I’ve always enjoyed reading, but my taste in novels has not always been, well, tasteful. It seems like every five years, I'll think about the books that I read five years prior, and simultaneously feel a mild sense of nausea, regret, and shame. No collection of works has evoked a larger sense of shame than the works of John Green. With apologies to fans of Mr. Green, his books have always come across as lazy and unapologetic of their kitschy themes. They were fun in middle school, when most people were either edge lords or just discovering the concept of sentimentality. I think it’s fair to say that they have not aged well.
If you’re not familiar, a John Green novel includes themes of young love, death, loss, and hurt. These themes don’t ever evolve themselves into more than cursory evocation of surface-level emotion. However, it’s important that we as readers believe them to be the most significant thing ever.
“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations,” writes Green.
“What?” responds everyone else.
Last night seemed almost too easy. On May 27, the Mariners lost to the Red Sox by the score of 6-0. They dropped to 21-29. Their Fangraphs Playoff Odds sat at a paltry 6.7%. Not everybody was ready to phone it in, but everybody was thinking about it at least a little. If we weren’t at our lowest low, we were close. Enter Mr. Green.
“Grief does not change you... it reveals you.”
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that following a 4-12 stretch that saw them fall eight games below .500 and nearly out of the playoff hunt, the Mariners would be a changed team. Morale isn’t a tangible entity in baseball, but it would be understandable if the guys were a little depressed after a stretch like that. John Green says “No! This is the time for their characters to shine!” And of course, just like a book you loved when you were 13, the Mariners go 8-1 over their next nine, settling in at 29-30, ready to get over the .500 hump. Grief revealed them, and it revealed them to be totally badass.
“What is the point of being alive if you don’t try to do something remarkable?”
Last night felt like a true storybook. The team had a chance to get to .500. They fell behind early. It was 5-2. Few people gave up outright, but things felt grim. The Mariners clawed back to 5-4, and then in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Zunino came up with a man on first and two outs. Rick Rizzs even proclaimed on the radio: “Mike Zunino will try to give the Mariners their storybook ending.” Lo and behold, Mikey actually hit a dinger. It was something out of a storybook. It didn’t feel real. Just like a John Green book (although, admittedly, much more enjoyable).
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”
Or to believe that a team is more than a team. This team has been more fun over the last ten games than they have been in nearly a year. We’ve watched them with a growing sense of both disbelief and joy. We went into today ready to believe that they would get over the hump to 31-30. That soon, .500 would be in the rear-view mirror, but a distant memory. That our next stop was to pass Baltimore and Boston for the wild card spots. That this team was, well, more than a team.
This game was not the portent for that. This game was boring, frustrating, and underwhelming. Finally, when it felt like something notable was going to happen, Mike Zunino came up in the bottom of the eighth and had a chance to write a sequel to last night. Instead, he smashed a line drive that went directly at the glove of the pitcher, and the Mariners’ threat was over. The story was over, for now.
It feels lazy to say “Same old Mariners.” These aren’t the same old Mariners. They are, however, still just a group of human beings that get together to play other human beings in baseball games. They’ve felt superhuman, but they aren’t. This isn’t a storybook. It can be more enjoyable than one. The Blue Jays come to town for the next three games. Their fans are all going to come down from Canada for the weekend and generally make Mariner fans’ lives miserable. After last season, I already hate them for it. Wouldn’t it be something, though, if the Mariners left .500 in the rear-view mirror against one of the more antagonistic teams in the AL?
It would almost be like a John Green novel. Ugh.
Some notes from the game:
- Christian Bergman threw five solid innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out five. It’s been said before, but it’s still remarkable how well this rotation is holding up while so many starters are on the DL.
- Speaking of pitching, James Pazos, Dan Altavilla, Marc Rzepczynski, and Steve Cishek each threw a scoreless inning of relief. The bullpen is starting to inspire actual confidence, which is novel and cool.
- Glad Jarrod Dyson doesn’t have a concussion after this one:
- Not only could the Mariners have broken this open in the eighth inning on that Zunino liner, but Robinson Cano got absolutely robbed by Byron Buxton in the fifth.
- So yeah, the Mariners couldn’t produce much scoring today, but a lot of it was due to tremendous defense on the part of the Twins. The pitching was solid, and the hitting wasn’t as bad as it seems. Sometimes things just don’t fall into place.
If we can’t win this series against the Blue Jays, I’m going to be a very sad boy.