There’s something to be said for going through the wringer a few times when you’re young. I don’t think anybody ever plans on disappointment or hardship. But if you’re going to be disappointed, it certainly helps to have a bit of experience dealing with it.
But there are two sides to the coin. Sure, you might have learned techniques for dealing with bullshit. You might be better at coping with minor inconvenience or major tragedy. But when you deal with disappointment and trauma, you learn to expect disappointment and trauma. You learn to temper your expectations, because it’s easier later.
I’ve tried really, really hard to let go of that over the past month with the Mariners. I’ll usually check FiveThirtyEight’s playoff odds every day, see that the Mariners are over 70%, and gape at it for several minutes. But it’s tough to see 70%, and not also see the implied 30% chance of failure. 30% is not insignificant.
Nights like these and weeks like this, it’s easier to see the downside in the Mariners season. The offense had the privilege of facing one of the worst bullpens in Major League Baseball and looked positively impotent. Mike Leake and the middle part of the bullpen looked more-than-mortal against a so-so Angels lineup. As of tonight, the Mariners have scored more than four runs in just one out of their last eight games. The A’s are catching up. Is it time to panic?
No, it’s not time to panic. There’s a reason that fans declare each huge win to be “the most impactful win this year”, most hot streaks to be “a sign of things to come”, and each dry spell to be “a team showing its true colors”. We all have recency bias, because the latest iteration of the team is the one that we remember best. That doesn’t mean it’s the best representation of the team.
I said the A’s are catching up. Are they? Today was July 10th. Since June 10th, the Mariners are 17-13. The A’s are 18-12. It’s taken a whole month for them to gain one game on the Mariners.
Is it guaranteed for the Mariners? Of course it isn’t. As you’ve probably either heard or remembered, the 1995 Mariners were more than 10 games back of the division lead far later in the season than this, and they came back. But the Mariners are still far more likely than not to make the playoffs. Don’t let recency bias cause you to panic.
For now, there are two things to help assuage that feeling of fear. First, there’s the sight of Mitch Haniger reminding everyone why he was named an All-Star, and that a Mariners lineup that’s looked impotent on occasion still has some power.
The second is this very funny video that is a good reminder of that fact that, as bad as we might feel tonight, the A’s probably feel 10 times worse.
So relax. The sky is probably not falling. The Mariners are still in a far better position than any of the team beneath them in the American League.
But even if the sky is falling, and the floor falls out from beneath the Mariners, at least we know how to deal with it.