The Mariners are “trying” to keep a grip on the sixth position in the 2020 draft. The Cubs are trying to keep a grip on a Wild Card spot. Jon Lester is having his 800th solid season in a row. Félix Hernández is pretty much trying to show why he should be employed next season.
The Mariners were never going to have an easy time in this game, and that’s alright. When the lineup was revealed a few hours before game time, however, projection of the game went from “it’ll be tough” to “lol”.
New Lineup! Bryant a scratch for the Cubs with right knee soreness. pic.twitter.com/LDtfUd2z6G— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) September 3, 2019
Smith-Moore-Nola, huh? It’s not exactly Combs-Koenig-Ruth, is it? Kyle Seager and Tom Murphy resemble competent hitters (indeed, Seager was one of just two Mariner hitters to record positive WPA contributions). Dee Gordon is fine. The rest, though? It just left a little to be desired.
In some ways, it resembled the Mariner teams of yore. No, I don’t mean the 90’s. I mean the early 2010’s: you know, Brendan Ryan, Trayvon Robinson, Miguel Olivo.
As Jon Lester mowed his way through the Mariners, and the Mariners repeatedly killed the few whispers of rallies that they threatened, it made for an oddly pleasant reminder of how far we’ve come. Don’t get me wrong, this year has been awful for a number of reasons. And yes, the juiced ball makes comparisons of offenses a bit dicey.
But one of those Mariners teams scored 3.2 runs per game. It wasn’t just awful to watch. It was boring. It was frustrating. It made you want to scream. These Mariners are scoring 4.8 runs per game. At least there are some fireworks for their nightly funerals.
Where this proxy becomes uncomfortable, of course, is Félix. Each of his starts comes with the tacit assumption that if something goes wrong, it could be his last. At this point, if he gets injured, it seems more likely than not that he will be done in Seattle. Watching Félix labor through three innings (and taking 70 pitches to do so) before getting yanked for a pinch hitter is a bummer, to say the least.
I’m not in Félix’s head, and I don’t know how he feels. The most obvious thing to feel would be anger at the Mariners. Félix’s prime was wasted, after all. The second most obvious thing to feel would be anger at the world. I mean, 35-year-old Jon Lester is pitching well on the other side. If Félix had been on another team with different facilities and different support, would he have mowed down some hapless quad-A team tonight on the way to his tenth playoff run?
I look at Félix and I see fear and frustration. Sometimes I project, and I worry that my own personal efforts in life will end up looking as Sisyphean and meaningless as Félix’s look on dark days.
On the surface, Félix has it made. Free of material desire. An illustrious career. A Cy Young Award. But what did he really want when he signed with the M’s at 16? Would he have been satisfied with money and a couple of awards? I don’t know. I hope he is now.
I hope he has a few more starts left in him. I hope one of them is magical. I hope he roars as he stomps off the mound just one more time.
I hope he’s happy he came here. I hope it was as meaningful for him as it was for us.