Episode 22 – El Scorcho (LIVE)

THE DOME IS BACK IN TOWN

In the beginning, there was The Pod, and Fun was with The Pod, and The Pod was Fun. But then The Pod was told to log off, and it did, and so with it, The Fun left, and there was darkness, and ceaseless torment. But lo, upon the dusk of the *checks notes* 86th day, The Pod logged back on, and there was light, and dancing, and joy once again.

O Death, where is thy sting? Yes I’ll have another drink, thank you.

***

Welcome back friends, to a special, in person, live podcast of Dome and Bedlam. We are hugely apologetic for our long absence. It was summer, and we had vacations to take. It’s tough to express how much it means to hear from so many of you (often angrily, and justifiably so) that you miss the show. Dome and Bedlam was always, before anything else, just three friends who loved baseball, and each other. That our nonsense has found such a loyal and passionate audience is something we never really expected,  and we definitely don’t deserve, but we’re truly thankful for.

A HUGE thank you to Pinxto and their speakeasy Branchwater for putting up with our noise, and the world’s least inconspicuous microphone while we recorded. Please remit to them your business for delicious food and drinks. Do not tell them we sent you, we want you to have a nice time.

We always say we’ll try to do this more often, and we always mean it, and we seemingly never do. But, we’ll try to do this more often. Thanks so much for listening.

***

(Music credits: Mom Jeans, Baroness, Bayside)

 

 

 

A Felix Hernandez FAQ

LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT WAS, IS, AND SOON SHALL BE

So, like, you all have seen Felix’s numbers this year right? He’s got a 5.73 ERA, and a 5.03 FIP in over 120 IP. You all don’t like, still think he’s good. Right?

I am glad you asked. Felix Hernandez was among the very best pitchers alive from 2009-April of 2015. Unfortunately, it is now August of 2018 and, over the last three and a half seasons, the small leak in Felix’s dominance has been rapidly widened by the flood, and water is now gushing everywhere, ruining electronics and control panels, and reducing him to what he largely is today: An ok fifth starter with poor command, decent stuff, and an inconsistent outlook.

The answer to the question is no, I do not think Felix Hernandez is still good. He hasn’t even been “squint your eyes and pretend” good since a few starts in 2016. That’s a long time ago, and to deny that reality is pretty foolish and naive.

Ok, well then I’m confused. It seems like you’re always coming to Felix’s defense anytime the team talks about removing him from the rotation. Do you think he should stay in the rotation?

Well first of all, for me and my house, this is about loyalty before anything. Felix is the King. Secondly, look, I don’t know. Like I said above, Felix isn’t very good anymore. Felix was never going to be very good in 2018. Everyone knew this, including the team. That’s at least part of what has made Jerry Dipoto’s attempts to spin this season’s outcome as somehow contingent upon Felix becoming something he hasn’t been in years so infuriating.

If the team is half as smart as they very publicly try to make themselves appear, they know far more than we know. If we knew that Felix was probably going to struggle this year, it makes depending/planning on him being something other than that, with only Erasmo Ramirez and his 11.94 FIP to fall back on, seem like folly.

Well now it feels like we’re getting somewhere raw and pretty emotional. Do you think the Mariners want Felix to fail or something?

/bites inside of cheek extremely hard

Well, no. The Mariners front office wants to win baseball games. Felix Hernandez pitching like an above average starter in 2018 would have greatly helped them in that regard, particularly as they made little to no effort to build up major league depth at pitching. That’s something they could have really used, given that they’ve traded Luiz Gohara, Freddy Peralta, and Nick Niedert the past two years for Adam Lind, Nate Karns, and a leadoff hitter with a 1.6% walk rate.

The Mariners needed and wanted Felix to be good again, but the need was created through their own poor trades and inaction. Rather than look inward (or upward, to ownership’s miserly penny pinching) the team seems to have focused its frustration on Felix himself. To myself, and I believe to other like-minded fans, the pattern from the front office has been a combination of ill-founded/disingenuous expectation, coupled with a paternal, overly public shaking of the head whenever Felix has struggled. This pattern not only needlessly, publicly, agonizingly draws attention to Felix’s decline, but seeks to distract fans from the fact that this failure is at least as much one born by the team itself as the player they seem hellbent on shaming.

