FanPost

A Mariners Carol

Yamauchi was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, the undertaker’s assistant, and the chief mourner. Stanton signed it, and Stanton’s name was good as anything he chose to put his hand to. Oh yes, Yamauchi was as dead as a baseball.

Mind you, I don't know what there is particularly dead about a baseball. They even refer to our current generation of America's pastime as the "live ball era." But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile, and therefore, you'll permit me to repeat, Yamauchi was dead as a baseball.

This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the tale I am going to relate.

Stanton never bothered replacing Yamauchi’s name. There it stood, on the glass outside the office of the owner at T-Mobile Park. Ownership was known as Stanton and Yamauchi. Sometimes those new to the business would call Stanton Stanton, and sometimes Yamauchi, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh, but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Stanton! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as an old metal bat, from which no home run had sprung, and self-contained, solitary as a pitcher on a perfect game.

Wins and losses had little influence on Stanton. No walk-off could excite him, no blown save could devastate him. No losing streak was bittersweet than he, nor star’s trip to the injury list less open to entreaty.

Once upon a time-of all the good days of the year, on Offseason Eve-old Stanton sat busy in his office. The door was open such that Stanton could keep an eye upon the social media team, who in a dismal office across, a sort of tank, were desperately trying to keep up the spirits of Mariners fans. Stanton had his thermostat low, but the social team was even colder. Huddled under blankets, gathered around a small space heater, the team kept as warm as they could. But they could not adjust their own thermostat - the controls were in Stanton’s office; and so as surely a graphic designer came in to warm the room, Stanton predicted it would be necessary for them to part.

It was in keeping this door open that Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander found themselves invited in, through no goodwill of Stanton’s. With cheerful grins on their faces, the duo strolled into the former office of Hiroshi Yamauchi to meet with their current proprietor.

"Stanton and Yamauchi’s ownership office, I believe," joked Dipoto, ribbing Hollander. "Have we the pleasure of addressing Mr. Stanton or Mr. Yamauchi?"

"Mr. Yamauchi has been dead these seven years," Stanton replied. "He died seven years ago, as you both are well aware."

"Well we have no doubt his liberality is well represented by the surviving chairman," said Hollander, taking a seat, and admiring a small newspaper article displayed in the corner of the room highlighting the signing of Robinson Canó.

At the ominous word "liberality" Stanton frowned, and shook his head, taking a seat himself.

"As the calendar turns to the new season, Mr. Stanton," said Dipoto, taking up a pen, "it is desirable that we turn our attention to our offseason acquisition budget. With players departing the roster, and the Mariners in need of wins to overtake the Astros and the Rangers, it is more than usually desirable for us to make some slight provisions. Many fans are in want of Ohtani; hundreds of fans expect us to sign Blake Snell."

"Is there no Cal Raleigh?" asked Stanton.

"Cal Raleigh remains on the roster," said Dipoto, laying down the pen again.

"And Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray," demanded Stanton. "Are they still cashing my checks?"

"They are. Still," returned Dipoto, "I wish we could say they weren’t alone."

"Julio and JP, they still are in full vigour, then?" said Stanton.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Stanton. "I am very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they alone will not bring an AL West title to Seattle," returned Dipoto, "Hollander and I are endeavouring to raise the payroll to buy the lineup some help, and an arm or two. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when the Mariners are most well positioned to push their chips in, when the need is keenly felt, and Seattle on the verge of rejoicing. How much shall I put down our budget for?"

"Nothing!" Stanton replied.

"You wish us to be unfettered, then?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Stanton. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. Our regional sports network doesn’t bring in any more money when we win, I can scarcely afford to raise payroll. I pay to keep the players we have mentioned - they cost enough; and if we need more you should look to save there."

"Many we can’t afford to lose, and fans would rather die than to see us trade Eugenio Suarez."

