It turns out wanting something doesn’t make it real - Randall Munroe
I don’t know about you guys, but this season has been so, so trying. Baseball is so many things to different people, and an escape is one of them. What good is an escape if even your escape is emotionally draining? Is it just a distraction?
No matter how we dressed it up, the Mariners were something of a long shot from the first game of the season. I mean sure, Fivethirtyeight had them at a 48% chance of making the playoffs, but with a rotation made of glass and bits of wood scotch taped together, that felt a bit suspect. Yet still we were optimistic. The majority of the staff picked the Mariners to make the playoffs as a Wild Card seed. Most of the readers, too.
My first recap for this site was the third game of the season. They lost, putting them at 0-3. And yet, I told everyone that we should remain optimistic. That this team was good enough.
Just four days later, I wasn’t paying much attention to the Mariners. I was in the middle of a fairly traumatic life event. Before all that bullshit started, the Mariners were winning 8-1. Two hours later, wretchedly despondent and fresh off of getting my heart figuratively ripped out, I checked my phone. Holy shit. They actually lost. Of course they did.
They never really did recover from that early stretch. Yeah, there have been runs of success. Even during the runs of failure, the team has been fun. We got Jean Segura covered in bubble gum, we got Ichiro hitting a dinger during what will probably be his last game in Safeco, we got the Maple Grove, and we got improbable dominance (at times) by players like Ben Gamel and Nick Vincent.
And yet, it seems so fitting that once even the most pessimistic, Clockwork-Orange-style-conditioned Mariners fan was ready to believe, once this team was finally in a playoff spot, James Paxton got hurt. And instantly, what many of us had been feeling became all too real. The optimism up until this point suddenly felt very forced in retrospect. Was Paxton ever likely to stay healthy? Was Ben Gamel ever going to keep hitting over .300? Was anyone in this rotation not named James Paxton ever going to be worth even 1.0 WAR? The answer to all of those was always: hopefully. But probably not.
It was fun. Don’t get me wrong. But finally, as the playoff odds of this team are finally going to dip beneath 5%, I find myself without any more emotional energy to invest in this team. There’s no more fooling myself that this team has a reasonable path to the playoffs. Paxton and Felix’s returns now seem like warm-ups for next year. Andrew Moore’s stellar outing tonight is now an interest to be endlessly dissected in the off-season. I hope not, but Jarrod Dyson’s crazy catches and steals for the Mariners might now all be in the past.
I know that, while I’m not alone in feeling this way, many still have some belief in this team’s chances. To you: I admire you and am thankful for you. You provide the basis for so much of the good spirits that persisted far longer than I think they ought to have.
That being said, it will in all likelihood be at least 17 years between Mariners playoff appearances. With this team’s core aging, if it isn’t 17, it might be 20 or more. Maybe not, and this is getting into a conversation for another day.
The point is, as tonight’s game wrapped up, as an entire season’s worth of optimism began to fade to blue, the only emotion I could find within myself was sadness. Grief for the loss of my hopes for this season, at least the hopes that had an iota of rationale behind them. Tomorrow, I will be grateful for the games that I attended and for the joys that these guys gave me. Tonight, there isn’t room.
This isn’t meant to be a eulogy for the 2017 Mariners. I’m sure there will be many, and from more talented writers than I. A 4% chance is not a 0% chance. But all I know is that I’m as disappointed as if they’d been legitimately eliminated.
I’m sorry, I don’t have a lot to say about this game. Ariel Miranda wasn’t good enough from the beginning. Per Scott Servais, Miranda was “running on fumes” tonight. Whatever it was, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, Elvis Andrus, and all the other Rangers we’ve learned to dislike teamed up to score too many runs for the Mariners to overcome.
Andrew Moore came in for long relief, and was quite good. With 6.0 innings of 1-run ball, he pitched the equivalent of a quality start. Maybe if he’d actually started, things would’ve been different. Doesn’t matter now.
The heart of the lineup was, to be blunt, awful. Nelson Cruz was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. Robinson Cano was 0-for-3. Yeah, Kyle Seager hit a dinger, but finished 1-for-4 with 2 strikeouts. The team just couldn’t come back. Just couldn’t score when they needed it most.
If there’s anything to force yourself to be excited about, here it is.
We should all be so giddy as that Mariners fan at the end. Mitch Haniger could be special for this team for years to come. Felix, Cruz, and Cano won’t get any better next year, but Andrew Albers, Andrew Moore, and Mike Leake are sure a hell of a lot better as back-end starter candidates than what we had this year. There’s reason to be be excited about the Mariners.
For now, though, I’m grieving. For the 16th year in a row, I’m sad. Some escape. Still, if something in life has the capacity to make you feel the range of emotions that this team has caused us to experience, it’s probably something pretty special.
The rest of the games this season are all gravy, and I look forward to experiencing them without pretense.