The Mariners are 30-21, they have a run differential of sixty-five. They have scored more runs than any team in the American League outside of the Red Sox. Their one hundred ninety-one runs allowed is, full stop, the fewest in the league. Seattle is leading all of baseball in home runs, and playing in Safeco Field while doing it. Today they beat the Padres by a score of 16-4. Yet, many people are still largely filled with a sense of dread and impending doom with this team.
I get it. Really, I do. The Mariners have burned through so much goodwill, and genuine enthusiasm over the years. For a franchise that's so desperately trying to grab the local populous by the shoulders, shake it, and say "I swear to God this time we'll just hold the football, and let you kick it, no takesy backsies" the Mariners have taken four uncharacteristically pristine, warm, April and May weekends at Safeco and........gone 2-10.
It's unreal, and feels almost impossible that a team this good, and they are good, could be swept at home by the Angels, A's, and Twins. Yet, there, in front of some 300,000 fans, many just beginning to let themselves enjoy baseball again for the first time since Smash Mouth was tearing up the charts, the Mariners have lost. They have lost listlessly, dramatically, and impossibly. They have lost in the many permutations and forms they have so perfected for so long.
For the average Northwesterner, someone for whom a trip to Safeco is a luxury that can barely be afforded once or twice a year. it's easy to see where "Same ol' Mariners" comes from. A game is an investment, not only of money, and resources, and patience, and emotional energy, it's an investment of the single most valuable currency we possess: Time. For the people who didn't grip a baseball at an early age and find themselves unable to ever let go, for someone who just enjoys an excuse to root for a winner with friends (and that's a very, very valid form of fandom), or people who simply lead busy lives full of family, work, responsibilities, etc. the Mariners must prove to them that they are worth their time. On the biggest stage they've had, the team has completely fallen on its face, time and time again.
I'm not in a position to evangelize to you in good conscience the gospel of the 2016 Seattle Mariners. You should not trust me when I tell you you shouldn't give a shit about those three sweeps, and that it's a cosmically cruel anomaly of scheduling and randomness. Don't listen to me when I say that this team is, through fifty-one games, the best Mariner team in at least thirteen years, and that you are missing out if you don't allow yourself to invest.
Don't listen to me. I'm not to be trusted. I'm in too deep, beyond rationality, beyond the ability to think criticially about it. I have too much to gain, too much hope to see fulfilled, too much love to see requited, too much of a passion for this sportto finally be able to pass down to my children. I do my very damn best to call things the way I see them, but this team is making that an exacting, daily challenge.
No, don't listen to what I say. Just watch them. Watch them daily. Don't allow a late night drive home after the fucking Mariners blew a lead and let Albert fucking Pujols drill a ninth inning home run keep you away. Overcome your confirmation bias, just enough to pay attention beyond the immediate, and try to look at the bigger picture.
Give this team two weeks of daily interraction and investment, and if it isn't for you, if you aren't drawn in by Seth Smith's high socks, Cano's unflappability, Lind's goofiness, Martin's breakout, Marte's rising star, Cruz's incredible late career surge, Gutierrez's continued redemption, Iannetta's stoic competence, Seager's quiet stardom, Cishek's slider, Montgomery's second act, Manny Acta's incredible ability to bring you into the clubhouse, and on an on.... If that isn't for you, if maybe baseball isn't your sport, fair enough. But don't let a lousy Friday or Saturday night ruin this season for you. Don't give in to that impulse. Give this team a chance, because they are offering you something you barely remember, or something you may have never known at all.
- Right, there was a baseball game today, and holy shit you guys, the Mariners absolutely beat the Padres to death. From the very beginning of the game the combination of James Shields having no command and the Mariners refusal to hack their way into easy outs was apparent. After retiring the first two Mariner hitters Shields ran into a bad case of the Daniel Cabrera's that he never recovered from. Back to back walks to Cano and Cruz set up Kyle Seager lacing a single into right field, and it was a 1-0 game.
