Jung’s idea of the “shadow self” is maybe one of the most misconstrued ideas of pop psychology, giving rise to books titled things like “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” and “Lone Wolf: Embracing Your Dark Side” and “Staring Down Your Shadow: A Journey To Wholeness.” But a shadow isn’t necessarily dark; in Jung’s original sense, the shadow is unconscious, ungraspable, a self that is present and yet just out of reach. The shadow self is what we refuse to acknowledge, or what we cannot grasp. The Angels are the Mariners’ shadow-selves, and right now, they hold all the answers, leaving the Mariners with only questions.
The Angels and the Mariners, on the surface, are eerily similar teams. Both possess aging stars, a homegrown success story, and a pitching staff beset by injury and tribulation. Both teams upgraded their defense over the winter to compensate for lackluster offensive production complementing their stars. Both teams have suffered terrible injury luck with their pitching staffs. But currently, the Angels utterly own the Mariners, who have not been able to muster a single win against their tomato-colored doppelgangers, despite situations that would 99% of the time end in a win, barring an epic pitching collapse (ta-da!). Or a ninth-inning rally that would fall short, and Kole Calhoun finding one mistake pitch to punish. It is fair to question whether it isn’t the Mariners who are the Angels’ shadow-selves, the worst nightmare of what that team could be.
In their first meeting, Yovani Gallardo was outdueled by Jesse Chavez. Gallardo’s stats from the game don’t look great, but he gave up three runs across five innings of work. That’s about what a fifth starter should do. Meanwhile, the vaunted Mariners offense—at full strength for what seems like the only time all season—could only muster one run. Against Jesse Chavez. Cameron Maybin, the Angels’ lone major offseason pickup, stole a hit from Kyle Seager and hit a home run. Seattle’s outfielders not named Mitch Haniger went 0-for-everything. The game score didn’t look close, but it felt closer than it was, because there was always a chance for the Mariners; they just looked at the chance, said “nah I’m good,” and went on to leave sixteen runners on base (the Angels left 20).
They also lost the next game, 5-4. The Mariners were only able to scrape two runs off Ricky Nolasco, while the Angels got three off Felix. Other things happened, but this is what’s important: where it was close, the Angels had the edge.
(The good news is that the final game of that series doesn’t fit the pattern. It wasn’t about the Angels narrowly sneaking by the Mariners. It was about the Mariners totally melting down and making me feel as sick as I’ve ever felt watching an inning of baseball in my life, probably. So, that’s the bad news.)
Last night it took eleven innings and almost five hours for the Mariners to show us, again, that they aren’t as good as the Angels. This is a fact. Their Big Two were better than our Big Three. Their ace was better than our ace. Their patched-together bullpen was better than our patched-together bullpen. The Angels left 30 runners on base over the course of this game and yet emerged victorious. Albert Pujols stole a base.
What’s frustrating about this is, despite the record, it doesn’t feel like the Angels are that much better than the Mariners. Maybe there’s a world where the Mariners are the better team, where the game of roshambo favors the Mariners, where Edwin Diaz doesn’t throw rock just as Kole Calhoun remembers how paper can smother. But right now, the Mariners remain the shadow version of the Angels; a reminder of how thin the line can be between a dream and a nightmare.