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Mariners give sellout crowd a show, winning home opener 11-1; crowd responds

Maybe this time

Houston Astros v. Seattle Mariners
Bless this fan base
Photo by Abbie Parr/MLB Photos via Getty Images

On Monday, “Maybe This Time” came on my Spotify playlist, and while I’m too embarrassed to tell you which playlist I was listening to, I’m not too embarrassed to tell you that I cried. I’ve liked that song for a long time, but tears? Never before. So I’ve spent the past hundred hours wondering why I had such a strong emotional reaction to a song I’d heard a hundred times before.

Then tonight, during the bottom of the fifth inning, it clicked. The action in this game got started early, with the Mariners sending seven men to the plate in the first inning alone. But it was during the bottom of the fifth that 45,023 Mariners fans, stuffed asses to ankles into the T, seemed to climb through my television. With two on and nobody out, JP Crawford stepped up to the plate, and the crowd was chanting “J-P! J-P! J-P!” Chants for their guy, for our guy, for this guy:

The fact that JP rolled over on one for a 3-6 fielder’s choice is beside the point. It was this outpouring of optimism, of belief among the community of Mariners fans that I was reacting to listening to dear Liza.

If you’re not familiar with the 1972 film Cabaret–well, if you’re not familiar with it, then first I would encourage you to broaden your interests. But in the meantime, here’s the gist: Based on a 1966 musical of the same name, the movie stars legend-in-her-own-time Liza Minelli (who I hope you at least recognize as Lucille Austero from Arrested Development) as Sally Bowles, an American emigre performing at the Kit Kat Klub in Weimar-era Berlin. Routinely unlucky in love, she falls for a professor staying at her boarding house who is taken with her avant-garde lifestyle. “Maybe This Time” (which, weirdly, is neither in the original Broadway show nor written for the 1972 movie) shows us Sally’s desperate but real optimism that this love affair will work out.

And that’s where I’m at with my Mariners fandom right now: desperate but real optimism. And it turns out, I’m not alone. I think my tears on Monday were because I could sense this. For the first time in a long time, Seattle is ready to be a baseball city again.

There’s a feeling of something building in this community. It’s even visible on that hotbed of “over it” scoffing, Twitter. For outside the accounts that have made it their brand to drag you into their misery, there’s a palpable optimism. If you’re under 30 you might not know this, but there’s nothing like Seattle when the Mariners are good. And I think the city knows that the team is, maybe, good again. I do not think it’s a coincidence that the outpouring of support that got me tonight was for JP Crawford. He’s the player who bought in. He’s a dyed-in-the-Northwest-Green Mariner.

As seen in the movie, “Maybe This Time” starts slowly, even badly, as it is interspersed with scenes of dialogue, making you wonder how the hell Bob Fosse won Best Director for this over Francis Ford Coppola for literally The Godfather. But the song builds til the end when Sally’s sold you. It’s reminiscent of JP’s leadership of this team, which wasn’t automatic but became inevitable.

Although JP grounded out in the fifth, he would come back in the seventh to slap the ball the other way for a single on an 0-2 pitch. He also reached base twice when hit by the pitch. But for inspiring a city, for being the catalyst that has made Seattle believe again, JP Crawford gets tonight’s Sun Hat Award for individual contribution. What more can you ask than evoking the chants of “Edgar” or “Ichiro” the last time the Mariners dominated Seattle. Some will tell you it’s a coincidence it’s JP in this shot, but I don’t think it is:

That shot came during the Mariners’ key inning. Jarred Kelenic started the action with a walk, which was unfortunately erased when he was caught stealing by *this* much. He would have had that bag 99% of the time with the jump he got and the speed he ran, but a great throw from Maldonado and a great tag by Altuve were enough to cut him down. Julio picked him up though, working a walk himself, including impressively laying off an outside pitch that could easily have been called a strike, given how things have been going for him. Murph followed with a single on a 110 mph laser into left field, setting the stage for Adam Frazier’s 2-run triple and the broadcast freezing on JP’s celebration. Let’s give an extra moment’s praise for Frazier, who was 4 for 5 tonight with two 2-RBI extra-base hits, as if leading off the game with a hit on Jake Odorizzi’s first pitch wasn’t enough. Adam showed up tonight to tell us “Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome to ‘22, to ‘22, to ‘22!”