Well then, smart guy, what do you want them to do instead?

I want them to go back and exhaust their mental and financial resources to shore up this rotation. I want them to correctly predict, and proactively plan for, an incredible buyer’s market this past offseason. I want them to understand that this fanbase and franchise existed well before any of them got here. I want them to get that respect is earned, not given, and that slapping a “Mr. Manager” badge on your chest and walking around a dugout in uniform doesn’t earn you a damn thing with players or fans.

I want them to quit smiling and accepting all praise, and bristling and deflecting downward all blame. Given that they are more than willing to publicly consider the future of their franchise icon, I want them to do the same for their lead off man with a .303 OBP, or their starting first baseman who has been worth -0.6 fWAR.

More than anything, seeing as how this front office and management caters to public appearance and “openness” more than perhaps any other in the game, I want that same openness to indicate an understanding that the failure of the players; even proud, stubborn, declining icons, is their failure too. I want them to understand that there is a very good chance in seven or eight years, when we pack whatever Safeco Field is called at that time for Felix Hernandez’s jersey retirement and statue unveiling, that we will struggle to recall their names.

Wow, uh, that’s quite the rant. Do you have anything else you need to get off your chest?

Letting Felix burn in the Texas Hellfire  last night was unforgivable; an unnecessary and seemingly petty insult towards a longtime Mariner great. Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto are meddling with love forged over years of sacrifice and shared loyalty. They are forces they do not seem to fully understand.

Felix Hernandez forever. Long live the King.

 

Felix Hernandez Lasts

I have always struggled to write about Felix. I am a mediocre writer, and a mediocre man. Often the words I am happiest with are the ones I write without thinking or feeling. But Felix and my connection to this baseball team, and in many ways this region, are tied together too deeply. It is a knot my brain cannot untangle. With Felix, the music stops. There are, to quote the King of Prussia, too many notes.

That said, here on the cusp of what may actually be his last start as a Mariner before he suffers the indignity of whatever fate time, thousands of innings, and Jerry Dipoto have in store for him, is my honest attempt to express what Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariner, means to me.

*****

To grow up is to learn disillusionment, and in that way professional sports are an excellent teacher. The various games, leagues, mythos, romance, ideologies, and on in place were invented, refined, and sold to us for one purpose, and it was to profit the men who owned them. They sell themselves expertly, particularly to the young and naive, and once we learn to love something as children, it is incredibly difficult to rationalize away from it.

There comes a point, though, when we realize the empty falseness, the Wizard of Oz-like con game that can seem to be at the heart of so much of all this stuff we spend all this time loving and caring about. It’s usually a player leaving in free agency, or traded to another team once his useful (i.e. cheap) years with the team have run out. We don’t stop loving sports, because we have always done it, and to stop feels like we would stop being ourselves, but we learn the inequity of the transaction of feeling as a sports fan. Professional sports are, and will always be, a foolish and potentially emotionally damaging thing to care about.

*****

All hail King Felix. Hernandez worked five innings last night against Spokane, allowing just one run on two hits and striking out five. He also walked four, but it’s important to remember that he’s only 17 and facing much older competition, including some college players. I’m trying not to get too excited about him, but it’s difficult not to with the way he’s pitched so far.

The summer of 2003 was marked by the beginnings of the first split between the Mariners organization, and the newly burgeoning segment of its fans on the internet. On the field the team was in its final season of glory, a 93-win powerhouse, its fourth straight 90+ win season. Off the field, Lou Piniella’s recent war with the front office was fresh, Pat Gillick’s use of the the farm as nothing more than a resource to trade from to supplement the current run had bled it dry, and, to a few fans, the happy days were numbered.

