When the news about Robinson Canó’s suspension broke, we in the LL Slack cycled through the stages of grief at varying speeds. I personally tweeted through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Mostly, though, we’re all pretty depressed. What has started off as the most fun season in recent memory has suddenly come to a crashing, grinding halt, and the Mariners are going to need a huge collective effort to attempt to do the impossible: to replace the irreplaceable. We’re sad, and we understand you’re probably sad too. There will be a time for plucky optimism and a time for discussing alternate plans, but those times come later. Right now, let’s just let ourselves go through the stages of grief together. Here, we present our sadness to you, with the hopes that maybe you find an echo of your own sadness there. It’s like a Sex and the City quiz, but for existential despair! (I’m a Carrie, in that I carry the burden of my fandom like Marley’s chains.)
It has been a long time since I’ve been truly devastated by baseball. When your first real foray into the Mariners was during the dark days of the early 2010s, gut punch losses stop fazing you eventually. Every team goes through painful walkoff losses, sudden underperformance, and freak injuries. That’s just baseball.
This… this is another thing entirely. I’ve been staring at this Google Doc trying to come up with anything other than just a giant scream-vomiting .gif, but all I can say is that this is brutal. My chest is a black hole. While I’ve skipped anger and bargaining so far, depression is running at full speed.
It’s still just mid-May. Canó will be back in mid-August. Playoff hopes, though dwindling, are still alive. Even if by some miracle they do make it in, Robi won’t be able to participate, and that’s almost a bigger blow than the suspension itself.
Darkness has fallen, and no magic stirs.
One of the weird things about being a Mariners fan is that it conditions you into believing that sadness is normal. When news broke of Robinson Canó’s suspension, sure, I was crushed, but I also took some comfort in the familiarity. This is what it’s like to support the Seattle Mariners; all good things must be cancelled out by near-immediate devastation. It’s why I’m so terrified of the day this team finally plays a postseason game. The stasis will be broken, and new emotions will come pouring in that I won’t know how to handle.
Of course, should that postseason drought end this year, the Mariners will take the field without Robinson Canó. PED suspensions are tricky, in that I’m not sure if my disappointment should be directed at the league or the player. Taking a drug to maybe sorta improve endurance or whatever is not a big deal at all in the grand scheme of life. At the same time, I get why a sports league would have punishments for players who do so.
I don’t totally understand why he should have to miss the postseason return (should the team make it there), of a franchise that he played a huge hand in resurrecting. I do know that this ordinarily mundane Tuesday is now a day that will live in infamy, as the player we’ve come to appreciate as the face of the offense is out for 80 games, scarlet letter permanently stamped to his normally-jolly face. That doesn’t feel right. But, through the lens of Mariner fandom, not feeling right often does feel right, because we don’t know anything else. Fuck.
As I write this, I’m staring at my Robinson Canó bobblehead on my desk. It’s been there for two years now, a reminder that I’m a Mariners fan through and through. Robi is smiling, nodding his little head up and down, looking every bit the All-World player he’s been for his whole career. And even though this suspension only means an extra ~30 or so games missed, it feels like the end of an era. No more is Robinson Canó an invincible force, no more is he a future Hall of Famer who chose to wear the teal and blue.
Nope, now he’s a cheater. Fair or not, he will be branded a cheater for the rest of his MLB career. Sure, guys like Nelson Cruz and Dee Gordon have been suspended, but both took their lumps a while ago and are now performing well in their own rights. Canó, however? He’s a 35-year-old middle infielder with $120 million still committed over the next five seasons, and now he’s coming off a long-term suspension for PEDs. (Or diuretics. Tomato, tomato.)
I struggle sometimes with being overly optimistic. I’m almost always on board with the Mariners’ moves because I can understand the deals from their perspective, and I get why we trust a certain player to play a specific position. But it’s hard to be optimistic today. Today, there is no joy in Mudville, for mighty Canó has struck out.
I wish you could all see the state of this Google Doc. Anonymous animals are typing frantically, Anonymous Capybara and Anonymous Turtle seem caught in a who-can-type-more-sadness-more-quickly race, and there’s proverbial vomit all over the doc (perhaps some real vomit, too. Anonymous Manatee, how ya doin over there?).
This sucks. It sucks on every level your traitorous brain may come up with, and then it sucks on a few more levels that internet commenters will inform you of. Beyond the fact that Canó is out for 80 games - how we’ll miss his bat, his lackadaisical way of turning incredible double plays, his reassuring mound visits - and beyond the fact that this feels like a betrayal of the highest order, it sucks because now we’re all here, online, yelling into the void, and at each other, about morality and ethics and loyalty. It’s like if Philosophy 101 was hosted on Reddit.
I hate feeling sad. Insert “but you’re a Mariners fan” jokes here. I hate it, and for a myriad of reasons I’ve spent the last few days scrambling to stop myself from being pulled down the Slide of Sadness and Existential Despair. Now I’ve just let go. Fewer slide burns. Maybe it’s better this way?
I’ve known teammates who have used steroids, both in baseball and football. One had a special lunchbox, another a phantom prescription, a third an elicit hookup. They were kind people, or they were assholes. Some great players, and others simply great in the weight room. Mostly what they were were defined by this part of their life. They had to be great, and when threatened by the prospect of not succeeding, they were faced with losing that definition of themselves. Instead they pursued illicit, dangerous methods to maintain who they viewed they were.
