Today the Mariners played their 40th game, and for the first time all year it felt like work to me. The early stages of a baseball season can feel like daily holidays. We spend so much time pining for and missing the games that the first month+ of the season it's easy to squint and make heroes out of every player on the roster, and imagine every failing a temporary misstep on the road to glory.
By around the 40th game though, the season's shine has worn off for fan and player alike. It's not that we aren't glad there is a game, but the desire to fling open the curtains and scream "THERE'S A BASEBALL GAME TODAY!" at random passers by has diminished. Like once-fresh paint on a canvass, the baseball season simply fades until it blends in with the rest of our daily routines.
This sounds tragic, or depressing, I know. But I don't think it is. Greatness, in life, and in baseball, is often appreciated at its highest moments of drama. Getting that job, the World Series, buying your first home, hitting a walk-off home run, etc. All these triumphs are singular moments in time and space, but also the product of effort, preparation, and yes good fortune that traces backwards through our lives.
The Mariners have never won a World Series, and they haven't been to the postseason since many of you reading this were small children. This is largely because, on days like May 19th, on a getaway day in Baltimore in front of a crowd of thirty-five thousand mostly screaming grade-school aged children, the Mariners have traditionally clocked into their day's work and, for whatever reason, come up short.
I'm going to lay out some bullet points at the end of this but the salient takeaway for me is this: In a game played while the vast majority of their fans working just like they were, the Mariners played......ok. They played ok, and they won 7-2 against one of the the American League's better teams. They did so largely because, while they only played ok, their collection of talent is more often than not good enough to allow for an ok effort and still be the better team.
It is impossible for even the best team to be fully on point for one-hundred and sixty-two games. The 2001 Mariners lost
thirty-six forty-six games, the exact same number of ten more regular season losses experienced by the Seahawks in the Peter Carroll Era (2010-current). The Cubs, by far the most talented team in the league, have lost five of eight. A fan's experience during a baseball season is like watching the the ocean erode the shore, and deciding which side is the team you're rooting for.
It's a slow, grinding process. Many times defeat will emerge where victory seemed certain, and vice-versa. But the majority of the time, it's as simple as two baseball teams playing an ok, unthrilling contest, and the understanding that the better team will win somewhere around 55-60% of the time.
It's like work, and though you will absorb short term gains and losses, all that matters is staying in the black until the end of the fiscal year. The Mariners won 7-2 against the Orioles, production is smooth, and sales figures are strong.
Business is good.
- Let's start with Nate Karns. I've been joking around calling Karns Gil Meche 2.0 and today he was exceptionally so. While somehow avoiding allowing any walks in his five innings of work he went to three ball counts on seven batters. All day it was clear that Karns didn't have either his best velocity or command. Only 50% of his fifty-four fastball found the strike zone.
That's ok because Nate Karns has a very good curveball, which he had the good sense to deploy often, even though he was almost always working behind in the count. Of Karns' twenty-seven curveballs nineteen were strikes, and only three were put into play.
After the game, Scott Servais raised the curtain and let us know that Karns was ailing coming into the start.
Servais said Karns wasn't feeling well before the game and the hope was to get five innings out of him— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 19, 2016
The Mariners have problems. Every team does. But these, these do not look like normal Mariner problems.
- One of those problems has been the extremely slow start from Adam Lind. The Mariners primary first baseman has been off to one of the slowest starts of his career. But with a home run and a double last Saturday we've started to see signs of the player who has been so effective against right-handers during his career. In fact, a quick glance at Lind's exit velocity shows a player generally hitting the ball very hard.
This morning, Lind missed a home run by a few feet in the fourth, and in the sixth, with a full count and two runners on in a 2-1 game
hehit a flyball about thirty feet or so shorter than the one in his previous at-bat.
Lind is almost certainly going to underperform his pre-season projections, and his walk and strikeout rates are still very concerning. But, with no obvious replacement in sight, all that matters is how Adam Lind hits between now and the end of the season. If he can be an approximation of what he was brought in to be, this offense is going to be a nightmare for right-handers all Summer long.
- Robinson Cano hit a double, is slugging .587, and has a 158 wRC+.
- Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single, has an OBP of .379, and a 147 wRC+.
- Kyle Seager drew a walk, and over the past two weeks has an OBP of .471. His wRC+ is 133.
- In the 8th, with the game 5-1 Mariners, Joaquin Benoit made his first appearance since coming off the disabled list. It was, um, terrifying. Fresh off the experience of watching Steve Cishek cough up back-to-back games last weekend we watched (or listened) as Benoit loaded the bases with two walks and a single. Adam Jones then inexplicably swung at a ball (we won the trade!) for the second out. This brought up Chris Young, representing the tying run.
Do you remember that pitch to Albert Pujols last Saturday? You know the one. I won't even link it. Well Joaquin Benoit threw a few of those to Chris
YoungDAVIS YOU IDIOT today, including the deciding pitch:
The Mariners won today because they are good. But, y'know, works alone are not sufficient etc. etc.
- Leonys Martin, who was had for Tom Wilhelmsen and Patrick Kivlehan, is playing above average defense in centerfield. Did this today:
Here is a tweet that with relevance to this highlight that I also find amusing:
Leonys has more HRs than Justin Upton & Prince Fielder combined.— kyle rancourt (@KyleRancourt) May 19, 2016
- Baseball is work, and one way or the other, we've all been Ryan Flaherty:
Cheer up buddy, tomorrow's Friday.
- I have no interest in engaging in the chicken/egg, chemistry/winning debate. I'll simply note that the Mariners seem like a hell of a fun team to be around right now:
We came, ate really good seafood and won the series. Karns was solid without his best stuff + Lindo got The Swelmet. pic.twitter.com/4i6O4E1UOM— Manny Acta (@MannyActa14) May 19, 2016