In light of what has been a hot or at the very least not tepid or cold start to the season, Mariners fans have been given a rare opportunity to opine positively about the team’s future. Safeco sold out its home opener, the young hitters look to be figuring it out, the pitching has been largely great, and Robbie Cano is batting around .400.
For the young, the exuberant, the uninitiated; the dawn of the Mariner’s bright future seems to be peeking over the horizon. Yet, for those of us who have lived and died* with the Mariners over the past decade or so, it is hard to yield to optimism in the face of the inescapable sense of impending doom that we have been trained, in a Pavlovian fashion, to expect year in and year out.
Yet, even tempered with the pessimistic expectation of catastrophic regression, it is hard to not get wrapped up in the excitement of this young Mariners team that has, objectively, been playing good baseball. Further, it is hard not to extrapolate this excitement into optimism given that the Mariners young, volatile team is in fact capable of sustaining this level of play. They are. Really. They simply haven’t done it yet. All prospects sans Trout experience bumps in the road like this. These young players have had their bright futures dimmed and their confidence tested. Is it so hard to imagine that, having slogged through brief successes and dismal failures over the past 3 years, that these guys may have emerged on the other side as productive major leaguers just entering their prime years?
I like to think the thesis implying that the Mariners most recent wave of prospects simply were not as good as expected is an incorrect one.
Perhaps instead, the more accurate thesis is that these prospects were held under a microscope as a result of the teams’ failure and were put in a position where their growing pains would translate to a larger organizational pain given a lack of other options.
While other teams could suffer through a prospect learning on the job, the Mariners simply fielded too many prospects with too many simultaneous growing pains to experience anything less than an Operation-esque red buzzer firing off like a police siren for the better part of a decade.
I want to think that this is the case. I want to think this because I love this team.
I love watching Abraham Almonte sprint around like a raver in her PLUR-throes.
I love watching Dustin Ackley’s cold lifeless eyes as he drills a fastball on the outside corner for a double.
I love imagining what sort of wildlife could eek out a comfortable existence in Ackley’s beard.
I even like watching Logan Morrison continuously commit public relations suicide on twitter.
I want want want to allow the good feelings of this early season stretch to exist on some separate plane of existence than the Mariners teams I have watched in the past. I want to do this because I know that I have been able to successfully delude myself into thinking this team could be good within the past decade. This has always seemed a disappointing fiction and one revealed as such very early in the season.
Imagine a whitecap in your mind. The individual parts are themselves volatile, chaotic, and without uniform purpose or motion when examined too closely as individual strains, strands of water spread out into drops before crashing down again, frothing back into the greater whole. Despite this relative lack of cohesion, when your mind’s eye then zooms back to the holistic picture, one sees that despite the individual chaos, volatility and seeming lack of direction, there is in fact a cohesive forward momentum. This momentum exists separately and outside of the individual strands of water within the larger whitecap, and yet governs those strand’s forward motion and is, in a sense, comprised of them. It is not the individual motion of the edge (the thing that governs the frothiness of the whitecap) that governs its motion. It is instead the underlying swell that sustains forward momentum despite the uncertainty of the individual parts.
I am proposing that we think of this Mariners team and our fandom in this way. We are all riding along with this whitecap. In the duration we spend at the edge of it, we shouldn’t even necessarily know that we are whitecaps to begin with. It is only after we have already broken and receded back into the massive blue expanse of mediocrity ever splashing at our heels that we realize the ebullient feeling of whitecap-ness was something transient. But transience does not imply that an experience is fictive.
This team is exciting now. The game is exciting to watch now. And if we can direct our eyes forward or even at our own feet we can avoid becoming estranged to the joy of the present moment. The Mariners were good last week. The Mariners are good today. The Mariners might suck endlessly every day for the rest of the year. If anything, doesn’t that provide an even greater impetus to enjoy these moments while they last?
It’s not a matter of the Mariners winning games in the future. It’s a matter of the Mariners having won games. This stretch of competence could end tomorrow. It wouldn’t be surprising if it did. That is the way things have gone in the past and this team probably isn’t improved enough to completely avoid negative regression.
Do not let that pessimistic stance govern your ability to enjoy this team. The Mariners are gifting us with good, winning, meaningful baseball. Appreciate it while it lasts–if not for the joy of being a fan then at least for the scarcity of these opportunities.
This has been a pretty sincere post. Since society has taught us to develop healthy aversions to any feelings or expressions of sincerity, this should be rectified.
Let’s play the LuckSwing drinking game! Take a shot every time you have to re-read a sentence. But wait! You have already read this entire post! Estimating is not allowed, so it looks like you better crack open a bottle of something cheap and start over! There are 57 sentences in this post by my count. Shit, now there are 59!!! If you existed, reader, you would be so drunk right now. Unhealthily so.
You should consider getting help!
*Mostly just died, over and over, in a kind of samsara-esque vortex of endless, purgatorial existence. Honestly, being a Mariners fan is about as good a validating analogue to Buddha’s notion of a cyclical existence of suffering as I have ever witnessed firsthand.