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Mariners help the Padres look like the team everyone thought they would be in the offseason, lose 10-3

If the pitching is bad, and the offense is bad, then the game is just bad.

Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

A few days ago in a group chat that I take part in, a question was posed asking if you would rather be a fan of the Seattle Mariners, being perceived as having not done enough in the offseason and underperforming, or of the San Diego Padres, having spent plenty in recent years, and still underperforming. The question at this point in the season may ultimately be moot, and the likely more popular answer of “spend money” makes sense because it is a more visible effort in trying to make the team better with potentially immediate results. There are some valid arguments for each case, depending strongly on end of season results we are nowhere near approaching as absolutes at the current point in the season.

For the team that spends money, the San Diego Padres in this case, that usually means an investment in more proven talent, and therefore more likelihood of said talent turning things around when slumping, and therefore more likelihood of the team turning things around on the season. That’s essentially what happened in today’s game. The Padres hung double digits, putting up ten runs on seventeen hits. Every player in their starting lineup reached base. Juan Soto went 5-for-5 with four runs batted in. But what about the Mariners?

Well, the Mariners didn’t get shut out. George Kirby caught way too much of the plate with his fastballs, and was punished for it. He allowed five runs, all earned, on eleven hits, not even getting through four innings and needing 86 pitches to get through even that. But, he did get three strikeouts!

Today’s results were more of a reflection on the talent and potential of the Padres than they were of the young sophomore pitcher in Kirby. In his last outing he dominated; in this one he didn’t. He’s still reliable more than not, and these games happen to even the best. The bullpen similarly didn’t have it today either, with Matt Brash, Tayler Saucedo, and Chris Flexen accounting for the other five runs the Padres managed. Matt Festa was the only pitcher today to not allow a run (or a hit, for that matter), going 1.1 innings and striking out two.

There were few bright spots on the offense as well. They didn’t put up double digit strikeouts, so that is good! Jarred Kelenic showed signs of shaking off his slump, going 2-for-4 with just one strikeout. Dylan Moore, making his first appearance since back from injury, drew two walks. Speaking of walks, they were a big part of why the Mariners weren’t shut out, with them getting on the board in the most Mariners way possible. They didn’t dominate the zone, but they moderately controlled it. Dylan Moore, Mike Ford, and Kolten Wong all drew walks in order, and the bases were loaded with no outs. The perfect opportunity to start a rally, and next up was José Caballero. He got on base, and a run scored.

Less than ideal, especially now that Caballero is putting up very Ty France-like HBP numbers, but a run is a run! Julio Rodríguez kept the rally going with an infield RBI single.

Ty France also followed up with an RBI! But it was an RBI ground-into-double-play. Less fun! (But still very Mariners-like). Seattle would threaten again in the ninth with a one out Kelenic single and D-Mo walk, but that’s as far as it went.

Now, back to that question in the beginning. Believe it or not, I would still choose to root for the Mariners in their current position. No, I’m not saying I don’t want the team to spend money. My grip on reality is far stronger than that. I’m not saying I think the Mariners have more true talent on their team than the Padres. In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be such a cruel choice; on an ideal team, they both develop talent internally and acquire proven talent and have enough depth and perform up to expectations and all parts of the team do it at the same time and... you get the point.

It’s simply that the Seattle Mariners are the team my heart belongs to. I’ve watched every game this season, at least in parts. (I’ll admit to switching to the radio feed on occasion when needed to drive somewhere, or when a game was a blowout loss.) I love baseball as a whole, and I love western Washington where I grew up. The Seattle Mariners are my connection to both things. Similarly, I was a big fan of Almost Live!, a local sketch comedy show that aired on the Seattle NBC affiliate through much of my youth, the regional version and set up to Saturday Night Live. In truth, that show ended while I was still a teenager, but I remember it vividly. It launched the career of Bill Nye, and even featured a pre-The Soup Joel McHale. In this episode, their season debut in 1998, there are surprisingly relevant moments to current Seattle Mariners fandom.

The opening sketch about being an Almost Live! fan feels very much akin to what it’s like to try to remain positive about the team right now. Throughout the show, there are a few Mariners references. Around the 16:00 minute mark there was a comment on how the then-Safeco Field would possibly be too hard to hit homeruns at, which turned out to be true. But what stuck out to me the most was the bit on Lou Piniella and how the 1998 season went. The Mariners finished ‘98 in third place, and double digits out of first place, following a playoff appearance the year before. They had a lot of talent, but couldn’t put it together. You could replace ‘98 with ‘23 and the previous few sentences still ring true.

Today, the Mariners were Almost Live! and the Padres were Saturday Night Live. The former full of talent, but held back by restraints on the budget and the difficulty of making that work, but showing promise, and buoyed by some very real talent in the cast. The latter, unrestrained and with potential to match, recruiting the heaviest hitters in their field. The Mariners can still turn things around, the talent is there. Kirby will rarely be as bad as he was today. The offense might not continue to put up less hits than they draw walks (only four hits to five walks in today’s game). They can make a drastic turn and save the season, like they did last year, or they might pull a ‘98. Those answers won’t come until many tomorrows. Today, they were losers. But they’re our losers.