A too-early offseason post

If you’re going through Hell, well, sometimes there’s just more Hell.

The 2017 MLB Playoffs are roaring, and while one team from the AL West has already advanced to the Championship Series, the Seattle Mariners have not. In fact, the Seattle Mariners are all mostly on vacation, I’d assume. Some might be taking on new hobbies, others likely have been told they are not Seattle Mariners anymore. Some will comment, years down the line, on how, “It didn’t actually rain that much.” Others still might forget they ever played in Seattle in 2017 (‘sup Jean Machi). With all that being said, and the season-past still not-yet-passed, let’s take a brief look at what the viewing audience might expect from the Seattle Mariners this offseason, juxtaposed with the subjective opinions of this author. Admittedly, I am not a professional baseball executive. I do, however, have a Masters Degree from the University of California, Davis, and that’s basically the same thing.

Let’s sum up 2017 in a few quick sentences here since we all saw it, unfortunately. The Seattle Mariners, in their second full-season under GM Jerry Dipoto entered the year with an offense projected to be towards the upper tier of the AL and a starting rotation that looked like its ceiling was somewhere near the middle-of-the-pack if you squinted. The bullpen, a mix of retreads, up and comers, and some known quantities was, well, exactly what every bullpen sounds like before the bullets start flying. Dipoto solved offseason questions at shortstop and in the outfield by acquiring Jean Segura, a cost-controlled Mitch Haniger, and trading for Jarrod Dyson. Mike Zunino bounced-back from an atrocious end to 2016, and despite an early demotion, finished the year as a top-10 catcher in all of Baseball. Injuries hampered the season, but were likely less due to luck, and much more to team design, as the team was built to rely on countless players on bounce-back years or on the wrong-side of thirty. In short, the Mariners finished 78-84, good enough for 4th in the AL West, in a season that they somehow managed to be “buyers” at the deadline.

The offense was as-advertised, if not a little under-performing. In the end, they were tied for 5th in MLB in team wRC+ (with the Twins and Athletics), and 12th in total offensive team fWAR. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both experienced relatively disappointing seasons in respect to their 2016’s, Nelson Cruz fell-off somewhat but only just-so, and first base remained a disaster. The loss of Jarrod Dyson in centerfield, and Leonys Martin before him, forced several outfield reshuffles that exposed just how much “depth” had been built up at that position (read: not much). Mitch Haniger appears to be the real deal, as his WAR/600 extrapolates to almost a 4-Win player as a corner outfielder. Jerry in his postseason press conferences has expressed a willingness to open 2018 with Haniger as his Opening Day centerfielder. I am not as optimistic about the defense holding up there. Gamel and Heredia both appear to be what Mariners teams of yonder years have had plenty of, 4th outfielders.

The time has come for us to face the music: Felix Hernandez isn’t going back to 2014. As such, the rotation as it looks will be built around James Paxton, a fitting ace, with a penchant for injury, and thus exists just bellow bonafide Ace-dom. Acquisitions of Mike Leake and Erasmo Ramirez have tied in the back end of the rotation, but there’s zero organizational depth that should be relied upon for a successful (read: playoff(?)) 2018. The Mariners are left in a tough spot with their pitching. Felix is still on the books for $25M while providing, at his best, the quality of a 2-3 starter. Paxton is cheap, but can’t be relied on for 150 innings. So, left with the choice of Andrew Moore and a host of unknowns, they’ll likely have to spend. In comes the question mark named Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani will post sometime within the next few months and will be had by some team at a massive bargain if the hype is real. A player who appears to have more arm-talent than bat, he allegedly may have the chops to be a two-way player in the MLB. However, if he’s truly arm-first, my personal belief is that he and his organization would be better-off having him focus on pitching, and leaving the DH’ing to field players. Ohtani represents a real chance for the organization to extend the current window. They simply have to land him before dozens of other teams and hope he’s truly a 5-7 Win pitcher.

It all depends on how you view this organization, but per their words, they aren’t letting 2017 put them in sell-mode. The fact is this: anything tradable within the organization was either traded already or lost value over the past season. Edwin Diaz, Nelson Cruz, hell, even Kyle Seager, are all worth less now than they were this time last year. Moving large contracts like Cano or Felix would likely mean eating a ton of money, which the ownership hasn’t expressed a willingness to do. So here the Seattle Mariners are, stuck in the middle with an ever-aging roster and as close to zero in-house talent to improve them as imaginable. In all reality, 2018 might be the last chance this team has in creating a Wild Card roster in years. So, let’s go forward assuming this is the strategy of the front office. One last hurrah with this window.