After that, well, they say that a quick death is a merciful one, and the Mariners did their best to make an end for James with a single stroke of the sword. In the second they again began the inning with two outs, but back to back singles from Luis Sardinas and Nori Aoki set the stage for Shields to fully lose it. He walked Seth Smtih, and again walked Robinson Cano.
With two outs and the bases loaded Nelson Cruz swung at the first pitch, and hit a ground ball. In last weekend's horrific series against the Twins the ball probably finds a glove, and we're cursing Cruz's lack of patience and the team's continued poor hitting with runners on base. Actually, in the last series, the ball probably morphs into one of the Chomps from Mario and latches onto poor Seth Smith's achilles.
But this wasn't last weekend, so instead the ball snuck through a hole, and for some reason Manny Acta decided to send Seth Smith from second, and somehow he was safe, because today was today, and NOT last Saturday. Then, Kyle Seager decided the game was going to be over:
Same, Kyle, same.
After that it was time for victory laps, and there were many. With Safeco enjoying a sunny afternoon blissfully free of marine layers the Mariners bashed four more home runs. Two from Seth Smith, one from Franklin Gutierrez, and one from Adam Lind. It all led to a 16-0 Mariner lead after five innings. I know that there have been games at Safeco like this before, but I confess that when I searched my memory for the last time I experienced the Mariners obliterating a team in this fashion at home, I kept coming back to the Kingdome era.
From there both teams were ready to put this game to bed, get on a plane to San Diego, and resume festivities on the morrow. Hisashi Iwakuma, who was perfect through four innings, gave up three home runs in the sixth an seventh inning, and appeared mildly annoyed by that fact. The Mariner bats starting swinging early and often, and by the time it was all over, it was a tidy 16-4 victory, in just over three hours.
It's just too many good things to write all in one recap, in a season that's rapidly becoming too full of good moments to keep straight. The Mariners took an afternoon to play Kingdome Ball, and it was a hell of a fun time. Let's dance.
- Without wanting to go too long on an already too long recap here are some Mariner lines, with two months of the season completed:
Robinson Cano: .291/.352/.583, .396 wOBA, 159 wRC+
Nelson Cruz: .295/.392/.508, .385 wOBA, 151 wRC+
Kyle Seager: .274/.353/.521, .369 wOBA, 140 wRC+
Franklin Gutierrez: .243/.329/.486, .350 wOBA, 127 wRC+
Seth Smith: .269/.392/.438, .367 wOBA, 139 wRC+
Dae Ho Lee: .267/.313/.547, .362 wOBA, 135 wRC+
I left out Adam Lind and Nori Aoki, who have both been hot the past week, and Leonys Martin, who was playing like the best non-Mike Trout centerfielder in the American League prior to going on the DL.
The Mariners offense is better than anything we've seen since the days of Edgar/Boone/Ichiro/Mike Cameron/John Olerud et. all. More than anything else about this team, I am confident in that fact. Given how bad this franchise has been with offense as recently as a year ago and as consistently as seemingly forever it feels uncomfortable saying it, but it's the truth: The Mariners are a damn fine offensive team.
- I kind of poo-poo'd the ending of this game but PLOT TWIST, it was actually fascinating. Christian Bethancourt, who started the game at catcher, and later moved to left field, came into pitch the
nintheighth. It would have been cool enough had Bethancourt simply flashed a 96 MPH fastball, which he did. It would have been great if he had also shaken off the catcher multiple times, which he also did. But, in what stands as as fine an example of carpe diem as I've seen in baseball in sometime Bethancourt also did this:
Bethancourt in total threw four eephus/knuckleballs/Steve Johnson curveballs. After the fourth one hit Seth Smith, Andy Green hastily pulled Bethancourt from the game, only to replace him with Alexi Amarista, another position player.
I have no idea what the Padres expected, or if they expected anything at all, from Bethancourt. But life gives you opportunities, and it's up to you to figure out what you're going to do with them. Christian Bethancourt decided his was going to be a stand up comedy routine, and I tip my cap.