Where are you going?
For the past few months I have had to wonder where I am going to live. My significant other has been accepted into seven law schools, which is great, but that means seven different cities, seven different apartments, seven different possible futures. We answer our friends’ and families’ questions as best we can. Months from now we know our lives will be different. That’s all we know.
What will you do when you get there?
The success over these first nine games is not expected to last. As with Healy, everyone agrees they are playing out of their position. Things will change, they will step back. Everything goes back to normal, eventually.
Isn’t the suspense exciting?
During a crisp 56 degree Chicago afternoon, the sky a cement-mixer grey, Mike Leake stood small atop the hill.
Mike Leake does not look like a major league baseball player. Mike Leake resembles a guy who prides himself on always being willing to share his cigarettes with strangers.
But he works quick, throws strikes, and he has something that many White Sox players don’t: experience.
Working with new battery-mate Murphy, Gas-Station Attendant Leake dotted his pitches in and out of the zone. Using a sinker, backdoor cutter, and solid change, he kept hitters off balance. It wasn’t an overpowering performance, (6.1 innings, 6K, 2 ER), but it never is. It was exactly the kind of game the Mariners need from their starters because the goal is to never let Cory Gearrin touch a baseball.
What will you tell your job?
Early on, former top-prospect Lucas Giolito matched Leake pitch for pitch, racking up quick outs and filling the zone with his 94 mph heater (an interesting quirk of Giolito’s is that his throwing motion resembles what I image a robotic arm designed by promising but inexperienced undergraduate science students would look like).
The team would have to adjust to Giolito’s game plan, take pitches, wait for something in the middle of the zone. Last season? I would have been resigned to a low-scoring duel. This team, though? This team is patient. This team, with Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy, leads the league in plate discipline.
Mallex worked a patient AB and a walk in the third. He then tried to make something happen by taking off for second while Domingo singled into right, a good idea at the time. But Mallex loses track of the ball, circles back, and forgets to touch second in the process.
This would be a theme. Not dumb decisions on the bases, necessarily. Not the absent minded base-running we’ve seen on teams of yore. But an inability to trust that you are doing the right thing. A hesitance to go for it.
Which schools, did you say?
I sit, hunched over a screen in my Bay Area apartment and keep a search up for jobs in seven different cities. My girlfriend is in Southern California visiting a law school in a place I deem too hot for human occupancy. I look up commute times, apartments. I make fictional budgets for jobs I don’t yet have in places I may never live.
What will you do there?
In the third, after a second Mallex walk, Haniger steps to the plate against Giolito, looking to erase the memory of his first inning K. In that first at bat, Haniger took a fastball up in the zone for a first pitch strike. In the second?
He makes an adjustment. Haniger is known for his adaptability, making changes in the middle of at bats. The ability to be flexible is key to sustaining success (hear that, Mariners?). The Mariners took the lead and didn’t let it go.
Speaking of adjustments, Human Baseball Player Dylan Moore further endeared the staff to Kristopher Negron by grounding immediately into a double play during his first AB.
In his next at bat? Moore did something extraordinary: He got a hit. His first. His reaction?
It was such a shocking play that Healy, following the wisdom of the third base coach, stops and starts around third as the center fielder appears to lose track of the ball. Healy does not have the frame to support stopping and starting. Healy runs on diesel.
Once again, indecision costs the Mariners.
Are you moving somewhere?
I have made a chart trying to account for every variable in the potential move. I have scored every city and every school using the 20-80 scouting scale. I know that wherever I move, finding another teaching job will be difficult. I know I will have to make new friends. I know that I am bad at making new friends.
Where will you end up?
Luckily Jay Bruce, Oldest 32 Year Old on the Planet, decided to earn his #1 Dad mug by hitting a baseball using all of his pent-up disappointment. The ball traveled 415 feet.
After his second home run later in the game, Jay Bruce is now hitting .184 and has 7 hits in ten games. Five of those hits are home runs. He is slugging .605.
Jay Bruce was supposed to be a throw-in reclamation project. He wasn’t supposed to hit like this. To be fair, no one is supposed to hit like this.
Do you have a plan?
Tim Beckham wasn’t supposed to be good, either. His job was to keep the bat warm for Crawford, to fill a space between second and third until a prospect could relieve him.
But Beckham, filled to the brim with raw meat, reached down and slapped a curve for a three-run homer. It only left the bat at ~90mph, but it was great to see Beckham hit a low pitch. He has not normally made solid contact low in the zone. Yet here he is. Here they all are.
I bet you wish you just knew, already.
The rest of the game unfolded in the exact opposite of my preseason expectations. Bruce crushed another homer. Healy walked twice. The bullpen didn’t implode. The mind boggles.
Even Beckham TOOTBLANing after a solid drive in the gap could not spoil the day.
It wouldn’t matter, but you can see Beckham beginning to push the boundaries of what he can do, feeling out the potential, checking how far he can go. The Mariners, too, feel like a team that is unsure of how far it can go, pushing to see where they will be pushed back.
Don’t you love where you live now?
I was ready with a rewrite. This bullpen is exciting in that way. So for locking the game down, I want to extend some gratitude to Brandon Brennan for doing this:
And to Roenis Elias for doing this:
For one game, in every aspect (except base running), the Mariners dominated. They clubbed three more home runs. They made zero errors. The bullpen held. No one got hurt. There were too many moments to cover, too many positive developments to mention in one recap (Sadzek threw 99 mph? That’s a thing, now?).
This is not the team anyone expected would be in this position ten games into the season.
I can’t keep from wondering: What is this team capable of? Actually capable of? There are thousands of different potential paths the season could take, and it’s impossible to guess. But I wonder.
Tell me: what is your dream scenario?
I took a walk in the eighth inning to reduce some recap-related anxieties. I checked the mail on my way back and I found this letter.
I didn’t open it, it’s not mine to open. But inside there is an answer to a question. It could be an acceptance into once of the most prestigious law schools in the country. Statistically? It’s likely a rejection. The odds of anyone getting accepted are in the single digits.
Still, I look at the letter and imagine one possible outcome out of all the others. It seems incredible, impossible, and ideal. I set down the envelope. I wait.