The organization has to buy pitching, probably needs to find a rent-a-firstbaseman since they appear unable to make Daniel Vogelbach stick there, and has expressed desire in acquiring an outfielder (again). All this is to be done with what appears to be tight budget restrictions and in Jerry Dipoto’s apparent final-contract year. Shohei Ohtani represents a chance for this organization to really change its outlook for the next two or three years, yet its a long shot and a gamble all wrapped in a massive “what-if”. If anything, maybe that sentence is the most honest outlook for 2018 I could write.

Forced into an offseason coming off a disappointing year, with bloated contracts to aging stars, and a farm that appears to have no help arriving soon enough, the Seattle Mariners will likely be able to squabble together a squad that could be in the running for a Wild Card Spot. That likely means something to a large part of the fan base and shouldn’t be discounted. However, there’s no denying the truth that they’re years behind the Astros, and could easily be outpaced by both the Angels and Rangers again. Is building a team that simply hopes to compete for a play-in game a strategy that can allow the organization to overcome its obvious shortcomings? I guess we’re all going to find out together, huh.

Injuries helped make the 2017 Mariners stupid

2017, in a weird way, was one of the worst Seattle Mariners’ seasons in recent memory, and that is saying something. This is a squad that has seen two 100-plus loss seasons in the past decade, and hasn’t (as we are all quite well aware) made the playoffs since 2001.

At the end of the year, the Mariners finished the 2017 season just 78-84. Despite a couple of futile flirts with playoff potential, it was never really in the cards. The Houston Astros ran away with the A.L. West for the next 100 years by mid-May, and the Mariners were left flailing for that second wild card spot with 18 other teams. And flail they did.

Seemingly, this should have been a more exciting team than the 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, or 2013 Mariners. And yet, they weren’t. It wasn’t that the squad was hard to root for. We all rooted for those sorry loser Mariners teams from yesteryears. No, this squad had something going on with it.

Let me tell you about one of my friends. We will call him Jason, because that is his name. Jason is an Athletics fan. Baseball season works like clockwork with Jason. He begins his year complaining about how he doesn’t know more than seven players on his squad, and the year ends with knowing only two players on the squad. Jason still dutifully roots for the Athletics every year, but he is left scrambling at the end as to reasons why he should root for them, outside of sometimes that is just what being a sports fan means.

Because of injuries this year, the Mariners more resembled the Athletics than any other team in the majors. Every player who could possibly get injured seemingly got injured, and in came their replacements, who oftentimes also got injured. In the end, we were left cheering for a squad made up of players who made pacts with the devil to avoid the disabled list and a whole plethora of AAA+ guys.

Bear with me here, cause this part gets a little bit long.

  • April 2: Drew Smyly, Shawn O’ Malley, Steve Cishek, Shae Simmons, Rob Whalen, and Tony Zych placed on the DL
  • April 11: Jean Segura placed on the 10-day DL
  • April 26: Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger placed on the 10-day DL
  • April 29: Evan Scribner placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 5: James Paxton placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 6: Evan Marshall placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 10: Hisashi Iwakuma placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 14: Ryan Weber placed on the 10-day DL
  • May 16: Robinson Cano placed on the 10-day DL
  • June 3: Jean Segura placed on the 10-day DL
  • July 30: Mitch Haniger placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 5: Felix Hernandez placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 8: David Phelps placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 19: Jarrod Dyson placed on the 10-day DL
  • August 22: Tony Zych placed on the 10-day DL

Don’t worry about correcting me. I’m sure I missed a few disabled list trips in there, but the Mariners were so plagued by the injury bug this year, it was nearly impossible to have any knowledge of all nine faces that would appear on the Safeco Field board each day. And all of this isn’t even including ol’ free-wheelin’ and dealin’ Jerry Dipoto, who traded with such a ferocity that Billy Beane was impressed. Dare you get attached to a single player; because that just increases the odds that player is shipped out.

