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.

Episode 21 – RAMPOD

Happy Opening Day hey wait….. what day is it ?

Nothing will summon D&B Studios to life like terrible, terrible Mariners news and Robinson Cano being suspended for eighty games is terrible, terrible Mariners news.

0:00-44:00 DAVID had to go WORK by pouring his BEER at a LOCAL WATERING HOLE so it’s just Scott and Nathan. The duo talk the Robinson Cano suspension/injury, Dee Gordon returning to second base, the Mariners fun first forty games, and more. BONUS, we think you’ll be surprised by the off brand positive tone.

45:00-57:00 Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the debut of Hunkfilm Inc. We are not sorry, and incapable of shame.

As always you can subscribe and rate us on iTunes here. Additionally, we are now available on Google Play.

Thanks, as always, for listening. Please enjoy and Go M’s.

James Paxton threw a no-hitter, and is still nicer than you

On the Mariners newest ace pitcher

1. This is a story of tears. Not mine, certainly. I was raised with the tired and foolish notion that tears show weakness. My emotions can get plenty stirred, but years of that foolish notion have dug a pretty deep pit for me to keep them, so it takes quite a bit of turbulence to get them so agitated and bubbly that they actually come out. When James Paxton threw the sixth no-hitter in Mariners history last night, I silently put my arms over my head. My wife patted me on the shoulder, and said congratulations. Then we went back to our game.

It’s not about your tears, either, and I don’t say that as a rebuke. There are approximately fifty million things about our world today that could bring a person to tears, and almost all of them also require us to avoid that actual release of emotion. They require us to protect ourselves. Baseball’s beautiful, simple stories provide a wonderful exception to that, and if you found yourself with wetness trickling down your face while watching Paxton and his teammates jump up and down on the mound well congratulations you’ve found a way to use sports in a potentially healthy manner. I’m envious, really.

But still, the tears in focus here, the ones that purchased last night’s history, are those of a kid in his backyard in British Columbia. He’s a pudgy guy, one of those kids on the playground who becomes “it” in tag and can never catch a classmate, growing increasingly red, sweaty, and embarrassed as they remain forever just out of reach until he either quits, or the bell frees him.

He’s in the backyard, and he’s running, and he’s tired.. He wants to play sports, and he’s committed to get in better shape. His mother, watching all this play out in front of her, goes out to tell him “James, honey, you can come inside. That’s enough.” But he stays, and he runs, and he hates it, and he’s crying. When I think about that kid, and his tears, and flash back to last night, and this:

Pax No no

Well let’s say a better man would at this point add his tears to the party. I won’t, but I get mighty close.

2. I’m the jackass who, years back, in an effort to make up a nickname equal parts catchy and biting, coined the “Dadgut” term for James. Over time I’ve realized how insecure James may have been about his non-typical for an a professional athlete physique, and the very real harm in the idea of body shaming. James may never have heard that nickname, and he almost definitely won’t read this but still, James, I’m sorry for that. That was wrong of me.

3. It’s hard to define when exactly the listening/viewing experience of a no-hitter goes from the casual, background noise of another evening at home to “holy shit everyone shut up no I will not turn it down go play in your room”, but in this case it was exactly when Kyle Seager threw out Kevin Pillar.

The impressive thing isn’t the stop. It’s not that the ball was hissing and spinning and hopping like a demon on that hateful turf, actually getting past Seager before he snatched it out of nowhere like Rose’s sister the bomber pilot grabbing the detonator at the beginning of The Last Jedi. It’s not even really the throw either, which he accomplished without pausing to even look at first base, trusting that a decade of fielding hundreds of groundballs every day had built in the necessary motor memory to make actually seeing his target an unnecessary indulgence. No, for me, the most amazing thing about that play is what happens between the stop and the throw.

Do me a favor here, and go lay on your stomach, and stretch one arm above your head. Are you doing it? I don’t know how if you’re reading this still but if so thank you. Now, I want you from that position to see how long it takes you to stand up and be ready to do something else.

Did you do it? Wow you’re very compliant I’ll ask for your social security number next time. Anyway, the point here is neither Seager’s stop nor his throw matter at all if he doesn’t exert some incredible, kung-fu Matrix-level nonsense getting from one to the other in the time it takes to snap your fingers. In Seattle we’re spoiled by third base greatness but given the context game situation and speed of runner that is just about as fine a play as you’ll see a third baseman make.

