In the first inning the Mariners had runners at first and second with nobody out. Nelson Cruz, Ryon Healy, and Kyle Seager were all up, and they failed to score.
In the fifth the Mariners had runners at first and second with two outs. Jean Segura was up, and they failed to score.
In the seventh the Mariners loaded the bases with two outs. Jean Segura was up, and they failed to score.
In the eighth the Mariners loaded the bases with two outs. Daniel Vogelbach was up (to pinch hit for Guillermo Heredia), and...
We like to think that, as Mariners fans, we know disappointment. Maybe next year, maybe next year, maybe next year, until we can’t even summon the breath for those empty wishes. But our lives aren’t dictated by this game, or this organization. Sure, it certainly can feel like it, particularly in the midst of the season, but ultimately we go to our (non Mariners) jobs, we go to (non Mariners) school, we spend time with our (non Mariners) friends, and we shed that disappointment. It’s the the twisted pewter lining of fandom being beyond our control - we have no sway over this game, but it does not define us.
Daniel Vogelbach knows disappointment. Since the Mariners plucked him from the safe and cozy confines of the Cubs organization, he’s known little else but disappointment. He made his major league debut in September 2016, when rosters expanded, and there was lots of talk about how he could be the first baseman of the future. That offseason the M’s acquired Danny Valencia, and that first-baseman-of-the-future chatter turned into platoon-of-the-future chatter. Valencia struggled as an everyday player, so the team...acquired Yonder Alonso for a first base platoon. That season, Danny Valencia recorded 500 plate appearances. Vogelbach recorded 31. With Valencia gone after 2017, 2018 looked to be the Year of Daniel. Instead, Seattle acquired Ryon Healy, who is under club control until 2022.
By all accounts, Vogelbach has been a commendable teammate, a fine presence in the clubhouse, and a pretty darn good ballplayer. Last year in AAA he slashed .290/.388/.455, and this year he stepped up his game to hit a raucous. 290/.434/.545, with an outrageous .979 OPS. He was competent in his time with the big league club this year, and it’s grown increasingly difficult to fathom why exactly this organization - which gave up a not insignificant player to acquire him - has refused to give Vogelbach more major league opportunities.
Unlike fans, baseball doesn’t simply help to shape who Daniel Vogelbach is, it is his identity. Not only that, it’s his livelihood, the reason for his sacrifices, the means with which the very validity of his presence is defined and assessed. We can go to the store, or go for a walk, and we can leave our Mariners disappointment behind like an ill-fitting cap; Vogelbach doesn’t have this privilege. Instead, when he goes to the store, he stocks up on whatever his measly minor league budget can afford, and when he goes for a walk he strides cautiously, careful not to aggravate his injured hamstring.
He’s sacrificed his health, his financial wellbeing, his family, and his sense of home in pursuit of this game. He’s done just about all you could hope for, from a minor league player, but has had little to show for his efforts. This isn’t unusual - all too often in this life, hard work goes unrewarded. Tonight it did not.