Sweet Merciful Cthulu Please Let the Mariners Sign Tim Lincecum

Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself, Mariners. And me.

It is important, when advocating these kinds of things, to be intellectually honest. Tim Lincecum did not step on a major league mound in 2017, and that was not because of injury. He has not thrown 100 big league innings since 2014, when Nelson Cruz was a Baltimore Oriole. He has not been anything approaching useful since 2013, when Jason Bay, Michael Morse, and Raul Ibanez were roaming Safeco’s green expanse.

It is not unfair to state that Tim Lincecum is probably finished as a major league baseball pitcher. If so he’ll leave the game with nearly 30 wins, half of which was accrued in 2008-2009, when he very well may have been the best pitcher alive. An excellent, Hall of Very Good kind of career.

Sadly, it’s 2018. If the Mariners, one of the 15-20 teams with scouts at Lincecum’s recent workout at Driveline (did you know that’s just down the road in Kent?) were to sign him the odds are extremely long he provides significant contribution to this year’s team. That’s how time, and baseball, work.

The Mariners have made it abundantly clear that they believe in Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, and Andrew Moore. That is fine, they certainly know more about pitching than my keyboard-bound butt does. But the Mariners do not have a monopoly on the skill of counting, and that I can do just fine.

Starting pitcher used by the Mariners:

2017 – 17
2016 – 13
2015 – 10

In the interest of fairness and deference to the team we should probably chalk 2017’s inflated number up as a bit of an outlier. Still, if we average out that sample size and adjust for 2017’s weirdness it is fair to assume the Mariners will need between 11-13 starting pitchers this year. Here are the pitchers the Mariners currently have I figure could start a game:

James Paxton
Felix Hernandez
Mike Leake
Erasmo Ramirez
Andrew Moore
Ariel Miranda
Marco Gonzales (Go Zags)
Sam Moll
Chase De Jong
Max Povse
Rob Whalen
Hisashi Iwakuma
Christian Bergman

I got to thirteen, but the same way a cinder block gets to the seafloor. I just kept sinking. While I and others have been howling for the Mariners to add actual major league quality starting pitchers for the last two winters, it’s clear that they simply will not be doing that any time soon. A Lincecum signing does not do anything to allay the concerns over the Mariners starting pitching, but it does do three things, which I’ll outline briefly:

1. It throws cantankerous, obnoxious, overly verbose jerks like me a bone. It says “Hey, we know we could use some starting pitching too. Here, have this. Now shut up already.” I’m sure the team, and probably you as well, would like it if I did that.

2. It does actually buff out the scant starting pitching depth without even a modicum of risk. If Lincecum is bad, if his fastball velocity isn’t sufficient to allow the split change to work as an out pitch, he’s cast aside in late March with no further loss to the organization. If he recaptures even a tiny bit of value, well, Andrew Moore’s career isn’t being hurt by another 2-3 months in Tacoma to start the season.

3. It’s fun, dammit. Everyone knows the story of Lincecum; his local ties, the Mariners famously passing him over for Brandon Morrow, and Lincecum’s subsequent explosion into a force of nature in San Francisco. Baseball moves shouldn’t be made with narrative and fan service in mind, but in the least enjoyable offseason I can ever remember baseball having, this would give us something to smile about. At least for a few weeks. We need it. I need it.

The Mariners have, for whatever reason, stood to the side as pitcher after pitcher has signed to short term, team-friendly contracts. They ignored the market last offseason, and they have done so again this offseason. The market has so cratered for mid to back of the rotation starting pitching that even Dipoto’s greatest pitching acquisition, Mike Leake, has a salary that no longer looks the bargain it once was. The team is projected by PECOTA to miss the 2nd Wild Card by a single game. There are fliers everywhere, including a skinny dude from Seattle, chucking balls into a net a half hour south of Safeco.

Do it, Mariners. Sign Tim Lincecum.

