I wish that grief had five stages. It would be a lot easier. Alright, we’d say to ourselves. I’m past denial. Already a quarter of the way to acceptance. Unfortunately, like a PTA meeting or a 32 ounce Jamba Juice, the experience of grief is impossibly vast and not at all as advertised.
We’re all familiar with denial, of course. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, the brain can’t stop thinking: Okay, so that happened. But what if it didn’t? It was just a few minutes ago that that wasn’t a thing that had happened.
After all, what’s so different between the before and the after? Literally every single thing is the same, except for the thing that we wish wasn’t the same.
Well, of course, denial fades, and it usually fades into anger, hence the “five stages” paradigm. What they don’t tell you is that denial comes back. There’s anger, and there’s bargaining, and there’s depression, but then there’s some more denial. And that denial is usually interspersed with depression, and a touch of anger. And you’re back to square one. All the while, you stare blankly at the people going about their lives around you and wonder dully how they’re acting like the world isn’t completely different.
Today was a beautiful day. It was a uniquely Seattle spring day, a day that managed to be both chilly and warm as the sun shone down over a city that is finally beginning to show life. It was so easy to shake off the 6-0 Monday night loss as we settled in to watch our Canadian hero pitch his first Mariners start in nearly three years.
In a matter of minutes, optimism turned to gaping-mouthed horror.
James Paxton experiencing “left elbow discomfort” some thirty pitches into his first start of the 2021 season isn’t life-shattering. Hell, it’s not even especially surprising. What it is, though, is tragic.
It’s tragic for James Paxton, who has never broken 160 innings pitched in a season, and who would have liked nothing more than to finally turn in the season that he knows he’s capable of.
It’s tragic for the Mariner fans who are, in all likelihood, going to have to endure a 90-loss season while grasping at as many straws as present themselves. Paxton was a particularly alluring straw. And there are, like, five straws.
I know that the Mariners’ 2-1 performance in the season-opening series against the Giants wasn’t going to be representative of them on the whole this season. But, man, I don’t think that the Mariners could have more thoroughly killed enthusiasm for the season if they had tried.
On one hand, you have Paxton. As I write this, Scott Servais has told reporters that Paxton has a “strained muscle in his left forearm”. On the surface, that’s probably as good as the news could have been. “Left forearm” is a lot less foreboding than the “left elbow discomfort” that was initially reported. With that said, Paxton will have an MRI tomorrow, and nobody knows what it will show. Paxton will miss time. There’s a real chance that it’s a lot of time.
On the other hand, you have, well [gestures at the rest of the Mariners]. I am fully aware that any reaction to the team’s performance through just five games is an overreaction. But those five games are all that we have to go on, and they have looked terrible. I mean, terrible. As fun as the Opening Day comeback was, the Giants handed the game to the Mariners more than the Mariners actually did anything to win it.
The best part about the first week or two of the baseball season is that every fan base has somehow found a way to convince themselves that this could be the year. Some pathways may be narrow and impossibly treacherous, but every team does have a path.
The events of tonight’s game were the equivalent of the Mariners’ path being covered by an avalanche. It was just about the worst way the game could have gone, and it happened on the fifth game of the season. The rest of the climb isn’t impossible, but I feel a lot worse than I did this morning.