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2018 Faves: Lookout Landing’s Best Articles of 2018

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Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Every year at LL, we like to look back on the body of work we’ve produced over the past year and pick out some highlights or pieces that especially captured the essence of the previous season. Reading back over the body of articles for 2018 was, as you might expect, quite a trip through valleys and mountains. We invite you to journey back in time with us and relive moments of the 2018 season: the last season of Safeco Field, the last season of Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz as Mariners, but unfortunately not the last season the Mariners would leave us disappointed at the end. Hopefully we helped make the good times extra-sweet and the bad times bearable. Thank you all for reading in 2018, and for sticking with us over what should be an...interesting 2019, if nothing else.

Eric:

Beyond Jackie ~ Matthew Roberson

This was Matthew’s first article for LL and he came out swinging like Nelson Cruz unleashing on a fat ass hanging breaking ball. Masterful stuff all about the history of black MLB players and why they’ve been in decline numbers-wise for the last several decades.

I also feel the need to give a shoutout to Matthew’s hilarious About Last Night in which he broke down one of the last happy moments of the 2018 season.

I feel bad just singling out one staffer because EVERYONE here did awesome work this year and I freaking love you all, but Matthew gets ROY honors for 2018.

My proudest: About Last Night: We care if you’re having a bad day, Dee

I feel like I’ve become LL’s Grief Advisor, but such is life and death. I really appreciate all the kind words from folks and thank you to everyone who shared similar stories of loss in the comments and on Twitter/FB.

John:

Edwin Díaz is the Mariners’ MVP. Don’t Trade Him, You Dummies ~ Jake Mailhot & Kate Preusser

One of the best things about writing for LL is that it is a welcoming environment for nearly any idea. Kate cultivates a place where any point can be argued and defended, which makes it fun to debate, and while many of us come from similar lines of thinking, we can occasionally get fiery in our discussions. Typically, Jake Mailhot is a calm observer, offering his thoughts and asking questions, but rarely leaping into the fray with fervor. But the suggestion that Seattle trade their brilliant closer touched a nerve, and Jake rushed to the ramparts to defend against our heathen horde. While history overran him and Kate this offseason, I don’t think the case they made rings any less true today. There has never been someone like Edwin Díaz, and while Seattle may come out just fine on the other side, it was a bittersweet day when he departed.

As for my own writing, I was proudest of my work digging through video to uncover Evan White’s swing change late in the season, which Kate very kindly praises below. 25 Dan Vogelbachs was by far the most fun piece I wrote this year, and the sequel should deliver me (and Jake) delight as well. I will say, however, little was more satisfying this season than seeing Marco Gonzales shine after going through film and Baseball Savant data to discover the adjustments he’d made with his arm slot, so I will claim Marco Gonzales Lowered His Arm Slot and Raised His Ceiling as my best work this year. Thank you all for making this work worthwhile, and I can’t wait for what 2019 brings.

Matthew:

About Last Night: We Care If You’re Having a Bad Day, Dee ~ Eric Sanford

These words hit me like a freight train.

Not only did Eric’s essay come during the Mariners’ mid-August slide, making the morose undertones fit like a glove, it also resonated on a deep personal level as someone whose mother also died too young. One piece of writing gave me a palpable connection to Dee Gordon, Eric, and the rest of us who struggle with grief’s unfair confusion. The GIF of Dee in the on-deck circle, thousand-yard staring into the void, only to hold his bat up to his shoulders as if to say “Well, this sucks, but I have to keep going,” was one of the most powerful images of the year, and I’m so grateful that my friend Eric wrote so beautifully about it.

Honorable Mentions: Tim Cantu’s recap of the Harold Reynolds Facebook game. Isabelle Minasian’s recap of the Paxton no-hitter.

My proudest: In terms of actual, Serious Writing, it’s this.

In terms of capturing the 2018 season, it’s this.

In terms of absolute nonsense, it’s this.

If I can actually be earnest for a second, I want to thank the entire Lookout Landing community for being so welcoming in my first year, and making me feel like a belong in a world that so often stiff-arms the kind of tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted, not Respecting The GameTM writing that I often produce. Huge shoutout to the editorial team of Kate, John, Jake, and Isabelle for bringing me on to the team, and the rest of the staff for being so encouraging and familial. I’m extremely excited for the future.

Amanda:

I had a tough time narrowing this down! I went with 3 articles in 3 different categories:

The Emotional Gut-Punch: About Last Night: We care if you’re having a bad day, Dee ~ Eric Sanford

Losing a parent is the sort of thing that’s impossible to understand until you experience it. Reading this made me immensely thankful to still have my mom, and overwhelmingly sad for everyone who has lost theirs. As a mom myself, I can say with absolute certainty that everything Eric wrote about mothers is spot on.

The Important Stuff: Beyond Jackie ~ Mathew Roberson

As much as it would be great to just focus on what happens between the baselines in baseball, it’s not always possible. I appreciated Mathew’s fearless dive into the current makeup of baseball and the experience of being a little league player and fan who doesn’t see himself represented on the field.

The Frivolous Fun: 25 Dan Vogelbachs ~ John Trupin

I want Dan Vogelbach to get a chance to prove himself at the Major League level, but John took that a step further and decided to have Vogelbach prove himself at the Major League level at ALL the positions. I found this series hilarious and highly entertaining.

My proudest: Loss of trust and a call for change: A roundtable discussion on the Mariners’ front-office harassment scandal.

