The 2020 Major League Baseball season did not need to happen. We can argue up and down about whether it should have happened at all. Baseball, after all, is no more than competitive entertainment, completely non-essential from an everyday survival standpoint. But now that the regular season has screeched to a halt, I’m confident in saying that I’m really glad it did happen.
The Seattle Mariners and the rest of MLB’s players put themselves at risk during a pandemic. They left their families behind during one of the most emotionally trying periods of their lives. They started and stopped a Spring Training, came back for a baby Spring Training in their own stadiums, then carried on with a 60-game season just to be able to play baseball again. They did that for themselves and for their teammates, sure, and for monetary reasons, but also for us.
Of course, playing baseball for six and seven-figure salaries is one of the cushiest occupations America has to offer, particularly during a stretch when thousands upon thousands of people lost their jobs or were flung into extremely high-risk scenarios. Certainly no one will posit that the Mariners are heroes in the same way that other professions are, but on a much smaller, low-stakes scale, the Mariners and their baseball-playing colleagues provided a tremendous service this year by way of comforting distraction.
Turning on any television channel or logging on to any website in 2020 is an exercise in masochism. “How much mind-numbingly awful, unprecedentedly depressing news can I digest today?” has become an unfortunate theme of this new reality. While I can already hear all of you getting jokes off about how Mariner fandom is basically the same thing, the thing about that line of thinking is that it sucks. Amid an entire calendar year that birthed real, tangible issues with dire consequences – whether it’s the effects of coronavirus on physical and mental health across the world, or the police continuing to murder Black people and those who protested their deaths – the Mariners and their silly little problems became the smallest of footnotes. To see at least a few of those problems evaporate, and even morph into positives, is about all we can ask for while snorkeling in misery.
There were, unquestionably, a lot of things to dislike about Major League Baseball this year. The negotiation period that preceded the season was farcical at best and borderline incompetent at its worse. Several of the game’s actual machinations were tough as well.
I hated how an injury meant a player would miss 75% of the season. I hated how two bad weeks tanked their numbers for the entire season. I hated all the doubleheaders. I hated watching games with no fans. I hated that Mark Canha was still allowed. I hated how none of the pitchers used the wet rag. I had a lot of problems with the 2020 season but being able to watch the Mariners from July-September again was the least of those problems. Now that I’m done with my Julia Stiles monologue, I want to thank the Mariners for everything they’ve done over this wildly cursed period of time.
Witnessing Kyle Lewis become not only the best rookie in the American League but one of its best players, period, was a true joy that I had not experienced in months. Watching Marco Gonzales and his no nonsense, “I absolutely did not come to mess around” transformation was inspiring and motivational. The emergence of Dylan Moore started as a wonderfully playful bit and is now an extra building block that no one foresaw when drawing the blueprint for contention. I am over the moon about Kyle Seager being good at baseball again, and perhaps more importantly, looking like he enjoys playing baseball again. Justus Sheffield can do whatever he wants to me. Kendall Graveman unveiling stuff that looked like prime Joe Nathan can only be described as revelatory. Finally, this much-maligned, often mocked organization turning Austin Nola into one of the most valuable players at his position, then parlaying that into a Futures Game MVP and multiple useful everyday players is exactly the kind of thing we should want.
While all of us approach sports fandom in our own unique ways, the ability to simply watch the games is the nucleus of all that. For a little stretch there, that part of our lives that had once been so commonplace, so engrained in our human routine, was in jeopardy. Had every single one of the Mariners opted out, I would have certainly been bummed, but wholeheartedly would have understood and respected their decision. So from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank them for the most enjoyable 27-win season imaginable.
Thank you, Mariners, for providing a necessary reversion to our preferred lives, at least for a while.
Thank you, Mariners, for handling each scoop of adversity with the sort of grace and maturity that made it so easy to root for you both on and off the field.
Thank you, Mariners, for hilariously finishing with a better record than the Angels.
Thank you, Mariners, for drafting Kyle Lewis.
Thank you, Mariners, for looking an unfathomably difficult situation dead in the face and saying, “Let’s fucking do this.”
Thank you, Mariners.