It’s weird being a fan of a good baseball team. Even though the Mariners have been decent ever since they signed Robinson Canó, it’s still weird. Every time the ninth hitter comes up to bat with two outs, I have flashbacks to 2010. Ichiro would lead off with a hit, none of the other eight hitters would do anything, and then Ichiro would come up to bat in the third inning with two outs and nobody on, wasting his plate appearance.
It’s weird watching the opposing team score two runs in the top of first inning and thinking Eh, whatever. They’ll get those back, easy. Again, I know the team has been decent for a while, and that Brendan Ryan hasn’t been a Mariner since 2013. It still feels weird.
Strange as it felt, it came as little surprise when Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager managed to string together 4 straight hits to answer in the bottom of the first. Especially encouraging was Kyle’s double, a frozen rope into the corner. It’s refreshing to see him out to a decent start, and the Mariners have really needed it with so many guys on the DL.
After that, though, the Mariners went quiet. Mike Leake did his part, and aside from a few shaky spots, one of which involved a Dee Gordon muffed catch, managed to keep it tied. At least until Matt Chapman took him deep over the center field fence to make it 3-2.
Five years is a weird amount of time. On one hand, it’s such a long time. It’s an undergraduate degree, or all of high school, plus a year. It’s a couple of long term relationships, a presidency, and a maybe a couple jobs. It’s unlikely many of us are the same people we were five years ago.
On the other hand, it’s so little time. It’s short enough to where you might not look any different if you’re an adult. It’s entirely reasonable to have spent five years at one job, or to have laid low in one spot for five years. And it’s certainly enough time for me to remember when going down 3-2 in the sixth inning felt like a death sentence.
Not in 2018. It really is something to cheer for a baseball team that isn’t just capable of scoring runs, but is expected to. So in the bottom of the seventh and two guys already out, Jean Segura legging out an infield single meant something. Robinson Cano walked up, already having reached base all three times on the night. He had one more in him, which was enough to bring up Mitch Haniger.
Mitch Haniger at bats have become must-see TV. Ever pitch against him carries with it possiblity. The possibility of this.
Even better is the positive feedback loop that all of this has. They say that clubhouse chemistry is easy when a team is winning. Still, how can a guy like this not make a huge difference?
Finally, as if these finally fulfilled expectations weren’t enough, there was time for one more moment of unadulterated joy. Which is a big deal. Mariner joy has always been, well, adulterated. Huge moments underscored by losing seasons. Not right now. And certainly not for Daniel Vogelbach’s first Major League home run.
This moment was a culmination of a lifetime of hard work. Not just that, but hard work in the face of repeated set backs, failures, and missteps. It’s impossible to know how many times Vogelbach might have started to doubt himself, or wonder whether his life’s work was ever going to mean anything. Based on this, though, it’s safe to say this was more than just one home run to him.
The Mariners are three games over .500. Last year, they didn’t reach that mark until August. I know that I should be cautious, especially after sixteen years of hurt. For better or for worse, I’m finding that impossible. Fool me once, shame on the Mariners. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me sixteen times, and I guess I’m a Mariner fan. For once, I’m all too happy to be fooled.