There was disagreement, and there was infighting. There was name calling, and personal attacks, and resentment. In the tiny overlap in the venn diagram between the warring parties, there was Felix. He was 17 years old, and obliterating the Northwest League. USS Mariner, the mother tree of online Mariner fandom, called him King. Two years later he would be in Seattle, throwing eight shutout innings against the Twins.

As Felix ascended the Mariners spiraled into oblivion, like an untethered astronaut. They flailed, they screamed, they tried to change. Nothing worked. There was no friction. There was nothing. Only Felix.

*****

I was twenty-one when Felix was crowned King. I am thirty-six today. In between I have gotten married, had children, gotten fat, gotten skinny, gotten fat again, bought a house, nearly died, made and lost friends, and grown gray hairs. I’ve been to the Royal Court, seen Felix throw an immaculate inning, win a Cy Young, throw a Perfect Game, re-sign with the Mariners, and re-sign with them again and cry about it. I have never seen him pitch in the playoffs, and am now pretty close to convinced I never will.

Lasts are important. They serve as touchstones that spiral us backwards through our shared experiences, remembering that the feelings in our gut weren’t plopped there, but forged and nurtured, through time and affection. Lasts call back all that has come before, and with Felix, my god so much has come before today. The last Opening Day start already happened, the last shutout and complete game probably have too.

Now, today, with the Mariners desperately clinging to their playoff hopes, and Felix’s arm simply incapable of doing what it has done here for pushing two decades, we may be at the last start. The Blue Jays are the opponent, and it feels fitting. Maybe my favorite Felix memory is against Toronto, as is the game upon which it can be argued his career began its decline. That Safeco Field will be filled with non-Mariner fans feels similarly appropriate. Felix has always seemingly delighted in ripping out the soul of a hostile crowd.

****

“King” Felix has always been such a perfect nickname. At his height Felix not only reigned over games and seasons, but the talent gap between him and the rest of his typically terrible Mariner teammates was sufficient to set him apart. Like a noble of old. he stood atop the only raised part of the field and looks down like a monarch upon his kingdom. We rose and stood when he exited the bullpen and headed towards the mound. We chanted his name. I’ve grown into an adult with him, and he with us. Here, in the very lasts of his career, we recognize and acknowledge his legacy here is not contingent upon yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It is secure. It will last. So, tonight, we stand and rise, and we say, as we always have, and always will:

Long live the King.

The Mariners CEO Settled a Sexual Harassment Claim

Let’s talk about some terrible stuff we really don’t want to have to talk about

There are many things about this I think merit some words, and here they are in no particular order or rank:

1) It’s important to note that, while baseball and society itself are slowly, painfully, exhaustively lurching towards a place where women do not have to lift twice as much as men and be told it’s half as much to be seen as equal, women do not go work in baseball for the money or benefits. NO ONE goes into baseball for these things,  particularly the women who by the nature of their very gender are guaranteed to make less than their male counterparts.

There are many, many jobs a woman could do outside of work in a baseball office, and make as much or more, and have a standard of living as good, or higher. They all come to it for the same reason as men: They really like baseball, and they want to be around it. Because they really like baseball, they endure an awful lot of bullshit from guys at work, online, at the ballpark, and do it all for, again, far less than their skills are generally worth in the marketplace.

2) Think, for one goddamn minute, about this lady forced to work on Bob Aylward’s computer. That first, Aylward used his computer at work to relentlessly watch porn, and then felt no compunction or hesitancy to ask/request/order a female employee to fix his frozen computer, at least in part because, again, of the porn that Aylward watched at work. That the EMPLOYEE was the person overcome with shock and embarrassment at the way this played out reveals the comic imbalance of workplace dynamics, not only with the Mariners at that time, but in huge swaths of the American workplace.

It also says that Bob Aylward is a bumbling asshole.

3) It’s about power, and it’s always been about power, and it will always be about power. Power’s very nature requires a subjugated, a lesser, a dominated. It demands castes and roles, greaters and lessers, mores and betters. It confuses obedience for peace, quiet for calm, and compliance with contentedness. It forces a structure in which a man can demand a lady who has brought him alcohol not only kiss him, but feel special, honored even, by the “request.”

