The questions I cannot answer at night

The chartered bus from Harmony Meadows Tennis and Event Center to Campbell’s Resort left at 11:15 PM and arrived sometime around midnight. There were multiple stops as well-dressed couples departed, said goodbyes to old acquaintances they’d pretended were friends for the evening, and stepped off into the night. The likelihood of reuniting between these parties seems relatively unlikely but, perhaps, just as likely when the stakes are this low. A few hours of conviviality are always easy to manage when free food, drink, and dancing are offered as a make-weight. Someone is playing overwrought, yet nostalgic, music from the last decade on the bus speakers, perhaps not quite ironically enough for me to find it enjoyable. It is in this moment, alone on this bus that is taking too long to take me home from a perfectly wonderful evening with a good friend and his future fiancee celebrating the marriage of his sister, another dear friend, that I realize the totality of my loss. I realize that losing the relationship that I had staked everything on, bet the entire house upon, may be the defining moment of my life. That there is so much wreckage at my feet that I cannot fathom the cost, the time, it will take to fully clean it up. If I ever do. I read recently, “A ghost knows who to haunt.” I should note, this piece will have nothing to do with Baseball.

***

At some point in your life you meet enough people to realize that the odds of being remarkable at even one thing, let alone many, is quite small. Most people, optimistically, have one or two traits that, if properly nurtured, could turn into something really great. It seems as if part of growing up is the slow realization that everyone you were taught to admire was more or less a fraud. There are, of course, exceptions. These generally were those people we never hear of. Those heroic enough to live a good life knowingly out of sight. Some folks take drugs to find different planes of thought, some are capable of producing truly monumental works, all from thoughts inside their head. I suppose I’m most-interested in whatever plane of existence we were all born into. Focused on whatever single trait I might attempt to master. I am personally unsure if this belief makes me pessimistic or if it’s relatively hopeful. Admittedly, I’m a poor judge of how we’re all doing here. Please, leave a comment.

I often feel disconnected from, well, almost everything. Starting a brewery when I was twenty-four, my concept of a typical day, a typical job, typical stress, typical anything, is all shot to hell. Without knowing it then, I’d started a very lonely road that demands to be walked almost exclusively alone. There’s no logical way to justify dragging someone else into this hole, most days. And there are days where the accomplishment feels somewhat worth the investment, but those feelings are minutes-long if they even come at all. Often I am asked a question that I am sure I, too, have asked other friends of mine who have dared something and succeeded, “Do you realize how cool this is? How much you’ve done?” No. I don’t. They don’t either. Nobody who does this sort of lunatic thing ever will. There is no finish line. There is only yourself looking in a mirror, on the rare occasion you find time to shower, and wondering who you are doing this all for. Without purpose, the amount of energy required can take a life of its own. Can overtake you. It needs direction beyond simply the task. You have to maximize your few, useful traits. Passion’s wake buoys and breaks in equal measure.

***

The chartered bus from Robert Mondavi Winery left around 10PM for the 90 minute journey back to the Robert Mondavi Center for Wine and Food Science. We’d spent the night at a catered party for my graduate department; fifty winemakers with the run of one of the wealthiest wineries in the world is quite the sight. She’d driven up from her new apartment in the Bay which she moved to after college landed her a high-paying job with a tech startup, and I had just begun to settle into a life with a future in a vineyard and a cellar. We were both, in that moment in time, desperately faking it and far from home. Desperately lonely, too. I assume, to this day, that she felt the same way about me the day we graduated college as I did of her, that we’d never see each other again. Yet, some random swirling of the universe rallied against this inevitability, and we are two friends from college, now sitting on a bus to a place neither one of us can really call home. In the darkness of the night on that bus I can convince myself that it’s just her and I and the feeling of the road. It doesn’t matter, then, where I was at all, just that she is there.