"If they would rather die," said Stanton, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

"John Stanton! It is our business to do this city proud-"

"It’s not my business," Stanton cut Hollander off, "my business is to keep this franchise sustainable. And my business occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Stanton resumed his labors with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

As the day wound to a close, Stanton walked out with a growl. He took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, seeing the Rangers receive accolades for their aggressive roster building strategy, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker’s book, went home to bed.


Now it is a fact that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on Stanton’s door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact that Stanton had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in his dwelling. Let it also be borne in mind that Stanton had not bestowed one thought on Yamauchi since his last mention of his seven-years’-dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Stanton, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing of any immediate process of change — not a knocker, but Yamauchi’s face.

As Stanton looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue. But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and turned on the lights.

Stanton walked through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

Living room, bedroom, office, den. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he donned his sleeping gown and slippers, and walked into the master bath to brush his teeth.

It was as he spit into the basin of the sink that in the mirror, he noticed it. The face of Hiroshi Yamauchi, distorted yet ever so faintly present, in the privacy glass of the shower stall behind him.

Turning at once to it, he found the face had gone.

"Humbug!" said Stanton, and walked to his bed.

After several turns he sat down again. As he threw his head back onto his pillow, his glance happened to rest upon an Amazon Echo, a disused and unplugged one, that sat on the nightstand. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that, as he looked, he heard this Echo begin to chime. It chimed so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every device in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The chimes ceased, as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

The basement door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

"It's humbug still!" said Scrooge. "I won't believe it."

His color changed, though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the lights in the room flickered brightly, as though it cried, "I know him! Yamauchi's Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Yamauchi in his slicked-back gray hair, his business suit. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made of cash-boxes, checks, keys, padlocks, ledgers, and heavy purses wrought in steel. Also, curiously, SNES controllers.

"How now!" said Stanton. "What do you want with me?"

"Much!" — Yamauchi’s voice, no doubt about it.

"Who are you?"

"Ask me who I was."

"Who were you, then?" said Stanton, raising his voice.

"In life I was your predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi." His English was perfect, indeed without a hint of an accent. Just one of many things death seemed to transcend.

"Why do you walk the earth, and why do you come to me?" begged Stanton.

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death."

The spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.

"You are strangely fettered, Hiroshi," said Stanton, trembling, "tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied Yamauchi. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free-will, and of my own free-will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

Stanton trembled more and more.

"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven years ago. You have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain!"

Stanton gasped and paced around the floor of his room, clutching his temples. "Oh, Mr. Yamauchi, speak comfort to me!"

"I have none to give," replied Yamauchi. "Hear me! My time is nearly gone."

"I hear you, Hiroshi."

"I am here to tell you that you have a chance and hope of escaping my fate, John."

"You were always a good friend to me, Mr. Yamauchi. That is, if we ever interacted at all. In fact, I think the part where you had an office in Seattle was a bit that the author of this piece made up; and in fact we never had a relationship; but this is the only way the parody works, and also you did in fact die seven years ago, so here we are, with me claiming you were always a good friend."

"You will be haunted by three other Spirits," warned Yamauchi.

"...is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Hiroshi?" Stanton asked in a faltering voice.

"It is."

"I think I’d rather not," said Stanton.

"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One."

"Couldn’t I take them all at once and have it over, Hiroshi?" hinted Stanton.

"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third, upon the next." The specter gasped, as the vision of him began to fade out of sight for Stanton. "Look to see me," he uttered, with the sound of his struggle, "no more…"

As the Ghost parted company with the land of the living, Stanton found himself alone once more in his bedroom, cowering against the foot of his bed with nothing to cower about remaining. He picked himself up off of the floor, regained his faculties, and rubbed his temples for the last time. "Humbug!" he bellowed, as he tucked himself under his sheets and turned himself in for the night.

"John…" a voice carried, softly through the window, opened while Stanton had been tossing and turning over in his bed. He paid it no mind; it must have been the whisper of a branch in the wind.

"John…" the voice repeated, stronger this time. Stanton, finding the voice harder to ignore, fluttered his eyes open, as he felt himself tense, preparing for what was to come next.