Not By Faith Alone

Some politics. Some religion

1) A “Christian” education, eh? Well that’s a hell of a thing to pursue from a very young age. Let’s take a look at the first grade course load:

Math
Reading
Science
Physical Education
The Study of the omniscient, omnipresent, eternal creator of all things past and present, The Lord, and the history of his interaction with humanity, including but not limited to the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, who was God but apart from God, while also fully human, and was sent to Earth two thousand years ago to live perfectly and die blamelessly, thus atoning for the act of original sin, which was performed by Eve in the Garden of Eden at the dawn of creation, and has been attached to every single human since, dividing us from our Creator. Only through Jesus’ death and sacrifice may we be in Holy Communion with our Lord once we die, otherwise you, young child, are dammed to eternity of hell and torment by the sin you contain within your soul.

Now, please turn to Luke Chapter 4……

2) You learn in that environment. You learn fast. Multiplication tables, grammatical structure, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are MAJOR prophets, Hosea and Obadiah are MINOR prophets, i before e, except after c…. It’s all part of the daily schedule. Wake up, head downstairs to the kitchen, crack a book, sharpen a pencil, and get to work. This is the ritual of your homeschooled education.

“Public school?”, they say.  “Well maybe when we were kids, but now we can’t have that. Did you know the Clintons banned prayer from school? Public school is good enough for them, but not for us. We’ll stay here. If you need friends, well, it’s almost Spring. Little League will start in a few months.”

3) There’s a little metal cross someone gave you for your birthday once, you don’t remember who. But some of your favorite baseball players have one too, and so you let it hang out of your uniform. It looks……cool………right? You stand in centerfield for entire summers, and as your team criss-crosses the country you hold that cross for every big pitch, in every big moment. The finish wears off, and you kind of give your right hand a little mini-Stigmata holding the damn thing, but it works often enough.

Plus you look cool. And there are girls in the stands. Maybe someday you’ll get up the courage to talk to one.

4) In college it’s more of the same. You could have gone to a state school on the cheap and been out in a few years with minimal debt but, again, there’s that implication that everyone is really hoping you’d go somewhere for that “Christian” education. So Bible college it is.

You’ve got questions now, a lot of them. But the answers more often than not point you towards a knowledge gap. You’re offered a big dump truck labeled “Faith” and encouraged to fill in that gap, but no matter how many times you try that, the gap remains. Maybe it’s just too deep to fill.

In the meantime, while it gnaws at you, you vote for George W., attend prayer meetings earnestly asking God to put a Republican in the White House, and make fun of the music majors in your department who seem like they might be gay.

You’ve got questions, but you’ve also got to keep up appearances.

5) While the school won’t let you watch cable TV, or spend more than 4 hours at a time a few days a week in the girls’ dorms (doors open, lights on, feet on the ground), even they won’t cut off the internet. Baseball was always your connection to the outside world, and the Mariners, weirdly, are really good. So you use the Mariners as your launching point for accessing the internet’s vast array of content. ESPN is your startup page. Edgar Martinez has 145 RBI. Life is good.

One day you get an email from a friend back home. “Check out this site. It’s just a few guys who love the Mariners, but they’re really smart, and they’re saying stuff I’ve never heard before.” It’s a blog post by a guy named Derek Zumsteg. He’s clearly smart, at least equally arrogant, and strangely not optimistic about the team, despite the fact that they’ve won 90+ games four years in a row.

6) The baseball world you loved is unraveling before your eyes. It’s all numbers, data, empirical evidence, and metrics now. RBI are……….meaningless? Bunts are not noble sacrifices of the individual for the greater good, but instead simply sub-optimal strategy? Pitcher wins are comically overrated?

As child, as a teen, hell as a Sophomore in the dorms you would have just pushed this all away. But now? Well you’re engaged now. You’re getting married in a few months. Adulthood is around the corner, and you’ve got a few hundred bucks in your bank account. It’s time not to just start asking questions, but to find some answers.

So you rabbithole sabermetrics; Moneyball, Bill James, the whole Smart Baseball Fan Gospel. You’ve got it, you’ve learned, you’re in the know. You come up for air, to look at your politics, your social beliefs, your religion. You thought you knew baseball before, and look at you now. You wonder what will happen if you take these newfound, shiny principles of empirical thought and data-supported beliefs to the other parts of your life. You’ve still got those gaps, but maybe now you’ve got tools a little more refined than an empty dump truck you have to wish full. You get to work.