Bob Aylward, Chuck Armstrong, and Kevin Mather (the latter of whom is currently, right now, the Mariners Chief Executive Officer), like so many before them, were able to settle their way out of any serious repercussions for their idiocy, through company-wide policy updates and sensitivity training. The team took the punishment for their actions, and diluted it into the company water supply, so that everyone can share it together. Call it “always striving to improve,” which is exactly what they did.

They are able to do this because they are men, and they are rich. Much of the horrors that surround our current times, when traced back to their root cause, stop at the Bugatti-crashing, mortgage stock company-shorting, horndog-obsessed dudes that comprise the vast portion of our society’s check writing and decision making class. Make no mistake, these are the men that run your beloved baseball team. They are largely inseparable from the smug asshole that owns whatever team(s) you hate the most. This is the truth, and anyone who says otherwise is a dangerous combination of stupid and/or on the company dollar.

4) “Winning cures all,” they say. The Mariners, through a combination of good play and good fortune are 61-41. The fans have noticed. In twelve home games this month attendance has fallen below thirty-thousand only once, and never below twenty-five. The buzz around the team and franchise is unlike anything seen in at least a decade, and in all honesty probably much longer.

This story, both because Geoff Baker’s name is vaguely repellent to the fanbase, and due to its timing, is going to be swept largely under the rug. If the Mariners were, say, 49-53, or if this story broke about the leadership of, say, the Rangers, many of the voices telling you this is all water under the bridge wouldn’t be able to speak because they’d have their mouths so full of fresh meat.

The team’s public responses to this story have been, largely, dismissive and unconcerned. They know the team’s record, and they know its accompanying reality. No one cares when you win baseball games.

Winning obscures all, and does nothing more.

5) When and how three Mariner executives sexually harassed women is very important, and also largely irrelevant. I hate this story, and reading the Times’ account of the events that took place is extremely difficult to take in. This difficulty is the important part. The pain of exacting detail should, perhaps must be experienced to render something even approaching proper response. For many, many, many people, they won’t necessarily need that, because the story these women have to tell is all too familiar to their own.

The particulars do not matter in the sense that, when we step back we can see what this is: Three empowered, wealthy men preyed on vulnerable women, and while these women reached monetary compensation and the Mariners did respond, through seminars and workshops, these three men largely escaped any personal punishment. Aylward continues to serve on the board of ROOT, Armstrong was allowed to maintain his position for years until retirement, and Mather has been promoted, occupying what is probably the most powerful position in the organization. At the time of this article’s publication, there appears no serious movement towards changing Mather’s role with the team.

6) I don’t know what the proper justice is for this. I don’t know, yet, how turning on a news conference and seeing Kevin Mather speak in front of a compass rose is going to effect my Mariner fandom. The mere thought of worrying about how this news changes how I feel about a baseball team seems appallingly small and trite in context. It has always been those things though, and the decision to push them aside and indulge in the silly theater and drama of the game always a conscious one.

I have loved the Mariners, and baseball, all my life. I don’t know the breaking point. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s a long ways past this. I just can’t stop thinking about the first day these women came to Safeco Field, the thrill of starting a new position in a highly competitive field, and how that was ruined by the libido of men who have never thought about these women, probably before or since. That struggle is mine. Each fan will have their own. All of them are trivial in comparison to what these three women had to endure.

7) The Mariners as an organization have been largely defined by failure. To their credit, the vast majority of that failure has been kept on the field, which at the end of the day is the most trivial part of this whole operation. This story is a failure not of the scoreboard, but of their people, and their process. That’s the important part, and that makes this story an important failure.

These women deserved better. It’s on us to demand better, and to be skeptical of what people in power say, even those on our beloved baseball team. Do better, Mariners.  