"JOHN!" the Spirit cried, now fully present. Stanton shot upright with a start, as a glistening, silver Spirit appeared in front of him. Garbed in a long winter coat and fur hat, all glistening with silver, this spirit carried a gold trident in their right hand. "Rise, and walk with me!" the Spirit commanded.

"Who and what are you?" Stanton demanded.

"I am the Ghost of Mariners’ Past."

"Long past?" inquired Stanton.

"No, just since the Griffey years, really," admitted the Spirit. "Take heed of me!"

With a flourish of the trident, the bedroom had gone. Replacing it was the smell of artificial turf, of peanuts and cracker jack, of chewing tobacco and pine tar. Stanton found himself field level of the Kingdome, and he felt the crackle of the atmosphere in the air. The sound was deafening, disorienting immediately after Stanton had just been in his quiet home. Joey Cora was on second. Ken Griffey Jr was on first. Edgar Martinez was walking up to bat. Stanton knew what happened next.

"Why have you brought me here, spirit?" Stanton waved to try and get the attention of the security guard he found himself next to along the third base line, where he knew soon the ball that would save baseball in Seattle would be here.

"Your welfare," replied the Spirit. Noticing Stanton, the Spirit warned, "These are but shadows of the things that have been. They have no consciousness of us."

Jack McDowell fired his first pitch of the at-bat to the plate. A called strike.

"These fans have waited long for a moment like this to occur in Seattle," opined the Spirit. "Since 1977, eighteen seasons, with eight more occurring since they lost the Pilots, the have been dreaming of a day like this. Now they are going to get it."

The second pitch. The crack of the bat. Stanton watched as the ball skipped off the artificial turf mere feet in front of where he stood, ripping its way into the left field corner, where Gerald Williams scrambled towards it. The sound, deafening before, was omnipresent. And yet, the Spirit spoke softly, with Stanton able to hear every word.

"This team used a generational talent hitting his peak to bring this joy to this city. Another budding star was sitting just over there, waiting to see if he would have to be the hero today," the Spirit gestured at the on-deck circle, where Alex Rodriguez was making his way behind home plate to triumphantly greet the winning run. "This double was hit by another future Hall of Famer, and the top of this inning was pitched by another one. That’s how much talent it took to bring winning baseball to Seattle."

"A mighty team indeed, Spirit."

"And yet, one that would soon fall apart."

The noise stopped, as the crowd faded away just as quickly as they had appeared. The smell of turf lingered, while the other odors left. Stanton found himself in an empty Kingdome, with only the Spirit to keep him company.

"The Mariners would never progress past the League Championship Series with those players," the Spirit opined. "Instead, in 1998, the Mariners would fail to pay Randy Johnson to extend his contract, and be forced to trade him to the Houston Astros to recoup what value they could. This would portend the end of two more Hall of Fame careers in Seattle, and in fact would indicate that an entirely new era of Seattle Mariners baseball was on the horizon."

A different deafening sound, a much more dangerous one, as plaster and concrete exploded far above Stanton’s head. A mild scream escaped his lips as he realized. The Kingdome was coming down around him.

"As I said, John, these are but shadows. You cannot and will not be harmed by them." The Spirit allowed Stanton to cower under the sheer weight of the human engineering that was collapsing around him, before with another flourish of the trident, they were once again on the playing field, only this time without a roof above.

"Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez would soon leave for the home of the former and the promise of a fair free agent contract for the latter. The Mariners organization would fail to even deliver a professional pitch to Rodriguez, offering only three guaranteed years to one of the best shortstops to ever play the game."

"I recognize the failings of our past, Spirit," Stanton replied. "That is why I’ve instructed our team to develop and extend the talent we have here in the fold already."

"Extensions alone will not save you," cried the Spirit, as the new ballpark filled with Mariners fans. "You know what happens next. Ichiro comes, wins more regular season games than any team in history ever had in his first year, then fails to find that same success in the following seasons, despite extending his time in Seattle. Felix Hernandez arrives and leads the team into the following decade, extending his time with the team into the late 2010’s, only to find himself a shadow of his former glory at the time when the team needed him most."