The game itself was almost secondary to the broader mood, the buoyancy, and the anticipation of the crowd. Perhaps nothing was more highly anticipated than the J-Rod Show, and Julio delivered by getting a hit in his first at-bat at T-Mobile park:

Hope requires letting yourself be vulnerable. You can’t help but worry that you’ll end up with your ass covered in dirt, grumbling “Good grief.” But the alternative, I submit, is worse. Indeed cynicism is the coward’s take. The cynic is not subject to his own smug superiority, insisting that he’s just being realistic. But it’s poison. Simon and Garfunkel warn us of refusing to disturb the slumber of the feelings that have died, ironically singing, “If I never loved, I never would have cried.”

Now if you were tempted, I’d understand. The life of a Mariners fan is pretty regular disappointment. My psyche carries the same lessons that Gotty confessed have led to “learned helplessness,” and there’s room to still feel those feelings too. Because it’s a risk to allow yourself to believe that the Mariners won’t, as Sally sings, be “a loser anymore like the last time and the time before” or even, in the Mariners’ case, the time before that. It’s the acknowledgement of that history that makes Sally’s song so beautiful. Tonight’s crowd seemed to be taking the risk anyway and asking us to take it with them. When Ty France hit a 2-RBI double in the seventh, and the crowd lost their minds, I was willing to do it with them, to be unafraid of having been wrong to be hopeful.

It must be noted that (spoiler alert for a movie that came out half a century ago) Sally’s love affair does not work out, she gets an abortion, and the Weimar Republic falls to, well, you know. So don’t misunderstand me–we can still be critical of bad faith from owners, bad decisions by the front office, and bad play from the players. Moreover, Mariners fandom has a sardonic voice, and I’d never suggest changing that. What I am suggesting is that maybe we can all unclench just a little bit. We can resist the temptation to trot out “same old Mariners” when Jesse Winker hits a 1-15 stretch. Because these aren’t the same old Mariners. In the past, the players themselves have sometimes personified that burdened exhaustion that has defined the vibe of the fan base. But that’s not how it is now:

Things don’t always work out, but that doesn’t mean that believing was a mistake. What makes “Maybe This Time” transcendent is its desperation; she’s failed but, for once, she’s letting herself believe. And the Mariners fan community has made me believe as well. We can still acknowledge that we’re taking a risk. It’s only a “maybe.” But what’s the alternative? Instead of living in that head space occupied by the Mariners’ unspent $30 million or the Kelenic-strikeout supercut, I’d argue it’s better to live in this one:

It’s better to live in the world where the fans at T-Mobile are so into the game that they booed José Altuve loudly enough that Yohan Ramírez couldn’t hear the pitch com.

When Yohan got Altuve to strike out to end the eighth here, the crowd went absolutely bonkers. That’s what baseball can be. It’s a chance to live where Julio makes everything he does watchable, or the fans are so engaged that we have to throw up three separate game threads.

So live in the thrill of the Matt Brash debut or of Marco’s performance tonight. Because Marco was a man on fire. Marco began the game with his own strikeout of Altuve, and got Bregman that same inning. In one of his only spots of trouble, with two on and no outs in the third, he rallied to strike out Maldonado and induce a double play. His strikeout of Maldonado included this beautiful curveball:

Overall, on 13 curveballs he got four called strikes and a whiff. Add in that his sinker was back and his changeup also excellent, and he ended up with a 32% CSW supporting his final line of 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, and 6 K. Some were worried after his shaky first outing in Minnesota. But Marco’s a big game pitcher, and feeding off a sellout crowd, he gave folks a bounce back with a game to remember. It’s the kind of game to make you believe that “something’s bound to begin.”

Again, yes, optimism is a risk. But taking a risk is easier when you’re not alone. As the Opening Day festivities remind us, this whole endeavor is about community. So join hands with those 45,023 people. Join hands with JP and with Julio and with Marco. Join hands with me. Let’s jump together.

It’s gotta happen, happen sometime. Maybe this time. Maybe this time, they’ll win.