It’s in this moment, and over the course of the next two days, that we will spend a rather innocuous weekend in Napa Valley doing the rather earnest task of falling in love. We’ll drive around and fill the days in order to keep from saying what is on each other’s minds. Those days, now going on six years in the past, I can play back in my head with distinct clarity. The scream of awe the first time she sees Lake Berryessa from the passenger seat of my ’93 Landcruiser, the airplane bottle of Maker’s Mark she brought as a “gift” for me hosting her, the way she touched my badly-scarred hand, almost willing it back to health. I remember most the goodbye, though. It was a Sunday when she made the drive back from Davis to San Francisco. It sticks in my mind because it felt so oddly normal. The drive can be made, with traffic, in less than two hours. At some point during that drive, in a town maybe less than a half hour away from my door, she stops at a gas station and begins to cry. She won’t tell me this for four years. My day melts into a shapeless nothing and I become quite useless once she leaves. We, over time, develop a friendship, over the phone, that allows the comfort of sharing everything. We don’t know it on this sunny Sunday, but we won’t see each other again for two and a half years. Years after that, within a month of us dating, driving a rented car on the same highway that bus took us back to Davis all those years before, I tell her I’m going to marry her. The drive was less than two hours.

***

I was raised in the kind of house where Religion wasn’t the room you were required to occupy, but the door was always open. For this, and much more, I am eternally grateful to my parents. I tried it out, sure enough. Went to an elementary school that started every morning with chapel, a Catholic high school, even a Lutheran college. It just never stuck. For awhile I struggled with this, but it became entirely clear to me a few months ago, mourning all this loss. You see I can’t center my life around a relationship with a being beyond myself that will love me no matter what I do. That unconditional love is a baseline for a healthy coexistence. This is beyond the realm of my experience, and one that I could never settle with, knowing all this pain. Religion also prescribes a path to all things, one that simply, in my eyes, cannot exist. Often you will hear someone say that a great challenge in their life existed simply so they could have some other chance later in life, but that’s the catch. What if the coin just keeps landing tails? What if the great challenges continue to pile without the great breaks? There is no reason you must be loved. The Universe does not care. That’s, perhaps, what makes love so dear, so special. Nothing forces it to exist.

This, to some, would seem a rather pessimistic view of the natural state of things, yet, I would submit the opposite. There is no fate ascribed to my pain. No reason it exists. It simply does. There is no path to the dulling of my colors, the sleepless nights, the days I cannot eat, the songs and sights and places that I can’t bear to remember. There is only what is in the mirror. Every day, served a roll of the dice that has no string attached to it. What then you are asked is simply to play. And how you play is what, I suppose, your life is composed of. It would be simple, really, to allow the weight of the uncaring blackness of the night sky to knock you down. To keep you from ever getting up when the Sun rises. Why do it? The only object within the dimensions we know to exist that we can exert any modicum of control over is ourselves. That’s it. It’s a mighty short list.

And I can’t tell you why, or how, or if, or any of those things.  I can’t tell you why the very foundation on which I built my life and my future is gone. I can’t tell you how to get beyond the simple mistrust of every single day feeling that this sand could shift yet again. I can’t tell you if it ever gets better. It ebbs and flows. I often am told that the pain will go away, or that I am young, or that it just wasn’t meant to be. I am doubtful, perhaps, of everything now. Most days it feels as if the outer, sharper edges of life have been sanded smooth. There is a tightness where once something was loose. A feeling as if I keep forgetting something, or an eternal waiting, maybe. Some days I wonder if I’m stuck running a simulation in my own mind of what happens if she leaves. If.

That’s sorta it, I guess. I don’t have any words of particular comfort. Doing what I do, most people don’t believe me when I describe the pain. The energy it takes to muster a smile and a will to press on is often more exhausting than the physical work itself. She helped build the place I have tasked myself to continue forward running and tinkering on and growing day by day. In the early days after it ended I would see a vision of her walking to a table and putting down a chair, or sitting at the end of the bar waiting for me to be done with some small task, until I could see no more. For weeks, maybe even months, I would disappear around the staff, just to go openly weep where nobody would see me. I realized then that I had built myself a prison of memory. It crushed me. It still can. Yet, I did press on and I still do, everyday. Not alone, but with the help of many who haven’t yet realized they are helping, even when I thank them for it.

My hope is that if you’re reading this, maybe it helps to know that your deep hurt is not unique to you. That I cannot stop feeling my own. That I have managed to get up, each morning since, and take it hour by hour. Perhaps, pressing on, not because of myself but in spite of myself. A ghost knows who to haunt.

