Life has a way of teaching you things, of putting thoughts in your head that you stand by, that you fully believe, that you’re confident are right and could never possibly be wrong.
I used to think Macklemore was cool.
I once thought college basketball was more entertaining than the NBA.
There was even a period of my life when I would regularly make gigantic pots of pasta, eat some of said pasta, and then the next day take the leftover pasta, wrap it in a tortilla, and grill it in a panini press. This was before I fully understood how carbs worked.
As it is want to do, baseball can imitate life in a similar fashion. Just when you think you have a pretty good understanding of how the game works, or what separates the good from the bad, the entire game flips on its ear and a sea change washes away everything you held true.
Like for instance, many of you would say Christian Yelich is the most fearsome left-handed hitter in the game. He is on pace for 60+ home runs after all, and entered tonight with a .744 slugging percentage, a number that, since integration, has only been matched over a non-strike-shortened season by Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. As recently as this morning, even, I too thought Yelich was in a class of his own.
Then I saw Daniel Vogelbach do this.
*ahem*— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 26, 2019
️ PUT HIM IN THE HOME RUN DERBY pic.twitter.com/BCGYBSRzSr
Sometimes baseball teaches you lessons that aren’t even about baseball.
Think about the mental images that come to mind when you hear professions like construction worker, nurse, politician, NASCAR driver, rapper, etc. It can be very difficult to erase the preconceived notions about what people doing that sort of work look like. Then you meet someone who doesn’t necessarily look like the other people thriving in their respective field. Whether it’s their mannerisms, their gender, their body type, their race, whatever, a special person comes along and bucks those stereotypes of what they are “supposed” to look like.
This is what an elite athlete looks like in 2019.
Another thought that lived in the permanent section of my brain was the Mariners being an inferior team to Milwaukee. This, to be clear, is still 100% true. But one of the many lessons that baseball taught us tonight was that sometimes simply being better isn’t enough. Even the most established, successful units have an embarrassing misstep or two.
The Brewers did exactly that in the top of the fourth. Already trailing 4-1, starting pitcher Zach Davies walked Mac Williamson. Dee Gordon took his turn at the plate next and buzzed a ground ball to Mike Moustakas, who decided making good throws to second is too passé, and kept things fresh by making the opposite of a good throw. This put runners at first and second for Marco Gonzales, a former John Olerud Award winner as the best two-way player in college baseball. Rather than letting him swing from his heels, Scott Servais had his pitcher lay down a sensible sacrifice bunt. Except for instead of being a sacrifice, it turned into another throwing error and a comically easy run for the Mariners.
One more run on a J.P. Crawford RBI groundout stretched the lead to 6-1, and stretched my understanding of the 2019 Mariners to an even weirder place. This sort of thing will happen when Mac Williamson, Dee Gordon, and Marco Gonzales manufacture a run without recording a hit.
Of course, in learning to unlearn, there can be valuable reminders that things in the past happened for a reason, and stand a high chance of happening again.
If you’ve sent a 2:37 a.m. “U up?” text to the same person each of the last five Friday nights, and gotten zero responses, maybe you should stop doing that. Perhaps if the same Taco Bell order continues to Chernobyl your stomach, you should take your business elsewhere. When you’ve seen the Mariners’ bullpen fritter away countless chances of winning, it’s good to remember that they will likely do that again.
Cory Gearrin relieved Marco Gonzales tonight after the starter turned in a five-inning assignment with four K’s and two earned runs. Gearrin promptly allowed a one-out walk to Travis Shaw, then was betrayed by a Crawford error. This is the point in the evening when learning new things becomes tiresome, as the old ways of living try their damnedest to kick down the door and let themselves in again. Clinging to a four-run lead, two runners aboard, Gearrin threw this 2-1 changeup to Yasmani Grandal.
The ball never reached his catcher’s glove, as Grandal let loose a picturesque swing, sending the ball high and deep into the vast Wisconsin sky. The camera turned to center field, zoomed out, and panned toward the heavens, just as my exasperated eyes did. Mallex Smith raced back with the speed of someone chasing after a bus that’s already two blocks away. My mental scoreboard immediately re-calibrated, fearing the absolute worst. But then, miraculously, the bus braked. Mallex got to the warning track, and there was the ball, meeting him at the exact moment it needed to. Rather than continuing into the night, it settled right there in his glove, resulting in a valuable out rather than Brewer runs.
Instincts, you were wrong.
One more challenge lingered on the horizon, in the form of last year’s NL MVP. Of course, a task that daunting should only be handled by worthy professionals, someone who can rise to the occasion rather than cower in fear.
Earlier this season, the Washington Nationals (who are struggling), traded Austin Adams (who is not struggling). Entering tonight’s game, Adams had 30 strikeouts to just eight walks in 18.1 innings with his new team. Tonight, that new team was in a bind, as Gearrin left two base runners that needed to be cleaned up. All Adams had to was get Christian Yelich out and he’d escape the sixth inning. If Yelich clubbed a home run, not only would it be his 30th of the year, it would also bring the Brewers back within one run. Yet again, the logical expectations were wildly subverted.
Austin Adams rung up Yelich with a filthy slider and I felt like I could lip read AA through the back of his head— Lydia Cruz (@TheLydiaCruz) June 26, 2019
Let this be our final lesson. When it comes to the Nationals and their instincts on unknown, hard-throwing relievers (see also: Treinen, Blake, or Vázquez, Felipe) DO NOT TRUST.
Mike Blowers, shade master extraordinaire, started his discussion of the Nationals, their NL-worst bullpen ERA, and Adams by noting, “He would be perfect for them”. He’s also perfect for the Seattle Mariners, who began a truly harrowing road trip with a surprise 8-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.