I’ve come to a point in my life where I think through important decisions. I know. There’s a little check list I go through when weighing something out. First, is it actually important? Will the outcome matter next week? Next month? Will I care about this in a year? Five years? Almost always, the answer is no. It turns out that not many things are very important.
But what if something is? Then the actual decision has to be made. And I think: What’s the worst-case scenario if I do this? Or if I do that? The very worst case, reasonably? Usually, it isn’t that bad. Reasonably.
This process breaks down when it comes to baseball. Is it important? Well, no. At least, it shouldn’t be. Will the outcome matter next week? Sure. Next month? Possibly. Next year? Probably not.
But what if it does?
No, in the grand scheme of things, baseball isn’t important. But it matters to us. For whatever reason, it matters to you, if you’re reading this. And when it comes to the Mariners, the answer to “Will this matter in five years?” is unfortunately Maybe! Because what if the Astros are good for years, and the A’s keep getting better, and the Angels recover from their injuries, and Nelson Cruz leaves, and the window snaps shut before it even opened, and this was their only actual chance?
About that worst-case scenario.
That’s the most fucked up part. The worst-case scenario for this game was easy to imagine. It involved Safeco Field half-full of almost exclusively Blue Jays fans, screaming and cheering as Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales took Félix Hernández deep, effectively ending his Mariners career as a starter and completing the Mariners’ collapse out of the playoff picture.
No, baseball had something worse in mind. It wasn’t content with predictable story lines. That would have been too easy to laugh at. We’re too used to them.
No, baseball gave us a cosmically hilarious performance of dumpster fire theater. It gave us Félix Hernández, playing the role of Félix Hernández. It gave us Nelson Cruz, playing the role of Ichiro Suzuki. You’ve seen this one before. The Mariners open the scoring in the first inning, on the back of their sole offensive threat, Nelson Cruz. Félix Hernández, after pitching a scoreless first inning, makes a couple of mistakes in the second, the Mariners’ defense doesn’t quite pick him up, and it’s a tie game.
Félix Hernández throws a scoreless frame, and the Mariners match him. Except each Félix scoreless inning seems more laborious than the last, while each Mariners doughnut seems to take no time at all. He does it twice, and the Mariners match. He does it three times, and still the Mariners match. After getting out of a particularly sticky situation, Félix tries to act like he’s jacked, except he’s not. You can tell he’s not.
Félix leaves, gassed, after five innings. It was everything he could do to give the Mariners five innings of two-run baseball.
Finally, in the seventh inning, the horror crystalized before our eyes. Juan Nicasio gave up a single, and Justin Smoak came up to bat. How funny would it be? We thought. If Justin Smoak was the one to knock the Mariners out of a playoff spot? Smoak struck out. And the brief moment of relief gave way to abject horror when Kendrys Morales came up to bat.
Kendrys Morales simultaneously knocking the Mariners out of a playoff spot and ruining a decent Félix start might have been the most poetic way for this game to happen. Except this was more like Beowulf than Tennyson. There would be one more Nelson Cruz home run, which almost made it feel worse. As sorry as I might feel for myself, I feel doubly sorry for Nelson Cruz.
If there’s something kind to be said, it’s that Robinson Canó is due to play in about three quarters of the Mariners’ remaining games. It’s that the Mariners have the fifth-best record in baseball. It’s that their only competition is the Oakland A’s, against whom they have ten more games, nine of which Canó will play in.
Will this matter in five years? What’s the worst that could happen? Let’s hope we don’t find out.