Seager said afterward if the ball had gotten past him he wouldn’t have been able to sleep, because Kyle Seager’s mechanism for greatness is not a press towards success, but an eternal, endless-runner style flee from failure. We are sympatico in that way. I love Kyle Seager.

4. As an American in 2018 the idea of national pride is a thing I view with increased cynicism. We are a nation in many ways at war with ourselves over who are, and who we want to be. As such the concept of being the first Canadian to throw a no-hitter on Canadian soil in the major leagues is an achievement difficult for me to fully grasp. The sight postgame of Paxton looking into the crowd, pointing at his maple leaf tattoo, was something I would and do scoff at when I see Americans do similar things. Perhaps patriotism is something best experienced from the perspective of an outside observer, because this, this felt pretty damn cool to see. The crowd loved it, James loved it, I loved it.

5. As he continues to write what is increasingly becoming a story very worth telling, the tale of James Paxton is going to come back to the first half of 2016, and a start in San Diego when he got hit to hell. 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R is not the kind of line you point to and say “that’s the birth of a star,” but it was. Paxton struck out seven, and walked one. His delivery, once a confused mishmash of half ideas and awkward pauses and springs, was smooth and unencumbered. His arm slot was slightly lower. His command was improved, and oh by the way, the threw one hundred miles an hour now.

Since that time, the only thing that has stopped James Paxton from being one of the ten best starting pitchers alive has been health. He has taken everything, the bad nicknames from bad bloggers, the speculation that he profiled as a reliever, the arduous journey from the University of Kentucky to the big leagues, losing out on a rotation spot at the beginning of 2016, and he has done what aces do. He has shoved. He has shoved, and so far this year the Mariners have shoved right along with him. He stands now as one of the American League’s best pitchers, fully formed, a looming terror for any opponent every fifth day. He has thrown a no-hitter. He has bought it all with tears, seen and unseen, and no one can touch him now.

Go M’s. Go James.

 

Adventures

So, what are you gonna do today?

The season asks you to walk a path, every day. More often than not, your travels will be simple enough. Whether uphill or down, the slope will be gentle, and you’ll walk it pleasantly enough. Your view will be a landscape filled with outs, hits, wins, and losses that, while all unique, are similar enough to keep you feeling mostly safe. You may have started these walks seeking something else entirely, perhaps you don’t know exactly what, but inevitably you’ll find these ever so slightly different features provide you comfort, and that comfort maybe has crept its way into your reasons for doing this. Maybe it has, over time, even become the reason.

It is important to remember, during these peaceful times, that the season is still in fact an unexplored wilderness. Eventually, without fail, you will find a path like yesterday’s; one you had never seen before. You will wonder as it offers a series of breathtaking vistas, gorgeous waterfalls, and exotic wildlife beyond description. You’re going to get caught up in it, rushing heedlessly forward, every bend and turn bringing a fresh, thrilling, historical strikeout. Your parents, your ancestors, will have told you of sights like these, but oral history is but a roughewn cave painting compared to ocular reality, and you’re finally seeing something you’re going to pass down to your children, and you look down and you’re running now, careless, heedless of all caution. The endless beauty and thrill of discovery provides a rapturous ecstasy, and you will inhale it deeply.

Then, the bridge will go out, and you will find yourself falling. Unlike everything else about these adventures, in a fall the key part is really the distance traveled. During this day’s excitement you had, without realizing it, pushed higher and higher into the wilderness. Your fall is going to be a long one. It is going to hurt.

Back home, you’ll nurse your wounds, apply your poultices, and drink your tonics. You’re going to be despondent with pain both physical and emotional. You’ve injured yourself plenty of times outside, but this one was different. You were close. Close to something special. You could feel it. It may have just been on the other side of that bridge.

A flicker of doubt will flash. Was it real? Or had you just imagined it in your joy? The pain from that fall is real enough. Yes, that’s a reality you won’t question for some time. You will lay yourself to bed that night, a mixture of confusion and hurt.

Tomorrow, you will wake up, still sore. You will look out your window. You will see there’s a path you have never walked before. It’s probably just another one of those comforting strolls, and that will sound pretty nice after yesterday. But, you’ll let yourself think, maybe it’s not. Maybe you didn’t imagine whatever you were close to before that bridge broke. Maybe this is an alternate route! Maybe, maybe there’s something even better out there.