Now granted, it seems a bit odd to be critical of someone who is actively trying to make his team better by averaging 100 trades per calendar year, but at the end of the day, it is objectively a bit hard to see how the Mariners ARE actually better. The overall core of the team is still relatively same, although, there are some interesting new pieces in the mix. Many of the issues are still the same from the start of the 2017 season: dear lord we need some starting pitching and what the hell is a farm system anyway?

But the injury bug further exasperated Dipoto’s general managerial method he has displayed so far from a straight up fan perspective. There were plenty of people who found things to root for on this squad, and good for them. But it was also just as hard to not root for this team if you (me) didn’t follow their each and every move this year because you (me) had no fucking clue who actually owned a Mariners jersey. Often times, in 2017, you (me) were hard pressed to pick a dog in the fight to root for because that dog was going to be D.O.A. the very next day. The Mariners had 16 different players spend a total of 1,372 days on the disabled list this season. Seriously, to hell with that.

There are a lot in the fanbase who are slowly but surely approaching their wits end and edge of sanity through the constant futility of a squad that is rapidly approaching its second decade without any semblance of October baseball. This year, perhaps it wasn’t entirely the Mariners fault, but things have to get better sooner than later, because 2017 really took a few years off of everyone’s lives.

Exce11ent Alternatives

Edgar Martinez was an excellent baseball player who wore the number 11 on his jersey. The word “excellence” remains phonetically sound after replacing “ll” with 11. These are undeniable facts. Seriously. Think about Edgar. Comb the dictionary. You can’t find a more perfect word because the perfect word has already been found, and that word is exce11ence.

The only issue with an all-encompassing expression like exce11ence is that it ignores the iconic moments that made Edgar exce11ent in the f1rst place. So here they are, Edgar’s seminal moments as a Seattle Mariner, featuring words with consecutive letters supplanted by 11.

We begin with Edgar’s most famous moment of all. More than 650,000 doubles have been hit in Major League history. Only one transcends spe11ing.

1EdgarTheDoub11e

Edgar Martinez wasn’t just a superstar between the lines. He was (and still is) a superstar in the locker room, known throughout baseball for his theatrical performances of…

1EdgarFo11icularVaudevi11e

…and on cable television.

1EdgarBombi11o

I think bombillo is Spanish for lightbulb. You can never be sure with Google translate. Anyway, that was a c00l commercial and the guy in the background ki11s me, especially with that bombi11o on his head.

Yet, despite his superstar status, Edgar was perhaps at his best performing selfless deeds of service to the local community. Such as…

EdgarPuya11up

…bringing some much-needed geoduck awareness to the city of Puya11up and…

1EdgarCaterpi11ar

…publishing Caterpi11ar, the adorable children’s book about a young caterpillar who wanted to be a baseball bat when he grew up despite the burden of his parent’s shame. Caterpillar triumphantly makes it to The Show, but the story takes a tragic and gruesome turn on the book’s final page when he meets his first – and last – pitch.

Not everything Edgar did was perfect, however. For example, the regrettable follow-up to Caterpi11ar.

1EdgarCaterpi11arJr

Wanting to be taken more seriously as an author, Edgar penned the edgy story of Caterpi11ar Jr., who vows to avenge his father’s humiliating death and restore the family name only to be arrested outside of a nightclub on the eve of his professional debut, never to return.

Or the time Edgar realized he had a…

MAC EDGAR MARTINEZ G2CSNAP08 1C S BBA USA OR

Or the time Edgar feigned…

1EdgarHa11ucinations

…to distract Robinson Cano from abruptly ending Andy Van Slyke’s coaching career. It turns out Edgar should have probably let that happen, even though Van Slyke did it to himself on the radio a few short months later. Hilarious.

In all seriousness, cheers to Edgar Martinez and the Mariners. This should be one he11uva weekend.

(h/t to Andrew for his I11ustration)

 

Joy

joy

My awakening with baseball came a decade ago, when I read Baseball Between the Numbers, a veritable textbook on analysis collated by Jonah Keri. The subline of the book, Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong, struck me. I’ve long been a person who thrives on challenging convention. A contrarian by nature, I often follow a path of dissent to a fault. Whether in writing, debate, taste – I have been fueled by having a unique opinion. This existed within me until right around the same time I read the aforementioned book. I remember the moment, listening to whatever metal-mathcore bullshit I was pretending to love at the time. “Do I even like the Dillinger Escape Plan?” I thought, driving in my car, wearing my Dillinger Escape Plan hoodie.

