Like many of you, I’ve spent the past two days coping. Coping with the Robinson Canó suspension, coping with the implications that will have for this woe-stricken franchise, coping with the utterly disastrous Facebook game. Every hour since Tuesday has been an exercise in avoiding any sort of thought pattern that leads back to the sad Mariners.
But Matthew, you’re probably saying aloud, aren’t all Mariners sad Mariners? Eventually, yes. The blue and teal have a way of zapping the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed spirit out of anyone.
Ah, but you see, new players descend upon Seattle with only a mere understanding of the gloom. They cannot fully understand the despair, for they have not lived it. One’s first springtime in Seattle can surely produce jovial optimism, only to give way to the treadmill of emptiness that comes with the dog days of summer.
Please, no matter what happens for the rest of 2018, do not let this summer break Ryon Healy.
You see, if the depression cycle begins in summer, it will only metastasize during Seattle’s soulless winter. While Ryon spent three years living in Eugene, Oregon, I’m not sure if the friendly first baseman is ready for a Northwest winter to be scooped onto a disappointing season. Because of this, we must all work as hard as humanly possible to keep the twinkle in his eye ablaze.
The most endearing, if slightly unrelatable quality about Healy is his joie de vivre. Homeboy really seems like he wakes up every day with a legitimate enthusiasm for all that comes his way. If only we could all be so lucky.
Jerry Dipoto has described Healy as collegiate, spawning my own comparison to the guy in every fraternity in charge of the philanthropy events. His genuine awe and appreciation of the world comes across as gleefully childlike, a perfect combination of SpongeBob and Patrick. When I learned that the offseason acquisition contained such a personality, I was smitten. After cobbling together a .278/.320/.588 line with eight homers in his first 25 games back from injury, I could barely stop myself from melting into a pile of delight.
Ryon Healy will likely never be an All-Star, and that’s fine. If “All-Star or bust” is your lens for any new pickup I am frankly shocked that you still follow this team. Appreciating our cheerful corner infielder is easy to do when the men he was traded for are in Triple-A and the DSL, respectively. All the while Healy brings a 146 wRC+ and a propensity for occasional dopeness on defense.
As with any new, beefy boy, there will be hiccups. He’s had his miscues on defense in some mighty important spots, and I’m still not totally sure he understands the concept of a walk. Last year – his first full season in the bigs – Healy was exactly a league-average hitter. Sure, 25 home runs, 78 RBI, and a .271 average look good in your everyday on-screen graphic. But a 3.8% walk rate paired with a 23.5% K-rate are part of the reason the computer spat out a 100 wRC+. I do think he will be better than that, I just don’t think his current pace of 146 wRC+ and a home run every third game is sustainable. Again, we don’t need this guy to be 2003 Albert Pujols. The usual power plus a few more walks, adequate glove work, and a bajillion fun GIFS will have me running through the streets, shouting his praise.
I’m worried that any positive performances by these Mariners will be lazily shrunk into some sort of NEXT MAN UP narrative. While carrying the weight of a lost teammate is good and noble, I feel like you should be trying hard no matter who shares the lineup card with you. If the Mariners can stay afloat with a Canó-sized hole threatening to sink the ship, it will be because everyone on the roster played, to some degree, for personal pride. They each occupy the same amount of space on the roster as Canó, and are just as much part of the team as he is (even more so now). If the M’s do survive the hellscape of a banned substance suspension, they will be a much better team for it.
As much as I try to avoid it, the cloud of Seattle’s prolonged postseason absence looms over much of my Mariner experience. I’ll go a while standing on each game as an individual thing, not as a step toward building something bigger. Then I’ll do something like casually talk about the Mariners with my sister. She is leaving for college in a few months and has absolutely zero memories of the franchise ever being anything other than background noise. If they become a louder part of the conversation, it will be because of guys like Healy, and Mitch Haniger, and James Paxton, players who we knew were capable of lighting a fire but secretly thought might stamp out all the embers.
I want very few things more than this Canó story to become an afterthought. How glorious, and oddly fulfilling, and straight up hilarious would it be for elation to come out of this first 48 hours of disgust? On Tuesday morning, the Mariners’ future looked like one, long starless night. Now, after one theater-like victory and one afternoon of Harold Reynolds making me question the very invention of the internet, things seem less dark.
As the ol’ saying goes, tragedy plus time equals comedy. I say tragedy plus time makes you question whether the tragedy was even a tragedy. We as fans have no control over how this timeline will unfold, and given our history it’s easy to find the nearest hole and climb deep into it. But I know someone who is not suspended, who is playing every day, and is immune to the trappings of everyday sorrow. He’d like to give you a hug.
And then, once you’re feeling better, he’d like to take you home, tuck you into bed non-creepily, and remind you that everything’s going to be okay.
For years, we’ve had a hunger for some actual, pure, baseball-related gratification. Watching this sport and mostly enjoying the results often seemed like a distant, faraway land, and thinking about such a place only compounded the hunger.
But now there’s a fresh conductor on the fun train, and he’s going to help us reach that foreign place.