"Spirit, we signed Canó and Cruz during that time," Stanton retorted. "We ran a payroll high enough to make us ninth in the league at the end of the time of Felix!"

"And how far below the luxury tax were you?" replied the Spirit. "How many wins could you have bought on the open market to recover what Felix was losing? How many fans could have seen their idol in a playoff series? How much glory could you have brought to this city?"

The Spirit once again flourished the trident. The ballpark faded away, leaving Stanton sitting in his bedroom once more.

"But Spirit, show me one more moment in the past, show me that moment in September when Cal broke the drought. Please, Spirit. I need something to remind me of what we’ve accomplished."

"You’ve accomplished nothing," barked the Spirit, growing in stature. "You brought this city a single home playoff game in which your team scored no runs. Do you consider that an accomplishment?"

"But they don’t talk about us on Sportscenter when they mention the longest playoff droughts anymore!" Stanton offered.

"A pitiful pillar to lean on," the Spirit said, their voice reverberating in the small space. "You must be thirstier than that, John. You must know what nectar your heart aches for."

And with a flash, and a clap of thunder, the spirit disappeared.

Stanton, disturbed by the appearance of the first Spirit, but remembering what Yamauchi relayed regarding the cadence of the Spirits’ visits, turned once again to his bed. It was with a start, then, that he heard a voice calling from the other side of his dwelling.

"John!" the voice beckoned, "Come in! Come in and know me better, man!"

Stanton opened the door to his office, where he had determined the voice to be originating, and was immediately presented with a sight to behold. A Spirit clad in all teal, sparkling as if light itself originated from their garb, beckoned him in to his own home workplace.

"I am the Ghost of Mariners’ Present!" cried the Spirit. "Look upon me! You have never seen the likes of me before!"

"Never," Stanton made an answer to it.

The Ghost of Mariners Present rose from the office chair they had made themselves comfortable in.

"Spirit," Stanton started, "conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."

"Touch my robe!"

Stanton did as he was told, and with a horrible whistling wind, the duo found themselves in the offices of Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander.

"Yeah, Mike. We’re putting Suarez on the table," Stanton heard Hollander relay on the phone. "How does Vargas and Zavala hit you?"

"Wait, Spirit," Stanton gasped, "are they about to salary dump Eugenio Suarez?"

"John, you have forced them into an untenable position," replied the Spirit. "Without a budget to improve the team, they will be forced to create their own."

"No, we can’t send you any money for anyone else," Hollander continued. "We only have players. That’s why I’m not asking for much."

"But he just asked for a backup catcher and a random pitcher, did he not?" Stanton asked incredulously. "Did Eugenio not anchor this clubhouse?"

"Anchor this clubhouse? What’s anchoring this clubhouse to John Stanton? Was it not you who said that fans who would rather die than see him traded better do it and decrease the surplus population?"

Stanton’s own words echoed in his head as he saw Hollander hang up the phone. He turned to Jerry Dipoto, who had been observing, and gave him a grim nod. Dipoto picked up a phone of his own, and dialed the number of one of his favorite players.

"Come, we have much to discuss," the Spirit ushered, as the two men faded into slightly changed positions.

"Yeah, we’re willing to move on from Kelenic. Could we get you to take on Gonzales’ and White’s salaries? We’ll send you Marco’s bonus at least."

"Now Jarred Kelenic is going to leave? What has happened this offseason?" Stanton looked on, perturbed by the visions the Spirit was granting him.

"It has been a hard one. Dipoto, frustrated with his limited budget, told fans he was doing them a favor by limiting his spending. He mentioned shooting for a certain winning percentage across a decade, and that number seems to have been too low for the fans."

"He said the 54% thing at a press conference?" Stanton said, exasperated.

"Quite," replied the Spirit.

