In my junior year of high school, I was dangerously close to failing chemistry. This was not AP chemistry, or chemistry for science-inclined students, this was just regular-ass chemistry. In high school – as is still the case today – my brain was drawn to reading, writing, and the arts more than neutrons reacting with protons to create explosions or whatever (I paid attention).
Like many baseball players, I survived by riding the coattails of people more talented than I could ever hope to be. My grade was buoyed by a kid named Cody who was nice enough to reel me into his lab group for all important projects. I feasted on busy work and participation, the academic equivalent of 88-MPH fastballs right down the pipe, to bring home a C and never think about chemistry ever again.
The 2018 Seattle Mariners, while probably unbothered by covalent bonds, are passing chemistry with flying colors. A striking difference between this year’s team and those of the past is the genuine satisfaction they all seem to take in one another. Every thumbs-up celebration and enormous bear hug makes the dugout fight of 2010 feel like a different universe.
In the 21st-century baseball world, arguments over numbers and projections and sabermetrics often drown out the human element of the game. But just like at your workplace, enjoying the company of those around you will almost definitely have a positive effect on your work. This can be true of a Major League Baseball team as well, just ask Mike Zunino.
Zunino on what the Mariners built in spring training "We trust everyone from top to bottom. We've got a great group of guys. There's no bad guys, everyone can gravitate towards anybody and when you have that chemistry and have that trust, that's the biggest piece of this lineup"— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) May 23, 2018
There will likely never be a way to quantify “No Bad Guys”, or whether it’s a causation or correlation of winning teams, but the Mariners are a fascinating case study. Not since the early-aughts can I remember the M’s exhibiting friendship and happiness as much as this year’s bunch.
Thanks to the internet, joy is no longer limited to the real world, either. These Mariners are having a grand ol’ time on social media as well, displaying all the characteristics of a healthy work environment.
Seager on catching Cruz in mid-air after hitting his home run in the #Mariners win over the Rays,— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) June 10, 2018
"He's a lot bigger than you might think. We're best friends though, that's what best friends do. Best friends give each other hugs and that's what we were doing." https://t.co/CN7VBPlwqa
Wade get on Twitter so I can tell you how good you are at sports. I’ll send you an email.— Marco Gonzales (@MarcoGonzales_) June 17, 2018
Like Z said, no bad guys here. My favorite part of rounding up the Mariners’ best social media praises of each other, apart from the overwhelming happiness it provided, was the sheer volume of it. Several things got left on the cutting room floor, and I’m sure as we get closer to the All-Star Game we’ll see even more Mariners caping for their teammates to be included on the team. As much as we all think we love the Mariners, the Mariners seem to love the Mariners even more.
While famously analytical in all of his moves, Jerry Dipoto has also played the role of chemist in some of his recent moves. Trading for Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy this offseason added an All-Star stolen base hound and a powerful corner infielder, but also two guys who seem impossible not to love. The same could be said of Marco Gonzales, who has gone out of his way to shout out his teammates on social media since joining the Mariners last season.
Even guys acquired in-season, the ones most susceptible to new-surrounding anxiety, have quickly ingratiated themselves.
I don’t think we need to worry about this group ever throwing hands in the dugout. Rather, we may need to worry about them becoming too close, and setting themselves up for inevitable heartbreak when Jerry makes his next trade.
Seattle’s success this season is slightly dumbfounding, in that they’re playing and winning an absurd amount of one-run games. At the same time, looking at how much fun the players are having makes the winning more understandable. From buttoned-up corporate offices to T-ball teams, success is more realistic when everyone’s having fun. Unlike the infamous 2010 squad, or even some of the talented-yet-slightly-boring teams of recent years, the 2018 bunch silences any questions of clubhouse chemistry.
We’re approaching the dreaded dog days of summer, when baseball players understandably drag their feet through a couple of getaway days and blowout decisions. Having 25 dudes, plus a couple good eggs in Tacoma and a master of disguise, could be a much-needed raft to carry the team through the doldrums of July and August. Nobody wins when the family feuds, and this Mariner family is proving that with every win, celebration, and social media post.