The Mariners are likely to make history

With the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to the second half of the season. The Mariners are currently three games ahead of the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild Card in the American League. With sixty-five games to go, this team has a chance to be the first Mariners team since 2001 to go to the playoffs. They could also collapse and stretch their streak of seasons without appearing in the playoffs to 17 seasons. Either way, odds are good that the Mariners will make some history for teams in the Second Wild Card (WC2) Era.

Despite their relatively brief history, the Mariners are no strangers to odd, and occasionally ominous records. It took until their 15th season (1991) to have a winning record in a single season, the longest such streak to begin a franchise of any team currently in MLB. On the other side of the coin, they set the modern record for most wins in a season, with 116 wins in 2001. Back on the first side of the coin, they were also the first team in MLB history to lose 100 games with a payroll of at least $100 million in the nightmare season of 2008. Let’s find out how the M’s can make history again this year.

The good kind of history

This section allows me to be the 2,947th person this season to talk about everyone’s favorite topic, RUN DIFFERENTIAL! If you are reading this, I’m assuming you’re familiar with Run Differential, as well as Pythag Record. If you aren’t familiar, I urge you to read this Baseball-Reference article on the topic. The article gives an in-depth explanation of the topic, as well as formulas for determining Pythag Record, but the short version is that Pythag Record looks at a team’s run differential and calculates an expected record based on those results. It’s rudimentary, but is typically thought to be a better predictor of future record than a team’s current actual record. The charts and stats referenced in the rest of this article use baseball-reference.com’s Pythag Record.

As you well know, the Mariners entered the All-Star Break at 58-39 (.598 Win %), despite a run differential of -2, good for a .498 Pythag Win %. While that is not the worst run differential by a team at the All-Star Break to make the playoffs (that “honor” belongs to the 2017 Minnesota Twins who had a breathtakingly bad run differential of -60 at the break last year), it’s not great. However, it does represent the largest numerical increase from a team’s Pythag Record to their Actual Record. Below is a chart that shows the 10 teams, during the WC2 era, that outplayed their Pythag Record by the greatest margin at the All-Star Break. The Numerical Difference is simply the Actual Winning Pct minus the Pythag Pct. The Pct Difference is how much better the Actual Winning Pct is than the Pythag Pct, by percentage. For example, 10 is 100% better than 5, but 20 is only 50% better than 10. 

Year Team ASB Actual Winning Pct ASB Pythag Pct Numerical Difference Pct Difference
2018 SEA 0.598 0.498 0.1000 16.72%
2017 SDP 0.432 0.348 0.0840 19.44%
2016 TEX* 0.600 0.517 0.0830 13.83%
2015 CHW 0.477 0.399 0.0780 16.35%
2012 BAL* 0.529 0.455 0.0740 13.99%
2017 MIN* 0.511 0.437 0.0740 14.48%
2016 PHI 0.467 0.394 0.0730 15.63%
2017 BAL 0.477 0.418 0.0590 12.37%
2013 PHI 0.500 0.448 0.0520 10.40%
2012 MIA 0.482 0.430 0.0520 10.79%

Three important notes about this chart:

  1. The three teams marked with an asterisk* made the playoffs that year.
  2. Yes, the 2017 San Diego Padres had a larger difference between their Actual Record and Pythag Record by percentage, but that percentage is exaggerated by the fact that their Pythag Record was so bad. They had a run differential of -128 at the All-Star Break! Percentages get exaggerated when you have the second worst Pythag Record at the All-Star break in the WC2 Era.
  3. This chart also only shows teams that outplayed their Pythag Record. That means the poor 2015 Oakland Athletics, whose actual record was over 23% worse than their Pythag Record, don’t show up. That’s bad luck, or underplaying to expectations. What we’re interested in right now is teams that outplayed their expectations.

If the 2018 Mariners make the playoffs, they will have done so with the largest increase from their Pythag Record to their Actual Record at the All-Star Break in the WC2 era.

The bad kind of history

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about run differential. Alright then, let’s ignore run differential. After all, the wins the M’s have right now are in the bank. You can’t take them away. Let’s take a look at a chart that shows the teams with the best Actual Winning Pct at the All-Star Break, in the WC2 Era.

