie on top.
I want Robbie holding more than one trophy this postseason.
What do I want?
I want meaningful baseball in October.
I want to see the Safe rockin', the King's Court electrified and champing at the bit, every seat empty because nobody's sitting down.
I want to see Felix on the mound against whatever poor, poor foe has to face The King in his royal postseason debut. You just know Felix has another gear, and he'll show it off in the playoffs.
I want Seattle to talk about nothing but the Mariners. The Huskies' Final Four run has been magical and it's spawned a lot of interest in an often overlooked sport. Why can't the same thing happen on the diamond? Why can't we make the Mariners, not the Seahawks, what's on everybody's minds?
I want to relive the glory last seen in the 2001 season, when I was just seven years old and I thought that winning 116 games was the norm.
I want other seven-year-olds to fall in love with this game just like I did, making their parents sign them up for Little League and playing catch with imaginary players for hours on end.
I want to see Robbie Baseball turning double plays with Ketel Marte. I want to see the joy in Kyle Seager's eyes when he holds Crue after the Mariners have clinched a playoff berth. I want to see the ovation that Hisashi Iwakuma got for last year's no-hitter, but over and over and over again, for everyone on the team.
I want to see something special happen this season.
And I believe it will.
"Chronic pain" is a term that's had its hard edges worn smooth by time and use. It's something the majority of us know in the abstract, a vague idea of discomfort. But for about 10% of the population, chronic pain is a reality that hovers over one's existence like a second sky, each day a lengthy military maneuver against the opponent of one's own body. Sometimes the pain is predictable, an enemy that makes itself known from the second one's foot touches the floor in the morning; sometimes it lurks for days or weeks, lulling the sufferer into a sense of normalcy before launching a scorched-earth sneak attack. Chronic pain saps more than one's health or strength; it can drain one's spirit, optimism, sense of self. It is exhausting both physically and mentally. Data is trickling in on chronic pain and suicide rates, with one study finding people with chronic migraines are significantly more likely to attempt suicide than those without. To conquer chronic pain and live a quiet life with work and family and laughter is an achievement; to do so and play a professional sport, living in hotels and eating strange foods and breathing new air every week, is astonishing.
What I want from this year is every bit of success for Franklin Gutierrez. Last year we saw the beginning of a redemption narrative; this year, I want the whole story, told over the course of an entire season. I want the entire American League no, I want all of Major League Baseball, to hear his name and feel awe and fear. I want every person that made a tasteless diarrhea joke to feel a deep and creeping shame as they watch him soar around the basepaths. I want Guti to be named an All-Star and win a Silver Slugger and get the Comeback Player of the Year award he should have won last year. I want him to win Best Comeback Player at the ESPYs and accidentally step on Rob Gronkowski as he goes up to the podium to accept. I want his likeness to grace magazine covers and for people across the country to get mad we in Seattle have been keeping him all to ourselves. I want to hear "Guti, Guti, Guti" more times than I can count. And I want everyone who is struggling with a chronic issue, be it physical or mental, to know that their weird thing doesn't make them alone, that there's a lot of us out here, and that we can still fly.
The one thing I want to have happen this season is to feel disappointment. Now, hear me out before you immediately stop reading because of that really terrible opening line. I want to feel the good kind of disappointment. It is the disappointment that comes with rooting for good teams. It is the emotion that is attached with expectations--that gross word that hasn't been attached to the Seattle Mariners too often over the past decade.
I want the Mariners to lose a game, and I want it to make me hurt. We got a taste of that a couple of years ago, and it felt so bad but felt so right at the same time. I want to feel that sting of disappointment of knowing we should have won games that we might have lost, because that sting means that loss actually means something in the grand scheme of the season.
I want to feel disappointment, and I want that disappointment to linger. I want my heart to ache. I want to care again, because all sports are more fun when you run the whole gamut of emotions. The Mariners haven't consistently provided that feeling for quite some time, and I'd like to think we are finally turning the corner and getting close.
Of course I want the Mariners to reach the postseason. Of course I would like for them to win every game they can, to have Tony Zych seal a Mike Trout golden sombrero in a mid-August game, to actually pay attention to the All-Star game for more than one half of an early inning. I want Nelson Cruz to at least retain some modicum of efficiency after two seemingly impossible seasons. I want all those things. But above them all, I want something else. You spend so much time convincing yourself that something is possible that eventually the inevitable failures seem to replace the goal you had in the first place.
I don't need the Mariners to make the playoffs. I don't need Felix to win a Cy Young. What I need, what I want, is to not have to watch the Mariners shit away four hours of an afternoon in a 13-0 comet of ineptitude. I want to want to want to watch baseball. I want to think about the weekend's upcoming series when I'm supposed to be getting mid-week work done, not turn on my television with despair already in the pit of my stomach. I want baseball to be what it can be at its best: not about winning, not about competition, or overcoming adversity or whatever. I want baseball to be the wind carrying us from April to October, or the barometer recording its passage. I want to go searching for the game and find it there, offering what only it can. And if that happens, literally anything else is fine by me.
My expectations for the season aren't super high. Obviously a World Series win would trump everything else. At some point I have to be realistic for myself though.
The one thing I'm hoping for the most is for the player development system to make its mark early. Whether a lot of lower-level guys take big steps forward or one or two upper-tier players have breakout seasons, I just want proof the new system works. That would do a lot to put my mind at ease as a fan.
Considering player development is the crux of what the new regime is trying to do, that would be tremendously encouraging. It would also be a sign that sustainable winning is realistically around the corner.
I want the next thing after the obvious things to work. I am glad the Mariners are going to bunt less. I'm glad Jerry Dipoto's roster moves have been about guys who can get on base, and shoring up outfield defense, and looking for probable regression candidates. I'm glad that when he justified his faith in Leonys Martin he talked about BABIP and that Manny Acta and Scott Servais are excited about iPads in the dugout. I'm glad that the Mariners are thinking and doing and acting like a smart baseball organization. Every person I've spoken to or have heard speak about the Mariners this offseason has remarked on just how much sense this all makes, which is a nice way of saying we should have been doing this all along and can't believe we weren't. But a lot of teams can be smart. A lot of teams and managers and GMs can spot the low-hanging fruit. A lot of teams know how infrequently you should bunt. I want the thing that comes after that to work. I want the harder work of player development to succeed. I want the bullpen to be smartly managed. I want to hear stories in July about the remarkable turnaround of Mike Zunino's career. I want more Mariners on next off-season's Top 100 prospect lists. I want us to be nimble and adaptable when things don't go well. I want what comes next to work. We aren't rebuilding, and we aren't all in. We're being smart and budget-conscious while still looking to win with this core. I want to see Kyle Seager wearing a playoff ball cap in October. Then I want to feel confident that it won't be the last time. Because these guys have figured out what comes next and can make what comes next work, too.
What's on your wish list? Leave it in the comments, and Go M's.