Learning that many of the narratives people pass around about baseball are inherently false changed my perspective on the game in a permanent fashion. It shaped my voice when I wrote about baseball, it opened my eyes when I watched the game. It taught me to view a season from 10,000 feet instead of living and dying by every moment. A 12:40 game on a Wednesday in August has the same impact as opening night. Baseball is cruel, it is emotional, it is beautiful. It is also, above anything else, exactly linear for 162 games. I viewed, and still view, baseball with the mind of an analyst, formed by that book and everything I consumed immediately after. Sometimes that comes across as people thinking I don’t enjoy the game, or that I’m a pessimist. It’s not the case.

I met my wife in 2005, during the time I was spreading my fair share of controversial takes around the music industry as an album reviewer. She is a radiant woman with a smile and laugh that consumes your soul and warms your heart. I fell in love immediately, as does virtually everyone else who spends more than 30 seconds with her. At the time, my analytical mind manifested itself in the form of practicality. Part of this was being a broke college student, part of this was a comfort in my own bubble. My wife is a woman of adventure. I was a man of familiarity. I didn’t want to travel, I didn’t want to eat out. I liked what I liked. Comfort was contentment, and contentment was happiness. I didn’t realize how wrong that kind of happy was until she broke me down.

Over the years of our relationship, I now find joy in more aspects of life than I ever imagined possible. I’ll eat anything, travel anywhere, and take any opportunity to celebrate. It doesn’t always come easy, as there’s still remnants at my core that push back with anxiety. I fight through them, and the result is an unbridled, relentless sense of self-worth and content, with my wife at the core of it all. My job, my friends, my travel, my friendships. My brothers here at Dome and Bedlam. These words. In it all, joy.

I choose joy because the opposite is horrific. I have seen my closest friends shattered by life events. Marriages failed, families wrenched apart. I have watched my wife lie next to her best friend, whispering goodbye days before her death from an inoperable brain tumor at age 27. Still, I have experienced a fraction of the tormented sadness and depression that many have. Sadness is devastating and unavoidable.

And yet, we carry on, rooting for a baseball team that has playoff potential, which means they have World Series potential. For some, they find their joy in hoping that potential becomes a reality. I, with them, share the same sentiment. It may manifest differently, as I view the team with an analytical eye and see outcomes a little worse than many of my friends and peers. I will root with every fiber of my being to be wrong about the 2017 Mariners. I want them to be better than the .500 team I currently project them as. I want so deeply to add success from the Mariners to my ever-growing sources of joy. I will experience it, along with everyone else, in waves throughout this year. There is no schadenfreude when the Mariners fail. It is simply familiar and comfortable. I am sick of it. I want adventure, and I want exuberance.  I want it in more than bursts. I want from the Mariners what I get from my wife. Together, we’ll lament, complain, and languish. We will laugh about the failures. We will celebrate the success. We will choose to be happy, because to do otherwise is too easy, and makes life too hard.

If it all goes right

Just this one time, with meaning

I once heard that the way to experience true happiness is to picture the precise moment you fell in love with the object, idea, or person in question. Not the month, the week, day, but the moment. You see, these instances are important for contemplation and deep focus because they, just as our very lives, are fleeting. We often speak of a limited time on Earth, but what we rarely discuss, because it gnaws at our very core, is that the processing power of our mind is also limited in both ability and duration. I am doomed to suffer the same, eventual memory loss of my grandparents, their grandparents, even my mother and father. Those memories, those moments where we fell in love, eventually they will be wiped away, replaced or simply lost. For me, the moment I fell in love with the Seattle Mariners, I can still feel it.

