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So Your Bullpen Likes to Make Things Interesting

A Fan’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Late Innings

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Does this sight strike fear in your baseball heart? You’ve come to the right place.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Through these early days of the 2019 baseball season the Seattle Mariners are an astonishing 6-1, leading the rest of MLB by 2 wins. We thought the offense would be good, and it has delivered with a staggering 48 runs scored, largely on the backs of 15 home runs. We thought the bullpen would be shaky, and have they ever delivered on that promise. The late innings this season promise to stretch interminably, but we can be assured they will not be boring.

The Mariners feature a power hitting offense combined with a bobble-y defense and an antacid-selling bullpen, a combination we haven’t seen so starkly since those teams in the mid to late 90s. As the games unravel this weekend, I watched Mariner fans clutch their chests and hyperventilate as the games came closer and closer to slipping away. Yet, I felt none of that tension nor nausea. It felt…it felt like coming home.

I cut my teeth on those prodigious power hitting teams and those bullpens for whom there was no lead too large to blow. I feel the comfort of childhood and the warm embrace of games that are never over until that final out is recorded (and even then I don’t totally trust it). It has felt like catching up with an old friend.

I understand those of you who have not enjoyed the bullpen so far. You are having a far more normal reaction than I am. It makes sense to bemoan this new reality after losing Edwin Diaz and after the last few seasons, when the bullpen blowing the game was the exception rather than the rule. If you are struggling to accept this new reality, I would like to offer some advice.

I make no assertions that I have stumbled upon a surefire way to survive this season without resultant health problems. I believe that my—dare I say—enjoyment of this bullpen stems from deep baseball trauma. However, I believe I have a few tools that may help some of you some of the time.

Here are my tips to stop yearning for the bullpen you lost, and start accepting the bullpen you have:

1. Buy the ticket, take the ride, bby

No, no, no, no. I don’t mean you should find hallucinogens to alter your reality. In fact, I strongly advise against using mind altering substances of any kind in order to tolerate the bullpen. What I mean is, hop aboard and buckle up; you are on the roller coaster of the 2019 Seattle Mariners. The sooner you can disabuse yourself of the notion that there will be easy wins or simple saves, the less stressful the season will be.

Accept that your stomach will surge when Scott Servais motions toward the ‘pen. Resign yourself to the runs that will cross the plate. Lean in to the chaos and embrace the offensive onslaught. Breathe it in and fill your lungs with sweet, sweet disorder.

As Clark Griffith, owner of the erstwhile Washington Senators, once said, “Fans like home runs and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans.”

2. Serenity now!

The Serenity Prayer is oft repeated for a reason: it’s a great piece of advice for baseball fans. Essentially, you need to learn the difference between the things you can control and the things you cannot control. You cannot control Hunter Strickland deciding to pitch through an injury even though he physically cannot throw some of his pitches. You can’t control which pitcher Scott Servais selects from the bullpen. All you can control is you.

So, develop some elaborate superstitious rituals. Try a few things out until you find something that works. Did you wear a certain shirt on a day the ‘pen sailed through the late innings? Never take it off! Did you eat a certain meal that led to a converted save? Never eat anything else! There are people who will roll their eyes at your rituals and say superstition is stupid. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. You can only control what you can control, and you can control your superstitious behavior.

Once it doesn’t work, find something else. This is very important. You’ve got to know when to fold.

If all else fails, just yell, “Serenity now!” when the bullpen gives you palpitations. I can already imagine the ballpark on a midsummer's night, the crowd chanting, “Serenity now!” in unison. Beautiful. And far more effective than booing.

3. It could always be worse, and it has been worse

It is true that someone else has it worse than you, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t serve to delegitimize your pain. So, I want to take a moment to acknowledge your stress and the anxious energy that envelops your being when Servais saunters out to the mound.

Now, let’s also take a quick peek back at the Mariners bullpens of yore to see how much better we have it. For example, we don’t have any pitchers who have blown the World Series and been on trial for rape:

Jose Mesa #49
Jose Mesa

We won’t watch a hero of Mariners teams past struggle time after time. Dave Niehaus once described a tortured outing as the Sheriff falling off his horse and into some excrement:

Norm Charlton
Norm Norm Charlton

We didn’t trade away two top prospects (and future World Series ring wearers and Red Sox franchise icons) for anyone in the ‘pen, only to get 9 relief losses in return:

Heathcliff Slocumb
Heathcliff (censored) Slocumb

We don’t have the guy who still raises blood pressures and throws off electrocardiograms throughout the greater Seattle area, and who is often referred to in whispers as He Who Shall Not Be Named (even though, as it turns out, he wasn’t as bad as you remember):

Bobby Ayala
Bobby Ayala

So, take a deep breath, and remember those glorious blowpens. The current guys have a long way to go before they’re on that level.

4. They aren’t trying to win, so it doesn’t actually matter

This is maybe the most important point. The Mariners aren’t trying to win. The players are, sure, but the greater organization is not. They’re also not trying to lose, so don’t start chanting, “Suck for Luck!” (or, more accurately for this situation, “Tank for Tork(elson)!”) at games. Theoretically, the more games the pen loses, the better the draft picks. We want those prime draft picks! This is also why they won’t give up a pick to sign Craig Kimbrel, so please release that silly idea into the ether. We are here to accept the bullpen as it is, not as we wish it to be.

It would be extremely Mariners to snag a Wild Card while they’re retooling, I admit. But if that happens, it won’t be because you’ve been stressing out about who the team can add to the bullpen.

5. Use the bullpen as an excuse to get more sleep

There are 162 games in the major league regular season. Games rarely finish in less than 3 hours, and often last longer. As baseball fans, we not only understand the grind, we embrace it. In doing so, we often place masochistic expectations upon ourselves. I admit there was a time in my life when I thought you weren’t a real fan if you didn’t watch every minute of every game. That is silly and ridiculous. Everyone, it’s okay to turn off the game early!

In fact, if the bullpen causes more cardiac discomfort than dark pleasure, turn off the game and go to bed early. Nobody gets enough sleep these days. We’re all walking around tired all the time. Instead of diminishing your health, the Mariners bullpen can improve your health!

Instead of staying up late to watch games drag on and on, go to sleep when the starter leaves the game. As we mentioned above, outcomes don’t really matter this season, so just pretend the game is over when the starting pitcher leaves. Live your life free from the tyranny of wins and losses!


I hope my suggestions will help you make peace with the turbulent ride ahead. Please share any suggestions you have for your fellow fans below. Remember, we’re all on this crazy ride together.