7) You still have faith, of course. It’s not particularly revelatory to observe that life demands constant small acts of faith. Faith a chair won’t break, the car will start, you’ll make rent.

You have faith that the nurse setting your wife’s IV drip won’t accidentally mix up the levels, overdose her on Pitocin during labor and cause her uterus to contract and refuse to stop contracting. Faith, as you watch your child’s heart rate plummet and doctors spring out of nowhere to rush them both into surgery, that there’s only been one mistake, and that there won’t be another. Faith they can Fix This. Faith that the child’s scream you just heard is normal, and that your wife will survive too.

Sometimes faith is rewarded, and other times it’s not. We keep faith because we have to. We keep it because without it, we’re paralyzed.

8) The Mariners, a baseball team of little consequence who nonetheless was the mechanism through which you learned to think, to rationalize, to escape a life of narrowness, smallness, bigotry, and malice towards anyone who thinks, feels, or believes differently than you, are no longer good, and haven’t been since shortly after you got that first USS Mariner email. Somewhat poetically they are the ones asking for faith now; in them, in the future. Their general manager is a bright, earnest, handsome, well-spoken man. It’s easy to sit back, close your eyes, and let everything he says make you feel great about where the team is headed. It all just makes so much sense. It’s just sports, right? What’s the harm in it?

Faith is a personal choice, and one of the deepest, most vulnerable ones we can make. Your choice isn’t for all, and you’d never expect it to be. Others have more faith, newer faith, different faith. Your faith is, simply, yours. Your journey taught you a long time ago that many will ask for faith, and many don’t deserve it.

So, you wait. You question, wonder, agitate, annoy, and speculate. When the handsome man speaks, you don’t close your eyes and believe. You push back. You probably always will, now. You lived on faith for a long time, but no longer. Not by faith alone.

 

D&B Podcast Episode 15 – Nohtani

Grab a drink and let’s go exploring

Fresh off HELL WEEK for the Mariners, and all Seattle sports, Nathan, David, and Scott take a dive into the mire and try to scrounge something worth salvaging out of the Mariners’ offseason.

0:00-40:21 – DID YOU KNOW, that Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels? He did, he signed with the Angels, and it was very bad. This leads to a discussion on the wisdom of building a plan designed around acquiring a specific talent through free agency, Jerry Dipoto’s future in Seattle, and the man behind the man behind the man behind the throne.

41:00-1:00:05 Let’s chat about where we go from, but also get sidetracked because man, this still really sucks. We talk about the Mariners best offseason being one that will feel……..like……a total failure to the average fan. That’s right you guys, the only thing that may save the Mariners is them failing to execute their plan. So, no worries then right? RIGHT?!

(Music credits: Iron Chic, Sufjan Stevens, The Weeknd

***

If you’re so inclined you can rate us 5-STARS on iTunes right here. The SoundCloud feed is here. We are ever so grateful for you listening to our little podcast all year, and if we don’t record before the holidays hope you have a Merry Christmas with all those whom make your life its best.

The Worst Mariners, Part III

The PENULTIMATE portion of this list, coming to you hot off the press.

Let it be known that collating the previous two parts of this ILLUSTRIOUS series has deprived Nathan of his health, leaving him weak and weary and ill. (He really is sick right now – feel free to send him well wishes on TWITTER.) It turns out that being a Mariners fan has a multitude of hazards. Fortunately, I’m here to make sure that all seven of our devoted readers will still able to access the #content they crave. The show must go on, after all.

(Also, just in case you missed ’em, here’s Part I and Part II.)

