The Denard Decision

D-Span has been a huge for the 2018 Mariners, which makes it sad to report he probably shouldn’t be retained

It’s September now, y’all, and the Mariners season is playing out one way or the other. Will they make the playoffs? Well heck, I dunno. Looking at all the smart math people’s numbers says it’s more than likely we’re all gonna spend October at the ol’ Adopt-A-Team Shelter again though. I’m a bad fan, but the A’s are looking mighty fine.

Anyway, with the end of the season looming it’s getting closer to TRANSACTION PLANNIN’, and here at Dome and Bedlam we believe in promptness! If you’re on time you’re late! If you’re early you’re on time! If you’re way early that means you’re super late for the last time! THAT’S FIVE LAPS SLACKERS HOP TO IT!

*****

The late May trade with Tampa Bay to acquire Alex Colome & Denard Span was one of Jerry Dipoto’s best moves of the past twelve months. That was true regardless of how both players performed as Mariners, but it has been nice that for once here in Seattle, good process produced good results. Colome has teamed up with The Divine Edwin Diaz to form one of baseball’s most lethal 8th/9th inning combinations, and Denard Span has hit better than anyone expected. Coming off 2016 and 2017, in which he checked in with a wRC+ of 94 and 100, respectively, Span’s offense is at a career high 123 wRC+ in 2018, and 129 since arriving in Seattle.

Late career offensive boosts, particularly ones that come from an increase in power (Dad strength is real y’all), are not unheard of. Hell, Nelson Cruz is the model of this very idea. However, they are not common, and counting on Span offsetting his clear and noticeable loss in defensive range by continuing to thwack dingers is a gamble, and not at the odds you want to take.

The merit to retaining Span on his $12 million mutual option is, in my view, further diminished given a few contextual factors. First is the 2018 rebound of Ben Gamel. Now I’ve notably been wrong about the Mariners young outfielders in the past, but after a Zunino-esque (Zuninian? Please help, linguists) second half in 2017, Gamel has rebounded nicely. He’s improved his walk rate, continued to be “fine” with the glove, and hit for just enough pop to keep pitchers honest. Overall, he’s played about like a two win outfielder. At 26, there’s the possibility of a little further development (cough SWINGPLANEDINGERZ cough), but if not, he still projects as a serviceable left fielder, a comparable level of production to Span projects at next year, at a fraction of the cost.

The second factor is the looming roster decisions facing this organization. Regardless of what you think the right direction is for this franchise, it would be a shock if they do anything after 2018 but attempt to take another run at the playoffs for 2019. Given that assumption, the team is in desperate need of a real centerfielder, at least one top of the rotation pitcher, and probably a catcher.

With our past experience both of the Jerry Dipoto Era, and the Mariners’ organizational practices at large, I think it’s fair to assume they won’t be throwing any huge free agent contracts to players this offseason. As such, every single dollar saved off potential luxuries, such as two major league left fielders, is needed to fill these very real and pressing holes in the big league roster. It’d be cool if there was some minor league depth in AA or AAA to help cheaply fill in those gaps. Guess what, pal, this is the Jerry Dipoto Mariners. Unless you want to see a tumbleweed in center field next year, the talent has to come from outside the organization.

Overall, the Denard Span acquisition has worked out beautifully both for the team and the player. Span is having his best season in years, and the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto have gotten a great return in a contending season, for giving up a few minor leaguers. There is a danger, though, of falling in love with the short-lived greatness of a player after trading for them. The Mariners have pressing needs elsewhere, and with D-Span unlikely to ever be this good again, it’s probably in the best interest of the team to let him get closer to his home in Florida, and spend that money on someone like, say, early career Denard Span.

Go M’s.

 

Episode 23 – The Jordan

In memoriam of the 2018 Seattle Mariners

Hi and/or hello you to, dear reader and listener! Dome and Bedlam has returned from a (for us) brief hiatus to pronounce the death of the 2018 Seattle Mariners. Now, wait, hear us out, we swear this isn’t more mindless complaining. In fact one of us wasn’t even drinking during this recording (see if you can spot which one!).

Scott, David, and Nathan talk about how the Mariners got here, the challenge of the future, and the frustrating mediocrity at the very core of this franchise’s DNA. For long time fans, for people who have spent years of our lives following, covering, and documenting this team’s moves, 2018 has felt like a lost year. The Mariners are, essentially exactly where they were two years ago, plus Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. Things feel directionless, again. It’s hard to not feel some very real feelings about that.

Fortunately, we have each other. Thanks as always for listening.

Go Mariners.

(Music credits: Kanye West, Ryan Adams)

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.

The Mariners need a sweep

The Mariners lost yesterday, 4-3. It was a disappointing loss in a few ways. First, losses are always disappointing. Second, watching Felix continue to fight Father Time and his historical first inning struggles is not exactly my idea of a great time. Third, and I don’t have the stats in front of me to back up this claim, but losing to a team on their bullpen day probably isn’t the expected result.

But there’s one more reason to be disappointed, and that’s the lack of a series sweep. Despite the myriad of injuries, lack of pitching depth, and the loss of their best position player for 80 games, the Mariners at this point are, from all indications, still focused on making the playoffs this year. And they’re running up against a hidden deadline.

Since the introduction of the second wildcard in 2012, 60 teams have made the playoffs (for the purposes of this article, we are considering the second wild card a playoff spot, despite it being closer to the March Madness First Four than what I’d consider a real playoff spot, but that’s another article for another day). Of those 60 teams, 44 of them, or 73%, had completed a three or four game sweep by the end of April. Another 12 had done so by the end of May (which puts us at 93%), leaving only four teams. Let’s examine those four.

2016 Blue Jays – First 3-game sweep completed: June 1. OK, technically not May, but close enough.

2012 Giants – First 3-game sweep completed: June 4. Also pretty damn close to May, plus this could easily be a side effect of those strange odd year/even year spells and incantations they were performing during the early part of this decade.

2012 Athletics – First 3-game sweep completed: June 14. This version of the A’s caught fire in the second half, playing .671 baseball in their last 76 games. This is your outlier.

2014 Pirates – First 3-game sweep completed: July 6. Do you remember this team? Cause I don’t. Plus they got blasted in the play-in game getting 4-hit by Madison Bumgarner and losing 8-0. Yikes. I don’t think this is the team we want the M’s to emulate.

I’m not the first person to point out that June has the potential to be a brutal month for the M’s (let’s not talk about August yet, either). After feasting on the soft underbelly of the AL Central, June sees the M’s get seven games against a frisky Rays team, and ten games against the Yankees and Red Sox, the teams with the two best records in baseball. Not to mention two games in Houston, and three against the team that looks to be the M’s main competition for the second Wild Card, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County of the great state of California, USA. If the M’s are going to sweep a team, they need to do it now, at home against a Twins team missing a few key pieces of their own (Mauer, Castro, Polanco, and Santana).

Most preseason predictions had the Mariners missing the playoffs. Despite a strong first two months, those projections still have the team on the outside looking in. If they want to finish the Cinderella story they’ve begun writing these first two months, they’ll need to start the same way Cinderella did.

Get to sweeping, 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.