 

The Mariners need to shut the f@*$ up

Photo credit: Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times

The Mariners front office for the better part of two decades has been mediocre at maximum and a full-blown laughing stock at minimum. This is not a secret in baseball.

The one thing the Mariners, as a front office, are good at lately is spouting gallons upon gallons of utter bullshit, and despite little to zero success, somehow getting the fans to lap it up as if they are some sort of authority on “good baseball.”

Let’s be clear here: The Mariners have done absolutely nothing to earn this good will.

This is, after all, the team that figured out how to cope with allegations of sexual harassment by elevating President Kevin Mather to his current position.

This is, after all, a team that weathered the storm of Dr. Lorena Martin’s lobs of discrimination by labelling her as a disgruntled ex-employee and a complete liar.

And now, we have the newest member of that full-fledged galaxy brain of fucking idiots: Director of Player Development Andy McKay.

McKay is a master of motivation, as seen by his insightful tweet before, and before one iota of the season had transpired, new wave analytics guy Jerry Dipoto was seen as a genius.

 

Now, to Dipoto’s credit, at the time of McKay’s hiring, the burning trash can fire that is the front office hadn’t quite reared its ugly ass head. The future, in 2015, was looking as bright and sharp as that brand new black hole we discovered (which, unfortunately, is located too far away to suck up all of humanity and end this whole story earlier).

So color me surprised when Mr. Andy McKay, the leader of all good things smart in the brain development of our players, ends up looking like a complete and utter asshole in this column about Rob Whalen’s mental health.

Mariners mental skills coach Derin McMains recommended Whalen seek professional treatment beyond what the team was providing. He started seeing a psychologist in Tacoma, Washington, but by June the situation felt untenable. He reached out to McKay, who Dipoto once called “one of the more well-respected sports psychologists in the country” and whose hiring as head of player development had earned the Mariners plaudits for “creating a better culture for players to flourish.”

According to Whalen, McKay offered him a week off to deal with his anxiety, but after just a few days, Whalen received a text message from McKay explaining that he would be replaced on the roster if he didn’t return to the team immediately.

The Mariners had a player in clear duress, a player that had reached out for assistance for said duress, and the Mariners Director of Player Development rescinded an offer for time off by literally dangling his job over his head.

Now, categorically, of course, the Mariners issued a few statements in the article that are well at odds with Whalen’s version of accounts. It is a fitting pattern now for this squad.

Here is my rub: the Seattle Mariners front office, which despite their repeated best intentions, are continually fucking up all of these lauded improvements, over and over and over again.

Whalen walked away from baseball because of the lack of assistance the Mariners provided, and the one thing this fucking franchise was supposed to be good at was all of that “new agey” shit, like mental health.

Now, obviously, Whalen’s story can easily be applied to the entirety of Major League Baseball. The one difference is that most coaches and general managers across the league, unlike Mr. Gerard Peter Dipoto, don’t talk in interviews like they returned from Burning Man for the for the first time in their life.

Mental health is the most important health possible. I know. I spent years in therapy after my father passed away trying to make sense of a world that I no longer wanted to make any sense–because that feeling was easier. It was hard work, but at least I had support. I was able to rediscover the passions in life and get back on-track.

Rob Whalen did not have any support. The Mariners completely failed him. Now, Rob Whalen is no longer playing baseball. Instead, in fitting 2019 fashion, we are stuck with Director of Player Development Andy McKay, a snake oil salesman, just like the man who hired him.

13-3: Our Separate Wades

(Photo Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren)

Wades LeBlanc and Miley. Both were born in Louisiana. Both were Seattle Mariners in 2016. Both took the mound at the T-Mo on a cool Friday night in an already historically preposterous season.

Someday love will find you
Break those chains that bind you
One night will remind you
How we touched
And went our separate Wades

The Houston Astros are dominant, they are talented, they are feared. They’ve won fifteen of their last twenty games in Seattle. We get it. So it’s hard to expect the Mariners to put up much of a fight, yes, even this baffling mess of a team that dishes out homers like they’re free samples at Costco (Try our Oppo Tacos! Have a Moonshot! Here’s a Big Boy Blast!). Which is why, when the Mariners took a slim early lead, it was hard to feel secure, especially knowing this Astros lineup. The Mariners shaky defense and dubious bullpen loomed.