Year Team ASB Wins ASB Losses ASB Winning Pct
2017 LAD 61 29 0.678
2017 HOU 60 29 0.674
2016 SFG 57 33 0.633
2015 STL 56 33 0.629
2014 OAK 59 36 0.621
2013 STL 57 36 0.613
2012 NYY 52 33 0.612
2014 LAA 57 37 0.606
2015 KCR 52 34 0.605
2012 TEX 52 34 0.605
2013 PIT 56 37 0.602
2015 PIT 53 35 0.602
2016 CHC 53 35 0.602
2016 TEX 54 36 0.600
2016 WSN 54 36 0.600
2018 SEA 58 39 0.598
2013 BOS 58 39 0.598
2017 ARI 53 36 0.596
2016 CLE 52 36 0.591
2017 WSN 52 36 0.591
2012 WSN 49 34 0.590
2013 OAK 56 39 0.589
2016 BAL 51 36 0.586
2014 DET 53 38 0.582
2013 TBR 55 41 0.573
2017 COL 52 39 0.571
2013 TEX 54 41 0.568

The 2018 Mariners have the 16th best record at the All-Star break in the WC2 Era. The 15 teams above them on this chart? All made the playoffs. The next 10 teams on the chart? All made the playoffs. In other words, up to this point, the team with the greatest record at the All-Star Break in the WC2 Era that didn’t make the playoffs is the 2013 Texas Rangers, who had a 54-41 record at the break, finished 91-72, and missed the playoffs by one game in a stacked American League.

If the 2018 Mariners miss the playoffs, they will be the team with the highest Actual Winning Pct at the All-Star Break to miss the playoffs in the WC2 Era.

Now, should you put a lot of weight into all this numerical wizardry and gobbledygook ? Certainly not. The examination of historical stats can have merit when attempting to look forward, but this article is designed, as most of my writing is, to serve as a fun examination of where the Mariners stand in the larger scope of the game. If the Mariners make the playoffs no one will care what their run differential is, and we’ll spend the next twenty-five years watching and re-watching whatever highlight reel the marketing team throws together for them (1,000 bonus points you can find 14-year-old me in that video, because I am definitely in it).

If they don’t make the playoffs, well, at least we’ve seen history. Still, make the playoffs please.

Go M’s

It’s time now

It’s no longer about what should happen. It’s just time to yell.

1) You will recall, or you will not, that in the past we have written some overwrought, and angst-filled words in this space to the effect of what the Mariners making the playoffs would mean to us, and to our surrounds. That was for the 2017 Mariners, a team that slogged through a mediocre, depressing season while watching a division rival vault to a World Series championship, and final slaying of whatever power Sports Illustrated held on the national mystique. It was a very Mariners season.

The death of a Mariners season, however, for once, appears to have left behind something besides the nostril-stinging sweetness of death and decay. The corpse has fertilized the soil, and the 2018 Mariners, a team that by all accounts should be at or slightly above .500, is reaping a generational harvest of good luck and good timing. They are 41-24.  A quick view of the landscape of the American League, and where the Mariners sit amidst it tells a pretty clear picture, although uttering it aloud risks tapping into the vast ocean of ennui, paranoia, and superstition that is rooting for one of the most failure-ridden franchises in all of sports:

The Mariners are going to make the playoffs this year.

2) The truth is that, outside of a happy cosmic accident from 2000-2003, the Mariners have just not been very good. Clearly, there have been misfortunes, bad-timing, busted prospects, and injuries. For fans the slow, steady, geological-event style feeling of the years of same have led to a feeling of something like a curse.

There was no curse, and never has been. While Mariner fans exist in a world where mystical snares and devilish traps lay ready to trip us up the moment we let ourselves relax or expect even a single good thing to happen, those foibles never extended onto Safeco Field itself. The truth is the players were not good enough, the front office not adept enough, and ownership not committed enough to seeing it through. The fact that for thirty-seven of their forty-one and change years of existence the Mariners have not suffered under some gypsy’s vengeful hex, but rather the weight of their own shared failings may provide comfort, or push you further to despair. Which is largely up to you, but face that reality with honesty and courage, because reality it very much is.