All the season asks is, go find out.

Breakfast & Biz 4/30/18 – Palm Trees and Sand

well, hot damn

With the Mariners at 16-11, and finishing a road trip bludgeoning one of the American League’s hypothetically best teams two days straight, I am in the unfamiliar situation of having to choose which really exciting thing about the team to focus on this morning. What an odd, strange, and frankly mildly uncomfortable situation. Ah well, we press on.

For the rest of the 2018 season, April is exactly what this team needed. They have survived injury and a bizarre schedule with a combination of luck and a maelstrom of massive dingers. The starting pitching has not been great, and will not be great, but the back end of the bullpen, particularly Edwin Diaz, has been dynamic. Having to beat a professional baseball team over nine innings is very difficult. Having to beat them over seven innings, and then turning the last two into an awe-inspiring ritual of human sacrifice to the god of Edwin Diaz’s Velocity, is slightly easier.

If you’re a schmuck like me who wants more out of the Mariners than one final season of Wild Card contention before slipping back into the muck of .500-dom, April also had plenty to offer for 2019 and beyond. The Mariners offense has bashed, and done so with balanced contributions from many players with years of theoretical prime performance left. Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, and even much-maligned (by me!) Marco Gonzales have been key contributors to the season’s enjoyable first month.

Above it all, is a refreshing return to the Mariners having what may just be a superstar on their hands. While this franchise has very little experience with winning, it has been rich with individual players performing at the game’s very highest level. Mitch Haniger is not to that point yet, and his utter lack of charisma is regrettable, but in the six months he has been in Seattle, he has hit like one of the game’s finest hitters in half of them. His April was a masterclass in approach, power, and overall acumen. If he is anything remotely close to this for the rest of the year, the Mariners have indeed found their next great star. That, that would be very fun.

So, there it is. One month of good baseball. It’s important to contextualize here. The team has surpassed most expectations for a month, and the reward is a hypothetical win or go home game in New York as the second wild card. When people say things like “best Mariner April since 2009” or “This reminds me of the start of 2016” well, those are both seasons that ended, like all the rest, without playoff baseball in Seattle.

But, it’s not the time for that. Today’s an off day. The Mariners are 16-11. They are hitting their ass off. But they still have a run differential of -2. The starting pitching is one injury away from likely catastrophe. There is plenty of reason to think it could be a blip; just a lucky few weeks where things broke their way. But in the desert, every oasis seems a mirage, until you’re so close you put your head down and take a long, deep drink.

Go M’s.

Breakfast & Biz 4/27/18 – Something Like Hope

Closer. clooooooserrrrrrr…….

Every year has a moment where you let yourself dream. For Mariner fans, in many years that moment is before the first game. Some years, like 2014, we get to hope late into September, and we have learned to cherish that experience, that team.

While it’s a fickle alchemy that leads to a person’s hope, in the end I believe it’s a personal choice, and nothing more. Logic, reason, emotion, past experience, and personal attachment are all factors in that choice, but we decide how to measure them, and when to cook with them.

I still don’t really believe in the 2018 Mariners. They have beaten up on the worst the AL has to offer in the White Sox, Rangers, and Royals. They are 6-2 in one run games, and seemingly haven’t experienced a single tough loss this year. They still can’t really pitch, and while the offense is as fun and deep as any they’ve had this decade, it remains old and injury prone.

But, they’re 14-10. That 6-2 one run record is largely attributable to the very real possibility that Edwin Diaz is evolving into ChariDiaz, and is now one of the very best relief pitchers currently playing the game. They are only just yesterday approaching something approximating their penciled in every day lineup. They have survived some adversity. Lucky? You bet. But luck and skill count exactly the same in the W-L analysis.

I’m not ready to believe in the Mariners yet, but I’m getting closer. It’s fair to say I disbelieve in them less. It’s entirely possible that’s the best experience a baseball team can give its fans; move them from skepticism, and towards trust. Closer to embracing, trusting, maybe, perhaps, something like loving them.

I don’t love them yet. There is still so much for them to prove to me, and I will always be bitter that the shortcomings they have were easily accounted for and remedied by an ownership actually committed to winning. But I watched Edwin Diaz mow down one of the American League’s best teams last night, and felt something a little bit like love. To be honest, it’s more than I ever expected, and I’m always grateful for that.

Go M’s.