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25 Dan Vogelbachs - The Finale

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The prides of Fort Myers, Florida had a simple goal this season. Instead, they changed the history of baseball itself.

Tee Miller

Editor’s note: Apologies for the delay, but like every writer who set out to make a trilogy and failed to corral their content, I ran out of time and space to finish last week. If you’re just joining us, catch up with Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.


Welcome back, friends. The season has ended, the Vogelbachs have done their best. It’s time for the autopsy, but first, a message from OOTP:

OOTP

Step Four: Acceptance

Simulations aren’t predisposed to storybook endings, and the 10-9 August loss to the Braves would prove to be the Mariners’ closest brush with victory all season. September came and went with few incidents. An otherwise improved performance on average was counteracted by a record-setting loss to the Houston Astros on the 17th of September, wherein Houston managed a 61-1 decimation despite Carlos Correa leaving 12 men on base.

OOTP

Try as they might, the Fightin’ Vogelbachs couldn’t stem the tide, and their valiant efforts upstaged the 2017 Cleveland Browns’ winless campaign.

0-162.

OOTP

Much like the distance between Earth and its sun or the infinitesimal size of an atom, the raw numbers around Team Vogelbach struggle to deliver the true scale of their plight. As grisly as the 99 GB appears, or the -3820 run differential feels, no number fills me with more melancholy than the 0-1 record in one-run games.

The Player’s Tribune published an article titled “Closerbach’s Lament” in early November, recounting his life before, during, and after he blew his only two save opportunities of the season, and how his teammates/biological doppelgängers stood by him supportively as his confidence plummeted. It seems the players, like Mariners fans have long done, recognized that often within the absurdity of massive failure and struggle is the opportunity for creativity and growth.

Unfortunately in this case, much of the growth occurred for other teams. The AL West was, unsurprisingly, baseball’s biggest beneficiaries of 25 Dan Vogelbachs. Three teams won 90+ games and made the playoffs. Pythagorean Win/Loss was profoundly broken by the existence of this Mariners’ team, but it theoretically suggested an implausible seven 100+ win teams in the American League, as well as an even more unthinkable expectation that the Vogelbachs were a true talent team of 6-156. Prognosticators might take that as an indication that 2018 might see a bouncebach. Those prognosticators would probably be wrong.

The individuals whose hoards swelled with walks and homers were condensed in the AL West as well, and unsurprisingly no player was more dominant than Mike Trout. The Millville Meteorologist was on pace for a surefire MVP season and 10+ WAR production, but an abdominal strain and a strained rib cage muscle conspired to hold him to just 128 games.

That opened the door for the MVP to go to the first American League Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera: Texas Rangers 2B Rougned Odor.

OOTP

I honestly never thought you’d put up numbers like that either, Rougned. The man who set the record for lowest wRC+ (61) of any player to hit 30 home runs in a season in our 2017 timeline instead terrorized the league at will. At the award presentation, a defeated of Rob Manfred joked bitterly that Odor should have the Vogelbach pitching staff sign his trophy since it was as much theirs as it was his. While Manfred had been rendered a husk of a man, seeing the pace of play in the American League balloon beyond measure at the hands of the Vogelbach Brigade, he was not wrong.

OOTP

Odor’s season yielded a 176 wRC+ and helped propel the Rangers to a Wild Card win, but they were overcome by Cleveland in the next round, who would eventually cede the World Series in Game 7 to the Arizona Diamondbacks(???). After a long and cold October, a typically demure Scott Servais rounded up his team to recap their season.

The Vogelbachs of Seattle failed to win a game, and the expectations were not high to begin with. As you may recall, there was concern they’d be outscored by nearly 7,000 runs:

Preseason predictions
OOTP

Individually, unfortunately, the results were uninspiring. Servais tried to remain measured, but the Vogelbachs knew their skipper was sugarcoating. Not a single player, not even mid-season call-up 1B Young Dan Vogelbach, was able to muster a replacement level season.

OOTP

While the defense was predictably disastrous, in any other season the offense might have been passable. Servais dragged out charts of previous seasons, noting the Vogelbachs had managed to outscore 2016’s team by six runs and had even out-OPS’d them as well. True to form, the disciplined Vogeys combined for 667 walks, the third-highest total in Mariners’ history. While Right Fielderbach’s Rookie of the Month campaign shined bright, it was clear to all in the room that the greatest hitter among them was Third Vogelbaseman. His 110 wRC+ was third on the team and his durability was second-to-none, but his true glory came in the first inning of a September bout with the Texas Rangers, with Yu Darvish on the hill.

OOTP

The first and only successful stolen base of the season, by the trustiest among them. It was a moment Third Vogelbaseman would cherish forever.

The pitchers seemed, sadly, without even that cold comfort.

OOTP

Servais pulled out his phone and quickly Facetimed Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who was in the midst of a fishing expedition in Alberta. Together the two circled the 2874 walks allowed and 600 home runs allowed as key factors in their struggles. The coaches noted that their defense didn’t do them any favors, allowing over 400 unearned runs to score, but that pointing the finger elsewhere did them no favors.

It was a solemn discussion that was drawing to a close when 26 simultaneous pings echoed through the room. Each Vogelbach sheepishly reached for their phone, then turned in unison to look at one of their own. Opening Day Vogelbach, the team’s de facto No. 1 starter and lone All-Star Game representative, stared at his phone as the MLB At-Bat app sent a notification across his screen:

SP Daniel Vogelbach wins American League Gold Glove Award

The first whoop of excitement came from his fellow rotation mate, the team’s clear ace and only player to threaten a sub-20.00 ERA, Third Starterbach. It was soon followed by Right Fielderbach, Third Vogelbaseman, and the rest of the team, as the only Vogelbach to experience victory in the Majors that year fell to his knees, overcome by emotion. The team mobbed together, shaking the hand of their cloned compatriot, consoling themselves in this small measure of comfort.

It was then that the second ping rang out. Every head turned downwards, then to a man on the fringes of the circle. It was a man who had suffered more than perhaps any other on the team this season, whose face displayed unbridled disbelief.

SP Daniel Vogelbach wins American League Rookie of the Year Award

In case you thought I was making this up
OOTP

Every Vogelbach suffered this season, but no player in history more than Fifth Starterbach. As evaluative metrics, pitcher wins and losses are next to useless, but to the individuals playing, they still hold meaning. 33 games started, 33 losses. Worse than Vida Blue’s winless 14 start season in 1983 or Steve Gerkin and Russ Miller’s 0-12 seasons of 1945 and 1928, respectively. It was a flawfull display of pitching misery that was unlike anything ever before seen in MLB history. As Fifth Starterbach stared at his teammates in stunned silence, Scott Servais read a directive he’d just received from the Commissioner’s Office.

“Awarded annually to the most outstanding rookie-eligible player from each league, it is my honor to present Daniel Vogelbach, starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, with the 2017 Rookie of the Year award. While second-place finisher Aaron Judge put up an impressive season by all accounts, there can be no doubt that your season was outstanding in a way that the game of baseball has not witnessed in over a century. Congratulations. Sort of.”

As Fifth Starterbach began to tear up, his teammates jubilantly lifted him on their shoulders. It’s not for me to say if it was all worth it, but they did not come away empty-handed. They were not a good baseball team, and had frankly nearly decimated the game at its core, but they were undeniably outstanding.

OOTP

The End.