On October 6th, 2000, I was in a car, the same car I still drive, a 1993 Toyota Landcruiser, with my dad, waiting in the midday Sun to go and get a haircut. Delaying our appointment because the Mariners were on the radio and about to sweep the Chicago White Sox. I loosely knew the characters associated with the 2000 M’s. There was Edgar, Dan the Man, A-Rod, Guillen, Rickey Henderson, Charles Gipson, Kaz, Freddy, Cammie, and others. The names were mostly all I had. That team won 91 games. I hadn’t processed joy, yet. Maybe I still haven’t really gotten down to it even to this day. Yet, I do know, that the moment I fell in love with the Seattle Mariners was right about here:


So it makes sense that between then and now, love has changed its course. Between then and what we all witnessed tonight, there was a dynasty built, torn apart, and then stones thrown at the rubble. Weeds scatter the remains, some spring and summer flowers grow there. We came to know the Mariners amongst a pile of failed prospects, half-season hype-trains, Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley promotion and demotions, losing Adrian Beltre, and Felix Hernandez. It hasn’t been until rather recently, from 2014 to now, that anything has stirred those feelings of true, unbridled love. Sometimes, we just need a reason to believe.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the relevance of the Mariners has coincided with the tenure of Robinson Cano. It’s no mistake that everything simply feels different with him in teal. And in 2017, he didn’t disappoint. We all knew that in order for this to work, Robi would have to bear a large burden. Yet, he made it look so easy. If we thought 2016 was the final chapter in the MVP-career of Cano, we were dreadfully wrong, and we needed him to prove us wrong. There he was, double into right-center after double. He was relentless and his partnership with the powerful Jean Segura was likely the most entertaining double-play combo the franchise has ever seen. That Cano smile never left all season, and why would it have? I still remember the exact moment I fell in love with him, too.

The rest we saw coming, James Paxton led a rotation featuring a junk-balling Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma riding off into the sunset. The bullpen was terrifying, both in its volatility and use of relative unknowns. It felt like almost every night someone new was throwing a high leverage eighth. Nelson Cruz kept his magic intact for one more season with another 40-homer year and the outfield defense was good enough to make up for their issues at the plate. What we didn’t account for, and maybe never should have as fans of the Seattle Mariners, was a rather large dash of luck.

It wasn’t hard, back in April, to see this team making the playoffs, you could even see 90 wins. What was worrisome was the other side of the coin. Just as simply one could see 90 losses. But, we never account for luck as fans of the team that until today, had the longest active postseason drought. We’ve been through this before. We’ve heard the hype only to have every single wheel come off the rails. We remember 2010, 2015, 2008. Think back on all the walkoffs in August. The O’Malley bleeder down the right field line, the Segura grand slam in Houston, Haniger stealing home to beat the Royals. Remember Zunino’s three home run game? Now, we’ll remember the exact moment we fell in love with playoff baseball again.

Looking back on it, it makes sense that the Seattle Mariners hosted the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card Game. It makes sense that three AL West teams made the playoffs, and one of them, this time, was the Mariners. You see, you start to learn something about love as time goes on. That it’s more adult than you’d care to admit. That loving a sports team is full of rage and intensity, grace, silence, echoes, they come together if you’ll let them in. That, like loving another person, when something is out of your own control, you cope in different ways. You buy in further and further, rejection drives you deeper and deeper. And that when love is so lopsided that it destroys you, and you have to keep mortgaging yourself to keep it alive, that one day, Leonys Martin changes everything. He makes you fall in love, again.


That’s what we all saw again tonight. Leonys, playing for the team that finally made him feel welcomed, like he belonged, and in the midst of one of the worst slumps of his career, took an 8th inning Matt Bush curveball ten rows deep. It was a bit of that same magic he seemed to possess in 2016, that one night in May. A call back to a time that feels so long ago, but so new again. A roofless Safeco almost fell to the ground. Those old, wrinkled gods of baseball long ago heard us in their sleep. Felix watched as his seven inning, two-run gem was finally, thirteen years later, made good. Edwin Diaz closed a ninth I don’t think I felt a single moment of. I’m still numb. The love I feel has shaken my bones of their feeling.

I don’t want to feel, either. Perhaps that is the most important aspect of love in the moments you find it. At the same time you are both completely full and void of feeling, of regard or care. There is only this moment, this person, this being that you love. The Seattle Mariners, at some point in the next several hours, will fly to start a Divisional series in Boston. Felix, Cano, Cruz, Seager, Paxton, and Leonys all will be beaming. But that doesn’t matter. Tomorrow doesn’t matter.

Simply this moment does.

Episode 4: Shannon Drayer is right, and we are wrong

Episode 4 is brought to you by Friend of the Podcast Kyle Rancourt and his donation in goods equal to $4.87 Thank you Kyle.