3) We don’t really know how exactly the Mariners are 41-24, and will not pretend to have any deep insight into it here. By and large it has something to do with Edwin Diaz ensuring that in every game decided by an eyelash, which is almost all of them, the Mariners are the ones who did the best job getting those babies full and luscious. It involves a group of players that with few exceptions does not do anything spectacular on any given day, but also does not do that most Mariner of things: Horrifically fail. It is a team built upon a generally higher baseline of competence than is typical, and while we are resistant to offer too much credit towards Jerry Dipoto by habit, that is probably by his design.

We do know that this season, regardless of final outcome, represents an experience Mariner fans have not had in a very long time: A mid-season spot in a prime playoff spot, a summer of scoreboard watching, and a very real pennant chase.

There is magic in First Place, and as of the day of this writing, June 12th, the simple matter is that a quick look at the standings in the AL West, when read from top down, starts with “Seattle Mariners”. Beyond that simple, joyous, dopamine-providing exercise, the American League has shaken out to make the Mariners playing a Game 163 a (relatively) simple task. There is one team fewer than five games behind the Mariners in the Wild Card standings, and one other fewer than ten games. That second team, the Cleveland Indians, is also leading its division.

Of all the different Mariner seasons: undermanned, plucky group that stands just outside playoff contention. Spectacular, expensive, old, franchise-crippling failure. Losing season endured at the expense of Playing the Kids, and on, THIS Mariner season represents something so lost to time as to be basically new: The Blitzkrieg. The rapid, dominant, overpowering assault, followed by stockpiling provisions, shoring up supply lines, and praying that it all lasts long enough to ensure victory.

Regardless of where the Mariners are in late September, what happens between now and then is, for the people inside and outside of this organization, virgin, unspoiled territory. And that is a very exciting thought.

4) We are old. That is not a new thought, nor a new fact, but it bears repeating. It bears it because one of the byproducts of age is a narrowing of one’s emotional spectrum. Highs are lower, and lows higher. We imagine that much of the challenge of middle and old age will be trying to keep that spectrum from merging into a single line, but that is not the discussion for today.

Today is about what we want, and have always wanted: We want the next generation of baseball fans in this town to come into its own. Watching the Mariners of the mid to late 1990’s make the playoffs, and the region’s accompanying daily devotion to them, is still, decades later, the cornerstone of our entire fandom of all sports. We found heroes, we fell in love, we made relationships that survive to this day.

We were not alone in that. The powerful, intoxicating effect of those teams, combined with their early 2000’s brethren provided the momentum and voices that have kept Mariners fandom a largely enjoyable experience, despite all the Mariners baseball involved. It has been a long journey, with various factions and figureheads popping up, only to pass on the burden to the next group. For a short while, we carried the banner, and then had to lay it down. It was heavy and, frankly, smelled a bit. We figure Gary left it on the floor of his apartment and let his cat piss on it. That’s a total Gary move.

But now, finally, it’s time. The Mariners are good, one way or the other. The Maple Grove and other fan groups have provided a way for new fans to connect with each other and the team. Safeco Field stands poised to be a summer home for fans, new and old, to congregate and learn to love what we very truly believe to be the best game in the world.

It’s time to imagine. Look at a calendar, and circle October 2nd. Imagine the Mariners ending the Red Sox season in Fenway Park. Imagine watching it with your friends and family. Imagine filling Safeco for a viewing party. Imagine the first pitch. Imagine the final out. Imagine everything in between. Imagine sinking a frankly inadvisable amount of discretionary income into tickets for that first playoff game at Safeco. Imagine the pregame buzz in that place. Imagine trying not to cry.

This is not for us, and never has been. This is for Seattle, and for the future, and all the people who have never done this before. It has been long enough. It’s time, now. The Seattle Mariners are going to the playoffs. Have the summer of your lives, dear friends.

