Being willingly invested and paying attention to the last month of the 2017 Mariners season has felt like a special brand of masochism.
This wasn’t the 2013 season, where the team was effectively eliminated by the All-Star Break, and we could spend the last half of the season going to games knowing that they wouldn’t matter, knowing that we were just going for the sake of enjoying an innocent baseball game.
This wasn’t the 2014 season, where the Mariners finished the season just one game out of the second Wild Card spot. Where we weren’t expecting a ton going into the season, but got meaningful baseball for all 162 games any way.
This wasn’t the 2015 season, where the team was 10 games under .500 by the end of July and meaningful playing time was had by guys like, oh I don’t know, Jesus Montero, Mayckol Guaipe, Dustin Ackley, Justin Ruggiano... oh jeez.
This wasn’t last year, where the team finished 10 games over .500, second in the AL West, and got Dae Ho Lee every other game. Oh wait. Adam Lind was the “other” of the “every other game.” Maybe last year wasn’t so great.
No, this was a year where the team sucked, but then didn’t suck, but then sucked, but then didn’t suck... you get the picture. Where the team wasn’t necessarily supposed to be good enough, but they were going to be damn close. Yet here they are, five games below .500, when more than anything, all any of us wanted to do was believe.
Today, James Paxton started what was certainly his final home game of 2017, and possibly his final start of 2017. The man who could have brought this team to a playoff berth, had he not gotten hurt just when it seemed like they were meeting their stride. Fittingly, not only had he lost his prior start, but the team had lost every game since then.
It didn’t start great.
Paxton got out of the inning without more damage than those two runs, but the offense wasn’t going to be able to get more than those. It was the same old story. Runners thrown out on the basepaths, line drives that just weren’t elevated enough to get out, but too elevated to drop in, and the Mariners losing for all nine innings of what was to be their sixth loss in a row.
The season sure slipped away quickly.
It was a bit of a microcosm of the overall year. Here are many of the things that made this year so fun.
We had James Paxton showing that, yes, he is dominant.
And we'll just put a happy little strikeout right here. ️ pic.twitter.com/r36pWaR2Oe— Mariners (@Mariners) September 22, 2017
We had the Maple Grove, a tangible symbol of the role that fans play in baseball, and the role that baseball plays in the lives of fans.
Getting the last Maple Grove of the season underway pic.twitter.com/CphRXofwTC— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 22, 2017
And we had Robinson Cano’s 300th home run. No, Cano wasn’t fantastic this season, but he embodied the overall attitude that has made this iteration of the Mariners not just bearable, but fun.
But. James Paxton was pulled in the 4th. As in this season, taken away too soon for him to show us what he really could have done. The Mariners bats, oh so potent at times, simply failed to produce without a tangible excuse or scapegoat. It could have happened. It just didn’t.
As the Mariners lost their sixth straight game and the season slipped still further out of our grasp, I could not help but stop and reflect. For pretty much this entire year, this team has felt like it’s capable, but it simply hasn’t been. Much like the Greek myth of Tantalus, we are unable to grasp the apple that is so unbearably close.
Speaking solely for myself, the narrative that this season has been more fun than any in recent memory has been pushed down my throat. There have obviously been fun moments, but this season, more than any other, has felt like an effort. That’s not what baseball is supposed to feel like, so maybe I’m doing it wrong. I think we just got really unlucky with injuries, or circumstance, or whatever.
For the last month, the only thing on my mind has been Fuck 2017.