An unfortunate truth about the Seattle Mariners is that their long standing ineptitude has mostly robbed them of a true rival.
* dusts off my best third grade book report *
Webster’s Dictionary defines rival as “one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess”. While that is inherently true of every sporting fixture—only one team can win the game—the exclusive possession bit kind of leaves the Mariners out. A few teams are certainly capable of winning the division in any given year, but only one can ultimately possess the AL West crown. This has rarely concerned the Mariners, especially for the majority of this decade. When the team is facedown in the mud with such impressive regularity, it’s hard to drum up actual hatred for anyone else. If you’re 5’6” watching other people dunk, you don’t view that as them taking something away from you, but rather something you’d like to do if the circumstances were completely warped.
For one night, though, that all evaporated. On September 16, 2015, the Mariners entered that night’s proceedings with a 70-76 record, eight games back of the division lead. Their opponent that night, the perpetually annoying Angels, hovered around .500 before finishing third in the west. In other words, this game didn’t really matter the same way it would if the M’s or Halos had reasonable playoff expectations. Do not ever tell Kyle Seager that a game against the Angels doesn’t matter, though. In the course of about two minutes, Kyle and the Mariners were introduced to a rival.
The theatrics of this moment are simply too good to be true. Kyle Seager stands in the box against Jered Weaver, both men of baseball families who take immense pride in their work. The first pitch is about as bland as they come, an 83 MPH Weaverball that sort of dies before it gets all the way home, almost like it doesn’t even want to be there. Seager then mills around for a second before assuming the position yet again. As Mariner fans, we’ve seen it thousands of times from our trusty third baseman.
Hand extended backward, signaling that he needs some time. Synchronized bend of both knees, dropping his one-of-a-kind booty even lower. Little crotch grab sometimes, depends how he’s feeling. Then a twirl of the bat, and he’s ready to go. Except this time, Jered Weaver was cramping his style. Kyle’s routine is meticulous and timing-based. As such, he gets miffed when that whole charade is disturbed. This is the sort of thing you can only really get away with if you’ve had some success at the big-league level, which Seager has! Even still, Jered Weaver is big mad.
Kyle Seager then takes it upon himself to kindly remind Weaver, “Hey buddy. I mean you no harm. I just can’t hit until I’m properly feeling myself. Capeesh?”
Okay actually that’s not totally true. The broadcast cuts away from it, but between the defiant “I’m friggin’ standing here” point and the next pitch, Kyle Seager fully became a Mariner. In one GIF, he encapsulated all of our feelings about Jered Weaver, and the Angels as a staff, label, and as a motherfucking crew.
Jered Weaver, and this part will shock you, is still being difficult. Around the 27-second mark of the video posted above, you see Weaver clearly let out a hearty expletive. After taking a second to gather himself, Weaver assumes the mound once more, only to find Seager giving the umpire the ol’ “He started it!”
At this point, it feels like Weaver’s mind is made up. He’s creating a new township called Drill Town, population: Kyle Seager. In classic big brother fashion, though, Kyle is going to dictate his own terms.
One is not fully ready until they emphatically say so.
To the surprise of no one, Weaver’s next pitch flies straight at the hitter, landing squarely on Seager’s flesh. Anaheim’s slender tobacco plant is promptly ejected, drawing cheers from the Safeco Field crowd and even more agita from the Mariners. Perhaps the most underrated moment from this whole ordeal is Nelson Cruz. In this production, Cruz puts his own flare on a common trope: big, menacing person who you do not want to fight. We’ve seen them on screen, usually emerging from a dark corner of a pool hall, but we’ve never seen the role executed with such comedic timing.
It’s almost as if Nellie knew the exact moment the camera would be on him and waited until just then to slam the doughnut off his bat. There was never a possibility of Cruz using his bat to inflict pain on anyone, but after seeing that visual, the message is still the same.
The Mariners of the 2010s were mostly bad, but they were not to be trifled with. As I sit at my desk and write this, I am protected by a Kyle Seager bobblehead. It looks truly nothing like him, but that’s not important. What matters to me is the fact that Kyle Seager had no business becoming a Mariner legend. He lacked the prospect hype of the Ackleys, Monteros, and Franklins of the world. He didn’t come over in some mega free agent deal or Earth-shattering trade. Kyle Seager was drafted, developed, and raised by the Seattle Mariners. Seeing him defend the name across his chest with such honor told me everything I needed to know about the man. From September 16, 2015 to infinity, I will cherish Kyle Seager and all that he did.
But above all else, this spat with a divisional bully told me that, when it comes time to throw down, Kyle Seager is fucking ready.