Life is a bell curve. At the beginning of a person’s life watching them age is a glorious, precious thing. Each new action is a gift (They can crawl! They can talk! They can walk!), cherished and dutifully recorded for posterity’s sake. You take as much pride in the small achievements as you do in the big ones because the hopeful joy of this newness cannot be contained. How strange to be so in awe of something so small. As they continue to grow your pride doesn’t lessen, but it seems to appear more sporadically, not nearly with the same voracity of years past. They march up the curve, steadfast in their youth. Your joy in them remains, the hope slightly tempered by the consequences of life but ever present just the same.
Life is a bell curve. The initial descent isn’t bad; that person you knew at the top of the curve is still mostly unchanged. The hard part doesn’t arrive until the person has picked up speed on that downhill, to the point where they can no longer stop. That’s the point where it feels as though that person has driven round an invisible curve, only to emerge changed on the other side. They are still visible on that bell curve, but the person you once loved has disappeared. It is through no fault of their own, the line of the curve only descends, and in traveling on that road they had no choice but to continue, but it’s hard to say goodbye. It is even harder to say goodbye when the person is still there. There is sadness, of course, but bitterness too, shaken with a lethal concoction of guilt and regret. Did you appreciate that person enough? Did you treasure that person enough? How dare they change like that, when you weren’t ready to let them go.
Earlier this season it looked like it could be the end of King Félix. Last month it looked like it could be the end of King Félix. It very well still may be the end of King Félix, but not in the way the doomsdayers say. What we saw tonight was the New King; perhaps not quite so dominant, nor as vibrant, but still a warrior capable of battling for his team. This New King will not (necessarily) bring with him the same thrilling drama of old, and he will not be the one to carry this team upon his shoulders into the playoffs, but you know what? He doesn’t have to. This team is now capable of supporting him, and now we see a more equal distribution of the weight. The New King can keep them in the game, with stretches of shaky competence sprinkled with those splashes of brilliance, and the offense will support him in a way it never did before.
It was through this formula that the Mariners came out on top this evening, in a 3-2 victory despite Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun’s best intentions. The New King was something of a paradox, pitching into the seventh inning, striking out eight and allowing only four hits, but one of those hits was a home run and amidst those strikeouts he also walked four. Perhaps this is the new water glass test of optimism? If you look at that line and nod your head and think yeah, that’s pretty good for a night’s work, your glass is half full. If you look at that line and shake your head and think man, Felix is done, all control is just lost, then your glass is half empty. However you view it, the offense helped him juuuust enough to ensure you’d end up happy anyway, with RBI singles from Adam Lind and Mike Zunino in the fourth. Both of those runs were scored by batters who had been walked, which I’m sure left Jerry feeling positively tickled. And, because Nelson Cruz is distrustful of scoring without homeruns he launched a 425 foot moon shot for the Ms third, and final, run of the game.
Félix lasted until the second out of the sixth inning, when Scott Servais made (arguably) his savviest bullpen move of the season and put Tom Wilhelmsen in to face Mike Trout who, somewhat heart-stoppingly, flew out to Nori Aoki for the third out. Tom and Edwin Diaz combined for 2 1/3 scoreless final innings and, through the efforts of many, the New King came away with the win.
Life is a bell curve. Tonight the Mariners continued to soar up, up, up, while the Angels sank down, down, down. Eventually the Mariners will begin their descent, but now is not that time, this season is not that time. And, despite the hyperbolic hysteria of some, we are not yet watching the end of the King. He has traveled that turn, yes, and he has started to descend that bell curve, yes, and okay, maybe we need to take some time to say goodbye to the old King, but all is not lost. The raw excitement and hope of early growth is gone, but he still remains, and so too should our pride in him.
The New King has risen. Long live the New King.