On the day of the trade deadline, there are teams that buy and teams that sell. Those teams that believe themselves to be playoff contenders look to acquire the missing pieces they think will get them there, and those teams who have accepted that they are not playoff contenders know who they have that others will want, and what they might be able to get for them. For a team like the Mariners, this is the last opportunity to profit off of the good year somebody like Mike Leake, who won’t be with us when we contend again anyway, has had. For a losing team, that can be a big part of building for the future.
The trade deadline presents a team like the Rangers with a difficult decision. They’ve spent much of the season mediocre. They’ve even been good at times. If they have a hot streak, they could find themselves at least in the neighborhood of wild card contention. Perhaps if they were able to pick up a consistent bat, or an additional quality starter, that would make the difference. However, having gone 7-17 this July, their playoff hopes are very, very dim. Fangraphs has them at a .1% chance of seeing post-season ball. But, like with an injured or elderly pet, you don’t want to make the call too soon when there might have been a chance. On July 31st of every year the 2019 Rangers of the MLB have to come to terms with their season.
And yet the Rangers did virtually nothing this trade deadline. Almost like they just couldn’t pull the plug on their season, couldn’t sell off Mike Minor and Hunter Pence as was expected in exchange for some potential building blocks for years to come. But they also didn’t seek any players who might improve their odds now. This doing nothing was very much a way of doing something - the Rangers have acknowledged that they are not contenders in 2019.
There are series’ like the one we just had, between the Mariners and the Tigers, where everyone knows the games don’t have postseason implications. But today is a turning point in the season, after which we have games that very recently stopped mattering. Yesterday’s game mattered, for the Rangers, in a way that today’s does not.
But this is still baseball, and if you’re a lover of the game, there are reasons to care other than winning and other than the playoffs.
There’s the sort-of amusing thing where their Santana scored in the bottom of the first inning to cancel out our Santana having scored in the top.
There’s Austin Nola, slashing .387/.580/.966 with a WAR of .7 in the first six weeks of his rookie campaign, leading off the second inning with a home run.
There’s Kyle Seager singling in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to nine, significant not just because he’s a player returning from injury but because he’s one of the few old favorites still on the team coming back from injury, and there can’t be a Mariners fan on Earth who doesn’t want to see him do well.
There’s the Mariners, frequent implementers of the home runs or no runs strategy, stringing together three singles, a walk and a hit-by-pitch to score three runs in the fourth inning to put Seattle back on top 5-3.
There’s being either immensely relieved or deeply concerned by not seeing an opener start the game for LeBlanc, as the opener seems to elicit strong feelings either way. And, related or unrelated, LeBlanc didn’t have a good game today. After facing seven batters in the first inning and five in the second, it looked like he might have settled down when he retired the side in the third. And in the fourth when he faced only four batters, inducing three fly ball outs. Unless it seemed like those fly balls would start carrying a little further as LeBlanc grew more tired. Which they did. After giving up a single to Danny Santana to start the fifth inning, LeBlanc got Elvis Andrus to fly out to left. But the next batter, Hunter Pence, lined a ball off the fence that just barely stayed in the yard. And then, with two runners on, the next fly ball did not stay in the yard and the Mariners were down 6-5. He stayed in to walk the next batter and was replaced by Cory Gearrin, who chose to toy with us by giving up back-to-back one-out singles to load the bases, only to strike out the next two batters and end the inning without giving up another run.
There’s watching Matt Magill, new to the team, retire the side in the 6th inning. Sure, he gave up three runs in the 7th inning, but in the 6th he gave up none.
There’s Danny Vogelbach, the potential go-ahead run at the time, very audibly yelling the F word while jogging down the first place line after a groundout in the 7th inning. Vogelbach, one of the few guys we’ve got who we do intend to keep on our roster for a while, caring enough about this game that doesn’t matter to have his grade school teachers back home hear him swearing on live television.
There’s Keon Broxton, four days a Mariner, hitting his first home run in a Seattle uniform to cut Texas’ lead to two.
Texas kept their two-run lead, and the final score was 9-7, snapping the Mariners’ six-game win streak and bumping the Rangers back up to .500, a frustrating place to be at the trade deadline.
But in a month we get to a part of the season that can matter a great deal for teams like the Mariners and maybe the Rangers - we can start bringing up some of the future Mariners to get a taste of the majors, to give them a shot at big-league pitchers or hitters and see how they do. We can start to gather glimpses of the future this year was meant to build to, a future where the Mariners will contend. On this day, when other teams have made moves toward the post season or made moves toward a longer off season, Mariners fans have not suffered any blows. That was a blow we suffered April 12th. It may seem like an easy take to say “oh, it’s fun to watch the Mariners if you just stop caring that they lose all the time!” But on a day when other teams had to announce their bids or their bow-outs, the Mariners just got to play baseball.