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.

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.

Shohei Otani and Three Magic Words

My junior year of undergrad I had a professor, we’ll call him Mr. Williams. He was in his early 30’s, energetic, passionate, and opinionated. His class at my small bible college was one on the Book of Revelations, the Bible’s lowkey signing off on recreational drug use.

A major topic in Revelations, one debated by scholars for centuries, is whether the Rapture, the event in which God calls his still living faithful from earth to heaven to create a new heaven and new earth, is to occur before or after The Great Tribulation, a period cataclysms and horrors set to wipe out a vast swatch of humanity, and signal The End Times.

The two camps of this argument are shorthanded in Evangelical scholarly circles as “Pre and Post-Trib”. Mr. Williams was Pre-Trib, and was to such a passionate degree that you could almost forget that brilliant men had been arguing over this, a prophesy written in a foreign language scribbled down by a guy most likely under the effect of hallucinogens while sitting around on a small Greek island, for hundreds of years. In all that time there has never been a consensus opinion to emerge, and that probably has something to do with the fact that Koine Greek is a bit of a bitch, and that the future is, per my experience, inherently unknowable.

Nonetheless Mr. Williams was unshakable in his belief that the only possible reality was that God would spare his Faithful the horrors of the Tribulation. It was in that class that the largely dormant, but very much alive, seeds of speculation in my mind began to grow, and has led to a philosophy of stubbornly resisting passionate argument, probably too much so.

It was in that class I formed the opinion that the best and most correct answer for something as unknowable as the Tribulation/Rapture debate was one Mr. Williams seemed unable to see, let alone arrive at:

“I don’t know”

***

Shohei Otani is a unique player, in a unique situation. The perplexing and shortsighted willingness of the MLBPA to negotiate away the earning power of future players has put a cap on what teams can pay international free agents. As such Otani, who has made it mostly clear that he intends to come to MLB during this offseason, will most likely make the decision on where to play based on factors that have little or nothing to do with the terms of his initial contract.

As financial compensation is traditionally motivating factors 1-10 for deciding where an athlete is going to play, the absence of it in Otani’s case leaves a vast, gaping, crater in which we can pour our speculations, dreams, and hopes. This is a natural instinct. Humans like to know, and when we can’t we grow uncomfortable and oftentimes try to shape reality to our will.

We have seen plenty of exactly that with Otani this week: “Seattle is close to Japan”, “The Mariners have a strong track record with Japanese players”, or “Otani doesn’t care about money”. The latter is particularly fraught, as it can lead to assigning a moral superiority to a player accepting less money than he can theoretically extract from cutthroat billionaires, where in fact it’s easy to posit that getting every last cent possible out of them in order to use it for the ease of the suffering of the impoverished is at least as, if not more in line, with a highly-aspiring moral code.

The reality with Shohei Otani is we do not know. It’s entirely plausible Otani himself doesn’t know. We have no reason to believe the Mariners are any more or less desirable to him than any of the other 29 major league baseball teams. We do not know how much money means to him, nor should we ascribe a sort of Sunday School Morality to the possibility that he is almost assuredly giving up short term financial gain with the timing of his arrival in MLB.

We should allow Otani the dignity and mystery inherent in all the wildly complex depths of each human soul, and admit that we do not know why he is coming to America at this exact moment, and we do not know where he will choose to play. To attempt to distill the human spirit into simple cultural and/or moral archetypes to fit our predispositions does him and us a disservice. This is the most honest appraisal of the situation, and as it is so often with honesty, the most freeing.

Shohei Otani could become a Mariner, and he most likely will not. While we can read whatever we like into how much money he lives off of in Japan, or channel a Western understanding of Japanese culture into motivations for him to feel honored/dishonored by this or that, doing so plays into many of our worst American/Western/Imperialistic instincts. Real information will come in due course. For now, the best course of action is to embrace the three magic words:

We don’t know.

 

To Know Someone

(In the spirit of this post we wish to direct our readers to where they may donate to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, an excellent charity working to defeat cancer for all.)

As we stumble through life we have slowly, haphazardly, developed a rough system of determining the quality of a person. Of course, we acknowledge that perfect knowledge of a human’s personhood is practically impossible, thanks to the incredible depth and complexity of the human spirit. This is part of its appeal, and a great contributing factor to many of our trials and tribulations, in our estimation. However, with what little time and exposure is afforded us, here is the cribbed version of our person evaluation process:

How does the person treat other persons when no other persons are watching?