"Alright, Phillips and Kowar work. We can sell them as projects, I think." Jerry nodded as Hollander continued his discussions over the phone. Stanton was devastated. In his quest for financial stability, he had created the conditions by which a beloved clubhouse presence, and separately a prospect whose production was seen as a bellwether for the success of the rebuild, had been unceremoniously removed from the roster.

"Spirit," Stanton asked, "is this all true?"

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, this will come to pass."

"But tell me, Spirit, if I invest in the team, if I change my ways, will they be able to build something great?"

"My business is the present. I cannot predict more than this." And with a flash, Stanton once again was in bed, and the Spirit was gone.

A breath filled the air of Stanton’s room. Fog, thick as pine tar, seeped in through the cracks of the drywall. A shadowy figure took stance at the end of Stanton’s bed. Stanton, feeling the ominous presence, awoke.

"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Mariners Yet to Come?"

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

"You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Stanton pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?"

The upper portion of the figure’s garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

"Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But, as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to be another Mariners owner from what I was, lead on."

The fog grew even thicker, completely blocking the view of Stanton, only to dissipate into a clear darkness. In the darkness, Stanton thought he could make out the outline of the Green Monster.

"Fenway Park? Why do we find ourselves here, Spirit?" Stanton turned towards the spirit, standing in the shallow of left field, he himself standing midway.

By way of reply, the Spirit pointed upwards, as the lights flicked on with a mechanical sound. Stanton shuddered, detecting what may be the Spirit’s intent.

"Before I turn to face that wall, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they the shadows of the things that May be only?"

The figure simply extended a bony finger behind Stanton, pointing to the Wall.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Stanton. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Stanton turned to face the wall.

There, underneath the division standings, it read:

NL WEST

LOS ANGELES
SAN FRANCISCO
ARIZONA
SAN DIEGO
COLORADO

AL WEST

HOUSTON
TEXAS
ANAHEIM
LAS VEGAS
VANCOUVER

"No, Spirit! Oh, no, no!"

The finger was still there.

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?"

The kind hand trembled.

"I will honour the Mariners in my heart I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may change the lettering on this Wall!"

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

Stanton awoke with a start. The bedroom was lit with the sun peaking through the blinds of his windows - the night had finally past. He rubbed his eyes, rolled to his nightstand, and plugged in the previously unused Amazon Echo.

"Alexa, what day is it?"

"Today?" the robotic voice replied. "Why, it’s Christmas day!"

"Holy FUCK," Stanton uttered, jumping out of bed at once. "Those Spirits really worked at their own pace, did they not?" He quickly jumped back into his slippers and made his way down into his office.

Dialing his phone as quickly as he could, he soon found himself talking to Jerry Dipoto.

"John," the voice on the other line called. "I’ve been trying to reach you for months, what happened?"

"I had other business come up, you know how my schedule is." Stanton hand waived away Dipoto’s concerns. "What’s the update?"

"Well, we had to dump Suarez, Kelenic, Gonzales, and White," Dipoto replied. "Your payroll cap really left us without a lot of options. But I think you’ll be excited to hear, we just signed Mitch Garver last night."

"Garver? A catcher? Do we not have Cal and Zavala?"

"How do you know about Zavala?"

"I do in fact read the news on occasion, Mr. Dipoto."

A sigh came on the other line. "Yes, but Garver has a history of knee issues, we’re thinking it might be best to use him primarily as a DH."

"Good, good. If I may offer a suggestion?"

"A suggestion, sir?"

"Have Hollander get Bellinger’s people on the line. Tell him you just got $50M to play with."

"Sir?"

"I’ve come to my senses at last, Jerry. You have to spend money to make money. We’ll get this whole city behind us."

"Are you sure, sir?" The disbelief in Dipoto’s voice was palpable.

"Of course."

"Well, in that case, I won’t tell Hollander to tell Bellinger’s agent our exact budget, as that’s a terrible negotiation tactic, but I appreciate it more than you know, sir!"

"Go out there and make us great, Jerry." And with that, Stanton hung up the phone.