The last Mariner game of 2019 was played under a closed roof, grey cement skies glowing dully through the gaps. It was cold and still, from what I understand. The fans dotted the bleachers, dressed in layers, clapping and standing at appropriate moments, their movements echoing against the steel. The whole experience felt mildly hollow and brittle, like a first frost, where the first steps onto the pavement are cautious. An early lead on a Kyle Seager home run was followed by a string of 8 scoreless innings thrown by young Mariner pitchers auditioning for a role in 2020, and then, a few long at bats not withstanding, it ended quietly as it began. Lights flashed. Players lined up to slap hands for the final time, fans went home.
If this game had been played in July, it would have been filed away in a part of my brain I don’t regularly access. We’ve played games like these all year, I’m sure. It’s only it’s placement at the end of the season that gives today weight. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this game represented something larger than itself.
If we were to try and shoehorn meaning into the two and half hours of baseball I watched I would tell you that the young players played well enough. The “Mariners Future” didn’t hit, maybe, with only Kyle Lewis and Austin Nola as the rookies with knocks (both notched doubles), but Justin Dunn had better control and life, while McClain, Grotz, Warren, Altavilla, Swanson—all provided glimpses of the talent needed to stay on a big league roster. I would say, if I were to continue, how much better it is to watch young players than aging veterans at the end of things. Players like Kyle Lewis and Justin Dunn performing in the final game provides a measure of hope through the long months that will follow, the quickly darkening days when baseball feels the furthest away. We’ll have memories that we will stoke to keep our fandom aflame. Watching this team is watching for the future. Today, we saw parts of the future. And they won. That’s something to feel good about.
The truth of this game is that it wasn’t anything special. The truth of this game is that it didn’t represent the season any more than any other outcome I could pick off the top of my head. We’ll have content reflecting on the season soon I’m sure, but it’s hard not to reflect back when something ends. At the end of a relationship the first thing we do is think back to how we got where we are. What went wrong. What memories hurt us, which memories give us joy. We tell ourselves a story in order to make sense of it.
Reflecting on the signposts and markers of this Mariners season is difficult. The story is not an interesting one, I don’t think. If the 2019 Mariners were a book I would have returned it to the library sometime in June. When I think about how we got here I remember Japan. I remember the exhilaration of those first few games. Tim Beckham bat flips. Jay Bruce home runs. Edwin and his parrot which is so strange I can’t even begin to unpack how weird that celebration is. I think, of course, about 13-2. I wrote an article I deleted, back when I first started writing here, about why this team might be different—what mix of chemistry and confidence and veteran leadership could accomplish, how this team could shock the world. I was waiting for another win to publish it. After the fifth straight loss, I deleted it. The story of the season would not be what I expected. What I hoped for. It would be sadder than that—more predictable. It would be slow and filled with bullpen meltdowns and hilarious twenty run losses. It would be a gap year—a waiting room, an airport lounge—somewhere in-between things. It would be nineteen, still a teenager but looking constantly into the future.
Now that the season has ended I’m sure I will miss watching the Mariners play baseball. I love baseball. I love the Mariners. But we rarely can anticipate how losing a part of our life will make us feel. We aren’t good predictors of our own emotions. Probably, we won’t know what it feels like until after all of the games have ended and we come home from work, sit on our couch, turn on the TV and realize with a pang of longing, that there’s no game today. The thing that helps you track the passage of time has ended. It won’t last long, that feeling, but I look forward to it. This season has felt so long that I look forward to feeling a longing for it to return.
Here are some things that brought me joy today that we might miss when baseball is gone:
- Kyle Lewis Hitting Baseballs Way Harder Than It Looks Like He’s Hitting Baseballs
- Justin Dunn’s slider.
- Reggie McClain’s slider.
- Zack Grotz's slider.
- Art Warren’s slider.
- Erik Swanson’s fastball for some reason.
- Laughing at Skye Bolt
- Donnie Walton Defense.
- Introducing children to concepts such as: disappointment, fairness, resentment, Mariner fandom.
This was it. This was the moment. This was the encapsulation of the season. We found it. A child racing happily, mitt outstretched, to what he assumes will be a great gift: a game ball. He watches the ball, even as the woman plainly points to someone behind him. He doesn’t care—”ball!” he cries in his mind. “Wow, I’m going to get a ball!” And then he watches, utterly perplexed, as the ball sails past him to another. He is the only one surprised at this.
And yet, he can’t bee too sad. Surely he saw this coming, he should have anticipated. And there will be more balls hit his way. One day, perhaps, though certainly not right now, he will be standing, glove outstretched, eyes widened, and the ball will come to him. So long as he keeps showing up, he has to believe that one day it will be him.
That’s it. That’s all I have.
I want to end this final game recap by doing something both obligatory and meaningful: saying thanks.
I had never written about baseball before this year. I had never worked for a website, never been tasked with keeping such close tabs on a team. I have learned so much about the game, writing, analytics, what things are not funny, from all of you readers, commenters, and my fellow LL writers. There is no website, no Lookout Landing, without readers just as there is no team without fans (except for the Rays, I guess). I know this season has changed my life in ways I will still be discovering years from now.
I especially want to thank Kate and John for taking a chance on hiring me and providing me the support I needed, even if every article I’ve ever written has been too long (including this one) by about 300 words.
Thank you so much for this season. I won’t speak for the staff, but personally it has been a joy watching this very shitty team with you. They sucked. You all did not.