Sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes we have bad weeks. Sometimes it’s months, and sometimes even longer. When I’m having a bad one, a particularly painful wrestling match with my own damn brain, the last thing I ever want to hear is words of encouragement and promises that it will get better. First of all, how would you know? Secondly, it sure doesn’t make it better now. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many little “techniques” you try, you just feel like shit.
Of all of the techniques that I’ve had recited at me when I’ve been low, one of the few that actually works is gratitude. In the midst of chaos, slowing down and taking one moment to think of one or two things that are actually going right. I admit that I don’t actually do this very often in my own life - it’s easy to get too wrapped up in your own bullshit. I certainly haven’t done it very often during this Mariners season. They’ve mostly sucked, and the bad has outweighed the good, and any insistence on finding that good has seemed to me to be cloyingly forced.
It’s not wrong to feel that way, but it’s not a very fun way to be a human being. So as the Mariners took the field for the final time this season, I tried to go back to being a kid and just enjoy things.
The game was as so many over the last several years. The Mariners sent 14 batters to the plate over the first 4.2 innings, and 14 batters recorded outs, including a truly atrocious Ben Game TOOTBLAN. Every at bat seemed like a struggle against Parker Bridwell, and James Paxton’s marvelous start in this, the final game of the season, seemed like it would be poetically wasted.
But the thing is, that feeling could only exist because James Paxton had a marvelous start to waste. Hot damn, was it marvelous.
That was just the first of what were to be nine strikeouts for Paxton on the day. He finished with 6.0 innings, those nine strikeouts, zero walks, and only three hits allowed. With only 73 pitches, he could have pitched for far longer, but you can’t blame the team for pulling him out in a meaningless game. He’s a special guy to watch, and I’m grateful for him. You know who else is special to watch?
In a down season by his standards, Robinson Cano has provided us with enough smiles and positive vibrations to last a lifetime. He’s a treat to watch both at the plate and in the field, and I’m grateful for him.
If I had to guess, I’d say that this game got about 25% of the viewership that the first game of the season got. In the context of the season, it was meaningless. To most of the players, it was probably meaningless. One player for whom it was certainly not meaningless was Mike Marjama. He’s had a hell of a journey to get to the MLB, and today, he hit his first MLB home run.
I wish that the Mariners were playing meaningful baseball, and were not in a position to start Mike Marjama. But if they had to be where they are, then I’m grateful for this type of moment.
The bullpen exploded, as it has so many times. The game was pretty much over after the seventh inning, in which Shae Simmons and James Pazos gave up a collective six runs. The Mariners ended their season with a whimper, and we’re left to pick up the pieces during the offseason, trying to derive meaning from the meaningless.
This team made me smile a lot more than once this season, and I’m grateful for it. More than just Paxton and Cano, I’m grateful for Mike Zunino figuring it out. For Ichiro hitting a home run in his Safeco curtain call. For Lookout Landing night to end with a walkoff and Jean Segura covered in bubble gum. I’m grateful for this community, and being able to share these experiences with this group of people.
More than anything, I’m intensely grateful that I’m even in a position to give a shit about the Mariners. If this team’s futility even makes my list of gripes, then I’m damn lucky.
Maybe next year, but also maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t get better. We’ll find a way to make the best of the experiences, because we’ve gotten really good at it. With optimism guarded no longer, I cannot wait for 2018.
Only 179 days to go. Go M’s.