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If it all goes wrong

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In 2019, it seems likely

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

It’s four in the morning, and I’m still awake. I don’t want to be awake, but it’s not like I have much of a choice.

It’s late September, and my fan is still set up in the corner of my room. I haven’t needed it for about three weeks, but I’m going to keep pretending I’ll need it for at least one more night in 2019.

Everything considered, this summer was pretty good. Seattle saw its share of 80 degree days and we all got to see our share of reasonably exciting Mariner games. It’s not like losing 90 games was a surprise. The hitting was always supposed to be decent, and it was decent. The pitching was always supposed to be bad, and it was bad.

From a purely statistical perspective, the Mariners were what they have always seemed to be: average, but not in the good way. Normal, but somehow a little worse.

Ichiro’s retirement was sad, but not unexpected. I’ll be able to picture Yusei Kikuchi crying into Ichiro’s shoulder for the rest of my days. I think we all felt that, but at least we saw it coming. Félix leaving the team in May came as more of a shock. We knew it might happen at some point this year, but it was just so sudden. There was no chance to say goodbye. No standing ovation, or tip of the cap. One day, he just wasn’t with the team. He was never going to be the best player on this team, but suddenly the Mariners were missing what made them the Mariners.

Shortly after, Kyle came back from his injury. It was fitting, in a hollow sort of way, that he came back to a team that was already 13-25. He began his career with a dead Mariners team, and here he is with another dead Mariners team. It’s not his fault. Kyle seems like a good guy. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And now, after another season of hitting .220, it’s fair to wonder whether Seattle will ever be the right place for him, or if there’ll ever be a right time for him.

We never had Félix and Kyle at the same time this year. And we never will again. Though there’s one game left to play, the Mariners of the 2010’s are all but dead, with nothing but heartache to show for it.

Nothing but hundreds of hours of pulling for Félix only to see the team fail him. Followed by hundreds more hours of pulling for Félix only to see Félix’s body finally fail him.

Nothing but memories left of Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Canó. Memories of Edwin Díaz blowing away hitters, ensuring the team didn’t drop even closer to .500.

What else could I have done with those hours?

Sure, there will be a payoff eventually. The darkness only makes the come-up seem that much better. But when? After another hundred hours of watching Yusei Kikuchi having to go through the same thing Félix had to? Or will it be after a decade of watching Julio Rodriguez blossom into a phenom for a mediocre M’s team, only to see him finally find success elsewhere?

Or will the payoff be a decade after that?

Will we be the 80-year-olds desperately trying to ward off thoughts that tell us that, in all likelihood, we won’t ever see the payoff?

Will we even get that far? Or will the world boil over first, drowning our escapist fantasies while making them seem as silly and insignificant as a third grader’s crush?

I’ve always laughed it off, but it seems more real by the year. The prospects were fine, but none of them seemed to take the massive step forward they needed to to make the Mariners 2021 dreams seem like reality. The 14th-ranked farm system looked... a lot like the 14th-ranked farm system. How much farther are we going to keep kicking the can down the road?

It’s four in the morning, and the last game of the season is tomorrow. I’m still awake, and I can’t stop thinking about how the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years. That’s 4,100 weeks, give or take. The weeks go by so quickly, too. Especially in the summer. Especially when there’s baseball.

It’s late September in 2019, and I’m still holding out for that last nice day of the year. I’m still holding out for that one Mariners team that surprises everyone.

It looks like that’s what we’ll need. It only needs to happen once.

Just once.