21. Dustin Ackley 

I, like many of you, remember exactly where I was the moment Dustin Ackley made his major league debut. I was so excited I went and bought his shirsey the moment it was available in the team store. I’ve never been more confident that a player was going to turn into someone special. Six years later, I only wear his shirsey when I’m confident my infant son is going to spit up on me. (dg)

ackley4.0.png

22. Kevin Mitchell

Look, he was actually better than I thought. A 117 wRC+ in 400 PA ain’t bad. But the slugging was almost a hundred points lower than the year before he was a Mariner, and almost two hundred points lower than the year after. Remembering that his solitary season in Seattle was not the end of his career, but rather a brief nadir before a resurgence in Cincinnati only stirs up my blood afresh. (Nathan)

23. Rob Johnson

There are a lot of takeaways and things to remember from the 2010 season. That weird popcorn magazine cover, the foul bunt heard around the world, napgate, and of course Jack Z bringing back Russell Branyan for some reason. But the one thing that I will always remember is Opening Day of 2010. The Mariners would win their first of 61 games that year. Someone has to hit the first home run of a season and for some reason Rob Johnson had the honors in ’10. In hindsight, this should have been not just a bad omen, but THE bad omen for what I, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, would call the worst year in Seattle Mariners history. (SG)

24. Brandon League

Brandon is the only player I have actively booed while in attendance at Safeco Field, and not in jest. Yes, I was at the game and yes you’d have booed as well. I feel no regrets. (Skiba)

brandonleague2

25. Dave Hengel

It’s strange to think that there are hundreds of thousands of photographs of Dave Hengel in existence: his three baseball cards arrived at the height of the junk wax era. Boxed away in attics by hopeful failed capitalists rests his memorial. All that remains: a mullet uninterested in gravity, two halves of a mustache separated by a pregnant pause, an ironic smile tied to that oversized, forgettable gold-S logo. Hengel was a small fish in a small pond, once the king of Calgary, a powerful demi-DH; in the majors, his career numbers were on pace for a -7 win full season. But it doesn’t matter. He made it. He got a baseball card. He became a Seattle Mariner, in every sense of that concept. And in every baseball card, he’s smiling. (phd)

26. Al Martin

In 2001, while every other Mariner was enjoying a career year, Al Martin was OPSing 10 points below his career average. He also claimed after running into Carlos Guillen that it reminded him of when, as a strong safety for USC, he ran into Leroy Hoard. Problem being, USC has no record of Martin ever having attended the school, let alone putting on pads. On the bright side, Martin had one triple in four playoff plate appearances that year. $5 million well spent. (dg)

27. Russ Davis

From 1995-2001 the Mariners were generally good, and yet, like a lot of legitimately good teams, they still had bad players on the roster. Russ Davis fits that bill perfectly. In 1997 Russ was okay. He notched a 105 wRC+ and was worth a shade over 1.5 wins. That half of the equation ignores the fact that he played the hot corner about as well as six-year-old Russ Davis could’ve. In 1998, he finished with 32 errors, nearly one quarter of the team’s total on the year, and reverted back to his old offensive ways (namely: being bad). Russ Davis was a not good baseball player on a good team. (Peter)

28. Marc Rzepczynski

You’ll note a glut of relievers on this list, and that’s no mistake. Relievers are, in their traditional role, probably the worst baseball players alive; failed, flawed starters who hang on by learning some speciality, like a sidearm, or giving up two-thirds of a three run lead and walking the bases loaded before “getting the save.” (Nathan)

29. Pete O’Brien

Pete is remembered fondly by some, probably because of his association with the inaugural years of Griffey, Buhner, Edgar, and Randy. Instead, O’Brien cobbled together a -0.3 WAR over his four-year M’s career while playing the game’s most premium offensive position. His one plus? Rocking half-tint aviators. Devil may care. (Scott)

8610-8Fr

30. Jose Mesa

Mesa more or less single-handedly lost the very first game played in Safeco Field, according to my memory of the game. I refuse to go back and check because placing the blame in one, specific place to explain why the franchise is so derpy feels a lot better than running any numbers on it. Thanks a lot, bro. (Skiba)

(We’ll wrap up with Part IV tomorrow.)

The 40 Worst Mariners, Part II

Not what you want, not what you need. This, is what you have.

Everyone says they want to be liked; we all want success, the big house, the happy family, a comfortable retirement, etc. It’s all lies, albeit lies at least as much to oneself as to others. Death comes for us all, and although as a species we’ve done an exceptional job distracting ourselves from that fact with our petty squabbles and busy schedules, the truth is life is not a highway, it’s a railroad. We’re on tracks, and the line stops in the same damn place regardless.