710 ESPN beat writer, radio stalwart, and midwestern fast food devotee Shannon Drayer joins the show to talk Mariners (yes actual baseball this time. Well, Spring Training baseball), cheese curds, life on Twitter, and more.

(Music credits: Run the Jewels, Johnny Cash)

A View Far Removed

Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners

Like most kids in junior high, my life’s ambition was narrow. I wanted to be famous, and I wanted to talk about sports. I was a comically skinny kid who played everything but wasn’t particularly good at anything. My talent was knowledge, reciting the stats of a Chris Mullin card or explaining the infield fly rule to my friends. I spent my pre-driving years huddled up next to my Sanyo boombox to listen to whatever was on KJR for hours upon hours. The rotating hosts of the evening would fire out take after take, and listeners would follow suit. Eventually I got the courage to call in, swiping the house’s cordless phone to wait for an hour on hold, all to squeak out my opinion on Sonics basketball to surprisingly patient and courteous hosts. I’d dutifully turn my Sanyo down while on the air, but record the segment on a cassette tape and listen to it over and over again as soon as I hung up. I would cringe over my mistakes, my voice, and what I knew was a two-minute long eye roll from the thousands that heard me wax not-so-poetic on Hersey Hawkins. A week later, I’d sit on hold again, vowing to be better.

Fifteen years later, it’s the summer of 2013, and I’m staring at my inbox. I’d been in charge of Lookout Landing for a few months, and a radio station in Oregon wants me to go on the air as a guest and talk about the Mariners. They came to me, a perceived lifetime after I wanted them. Maybe they think I’m an expert, or maybe they’re desperate to fill time. It doesn’t really matter to me. I look up the station online. It’s a tiny building in a tiny town in the middle of the state. I try to find a way to record the segment, but there’s no way to listen online. I call in, listening to commercials about agriculture fairs and high school pancake feeds before it’s my time to play the professional. My eyes are wide.

There’s been a few radio spots now, and the format and line of questioning becomes familiar. There’s a hot take mentality brewing inside me, and one day Eric Wedge says something I find to be very silly. I feel a wave of passion take over me and feel it is my very duty to unleash my takes all over LL. I pound the keyboard for an hour, skewering Wedge with what I can now only surmise was a decidedly arrogant tone. All I can think about is giving readers what they want, finally winning them over. I scan over what I’ve written. It’s the piece I wanted. Forceful, clear. I hit publish and wait. Within an hour I feel a deep, sickening sense of regret. Half of what I’ve published is a gross exaggeration, an indignant and arrogant chest-thumping pile of shit. I swallow down my lump and stand behind it with as much bravado as I pumped into it.

My staff at Lookout Landing is growing, and now there’s a contingent of eight to ten writers who contribute on a regular basis. Communication is good, everyone fills a role, and I start to let some of the weight of responsibility fade off my shoulders. I don’t have to write every day. I trust every staff member implicitly and allow everyone to publish without approval. My management approach is to let everyone write whatever they are most passionate about, whatever that might be. I’ll fill in the gaps. The directive is to be inspired, and the very best work will come of it. Content is good. The readers seem at peace with a new direction of many different voices. I’m starting to settle in. I’ve also started down a path of forgetting my own advice regarding inspiration.

Months later, it’s now a much larger group of writers, and the management side is becoming harder than the commitment of writing. There’s a tough moment in which a change in staff has to occur, and the reaction is ugly. I sit back helplessly and watch my tiny corner of the world burn for a night or two as laundry is aired. It haunts me for months. I come to grips with not being able to universally win with Lookout Landing, ever. It’s a fate I choose to accept and move on. Scars are left.

It’s the first offseason as managing editor, and I’m settled into a role of gap-filler, riffing off trade rumors and free agent ideas. There’s an expectation of content that comes from many sources. The expectation becoming a requirement is primarily a product of guilt. There’s mornings when I stare at a blank screen for ten minutes, wondering what’s worth saying. I crack my knuckles and bang something out, time and time again. Sometimes I’m proud of what I write. Sometimes I am not. The latter grows with alarming frequency. I realize just how difficult offseasons are.

