Throughout our lives, we all have dozens of relationships. Friendships, romantic relationships, work relationships, enemy-ships. For many, relationships are the most important things in one’s life. Sure, it’s incredibly fulfilling to get that dream job or master your hobby. There’s just something about social interaction to which nothing else can really compare.
Relationships, even healthy ones, have power dynamics. Maybe someone wants to hang out a little more often. Maybe someone likes the other person just a little more. There’s a give-and-take, and maybe there’s a little more take than give in some cases. If it starts to be toxic, maybe it’s time to take an honest look at the relationship and ask whether or not it’s healthy, and what you want from it.
For the last fifteen years it feels like I’ve had a relationship with the Seattle Mariners. Some of my happiest memories have come with the Mariners. I still remember getting my first baseball at a Mariner game when I was seven years old. The memories from that time are all happy. That was my honeymoon phase. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” It did help that that was in 2001.
After that, it got a lot rockier. We all gave a lot to this team. Hours spent pouring over box-scores, newspapers, analysis. In the give-and-take, it slowly shifted. It was a little hard to tell at first. In 2002 and 2003, it was still pretty much even. “Sure,” we thought. “They almost made the playoffs. They won 90+ games! There’s no way they meant to hurt us.” From 2004 and beyond, it’s been more and more take, less and less give. After the great times, we were willing to put up with a lot. 2004 through 2008 was terrible, but 2009 brought us back a little. Four more bad years almost had us gone, but then 2014 kept us hanging.
This season has felt like a microcosm of the last 15. A lot of toxic trash with just enough little carrots to keep us interested. Just enough to keep us hanging. I love the personalities of so many of the individuals on this team. The Mariners as an entity, however, are toxic. They treat us brutally, and then we get a little apology and a happy few days of winning. And we can pretend that everything’s alright.
Last night felt like the last straw. Getting 19 runs hung up. Losing both the King and everybody’s favorite rookie. Isabelle put it well: it was garbage. And of course, just as we started letting go, started pulling away, we got today.
We got James Paxton throwing seven absolutely magnificent innings. We got Jean Segura reminding us that we now have a real leadoff hitter for the first time in goodness-knows-how-long. We got Nelson Cruz promising us that he is still a premier power hitter. We got Jarrod Dyson telling us that we have speed now, so we’re a “whole new Mariners.” This time I swear, babe.
And ya know what, I don’t care. I loved every minute of it, because baseball was fun again. We watch it because it’s fun, or because it’s a distraction, and it was both distracting and fun. Maybe this team won’t give us everything we want, but they’re talented, and they can be good. Only fools rush in, but I’m definitely a fool, and I’m definitely committed, for better or worse.
Some actual notes from the game:
- James Paxton was phenomenal. Out of his five starts this year, four have now been scoreless. He struck out nine and walked just one. Out of his four hits given up, only one was hit hard at all. Watch all nine of his strikeouts and marvel at how helpless he made a very hot offense:
- Jarrod Dyson stole two bases. Did you know that he now leads the AL in steals on the year, with 8? Or that the Mariners now lead the AL in steals, with 21 (four teams have just four)? When did that happen?
- Nelson Cruz is all the way recovered from his slow start. He’s now hitting .308 on the year, and hit his fifth home run. He has now homered in three straight games.
- Jean Segura and Guillermo Heredia combined to go 5-for-11 at the top of the order, and neither shows much sign of slowing down.
- To end things on a low note, Mike Zunino had five plate appearances today. In his first two, he swung at the first pitch. The first resulted in a hard-hit single. The second was a hard-hit flyout to deep center. His final three at-bats all resulted in strikeouts, and they were all ugly.
The first two at-bats notwithstanding, Zunino is just not seeing the ball well at all. The Mariners have enough offensive production to compensate, but right now the catcher spot is a massive black hole in the middle of an otherwise-good lineup. I don’t know what the solution is, but I don’t know if the team can really afford to keep giving him at-bats every day.
Hisashi Iwakuma takes the mound tomorrow to (possibly) bring everyone back down to Earth. Until then, let’s pretend everything is ok.