What a week this has been for Mariners baseball. This is a vague, cliche lede (don’t do this, kids!) but when your recent games have had win probability charts that look like this I think we can all be cut some creative slack.
We knew the postseason experience would be raucous, ripe with heartbreak and just enough potential for hope to hold us hostage until the very end. But these last four playoff games? So beyond anything I could have steeled myself against. I feel wrung out, exhausted, and comically out of baseball-watching shape. This is the time of year when we’ve usually bid our farewells, turned our attention to other teams - or sports - consuming their games with a lackadaisical interest. We’re meant to be preparing for winter; dragging raincoats from closets, re-applying water resistant sprays to our shoes.
Instead, the Mariners have conspired with the weather in Seattle and the sun continues to shine. Our patio furniture is still outside, and I’m seated, barefoot, in one of those chairs as I type this. It’s all rather surreal, and I’m left feeling a bit like how I do when posing alone for a photograph in a beautiful place.
“This is wonderful,” I think. “I am so happy in this beautiful place! But wait, oh no, what do I do with my hands?”
The M’s weren’t really supposed to make it out of the Wild Card series. They definitely weren’t supposed to pull off a historic seven-run comeback to sweep the Blue Jays at home. And they certainly weren’t expected to be one Yordan Álvarez away from going 2-0 in the ALDS. I’m a Mariners fans, sure, but going into the postseason I was Mariners neutral - skeptical that they belonged, all but certain they’d be lucky to pull off a single playoff victory. Instead, they’ve outplayed their odds and, in turn, our collective self-protective instincts. Turns out this team is pretty good. Not World Series-winning good, obviously, but certainly better than most of us truly believed. And that’s what’s made these last two games particularly gutting. They didn’t roll over, or stage a too-late comeback - they took the lead! And in doing so they’ve lit tiny fires of begrudging belief, only to douse us with frigid water and disappear for a day.
We’re familiar with the push and pull of the regular season, but those edges are all softened by the protracted parade of 162 games. There is no margin for error in the postseason. Every play, every pitch, every breath counts. You’re cheering for a win, but you’re also rooting desperately for the season to continue, for this wild, brutal, invigorating ride to hold out for just one more day.
Sports fandom is the very definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. Mariners fandom especially so. Most years we have nothing to show for our efforts, save for the memories forcibly forged from ultimate disappointment, but this season we are vindicated. We pay the price, perhaps, in some emotional sanity, some mental wellbeing, certainly a hefty chunk of focus, but this is a new, welcome suffering. And so tomorrow we’ll perform that song and dance of fandom again, donning our jerseys and gathering our fragmented hopes once more, wishing fervently for the next game.