Year two is underway, and I take a vacation to Chicago to see a game at Wrigley Field. I write an article about the beauty and simplicity of a game at Wrigley, and it makes a few rounds. A friend texts me and says he heard my article referenced on the Mariners broadcast that night. I get to a computer, pull up the archives, and navigate around until I find the moment. Rick Rizzs is talking about Wrigley. Aaron Goldsmith mentions an article on Lookout Landing about it, and ties it into the conversation. I’m smiling from ear to ear. He then mentions me by name.

I break down in front of my wife.

The summer rolls on, and the weekly cycle of running Lookout Landing is relentless. The wiki document staff uses to plan out content for the week is full of days that are void of anything but recaps. Writers come and go with a quicker frequency than ever before, and there’s a pattern I grow accustomed to. Hire, train, #content, fade, remind, #content, fade, disappear. My management style of allowing artistic freedom often results in brilliance from a group of talented writers, but it also results in large gaps of dead space when inspiration is low. I consider setting requirements on posts, but the thought of playing bad cop makes my scars burn red. I vent my frustrations privately. I feel pressure to churn out better content, but I’ve been writing nothing but spin pieces on bullpen roles shifting and utility outfielders getting demoted that my voice and identity has faded into the ether. Who am I, as a writer? Am I just a manager now? Is what I’m doing giving me any fulfillment?

I’m asked to go on 710 ESPN in Seattle twice, and I self-record both of them. I listen back time and time again, and have only mild criticisms. Radio hits are a relative breeze now, and I feel little to no nerves, even on a large stage. Trade reactions and hot takes are what get the appearances, and I’m loving the attention. My role at the site is now almost completely opinion-based articles and behind-the-scenes management, which is often hands-off until things go south. I’m tired, but feel pride that I haven’t sank the ship.

The Mariners are making a push for the playoffs, and I go to Europe for three weeks. Nathan handles my duties while I’m gone, and is in for a surprise at the amount of planning, organizing, and writing that goes into running Lookout Landing. I check out completely. I don’t miss it even a little.

The next six months are full of extended stints of sleepwalking. I often feel like I’m going through the motions, and I rarely write anything I’m happy with. We do several collaborative projects that staff works hard on, and they fall flat on the site. It feels like the great content, the things we are truly proud of, gets buried while my spin pieces, full of opinions I’m not entirely confident in, get all the comments and clicks. I’m essentially writing nothing but the latter, and I’m on the radio every week. My career changes, and I’m no longer working from home. I’m standing outside my office in freezing weather, live on the air in Spokane at 10am, trying to suppress my chattering teeth.

There’s a deep sense of conflict. I’m so very proud of what I’ve managed to patch together over the years, and my ego is still thriving off a steady diet of moderate notoriety. I know I’ll never have a bigger stage to write at. I know this is as close as I’ll ever get to living out my childhood dream. I’m not close to the most talented writer on my staff, and I don’t have ambitions to make writing a full-time career, so I’m not doing the necessary Twitter engagement and hobnobbing to carve the path. I’m two years in, and I’m burned out. I know the amount of work that it takes to get the opportunities I crave is more than I’m willing to give. I know that the level of effort I put in from 2013-2014 is as much as I’ll ever be able to offer. I write up a resignation letter to the powers that be. It sits, saved as a draft for six months.

I couldn’t just walk away from this platform, could I? People would kill for the stage I’d been given, and I knew I was very fortunate to land in the spot that I did when there were hundreds more deserving. But my conflict started to turn to peace, and my worries about meeting expectations morphed into a sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t an opportunity anymore. It was a real thing, a thing I did to the best of my abilities and a thing I was tired of doing. I knew the best days were behind me. I was done. And so I left. I left after I was 100% sure. I said I would still be around on the site when I posted my resignation, but I didn’t believe it when I wrote it. And close to two years later, I haven’t been around at all.

I didn’t know how done I was until I stopped. I didn’t read much of Lookout Landing for the rest of 2015, even though the writers were, and are, close friends who will be a part of my life forever. I didn’t watch much baseball. The weight of responsibility was lifted off my mind, but the imprint still sat like memory foam. I wanted to come back and write, but I had nothing to say. I thought it would return in 2016, but it didn’t. Over the years, I lost my voice in the sea of news stories, trade rumors, and recaps. I only wanted to write again if inspiration returned. I wasn’t sure if it ever would. I don’t know if it will come again.

Today, inspiration is here. Tomorrow is tomorrow.