I’m an astronomy rube compared to fellow staff writer Zach Gottschalk, but I’ve long been fascinated by outer space. Where Zach sought to fill that wonder with the knowledge to study it further, I’ve long opted for science fiction in many forms to satisfy and build my curiosity. The Foundation Trilogy and its representation of the most far-reaching plans being threatened by the slightest elements of chaos stick with me. Asimov’s take on this ‘stepback’ season would likely be simple - “To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.”
But as charmingly apt as a few of Salvor Hardin’s quotes feel to Jerry Dipoto’s attempts at roster construction, the extraterrestrial event that has stuck in my head while watching this team originated in our own world. The Arecibo Message and the Voyager Golden Records are two of the most romantic, majestic, and terrifying things to consider in human history. Attempting to contact alien life and offer them a slice of our own world, even knowing the likely futility of the effort. These intergalactic envoys are eternally tasked with carrying their unlikely message forth, and the odds of a response remain infinitesimal. But what if they did answer? What if a response came tomorrow, in a fleet in our sky or a message of their own? And why? Why now?
I’ve thought these things many times to myself as I’ve watched the Mariners fearsome foursome of first basemen terrorize pitchers so far in this young season. Jay Bruce, Daniel Vogelbach, Edwin Encarnación, and Ryon Healy have laid waste to pitching staff after pitching staff, with last night’s output alone equalling a hearty 6-for-14 with four HRs and four BBs. Obviously Healy has spent most of his time at 3rd base, while Bruce occasionally moonlights at corner OF and Encarnación and Vogelbach take turns in the DH role. But these are, ultimately, first basemen with a dash of DH, here to dominate in a way I’ve truly never seen before, and Mariners fans are wholly unfamiliar with in the near and distant pass. It has been nearly a decade since the Mariners sought their next solution at the cold corner, and after over a dozen years of silence, their offer has finally fallen on capable ears.
Their arrival comes after over a decade of silence from the 1B position and, outside of Nelson Cruz’s exceptional four years, a supermassive black hole from their DHs as well. It’s a travesty that has been well covered for many years from numerous angles, but it’s difficult to overstate. The 2019 1B/DH crew has combined for an otherworldly line thus far:
A .451 ISO and 210 wRC+ are numbers that my mind struggles to grasp when I read them on the page, and the 2.5 fWAR through just 170 collective PAs is extraordinary. It’s also better than the last 12 years combined, beginning with Richie Sexson’s first injury-marred season in 2007.
The same can be said for DHs who, prior to Nelson Cruz’s signing, put up a wRC+ of 95 and a .248/.321/.389 line since Edgar’s retirement. For over a decade Mariners fans looked to the stars after every feeble pop out, hoping, wishing, dreaming of a day their SOS would be answered. Years of silence and near-contenders have seen their playoff potential dashed by moribund lineups without an offensive anchor at the cold corner. Yet now, as the team pointedly attempted to turn its head away from contention, two beings arrived with an unrecognizable aura that emanated from their baseball bats.
One brought with him a cloaking device, disguising their mysterious familiar from human eyes, but clearly using its aid to punish pitchers.
The other exuded warmth, delivering a soothing sensation to those around them. They were cautious, but brought no intention to harm anything other than offerings from left-handed pitchers.
Their arrival sparked something in two of Earth’s own, or so we thought. Whether the extended exposure to the interstellar interlopers throughout Spring Training caused a mutation or the subjects were in fact always in possession of alien DNA has not been ascertainable by team doctors at this time. Either way, the changes are pronounced. For Subject A (Codename ‘Facade’), it appears ocular function has improved drastically, not only reversing the typical aging process but offering a 4-dimensional perspective helping the subject quadrangulate pitches.
Subject B (Codename ‘Unit’) has undergone even more dramatic transformation. Previously at risk of phasing in and out of our dimension at random, rendering him unplayable for lengthy stretches of time, the presence of the E.T.s appears to have stabilized his molecules, allowing his presence to be seen, heard, and felt more consistently than ever.
It could be dangerous to trust the Mariners offense to such peculiar and powerful creatures, but after over a decade of failure at every other turn, it seems there is no alternative. Let the creatures play.