Some years ago we were traveling on the ferry, heading home after a Mariner game. We had consumed somewhere between one and ten beers, and the way we were feeling indicated it was toward the upper levels of that range. At departure from the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal our traveling companion sat up with a start and said, “That is Angie Mentink, you must go talk to her.” Having just started writing about the Mariners on the internet at the time, we and the beers were in no position to disagree, and so off we went.

Introductions were barely completed when Angie said, politely though briskly, “Great. Can you walk and talk?” Due to our beers this was more of an open question than is typical, however we said yes. During the 20 minutes between Fauntleroy and Vashon Island, Angie did two things ceaselessly: She did not stop walking in circles VERY quickly, and she did not at any point treat us as a hassle or unwelcome interruption, although we surely were.

We have no illusions that Angie remembers this interaction, or a single word we spoke, but we do not care. In the busy excrutiations of adulthood, there is a very real kindness and charity to projecting the illusion of care, whether or not care actually exists. Angie was extremely kind to us in this way, for no other reason other than we were there. We do not forget that.

How does a person respond to the unexpected, and/or that which is out of his/her control?

We have some mild experience with public speaking, stage place, and public performance. The process demands the utmost exactitude, combined with the ability to make everything seem organic and natural. When things go sideways, and surprises pop up, it can be extremely jarring, and we believe reacting to such things with grace and humor belies a strength of spirit, and peace with oneself. These are excellent qualities, and ones we wish we contained to a greater degree.

On July 22nd, after a walkoff win, Angie Mentink was doing her job and interviewing Mariner outfielder Ben Gamel, when:

Danny Valenciea’s poor aim, far from throwing Angie off her game, led to one of the great moments of the season, and perhaps the finest tweet of 2017:

As a mild postscript we remember that, after a walkoff home run on June 7th Angie, a former softball player at the University of Washington and no stranger to how athletes congratulate each other, smacked Mariners catcher Mike Zunino on the ass. This was, in the absurd modern world we exist in, cause of some consternation. We like to think Angie has not spent one moment worrying about that, and we also acknowledge we would very much also like to smack Mike Zunino on the ass.

How does a person react to hardship?

In the case of Angie Mentink, it’s just grace and humor, all the way down:

It has been said many times and ways, but we will repeat it here: A local baseball team’s broadcasters, more than any other sport, become family. They are daily guests in our home and lives, part of the rhythmic routine that marks our days. In this way we grow to appreciate their presence, a comforting salve which we apply over the aches and pains of existence. Their words are like a nightly nip of brandy for the soul, and we are very grateful for that.

***

We said at the top of this that a human’s capacity for layers and depth makes them all but unknowable, at least in the fullest sense. The act of choosing to love will always contain risk, because the possibility of darker, previously unseen nature is always lurking, regardless of how much time we have spent with a person. But we still choose to love, and sometimes we don’t need to see much to feel comfortable making that decision.

Angie, we love you. We believe you to contain a strength and fire that burns hotter than any disease or malady can defeat. Whether we do so in person, or from afar, we look forward to celebrating your triumph over cancer, and we stand by you in your journey to do so.

Festina lente

On hurrying, slowly.

There’s a lot of writing about baseball that opens up the sport as an allegory or metaphor for something large, something obtuse. Baseball as love, as heartbreak, as life itself. This can be quite powerful and evocative for both reader and writer alike. I’m quite guilty of it myself. The sport lends itself to daydreaming between the pitches. Three hours is an awfully long time to be doing anything. You’re bound to muse, if you’re so inclined. Lately, though, I’ve begun to think something else. What if baseball is simply its own space to be left alone? What if something could plainly be what it is and nothing else? Isn’t that just as special, if not more so, than allegory or metaphor?

I’ve come to this sentiment as I’ve come to a similar view within my own life. That spaces don’t always have to be shared. What if I could only make a beer? Forget style, forget pleasing customers, forget costs. Forget all of that. Does the intensification of a singular act allow for a better process? And what is a better process? Optimization and singularity are often spoken of within the same breath. While I cannot claim expertise or even a remote sense of completion in this line of thinking, I can ruminate on the recent months of my life. Perhaps I have recently found joy by taking things more plainly. Perhaps, if I could do the same with Baseball, the same thing could be said. What if I could go back to simply playing catch in the backyard. To the slap of leather, the motion, and the toss. The unspoken trust of hurling a ball of leather towards a team mate, a family member, someone you love. What if I could break baseball down to this core value?