Go M’s.

 

Mariners trade Moore for More Fun

CROOKED HAT BACK!?!?

With the Mariners off to a 29-20 start, and putting out the fire started by Robinson Cano’s suspension only to find twelve million dollars stashed in a safe behind a false wall, the team had to act. While the win/loss record is exactly what the most optimistic projections called for, the method and roster talent were that of the middling, .500-ish teams that SOME assholes (me) pegged them to be all year.

With half the American League existing in 2018 primarily as a feeding ground for any team that can stomach the thought of spending even one (1) American Dollar, the Mariners’ new financial flexibility gave them a chance to strike, and strike earlier in the season than is typically feasible. They have now done so.

From an objective baseball fan standpoint, this trade kind of stinks. It stinks that the Rays are such an abysmal franchise that saving even a couple million bucks by selling off a useful outfielder and above average to good closer for nothing more than Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero, baseball equivalents of a scratch ticket and a megamillions ticket, respectively, is something they are willing to do. Baseball is at its best when as many teams as possible are trying to win as many games as possible, and it’s a shame in 2018 that is not even close to a reality.

For Mariner fans desperate to watch their team in the playoffs this year, many for the very first time of their fandom? Hell, y’all, it’s hard to imagine a sweeter deal than the one they just turned. Colomé is about as consistent as an above average but non-elite relief arm can get, with three consecutive seasons between 1-2 fWAR. He’s off to another solid start this year too, and with Juan Nicasio’s struggles immediately becomes this team’s setup man, and second best reliever.

Denard Span’s skills actually profile as a left-handed version of the player I hope Guillermo Heredia becomes/is becoming. A patient hitter with the capability to play quality corner defense, he’s almost certainly an upgrade to Ben Gamel, who will become this team’s fourth outfielder (probably his most likely role in the major leagues)

Overall, the Mariners had obvious needs at both outfield and relief, and they have addressed both, before June, with zero cost to the team’s few real prospects, for only minor financial cost. Their biggest need was and still is starting pitching, but that is a scarce commodity that frankly I doubt they will be able to find without some sort of major sacrifice in either prospects (ha) or finances (double ha).

While this move doesn’t suddenly vault the Mariners from fringe Wild Card contender into territory with the league’s elite, it expands options and margin for error. If the team falters through their brutal June and finds itself out of playoff position come mid-July, I see it as unlikely they cannot, at minimum, recoup their talent investment by trading both players to another team. There appears, and as soon as I say this something will go disastrously wrong because I am me and the Mariners are them, to be very little downside potential to this transaction. Tommy Romero could become a real prospect and mid-rotation fixture in Tampa or wherever MLB blessedly releases the Rays to eventually, and Andrew Moore could become a number five starter. Either reaching anything close to that is a longshot, however.

If you’re a person who is sick and tired of the Mariners ceaselessly churning through any low minors player who shows a lick of promise in exchange for an extra 0.5-1 win in the present, well, I hear ya. For whatever reason the Mariners have never shown a serious, longterm approach to building a great farm, the one obvious way baseball gives for teams to build a winner outside of running a top-5 payroll every year. It’s a bit like watching an ostrich run away from a predator. “Wow that bird can run”, you might think, “But why doesn’t the dumb thing just use its wings and fly? That would be so much easier.” Well, reader, you are correct. But the ostrich is never going to fly, and you need to come to peace with that, and with the Mariners having the very, very worst farm system in the game. These are the unchangeable, immutable laws of being.

It’s a great day to be a Mariner fan in 2018. A fun start to the year got a boost which should help the team need less luck to keep from collapsing, and the talent cost was minimal, and likely deferred many years down the road. At some point the bill will come due for the Mariners’ lack of talent development, but it was never going to be a concern to this year’s team, or their general manager, who conspicuously doesn’t have a job after this year. This is a win now move, and the timing, price, and fit were damn near perfect. Good job Jerry.

Go M’s.