[Ed. note: This year, in lieu of the “If it all goes wrong/if it all goes right” posts, we will instead be featuring a few of our writers meditating on their expectations for the 2017 season. We’ll also do a more nitty-gritty predictions post later on. Andrew led us off, John hit in what we told him was the Mitch Haniger spot, and now we have our own Robi Canó of words, Matt Ellis, stepping up to the plate.]
You thought it was the elbow, that empty container of mortgaged misery which delivered not success but simply the suggestion of anticipated dread underneath a yellow crown. Perhaps it was Cruz’s knees in the outfield--why???--as he tried to grab a Josh Reddick gapper in July. Maybe it was even the news we got last week about our three-star Zagat innings-eater who told us we’d have to stick to the Olive Garden’s unlimited Soup, Salad, and Breadstick deal until June. The beer is watered down, the roof is stuck. I-5 is a mess. It’s raining.
It could have been watching Taijuan coast to Cy Young numbers in September while wearing that stupid hat that looks like it’s sprinkled with all the blood you boiled watching him from years past. Canó was moved to first base, and Dan Vogelbach’s .323 SLG had him wearing Rainiers red by August. You turned on a preseason Seahawks game and took a bottle of wine to Hamilton Viewpoint, trying to remember if you ever took the studs off your car or if you can get away with leaving them on for another few months. It’s almost October, anyway, and the weather has been looking awful earlier and earlier during the past few years.
It was hard watching the headlines revolve around strange medical terms you had long feared, because they told you something inexorably difficult to grapple with: that we are adrift in an ocean of chance, that our fleshy shells betray our deepest-held dreams, that permanence and infinitude promise one thing, but deliver yet another. But once the injuries gave way to a hemorrhage from Tacoma, you realized that there really was something special, something beautiful there, waiting to be born.
You remember what you felt on the afternoon of Monday, April the third as you watched Felix Hernandez take the mound in Houston. You understand then and there that two divergent paths were offered up before you that afternoon. One saw a team destined to finally break free from the shackles of history, damned by the weight of misbegotten idealism and errant leadership. The other was dealt a bad hand, simply time catching up with the reality that a team built from the fragile bodies of the best the game had ever seen promises fracture in equal measure to glory. But that last path meant that it was truly possible, that for a brief, beautiful moment, contingency was handcuffed to the wall to make way for the wake of pure will.
No, if it all goes wrong, it will look nothing like that. If it all goes wrong, Nelson Cruz will come tumbling back to earth, his bat struggling to catch up to 97 as he enters year thirty-seven. Felix doesn’t even have to get hurt, he can simply do what just about every other pitcher on the wrong side of thirty winds up doing. The rest of the starting pitching? Don’t look at what year Hisashi Iwakuma was born, and please don’t remember why he lost his big payday with the Dodgers. There is indeed a bullpen, much in the same way that there are indeed sprinklers in the outfield, and oh, Kyle Seager will put up another 5-win season. But that alone doesn’t get you into the Wild Card game, now, does it?
We’ve been fed a lifetime of miserable baseball supplanted by a few miraculous years of competency here in the Pacific Northwest. This has led us to feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves, which actually convinces us, somehow, that what the worst case looks like is something out of a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Felix’s elbow shatters! Mike Zunino broke his hand again! Robbie only hits doubles! James Paxton strained his lat from that damned delivery! No, this is not what All Going Wrong looks like. All Going Wrong is 71-91 with a middling pitching staff and no root causes to bail them out. All Going Wrong is ha ha, Jean Segura sure had fun in the National League, didn’t he? All Going Wrong is Jerry on the broadcast in a 6k-attended September game talking about the changes Mitch Haniger made down the highway, excited about the possibility of new guys wearing numbers over 70 on their back--all while the Mariners are actually winning the baseball game.
For this time, All Going Wrong means an end to what the past ten years of this franchise has built, for better or worse--a drought which will take multiple years to repair. All Going Wrong is not another present pregnant with possibility--it’s Edwin Díaz in the All-Star Game twelve games under .500. All Going Wrong isn’t the smallest crowd in Safeco history watching a team finally ready to go back to the drawing board, it’s a fourteen-year-old kid with her first scorebook, who firmly believes maybe, just maybe, that Taylor Motter’s four game hitting streak will coincide with a catastrophic Texas Rangers meltdown towards the end of September.
It’s raining. It always rains, in Seattle.