August is a time within the 162-game schedule for reflection, but only for a moment. July has passed and the heat of the day seems to magnify greatly the strengths and shortcomings of every roster. The point of the season has arrived where managers know exactly what they have in their deck of cards and all that is left to do is simply play the hand. For two months, inevitability and talent, and perhaps luck, are your guides down the river. Just don’t stop paddling. If you do, the rapids will take you; but if you paddle too hard, you won’t make it to the end due to exhaustion. Simply read the river, moment to moment. Be singular in your task. This is the sentiment for every game from here until the end of the season. Now is the time for this sort of single-mindedness within ourselves, too.

You can feel it in the morning air, can’t you? I know I find myself bracing for Fall. For the crisp mornings and the end of lazy afternoons. Often we hear of the awakening Spring brings, but there is also one in the Fall. Awakenings happen wherever change can be found. Within touching-distance of a playoff spot, perhaps it is time for the Seattle Mariners to have an awakening of their own. Maybe the simple act of a baseball game, won or lost, can transcend a million other simple acts until, finally, a city is alive with the buzz of October baseball. It takes many small events to go from scoreboard to city-wide energy, but it’s simple enough. It takes a focus. It takes structure for the sake of achievement. It is the same idea across any form of accomplishment: winning a baseball game, falling in love, or playing a game of catch.

And so that is what I am going to do. In a week I will take my first vacation in nearly two years and fly down to see someone I love in a place I once lived. It’s a simple thing, really. To make a journey to a destination worthy of the trip is an easy choice. We’ll do the things people do when they’re in love and in the same place. We’ll walk places together, talk about where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. We’ll focus on the moment. Packed in my suitcase will be my glove, as well. An old piece of leather that has seen better days and survived nearly a decade of constant use. It should be replaced, in all reality. However, the root of things shouldn’t always be discarded. Perhaps, if anything, it should be sought out again this time of year. Maybe that’s what we’ll seek together, her and I.

Maybe we’ll simply play some catch, too.

The Perfect Pitcher

4-11-06

There are a few things I want you to keep in mind about today, so in the interest of brevity, and rather than trying to sound like someone with a lot to say, or a poet, or someone else that I’m not, I’m going to just list them here:

1) Felix was coming off his first Opening Day start of his career, an 8 IP, 12 K obliteration of the Oakland A’s. In between those two starts he would turn 21 years old. Think for a moment about how preposterously young that is. Here are the ages of some of baseball’s current bright, young, pitching stars:

Luis Severino – 23
Jimmy Nelson – 28
Aaron Nola – 24
Marcus Stroman – 26
Michael Fulmer – 24
Gerrit Cole – 26
Kevin Gausman – 26
Dylan Bundy – 24

Felix Hernandez was 21 years, and 3 days old when he took the mound at Fenway Park. It was the 45th start of his major league career.

2) This was a coronation, but for once Felix had nothing to do with it. The Yankees and Red Sox were in the middle of their decade-long blood feud over the AL East, and the Red Sox were debuting their newest weapon of war, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka threw something called a “gyroball”, which legend made sound like a cross between Sid Finch and black magic, and he was making his second start of the season as well, after demolishing the Kansas City Royals on the road in his first start.

ESPN was on hand, Fenway was packed, and one of baseball’s glamor franchises was prepared to celebrate their newest hero.

In the middle of the 7th inning I was scrambling to a church youth function I’ve volunteered for and I was screaming at the guy there “You HAVE to get this game on TV! I am not missing a Mariner pitcher no-hitting the Red Sox in Fenway!” He got the game on, and as I walked in I saw Jose Lopez diving as J.D. Drew’s groundball finds center field.

Damn.

One inning later, Fenway is empty, figuratively if not literally. Its soul has been swallowed by the all-encompassing totality of Felix’s genius. There are two outs in the ninth, and two strikes on Kevin Youkilis. The play-by-play marks it as a swinging strikeout, but that was no swing. It was surrender.

