Step Three: Survive
When we left off yesterday, Team Vogelbach had completed the worst month in baseball history. They were winless, having failed to carry a lead past the seventh inning at any point in their first 26 games. As the weeks and months progressed, I realized how horrifyingly easy it was to fall into a sense of normalcy in this simulation. Not only did banal events like 20-3 blowouts at the hands of the White Sox in mid-May fail to catch my eye, I was unmoved even by a 44-9 loss in the first week of that month at the hands of the Angels (although Albert Pujols was moved out of the lineup after injuring himself in the third inning, because sometimes baseball sims have a sense of humor).
Any hope of a historical comparison rapidly fell by the wayside. The 2003 Detroit Tigers lost 113 games, but even they managed to produce 29 save situations - an indication that at least in theory, they were in a position to win games occasionally. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders produced MLB history’s worst record and a run differential of -723 over a 154 game season. The All-Daniel Vogelbach Mariners surpassed that mark on May 7th in a 29-2 loss to the Rangers and never looked back. By May 20th, that number had surpassed -1000, including a 43-0 shutout at the hands of the Blue Jays on the 12th of May, a night on which the real-life Mariners, led by Christian Bergman, were shutout 4-0 by Joe Biagini. I think I’d honestly have rather seen the Vogelbachs.
It can’t be said that the fight went out of the Vogelbachs. On May 10th, just two days after surpassing the Spiders’ ignominious mark, Seattle received the performance of a lifetime from Three Starter Vogelbach, who weaved his way through 5.0 innings with just two earned runs, and generated the second outing of the season wherein the starting pitcher left the game having allowed fewer earned runs than his team had scored.
This would result in the first single-digit scoring allowance by the Vogelbachs of the year, a victory almost as great as true victory. The team held that candle close as indignities bombarded the walls of their clubhouse. Can there truly be a nadir when every day is a loss of cataclysmic proportions? Unfortunately, as we all know, there is no floor.
If there is something approaching rock bottom, however, then it surely must have come on May 29th, as the Vogel Boys headed to Coors Field to face the Rockies. What occurred was, without a doubt, the worst baseball game ever played to completion.
Dan Vogelfive Starter took the ball, and within no time found himself in trouble. By the 4th inning Seattle was in a 12-0 hole. Then they waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Baseball’s unwritten rules are often the target of ire, but it was the rulebook itself that demanded play resume following a rain delay of 67 minutes in a blowout game, with a team that has been blown out nearly every single game they’d played. The Rockies apparently chose to spend their time in the locker room sharpening their tools of battle, and what followed was a scene so offensively pornographic it should come with a parental advisory.
The darkness seemed to be closing in. As the season approached its midway point, I wondered whether anything could possibly spur this team towards positivity. And then, suddenly, a notification appeared in my inbox.
I’m sorry what now?
Despite providing the worst defense and baserunning at the position, Right Fielbach (-3.1 WAR thru 81 games) earned the first positive piece of history for the Mariners this season. That positive momentum manifest in the best week of the season for Seattle, as they bullied Nate Karns out of the game in three innings, en route to a 14-12 loss that was their closest brush with victory yet. They would enter the All-Star Break 0-90, 57 GB in the AL West, but having held Oakland’s offense in check recently as well, yielding just a 9-4 loss the Saturday prior.
Perhaps that was why Howard Lincoln was in such high spirits.
On the day of the announcement of All-Star Game lineups, the entire Vogelbach clan huddled together, hoping once again for the rule of the land to win out.
A groundswell of support had arisen to eschew the traditional rule of awarding each team at least a single All-Star, selecting the best of the worst, if necessary. “They’re awful!” claimed some. “Cloning has to be against the rules!” wailed a few MLB Network talking heads. “Perhaps Canó and Cruz retired willfully, but my cousin swears he saw a few of them ‘taking care’ of Félix!” claimed a particularly imaginative radio caller.
But on the final day, the roster was released, and the unassuming SP 3 Dan Vogelbach heard his name (and, technically by extension, the name of all of his teammates) called. The man with an 0-18 record, a 27.14 ERA and -3.8 Wins Above Replacement would take his place in the history books alongside a glut of AL West rivals whose stat lines had grown plump as the main beneficiaries of their new doormat opponents. But that didn’t matter to Daniel Vogelbach. Not today.
It didn’t matter because for the first time in his life, he was a winner.
In a 9-7 come-from-behind victory, the American League triumphed over the National League, aided (sort of) by one Daniel Vogelbach’s 0.2 IP, including a backwards K strikeout of Christian Yelich. People say the All-Star Game is a meaningless exhibition, but on that day it was anything but to one of the players. When SP 3 Dan Vogelbach returned to his twin teammates, his message of hope spread like wildfire. They were not cursed. One of their order had tasted victory’s spice and they believed they would again.
Maybe one day I’ll believe in Closerbach too.
Join me Friday for the conclusion to this nonsense. Thank you to everyone for the kind feedback about this series! We hope to do more stuff like this every once in a while, when the real baseball world calls for it.