The feeling has been so rare it might as well be new. Merciful as it was seeing Dee Gordon flick a throw to first base to seal the Mariners 10-8 win last night, the sensation I speak of has buzzed its way into all six games Seattle has played this year. As the M’s offense has clobbered baseballs around the yard, putting pressure on opponents with lengthy plate appearances and fearless swings, there’s been a refreshing feeling hanging in the air longer than a Domingo Santana moonshot.
Hope is too generic, and doesn’t capture the immediacy of the feeling. Optimism ignores the nuance of the sensation, as it is the collectively understood unlikeliness of the success that make it all the more delightful. Relaxation undersells the excitement, and of course the sheer terror sprinkled in throughout the weekend. I’ve racked my brain for the right term for days and it has eluded me all weekend, but I will settle for the closest answer: gratifying.
It has been gratifying watching the Mariners without stress. The tranquility of a Spring Training not spent worrying a team of talented veterans would be undone by injuries before leaving the station has carried into the season. The gift of low expectations has made each victory sweeter, but with every individual play the transcendent delight has grown greater. For the 2016-2018 Mariners, these would have been near-must-win games, with each win potentially the separator between an elusive playoff berth and elimination. I’ve loved many parts of the last several seasons. All the same, I do not relish the feeling in the pit of my stomach as the team struggled to uncover an extra win in the couch cushions every afternoon and scrounge up the record to ride the playoff carousel.
Instead, this season has unwrapped an unexpected gift. Bucking the deceitful traditions of April 1st, these Mariners are a fun fact generating machine. Their 5-1 start is the team’s best since 1995 while their nine errors to open the season is the most in the first six games since 1998. They’ve tied the team record for 5+ run-scoring games to open the season and have devastated excellent Red Sox starting pitchers in the process. Hell, they’re averaging eight runs per game and have a 172 wRC+ as a team through their first 258 PAs. Unsurprisingly, no team in MLB history has won more games in March, though even without the Japan Series they’d have still tied the record.
Individually, there’s even more to enjoy. Unexpected 3B Ryon Healy opened the season with seven straight XBHs before his shift-beating single Sunday afternoon. His partner on the left side of the infield, Tim Beckham, is carrying a 13-game hitting streak carrying through to September. Daniel Vogelbach hasn’t managed to record a hit in any of his seven plate appearances, but he’s walked in three of them. Domingo Santana brought down an unregulated Astros scouting drone with this homer.
This is the part of the article where I am obligated to tell you it won’t last, as though any of us, after this offseason/year/decade/nearly an entire new millennium, aren’t acutely aware of the probabilities. I was looking forward to this season because I love baseball, and the Mariners most of all. But I did not expect to enjoy this team all that much in March, nor in April, nor do I expect too much to change. There’s a long road between now and May or June, when we may see some of the prospects nearest to the bigs debut.
But I will not forget this weekend, nor the gratifying joy it blindsided me with. I did not need these young, strange, flawed Mariners to win, and they did so all the same. They made it fun, unexpected, and convincing against the World Champions, in a way that made me laugh aloud a dozen times mid-play. I will remember this joy, and hold it close no matter what comes next, because it surprised me to no end, and that is a delight all its own.