Felix_Youkilis__2_

4-24-2015

When you’ve seen it, you know you’ll never see it again. But, you’re a hopeful kind of idiot, so you think, maybe, just maybe.

The 2015 Twins are supposed to be atrocious. It’s through three and not only has no one reached base, Minnesota’s hitters are approaching the batter’s box like meek, contrite, sinners come to suffer god’s judgment. Felix has six strikeouts, five swinging. The Mariners are winning at home, early into their most anticipated season in half a decade. New DH Nelson Cruz has homered. There is a crescendo building, a feeling that burns through the television, that something may be happening.

We’re into the fifth, and I’m writing the recap, and I’m thinking about writing a game story about the first pitcher in baseball history to throw two perfect games. This is the power of Felix Hernandez. His youth and talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. before him, made anything seem possible. Every achievement left unlocked for a pitcher in baseball history could be viewed with Felix as, “No pitchers has ever done X……yet”.

There is still, of course, no pitcher in baseball history to throw two perfect games. With two outs in the fifth Brian Dozier got a running, buzzing, chainsaw-with-seams on his hands and dumped it into rightfield for a single.

Damn.

Felix finished it out, he would not be denied his shutout. He spent the first three innings surgically removing the Twins’ heart, and the next six slowly feeding it back to them.

9 IP, 5 H (all singles), 9 K, 0 BB, 0 R, 102 pitches. Dominance upon dominance.

8-15-12

Like many, I left work. Though I was too far from Safeco to get there in time, Gameday and the radio were simply not sufficient. After the 7th I closed my computer, walked to an empty Mexican restaurant bar, and ordered a Dos Equis.

They were tolerant of me in there, if mildly annoyed. I got them to turn off a car race, and helped them find the channel the baseball game was on. Someone the bartender knew sat down, and they started talking about nothing in particular. There was no audio, and no music. No real sound other than the constant, ceaseless tapping of my feet on the ground.

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

The 8th is where it was going to live or die, you just knew it. Tampa’s best hitters were due up, Felix’s pitch count was approaching 100 and, Mariners being Mariners, the team had managed only one run on the day. Everything; Perfect Game, No-hitter, shutout, complete game, win, hung in the balance of the next three hitters.

Evan Longoria – Strikeout Swinging. Tap tap tap tap

Ben Zobrist – Strikeout Swinging. Tap tap tap tap tap

Carlos Pena – Strikeout Swinging. “YES! HELL YES!” Tap tap tap tap

***

Felix Hernandez has known, seemingly his entire life, the abundance of ability he possesses. You can, and many people have, debate the various nuances between cockiness and confidence, but I don’t intend to do that here. Felix Hernandez has spent his life believing he is the best, and whether it’s fate, hard work, good luck, genetics, or something else the simple fact is that for a very long time he was absolutely correct.

I have often thought about the picture of him finding out he won the 2010 Cy Young Award:

Felix

There are tears, yes. And joy. There is also something else, and who knows if it’s actually there or if I am, always the slave to narrative, simply reading too much into it. But I see relief.

Felix Hernandez spent his childhood and early career believing he was absolutely going to win awards and set records, and the 2010 Cy Young was confirmation he was not wrong. Preposterous talent brings preposterous standards, none more so than his own. He had met them. Partially.

***

In the 9th it was the split-change, or whatever that pitch actually was, that carried him through. Felix Hernandez’s changeup at its peak is unlike anything the game has ever really seen before or since. He used it to strike out Desmond Jennings for out number one, got Jeff Keppinger to ground out to shortstop with it for out number two, and you know, with two strikes, it was a hot-breathed demon sitting in the back of Sean Rodriguez’s mind.

tap tap tap tap tap

Felix stepped back, lifted his leg, and pivoted his torso slightly past 90 degrees from home, showing Rodriguez the 3 and maybe half the 4 on the back of his jersey. Perhaps the first pitcher since peak Pedro Martinez to possess four true out pitches, a player whose insistence on overusing his fastball famously got him an open letter written by a now famous baseball blogger, Felix Hernandez had worked his entire life to get one pitch from a perfect game. What is the one pitch he wanted at that moment, more than anything else?

Fastball, inner half, with movement. Hit it if you can.

Damn.

Five years ago, today. Perfect. No one has been since.

Hail to the King.

 

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)