Working on this with Kate and Isabelle was easily the best thing I worked on this year. I’m proud of the fact that we were the only outlet looking deeply at this. Centering women’s voices in a sports conversation that affects women is rare and unique, and I’m proud that Lookout Landing and Kate felt it was important to put out there.

Tim:

About Last Night: Learning How to Adapt ~ Isabelle Minasian

The About Last Night pieces are some of LL’s strongest. Sometimes it’s the writing, sometimes the moment you write about does the work for you, quite frankly. This one has the writing, the moment, and additionally kicked off Lookout Landing doing a heck of a lot to help the Denard Span Foundation meet their goal to give a car to a single mother in need. It was an amazing piece of writing and a testament to Isabelle’s exceptional kindness and generosity. She’ll be missed.

My proudest: About Last Night: Love and Baseball

I led this off with “Promotional giveaways are fickle things.” Well, so is baseball writing, because my favorite Mariner of the decade and the subject of this piece had a particularly unpleasant falling out with the club and his teammates, leading to the JP Crawford trade. Even with that context, this is a nice look back first at the beginning of the season and how joyous it was, and next as a reminder of who Jean Segura is, and how much more there is to him than anything that happens on the field (or in the clubhouse.) He won’t be in Seattle any more, but I’ll still root for him and his family, and this walkoff will always remind me of why.

Kate:

Evan White Found His Power Swing - John Trupin

Evan White had a breakout year that will probably put him on at least someone’s Top 100 list this year, and John Trupin has still, in my estimation, produced the best, most in-depth piece of scouting on White. Certainly it was one of the first, if not the first, to notice that White’s lowered hands had resulted in more power. It’s still the third result that comes up on Google when you search “Evan White.”

Mariners Walk a Tightrope, Give Fans Fright, Hope - Zach Gottschalk

Before the season fell apart, we were treated to some breathless recaps as everyone on staff wondered: Could They Do The Thing? They couldn’t, but pieces like Gotty’s recap of a 1-0 victory over the A’s made it feel like they could.

About Last Night: Daniel Vogelbach hit a grand slam - Tim Cantu

One of my favorite things about the About Last Night pieces is they let you relive a moment so fully that even to read one months later is to have a transportative experience. I remember exactly where I was when Vogelbach hit what would be a game-winning grand slam, and I remember it mostly because of the particularly fine job Tim did in recapturing the magic, and reminding us that joy is a choice. Reader, he hopped.

Written back in January, Jake’s piece on the cognitive dissonance of the Mariners’ offseason would be oddly prophetic not just for that off-season, but for this one, as well. It feels like something that could have been written today. That’s...not great.

Making joy--or at least, jokes--out of pain has been the daily bread of LL since its inception. Matthew Roberson’s “41 things better than watching the Mariners play the 41-win Orioles” is a proud entry in that tradition.

Goodbye, Edwin Diaz and 9th innings of Fire - Amanda Lane

I’m not great with loss. I don’t say much, which is a bad quality for a writer, and instead all that sadness comes out in weird places like crying over a pet food commercial. Losing so many of the players who formed the core of the 2016-2018 Mariners in succession was difficult to process, and I’m really grateful for Amanda’s piece on Edwin Diaz that reminded me why we get attached to players in the first place, why love is worth the risk of loss, and why it’s important to spend some time with loss instead of just burying it in a deep dark hole and hoping it won’t cause a griefquake.

Connor:

Mariners win as Seattle is reminded how beautiful baseball can be - Zach Gottschalk

This was easily my favorite recap of the year. After a wild, come-from-behind win against the Red Sox, Gotty captured the feelings of the game masterfully, with an exceptional pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Denard Span’s go-ahead double in the eighth - arguably his best moment as a Mariner. Mid-June had us all feeling on top of the world, and although the second half ended in sadness, this game - and recap - may have been the peak of the positivity.

My proudest: Mariners go! Fight! WIN!

I wrote nearly two dozen recaps last year, none more emotionally driven than this one. That afternoon, news of Robinson Canó’s suspension broke, sending Mariner fandom into a deep, dark hole. Throw in the fact that my car had been stolen the past Thursday, and it was a grim time. Undeterred, though, the team pulled out a wild win against the Rangers, with Guillermo Heredia’s walkoff hit in the 11th sealing the deal. I didn’t publish this recap until nearly 2am, adrenaline coursing through my veins as I wrote. Even though so many of the heroes from this game have moved on, it will always hold a special place in my heart as the team played on without Robi.

Zach:

If it all goes right - Kate Preusser and John Trupin

It’s funny to look back on this piece now. It still carries with it the excitement and anticipation before the 2018 season. It envisions a 3-win Marco Gonzales, which happened, and then some. It also envisions Dee Gordon being a successful leadoff hitter, which did not happen. Most importantly, though: as I read the article I can almost feel the energy this community carried with it into 2018. I can almost remember how nice it was in the first half, before everything went to shit. I thought that the second half had erased those memories from my brain entirely, but Kate’s and John’s annual hopeful season preview brought them right back in a way that only those two could have induced.

My proudest: If it all goes wrong

While I obviously enjoy it most when the Mariners win or my life is going well, I feel most at home writing about the unglamorous sadness that inevitably sandwiches the happy moments of baseball. I read this article and I see my feelings about this season reflected in the screen. I feel the loss of Robinson, and Jean, and Nelson, and Edwin, and Mike. As Bob Ross once said: “Gotta have a little sadness so you know when the good times come. I’m waiting on the good times now.”