In all pursuits there are those of us who struggle to reckon with change. When something we defined ourselves by slips away from us - a job, a skill, a physical characteristic, a relationship - our security in self is sapped. Perhaps Robinson Canó truly was only receiving treatment for high blood pressure, or perhaps he was, like so many aging stars, desperately seeking a pathway to recovering his body from a season of underachievement, multiple hernias, 2,037 MLB games, and a trajectory mirroring the disastrous decline of Albert Pujols. Instead, he may now find himself compared to a different former WBC teammate. That, like so many pieces of this story, is a tragedy.
My daughter Victoria and I had just returned home from her first transition day at daycare, which went very well. She was exhausted so I got her down for a nap as soon as we got settled and it was lights out. Sweet. Time to check the LL Slack and get caught up. What the….no….noooooo…..NOOOOOOOOOOPPPPE.
Time will tell and time can still make fools of us all, but this feels like the season just ended in May. It hasn’t. The season ends in September, or late October for the good teams. But, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say how utterly devastating this is for the 2018 Mariners, for Robinson Cano’s career, and for possibly the future of the current front office.
The team can absolutely still find ways to win. Weirder things have happened. The 2014 addition of a PED suspension equaling no postseason play is the super extra and unnecessarily punitive dagger here, of course, but the chances of that mattering are extremely small at this point. Still there, but you need a microscope to see them.
The two things that upset me the most about this are:
1) I do not care about baseball players using PEDs
There is no drug that makes you instantly talented and good at baseball. If they make one, A) I want it and B) MLB can ban it and then evenly enforce that ban. Steroids did not allow Barry Bonds to have extremely good plate discipline. They just allowed him to hit a ball 20 feet further than he already did. PED monitoring has been so inconsistent and poorly executed since they first started trying that I believe PED usage should have no bearing on Hall of Fame candidacy. The numbers on the field matter, not the drugs taken off the field. Taking drugs to be better at something is not blatantly immoral to me. If the player understands the health risks and is still willing to take them, that’s not my concern. I just do not care about PEDs and I never will. Players taking drugs does not impair my enjoyment of the game.
2) My soul is sick to death of the abused, reflexively negative, THERE IS NO FLOOR mentality of Mariners fandom
I hate this news because it adds another thousand drums of oil for the eternal flame of Mariners pessimism. I am not an optimistic person by nature. I alway expect and prepare for the worst, but hope for the best in life. I’ve always felt that being a Mariners fan builds character in that regard, and it really does. Learning about disappointment and how to handle it is vitally important to being a well-adjusted human being. But…...I’m tired of my favorite hobby and pastime slapping me upside the head all the time. I look to baseball and the Mariners as a fun distraction from the shittier aspects of daily life on this planet. And every once in a while over the years, we’ve experienced some purely joyful moments that help carry us through the dark times. But the dark times just vastly outnumber the good times still. This last month and a half of Mariners baseball has been very fun to watch. Much more so than all but three teams in the last decade. I am bitterly disappointed that this fun, brief streak of baseball may get completely spoiled by a bunch of garbage rules and unfair punishments that may prove to be a tipping point into yet another dark age for this historically abysmal franchise.
This feels like an injustice and I demand a reckoning for all Mariners fans.
When I was a senior in college, I really wanted to go to the University of Michigan to get my MFA in Creative Writing, and was told by a professor I admired that I could apply, but to wait a few years. “They like people who have been beaten around by the world a little,” she said.
Of course, I applied anyway. At the time, I, a precocious, pretentious little popinjay, was convinced that no one knew the depths of my secret suffering. Now that I actually have been beaten around by the world—and not in any particularly extreme way, more just the general beating of the waves of time smoothing out the peaks and the valleys of the catastrophe of my personality—I finally understand what my professor meant.
This is the speech I give myself when bad things happen: I try to put it in perspective alongside other bad things, resist the temptation to roll it up into whatever other bad things are going on (I fail at this 99% of the time), and grade out the badness, lying on my back on the canyon floor. Does it hurt here? Does it hurt when I do this? Does it hurt when I do that?
The Mariners have been the cause of no small number of this kind of self-check. How big is this stone in my stomach; how smooth or rough is it--is the pain familiar, intelligible, or strange and new? Does it hurt when I do this? Does it hurt when I do this?
Yes. It all hurts. All of it.
There are a million things to consider in the wake of this news, and there’s no space in my head for any of them. There is only fuzz and static, not loud enough to amount of anything of substance, but more than enough to drown out any attempt at cohesive thought.
This suspension only serves as further evidence that baseball is a tiny sub-section of a universe that is ultimately absurd and devoid of meaning. Nobody deserves anything. Things don’t happen for a reason. I’ve spent days on end of my life attempting to seize random events and assign them meaning, because the world is a lot less scary if it means something.
This event doesn’t have any meaning either. It’s just another thing that happened, and it is bad for us, so add it to the ever-growing list of things that we’ve chosen to internalize and use to validate our self-prescribed identities as losers. Days like this make it feel like the Mariners have sucked all the meaning out of baseball, but maybe it was never there in the first place.
What stage of grief are you in?
This poll is closed
Denial. Not Robi!
Anger. Canó should have known better.
Bargaining. Maybe he’ll make it back in time to help the team down the stretch, even if he can’t play in the playoffs.
Depression. Fandom is meaningless, baseball is cruel, life is pain.
Acceptance. Fandom is meaningless and also meaningful, baseball is cruel and beautiful, life is pain and joy.