Rooting for a bad baseball team gets really tough right around this part of the season. Day in and day out, frustrating things will happen on the diamond, and it becomes increasingly easier to tune out and almost just not care. Example A:
Sorry that was Matt Thaiss... but does it really matter?— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 14, 2019
Sure, Ryan might mean it as a reaction against the fans who blasted him for mixing the players up. And, sure, it’s a fairly small difference; I certainly couldn’t pick either guy out of a lineup. But my first reaction was to think that he was referring to the game itself, and that’s really too bad.
There were undoubtedly moments to celebrate, and those moments tend to be little spots of unexpected, unbridled joy. To wit:
Austin Nola is one of those stories that baseball turns up every year. He’s a career minor leaguer, making his debut in 2012 after the Marlins took him in the 5th round out of LSU. After seven years in the Marlins organization, reaching AAA but never excelling at that level, he elected minor league free agency and signed with the Mariners.
He was promoted from Tacoma to make his big league debut a little less than a month ago, back on June 16, and since then he’s hit .323/.364/.548, good for a 146 wRC+. That dinger was just the second of his career.
Is Austin Nola, at the ripe “old” age of 29, part of the Mariners’ long-term future? Absolutely not. His 3.0% BB rate and 30.3% K% certainly suggest that he’s not C’ing the Z, and his .421 BABIP is high enough to infer that he’s been getting lucky. But that doesn’t matter that much right now, because Austin Nola is a big leaguer for the M’s and he’s achieved a lifelong dream. How cool is that?
Getting back to the game: Yusei Kikuchi made an abbreviated start, throwing only four innings. Though he only gave up a couple hits, his four walks meant that he was rarely pitching stress-free. He’s going to need to improve on his efficiency (87 pitches in those 4+ IP) if he wants to find sustained success in the bigs.
There were a few other tough moments — Dylan Moore getting picked off in the fourth comes to mind — but it all comes back to this godawful pitch from Roenis Elías in the bottom of the eighth. (Sorry about the pun you’re about to see.)
I spent today doing two things: watching the Mariners game and playing wiffleball. The former made me resent baseball, and the latter made me appreciate everything that’s great about this game. It’s great to mess around with different wiffleball grips, try to catch a ball that’s hurtling at you while also curving like crazy, maybe drink a beer, and just have a fun time. After playing softbaLL yesterday, I write this with a smile on my face and ice packs on my knees.
All that brings me back to rooting for a bad baseball club. For these next few months, channel your inner Marie Kondo and find something that brings you joy. Maybe it’s seeing Jake Fraley keep raking in AAA...
Jake Fraley WALKOFF RBI SINGLE! Rainiers win!— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 14, 2019
Maybe you need more Jarred Kelenic in your life...
Mets fans look away.— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) July 7, 2019
Jarred Kelenic BP. Dude is gonna be A MONSTER. pic.twitter.com/vSU1mKasu6
Or maybe you just need to rekindle that youthful spirit...
Whatever it may be, watching the Mariners lose 6–3 to the Anaheim Angels doesn’t have to be how you connect with the game. Find ways to embrace this sport, and find ways to derive enjoyment from it, however you’d like.