Mankind has long yearned for immortality, and we’ve crafted a series of elaborate realities in which we can, but at its essence perhaps the only real way for us to live forever is to do something in life that lives in the memories of those left behind. As Maximus Decimus Meridius said, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity,” but the truth is this: The echoes of eternity resonate longer in a deeper canyon, and you can carve deep hollows of memory into your fellow humans with failure, just as easily as success. These 10 men, these Mariners, they chose the latter. They chose forever.

(Part I, with explanation of criteria and methodology, here)

11. Jeremy Reed

Jeremy Reed
(That’s not how you do that)

We all have a type. Some of us go for someone who is charismatic and controls a room just by walking in. For others, it’s someone on the train with a dog-eared copy of a book that you’ve been convincing yourself to read. For the Seattle Mariners post-2003, it was light-hitting, left-handed center fielders who could run a little and supposedly hit for contact. Jeremy Reed was the catalyst of this movement. Arguably the centerpiece in the Freddy Garcia trade with the White Sox, Reed was called up in September, hit .397 in 18 games, and was declared THE FUTURE. That future went on to put on a DECENT 2005, get hurt, flame out, and somehow play for the Mets. A reminder that all roads lead to Queens. (SG)

12. Miguel Batista

Miguel Batista holds the distinction of cobbling together the very worst pitching season in M’s history (by win probability added – WPA). In 2008, Batista’s WPA was a shockingly abhorrent -4.49; according to FanGraphs, any season-long WPA value less than -3.0 is beyond awful. (For some perspective, over the last decade, the only pitcher to hurt his team’s chances of winning more in a season was the 2009 version of Brad Lidge, a man who blew 11 saves for the Phillies while posting an ERA of 7.21.) In 20 starts in ‘08, Miguel allowed a triple slash line of .307/.409/.536 (i.e., he made the average hitter look like this year’s Justin Turner or Kris Bryant). Batista eventually assumed more of a swingman/bullpen role, where he was somewhat less bad, but the damage was done and the season was doomed and your Seattle Mariners lost 100+ games for the first time in 25 years. #TheMojoIsRising (Andrew)

13. Jose Vidro

vidro
(Not how you do this either but lol Cubes)

If you go to Wikipedia, someone had the audacity to write “Though he never officially retired, Vidro has not played since 2008.” As if anyone that trotted out as many times as Vidro pathetically did for the Mariners in 2008 needs to declare they are done when, go figure, you were DFA’d midway through August with a batting line of .234/.274/.338 as the freakin’ DESIGNATED HITTER. Apologies for the grammatically unsound sentence, I just got so worked up thinking about him. We won’t even go into the fact that Vidro did all of that jazz, only in a more garbage way, for the entirety of 2007. For a team that has put together an impressive string of pathetic designated hitters, Vidro declares himself king of that shit mountain. (Peter)

14. Bob Wolcott

One ALCS Game 1 in which Wolcott walked five and struck out two does not a man make. Walcott was objectively crap in AAA before he was called up in a state of emergency for the ‘95 Mariners, and subsequently killed the Mariners for the remainder of his short-lived M’s career before Arizona plucked him in the 53rd round of the ‘97 expansion draft. It’s better off if you remember his career based on one playoff start result and ignore the rest. (Scott)

15. Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson
(mmmmmmmmm yes mmmmmm weak contact mmmm delicious yes)

Austin Jackson swinging an aluminum trekking pole at a barbell below sea level. Austin Jackson gently tapping a croquet ball the last four inches through a wicket with a live toucan. Austin Jackson slapping an already broken piñata with a carp on roller skates. Austin Jackson slapping empty plastic Easter eggs with a velvet glove in a wind tunnel. Austin Jackson swinging a 30 lb log at a rolled up sock on Jupiter. Austin Jackson… (Nathan)

16. Bobby Ayala

Might as well get the emotional one out of the way. Ayala was actually filthy in ‘94, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings and cruising to a 2.28 FIP. It’s that performance that had Lou Pinella going to him in high-leverage situations for the better part of his Mariners career, where he allowed a 110 OPS+. The suck lives beyond your memories, friends. (Scott)

17. Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley
(We don’t even like Eric Wedge, yet here we feel for him.)

