I’ve always hated the quote about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results—first of all because it’s one of the most salient examples of my pet peeve of quote misattribution (Einstein never said it; try a mystery novelist who writes about cats), and secondly because “insanity” is clearly not the right word. Maybe the original quote was “inanity,” as in “absurdity,” although I would posit “stubborn” or “hidebound” even “obstinate to the point of idiocy” are better (and less offensive) terms.
But it’s also a frustrating quote because it pops into my mind, unbidden, every time I am attempting something and failing, specifically something I cannot get out of doing, like making these awful German Christmas cookies my dad loves. Every year I endeavor to follow the recipe exactly as his mom made them, and every year I fail. But someone has to make the cookies, and the materials listed on the recipe are all I have to work with, that and my own dumb brain and insufficient baking skill.
It’s an experience kind of like watching the Mariners play the Astros 36,000 times per season: the result is already known, failure is baked into the equation, and yet you have to proceed with the stupid little steps anyway, hoping for a better result, but not expecting it.
Today’s game at least did us the courtesy of being a near-exact mirror of yesterday’s game, so for those of you who didn’t want to participate in the definition of insanity, it was an easy enough game to skip. Once again, the Mariners were gifted a strong effort from their starting pitcher, as Chris Flexen went five strong innings, allowing just one solo shot off the bat of perpetual terror Yordan Álvarez. If there’s anything to nitpick in Flexen’s outing, it’s that maybe he could have been a tad more efficient, as he issued three walks, but the ever-patient Astros were willing to sit back and weather the inconsistencies of C.B. Bucknor’s strike zone, waiting for Flexen to offer them something delicious to swing at.
To his credit, Flexen didn’t give in, but maybe if he’d been able to hang in one more inning, Anthony Misiewicz wouldn’t have walked Yordan in the sixth, and Diego Castillo wouldn’t have had to come in mid-inning to replace him and utterly stink up the joint, issuing a walk of his own and two hits to allow two more runs to score, one charged to him and one to Misiewicz. Matt Festa followed with an inning where he also gave up a run, on a solo homer to the formerly slumping José Altuve. Only Penn Murfee worked a clean inning today, including this dope strikeout of the previously mentioned terrifying Álvarez:
And honestly, it didn’t matter how many runs the pitchers gave up, because the offense once again, could not score one single run. Not one! They had some traffic on the bases and every time it came to nought. There are no offensive highlights to show you because there were no offensive highlights. There is, however, this defensive highlight from Julio, who patrolled center field at Minute Maid Park like he’d been doing it for years, playing back to keep balls from getting over his head while using his speed to run in on balls that would have dinked in for the exact same stupid base hits we’re used to seeing at MMP and turn them into outs instead.
while blowing a bubble, Julio forever pic.twitter.com/ep808VulHi— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 4, 2022
But other than that, good vibes are thin, thin, thin on the ground. Jarred walked twice tonight and didn’t strike out, which is good, but it’s a stop on the road to Hitsville, not an arrival. Also the Mayor of Hitsville, J.P. Crawford, saw his streak—both hitting and on-base— end in unfortunate fashion tonight, including getting this at-bat straight robbed away from him by home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor:
do you know how bad you have to mess up to make JP, the Master of Vibes, this angry? pic.twitter.com/zqiJAGJevX— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 4, 2022
But ultimately, there’s only so much railing against the umpires/Astros/schedule/BABIP luck/vagaries of baseball you can do when the materials are in your hands. Following a tried-and-true formula is the safe way to go, but in the end, you have to deduce whether the fault is in your process or the formula itself, and adjust accordingly. Otherwise, you’re just repeating the same steps that don’t work, and you find yourself cycling into the definition of insanity and—to borrow from another specious Einstein quote—shipwrecked by the laughter of the (baseball) gods. It’s a game of adjustments, and the Mariners have not, on this road trip, adjusted; instead, the only thing that seems to have been adjusted are fans’ expectations for the season.