Well folks, what we had here was an honest for goodness real baseball game played between the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres, just like the ones we’ve gotten every February since we can remember. There were baseball men wearing baseball clothes, both hitting and grabbing baseballs out of the air and in this economy, you would think they would choose to stick with one or the other, but Not Today, Pal!
Ah yes…that great gasping maw that is The Promise of Spring. I remember one February a couple of years back where Ji-man Choi shattered his leg after jumping to grasp an errant throw at first in like the final play of the first game of spring training (and here we are chewing out Ryon Healy for wanting to Compete In Each At Bat!). This was like the first thing that he did after getting suspended for doping, and while he never played another game for the Seattle baseball franchise, I also thought about this story while watching today’s baseball game, so I suppose that probably means something.
But today it was Dee Gordon in center and our big ol’ boy Danny Vogelbach wearing the northwest green down in Peoria. Here is where, in years past, I might have really started to dig into some of the stuff that happened in order to tell you, the reader, what takeaways one might take from this exhibition event designed to give a sneak peek of the 2018 Seattle Mariners baseball season. But I’ve got bad news: I like, barely watched this. I barely watched this because I don’t have to watch baseball games anymore unless I really want to, and let me tell you what, friend, it fucking rules.
Did I see Dee Gordon hit a double in his first at-bat as a Mariner? Hell no, I was making myself a burrito in the kitchen. Did I see former Mariner closer and bad eighties dancer/Aquasox bobblehead hall-of-famer Tom Wilhelmsen pitch for the Padres in the third inning, promptly earning a double play and easy flyout? I’ll let you guess, but what I was doing at that time was getting a beer out of the fridge because I’m three hours ahead of you all, work from home, and its Friday. Bone spur this, world (please, actually don’t, I’m incredibly out of shape and still have to be able to type on a keyboard for a living).
I suppose I should stick to some kind of routine here, considering I have no reason to still be doing this five years in with this dumb team that refused to give us anything fun like a Bartolo Colon or something boring and useful like Jason Vargas. Yes, the Mariners won, barely, no, it doesn’t matter, nothing that happened today tells us anything about what’s going to happen this season, blah blah blah blah blah. I’m just happy there are baseball sounds again.
Sure, Kyle Seager put some runs on the board with a double early in the game. Ariel Miranda walked two and gave up a run, and whatever, he’s going to be the Mariners’ #1 option in August. Christian Bergman did double duty of reminding me that my favorite director of all time has a new resto series running I need to catch and that Lucas Luetge has been out of baseball for a year. Perhaps a nu-metal side project could fill up the time spent waiting for that phone to ring (the worst part is this sentence could refer to like 600 different people!)
God, what am I doing? I told myself I wanted to quit this shit and here I am again rambling about some stupid baseball game that doesn’t matter whatsoever. Now, to be clear, that’s how they all have gone during my time writing about this team save for like, I don’t know, the last game in 2014 and those five minutes in 2016 when Nelson Cruz was the single most terrifying baseball player to ever set foot in Washington State since 2000.
I’ll try this instead. Late in the game, the Padres’ broadcast announcers started to debate the merits of the rumored coming automated strike zone. One argued this is not unlike the recent debates over instant replay and technology “ruining” some ancient pre-modern American agrarian pastime, while the others scoffed and declared that what makes baseball so great and unique is that it is a “human” game with “errors” and room for “mistakes.”
As this was happening, a Mariners rally started with a bunch of NRI randos stealing bases and hitting the gaps. With two outs and two on, Kirk Nieuwenhuis came to bat for the Mariners, and the announcers quickly transitioned into wondering what happened to this 26-year old prospect. “I remember when he was going to be the next wunderkid for the Mets!” one said.
Nieuwenhuis promptly drew a walk, and the announcers immediately declared the moment a perfect opportunity to announce a Padres promotional deal while he removed his elbow pads and slowly jogged ninety feet to his right:
Perhaps it is commonplace to say that nothing matters in these early spring training games, and while that sentiment is certainly true, it’s not necessarily indicative of anything. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was probably happy he earned that walk in the top of the eighth inning, but all it really did was give the announcers a brief moment to pitch a Unique Opportunity™ for Padres fans to surrender to ownership even more money. I mean lets be honest, your mans certainly will not be starting games at Safeco any time soon.
And then that idea made me wonder: what really is the “human” element of this game? Was that walk an error, or was it precisely what the game is designed to do, filling otherwise unprofitable time with a promise that It Will Look Good On Your Fangraphs Page while shilling shitty ballcaps? If this walk technically mattered to the box score, did it actually do anything to a 26 year old trying to resurrect a once-promising career on a team filled with similar low-to-mid-ceiling prospects being groomed as trade chips rather than franchise cornerstones? All this build up over a marketing opportunity; all this Spring hope blossoming over a future that will only come to two men wearing green.
I’m not entirely sure, and part of me wonders if this is actually the “error” we talk about when we say baseball is a game filled with them.
Maybe if he had stuck with pitching in middle school we would be singing a different song. Hell, do we know how fast he can throw?