I don’t feel as if this one needs any elaboration. (Skiba)

18. John Moses

John Moses was the baseball equivalent of a substitute middle school shop teacher, a rebuttal against hero worship. He was an everyman in the sense that people looked up to him, saw themselves in him, and felt despair at their inadequacy. John Moses represented the death of the boyhood dream, the yawning rift between ourselves and who we wanted to be. John Moses did nothing well, except not be the worst at anything. He played center field because the alternatives were worse; flanked by the morose butcher Danny Tartabull in right, he always appeared quietly competent. He appeared fast, and the caught stealings that nearly matched his stolen bases brought praise for his effort. He hit an empty .250 in a pair of seasons when the young and the old, your Mickeys Brantley and your Gormans Thomas and your Als Cowens could hardly break the Mendoza Line. He was there, never making the manager look bad, never the last man in line before the ax. In that sense, he was the most realistic childhood hero that baseball ever produced. (phd)

19. Heathcliff Slocumb

As the old saying goes, never replace a legend – be the guy who replaces the legend’s replacement. Mike Cameron nearly single-handedly tore that idea to shreds in Seattle. A fate far worse is to be the guy instead of the guy – or guys. It’s not Heathcliff Slocumb’s fault he was traded for two of the most important members of a team that ended an 86-year curse. Cameron was at least given the opportunity to make a name for himself and rose to the occasion. Slocumb stumbled out of the gate, and that scab was picked at on a near-daily basis eight years later during one of the most dramatic playoff runs the country had ever seen. Sometimes it’s not about who you are but about who you aren’t. And who Slocumb wasn’t was a World Series Champion. (dg)

20. Kendrys Morales

(Well, actually, this is how you do this. Yes.)     

In 2013, when the Mariners were bad, Kendrys Morales actually had a pretty good offensive year for Seattle (119 wRC+ in 657 PA). One season later, after rejecting a qualifying offer, missing all of Spring Training, signing a short-term deal with the Twinkies in June, and being re-acquired by Seattle via trade in July, Morales went on to post an 82 wRC+ as a Mariner (in 239 PA, most of which came while hitting cleanup). Yuck! In aggregate, Morales’s 2014 offensive numbers were pretty putrid, but they become even more gut-wrenchingly awful when you break them down thusly:

Kendrys Morales as a Mariner in 2014
Split PA wRC+
Bases empty 129 89
Men on base 110 73
Men in scoring 56 39

A DOUBLE EWE ARRR SEA OF THIRTY-NINE WITH RISP. Why??? A reminder that the ‘14 Mariners missed the playoffs by ONE game and thanks so h*ckin’ much for being the worst, Kendrys. (Andrew)

(Part III tomorrow)

Episode 13: The Fans and the Furious

We Love Trash

0:00-42:45 WE ARE BACK YES THANK YOU. After three months hiatus Scott, Nathan, and David return to recap the 2017 Mariners; a frustrating, inconsistent, mediocre team hey wait they told me this season was going off-type. Hey! Hey we got the wrong script here! Damn writers.

43:15-1:28:25

After a whelming-ass look back the boys get DARK. It’s a look forward, bemoaning the franchise’s inability or refusal to commit to the steps necessary to build a consistently great team, and a bleak forecast for 2018, Shohei Ohtani, or no. DO NOT LISTEN SOBER. Or do. We certainly didn’t record it sober but you do you, pal.

(Music credits: The Movielife, Mark Morrison, Beirut)

(Rate and subscribe on SoundCloud and iTunes. We appreciate you listening.)

The Case for Giancarlo

On July 28th, 2033 Giancarlo Stanton was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As his time came to speak the hulking man – the rare physical specimen for whom time seems only to adorn regality, and take nothing at all – sat quietly, a look of mild distance in his eyes.

There were ten, maybe fifteen minutes to encapsulate a seventeen year career of hitting baseballs like no one ever had before him. A few moments to speak of his time playing baseball on opposite corners of the nation; seven in Miami, ten in Seattle.

