Come with me, children, on a journey back in time: to 1997, to be exact. See, in the 90s we teens were a little too ironic, yes I really do think, but also a genuinely earnest heart beat within that nihilistic chest, still whole and unshattered by what would come at the turn of the millennium. And there’s no better way I can prove that point than by turning your attention to what is usually called “The Sunscreen Song,” but is also known as “Wear Suncreen,” but technically called “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” 90s kids, feel free to skip this next paragraph of exposition.
See, Baz Luhrmann had directed the riotously popular modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio and with a soundtrack I will argue holds up to this day, and so we just kind of...let him do this thing where he recorded a spoken word version of a column written for the Chicago Tribune where a woman, Mary Schmich, imagined what she’d say if she had been asked to give a commencement speech. It’s seven minutes long, and unlike the soundtrack version of Romeo + Juliet, I regret to say it does not hold up. If a song could sit backwards in a chair and ask you if it could rap with you a bit, that’s what this song does. And yet! I have never actively listened to this song, but I have heard it approximately 43,000 times. As soon as the weather turned warm in the spring of the late 90s, it would start cropping up like a field of pseudo-intellectual dandelions.
And because it is so ingrained in my psyche around the Ending of Things, it now crops up in my memory bank around this time of year. Despite my disdain for the overall execution, the ultimate message of the song is good: practice self-care, have some perspicacity about where you are in the world at that moment and guard your future self, know that This Too Shall Pass. And now that the 2020 season has, I offer you this hybrid of advice cobbled together from The Sunscreen Song and my own observations, with this caveat:
Point the first: Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Marco Gonzales is the Mariners’ ace, their bulldog; he’s just here to win. Marco, a former John Olerud Award winner, given to the best two-way player in college baseball, would absolutely love to swing a bat if Scott Servais would let him; anything to bring the game more within his control. Marco is, to borrow Zach’s analogy from the game the other day, the group project member who will do the whole thing himself, with slides and visual aids and notecards, and will allow you to put your name on it too, even though he will dismiss your bibliography as improperly formatted and your presentation board as using a font with insufficient gravitas. This is an annoying trait but a useful one, especially when you are trying to win ballgames. Today Marco was good, not sublime, occasionally failing to land his curveball and needing to rely on his safety blanket, the cutter, to put hitters away. Still, because he is Marco Gonzales, an off day for him looks like this: five innings, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts. The biggest bummer of today is the walk/lack of win means that Marco’s ERA will clock in at 3.10 for the season other than dipping into the 2s like we hoped, and he won’t be able to record more wins than walks in a season, a weird little record he actually had a shot at this year coming into today. Marco might not have been able to stuff his teammates into his backpack and lug them to the summit of Mt. Win today, but all season long he’s been practicing what the Mariners preach: control what you can control. In 2020, I think that’s pretty solid advice off the field, as well.
Point the second: Do one thing every day that scares you
I will admit that when this lineup came out I looked askance at Ty France, Second Baseman and Clean-Up Hitter. Servais has taken the “do one new thing every day” maxim literally, rolling out a variety of different lineups and defensive positionings over this short season. Ty France at second continues to scare me in a not-good way, as witnessed in the first inning of today’s game: Mark Canha grounded into what could have been a double play, but France hesitated when Khris Davis clearly ran well outside of the base path to evade his tag. Instead of then throwing it to first to complete the double play, France took the sure out by tossing to second anyway, allowing a run to score as a fielder’s choice. It was the safe play, but it wasn’t the smartest.
Ty France, Clean-Up Hitter, though, is scary in a good way. Once again France provided a solid offensive force in the lineup, tying J.P Crawford with two hits and an RBI. France finishes the season with a line of .305/.368/.468. Even on bad offensive days when the whole team seems to be whiffing out of their shoes—and today was one of those days, with the Mariners striking out a combined 16 times while taking just two walks, yuck—France can be depended on to put up a credible at-bat. That’s not the most exciting skill set, and you’d love to see the power develop even further, especially if France spends more time at DH than on the dirt; maybe Ty France taking solid at-bats doesn’t in spirit match up with “do one thing every day that scares you,” but also, you know what? Being scared is overrated, I think.
Point the third: Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life
One of the worst parts of quarantine, and there were many, was the constant reminder that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine. I fell prey to this mindset myself; there is still a book on SQL sitting on my bookcase with an uncracked spine, and when I close my eyes at night, the terrifying rictus of the Duolingo owl appears and demands I practice my Spanish. Look, sometimes it’s okay to not have a plan. Sometimes if you spend too much time planning you neglect to fully absorb the experience of whatever you’re doing. Evan White struggled at the plate a bunch this year, and often looked like he didn’t have a plan. He also had moments of transcendence. Did Shakespeare ever hit a 440-foot home run? Didn’t think so. No one expected Evan White to figure out major league pitching in his first season—no one should have—and that includes Evan himself. Take the down time, absorb the experience, move on from there. Pulling your hair out about having a plan all the time is a short road to what we call Heymanism.
Point the fourth: Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours
This one doesn’t have anything to do with baseball, at least directly, it’s just good advice.
Point the fifth: Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
This one is a Personal Struggle for me as I am a very jealous person. And it’s hard not to be jealous of the A’s, headed for yet another post-season appearance despite their low payroll and sewage-choked stadium, whereas the Mariners still couldn’t get in during a season where playoff berths were handed out like prizes at an elementary school Field Day. It’s especially hard because any national writer—and some local ones!—talking about the Mariners appears to be contractually obligated to mention the playoff drought. It’s tiring to constantly be MLB’s punching bag, it’s tiring to see the past re-litigated amid hundreds of what-if scenarios, it’s tiring and sad to see the image of a despondent Félix on the many, many elimination days he faced over his career as a Mariner. It’s hard to be a Mariners fan and feel like you’ve constantly been behind. It’s hard not to be jealous. It’s hard to believe one day we will be ahead. But consider:
Reminder that the Mariners were projected to finish in the basement of the AL West while getting romped on by the Astros and Angels. The Astros can't do any better than .500 and the Mariners just beat them in a series, and LAA just fired their GM after a .433 finish. Also, Texas.— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 27, 2020
Point the sixth: Don’t worry about the future; the real troubles of your life are things you won’t see coming
This one is a corollary to the above. Baseball is weird, and weird things happen. The Rangers could win 100 games next year. That would certainly be something I didn’t see coming.
Point the seventh: Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth
Kyle Lewis should, in a just world, win the Rookie of the Year, the first time a Mariner has won that award in two decades. Justus Sheffield was worth the same fWAR as Gerrit Cole this year. J.P. Crawford looked like a Gold Glove candidate in the field, and while his bat was streaky, he finished strong, including a two-hit performance today for his fourth multi-hit game in a row. For all his struggles with strikeouts, Evan White finishes the season in the top 30 for exit velocity and in the top 65 for barrels per plate appearance. Luis Torrens ends the season in the top 10 for average exit velocity among batters with 50 or more plate appearances.
The Sunscreen Song tells us that we will not truly enjoy the power and beauty of our youth until they have faded. That might be true. It is true for me, certainly. But thanks to baseball, we can live vicariously through the power of other people’s youth:
(I know, I’m cheating. That’s not from today’s game, which was kind of a snoozer, and KLew continued his September slump with three strikeouts. But let’s remember the good times.
Point the eighth: Stretch/respect your elders
Nah, I gotta pass on this one, fam.
Point the ninth:
Friends come and go
but with a precious few you should hold on:
Thanks for holding on with us all season. Let the countdown to Opening Day 2021 commence.