It turns out Mitch Haniger was right. He’s been saying it for years: the goal is to win the World Series… but I didn’t quite buy it. “Sure,” I’d say, “that’s the players’ goal each year, but ending the playoff drought is enough for me.” I’ve spent my whole adult life learning to be a fan of a losing team, with one particular monster casting its 20-year-long shadow, and I was sure that clinching a playoff spot was the poetic ending this story needed.
I was right, of course, in that this 2022 Mariners season was a resounding success, and I can’t fathom a moment topping the joy and relief of this one any time soon:
I forgot, though, that behind every monster there is another monster waiting to be vanquished. From the top of the mountain I tasted a thrill I’d forgotten the flavor of, and on the other side I could see another mountain I’d forgotten was there. After these last two weeks, I’m with Mitch. I want to win a World Series. The Mariners have leveled up, and it feels a little like this:
It is fitting that the 2022 Seattle Mariners season should end like this. I should have known when Zach Mason wrote one of my favorite extended metaphors of the LL season. The wandering mariner Odysseus traveled far and wide, and he had to slay great foes in order to return home again. After 21 long years, we slew great foes of our own and we made it back home.
Zach told us, two weeks ago, what awaited us there:
“There remains the slaying of the suitors in October to take the throne as king.”
Behind every monster, another monster, and this one is personal, in our own house. I should have known, from all the epic stories I’ve read and watched, that as the first monster is slain the shape of the next becomes clear. Today we’re at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. Destroying the Playoff Drought Death Star and bringing postseason baseball home took everything we had, and that’s where this installment ends.
In the offseason, we award medals, and we rest a while; there are victories to celebrate, infield bats to be acquired, and thumb ligaments to be healed. And then we turn our attention to the new Death Star: the Astros’ division title streak. The Mariners team that faces that next challenge will have familiar faces and new ones, and a story all of their own. Their story will be all the more powerful because it will not just be a story of rising, but of rising again.
There is a poignance in good storytelling that we’re living today, as we follow improbable victory with crushing defeat at the hands of a crumbling giant. A poignance to welcoming our King back to throw one pitch in the playoffs, and then scoring zero runs in eighteen long innings. A poignance that reminds us of the sorrow and sweetness of what has been and the anticipation of what is yet to come. It is fitting, for this season to end here.
We’ll reconvene for baseball in four short months. Until then: we remember, we regroup, and then we rise again.