He had always been more than just another power hitter. The rules of baseball indicate any ball clearing the fence on the fly in fair territory is a home run. Plenty of players did that, and so did Giancarlo. But he used his home runs as an instrument of psychological terror.

His home runs were more than runs, they were oppression, torment; annihilation. Giancarlo Stanton home runs were Marshawn Lynch up the middle, or Shawn Kemp on the break. Oh we tallied them of course, this is baseball. “That’s home run 500!”, “Wow exit velocity of 120.3 MPH”, and so on, but these were the desperate attempts of we baseball disciples to capture gospel on the page. We wrote them in red, so people would notice, but no ink or page was sufficient, nor could it ever be.

He strode to the microphone to speak, and paused. Among the masses gathered to see him was twenty-seven year old Julie Graham, a rising star in the White Sox analytics department. Despite the ongoing season, and her employer currently leading the AL Central, Julie had been planning this trip since last summer. She was smart and ambitious, with an eye for a general manager position someday, but this was bigger even than her career.

This was about the summer of 2018, spent in a small, WWII trackhouse on Trenton St, on the east side of Bremerton, WA.

*****

Julie’s parents had split up when she was six. She lived mostly with her mom, in and around the Orwellian-sounding City of Industry in California. Her father had a tough time keeping a job, and as such his life was in the state of perpetual instability that made primary custody an easy decision for the court. But by 2016 her dad had settled in Kitsap County, and found steady employment at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. It was good, union pay, and by the summer of 2018 he was able to pay off enough debt to afford renting that small rambler on Trenton St., and convince the court and Julie’s mom to let her come stay with him for the summer.

She hated it, of course. She was twelve, the dawning of the age when hate is the default setting for most things in life. She hated the small house, the small town, the way the rain stuck around into July. She hated her dad, and his friends, and the few kids she saw around the neighborhood. One Saturday a guy at the yard had a few baseball tickets he couldn’t use, and when Julie’s dad drug her to Safeco Field she was fully prepared and capable of hating that too.

They trudged to their seat, about halfway up the left field bleachers, and sat down. Julie was annoyed; the sun made it impossible to see her phone screen. Without speaking a word to her dad she got up and walked all the way to the top of the bleachers, where some shade would allow her to see, and thus escape.

THWACK

Julie’s head jerked up, something had smashed into the bleacher behind her, about twenty feet from her head.

CRASH

Once she had visited an aunt in Texas, and through a torrential Texan storm learned about baseball-sized hail. But this, this was a storm raining actual baseball-sized baseballs.

Where could it be coming from? Julie looked around her, then down to her dad, who pointed towards the other side of the stadium. She squinted down. All she could see was a tiny collection of blue and white spots. One of the spots, admittedly the least tiny of them, was standing close to home plate. Vaguely she saw a flash of something and this time, paying attention, she heard it; a menacing hiss and the accompanying whoops of the people around her as it go closer. The ball smashed about two rows in front of her, and a group of four or so immediately fell upon it.

Julie put down her phone.

*****

Giancarlo stood at the podium. The trade to bring him to Seattle was foolish, reckless, irresponsible even. All the home runs – 400, 500, 600, and on – had not turned around the franchise. They had finally broken that awful playoff-less streak by squeaking into the Wild Card in 2023. They even won the Wild Card game, but were swept out of the divisional series by the Rangers, and quickly returned to mediocrity afterwards.

Seventeen years, an MVP, Silver Sluggers, All-Star games, one of the most transcendent talents in the history of the game. But only four playoff games, no World Series, and no titles. His accomplishments lay as communal testament to his enduring greatness, but seemingly little beyond just that.

Julie Graham stood in the sun, and sweat. She drug her dad to Safeco that whole summer, all those years ago. When the next summer came she did it again, and the one after. Her newfound love of baseball made her want to know more about it, and that led to the discovery of a love of and gift for mathematics and statistics. The full ride to Stanford, the internship with the Padres, the steady progress of her career was traced back to a summer in Seattle, where a Child of Zeus himself reshaped the confines and boundaries of reality with his swings.

Giancarlo began speaking, and Julie looked around. She was far from alone.