Maybe the biggest news to come out of the game is Wade LeBlanc’s oblique injury. He’d given up a two earned runs, but was putting in a solid outing, notching five strikeouts to one walk. After two outs in the fifth, he grimaced, grabbed his side, and was pulled without protest. It’s a major blow to the team’s hot start. Wade has been reliable and enjoyable, and he could be out for months, leaving an already strained pitching staff without a key piece. We hope he heals quickly, but oblique injuries tend to take their time.

Wade,
They don’t love you like I love you

Fresh off of the Injured List, Shawn Armstrong took the mound to end the inning. Then in the top of the sixth, he allowed a double and two singles to load the bases for Jose Altuve, who hit a grand slam (his fifth homer in four games). None of this felt new. Altuve and the Astros beating on the Mariners in Seattle. Fine. Brad Peacock, who had already started two games on the year, came in for the Astros and set the M’s down in order. Whatever. Who cares. Big deal. (See how easy this no expectations thing is? What freedom! What purity!)

In the seventh, Ruben Alaniz–a twenty-seven-year-old professional baseball player of whose existence I was unaware before today’s news of his call-up–made his major league debut, getting through the inning despite a couple singles. But in the eighth, after retiring the first two batters, Alaniz gave up a single and two walks to load the bases. For some reason that I’m sure will be sensibly detailed at some point, Scott Servais felt it necessary to let the completely inexperienced and untested Alaniz try to clean up the mess himself, and Yuli Gurriel’s first home run of the year was the Astros second grand slam surrendered by the M’s bullpen on the evening, pushing the Astros lead to 10-5.

Astros rounding the bases, dominant, fearsome, obnoxious. Yadda yadda yadda.

One of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen occured in the bottom of the eighth, reminding us that if you think you know what is going to happen in any baseball game (or season), you’re delusional. After a single and a steal, Dee Gordon was on second when Mallex Smith went down on strikes swinging. But the ball pegged the home plate ump in the shoulder and bounced to the backstop–Mallex took first, and while the ump was writhing in the dirt, Dee flew around third and crossed home. It was a glimmer of something–and more glimmers would follow–but it wasn’t enough tonight. Ryon Healy grounded out softly to end the inning and it felt so familiar.

Tom Murphy hit his first home run in a Mariners uniform in the ninth, meaning the Mariners have homered in all sixteen games this season–an outrageous and hilarious all-time record. It also meant that the Mariners have scored at least six runs in all but two outings on the year, which is equally silly and an absolute joy.

The Mariners are still three games up in the AL West. They’re still ten games over .500–a feat no one thought possible at any point this season, let alone in April. They’re still leading the AL in several offensive categories. They still own one of the best run differentials in the league (second only to the Rays following Tampa’s four-run win and Seattle’s four-run loss). This is still one of the most enjoyable stretches of baseball I’ve ever witnessed. Most of all, there are still no real expectations for this Mariners team, and it makes it hard to feel much after a loss like tonight’s, especially against a powerhouse like the Astros–maybe the best team in the AL.

The freedom of having no expectations for this season leaves so much room to enjoy the oddities and absurdities of a game like tonight’s. It leaves so much room for anticipation; not of an expected win or any particular outcome, but for unpredictable and enjoyable baseball ahead. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s game, when these lovable misfits try again to be a thorn in the side of a division rival (a team with painfully high expectations). Let’s see what happens.

goms

And a couple more Wade songs I hoped to work in, had they both gone deeper into the game…


True Love Wades

My Wade (okay, really: watch this Elvis version if you haven’t, it’s stunning)

Wading Room

I Am Wading

13-2: Ignorance

So we find the Seattle Mariners…

(Photo Credit AP/Orlin Wagner)

I would challenge that most of you reading this knew, no matter the fun you had last summer as the Mariners rocketed into Wild Card position, and even provided the briefest and mildest eclipse of the Astros’ white-hot divisional dominance, that eventually divisional equilibrium would be restored. You knew that a formula built on a paper-thin rotation and hole-filled lineup somehow always getting a 1-2 run lead to its generational closer couldn’t last. Maybe you didn’t see the A’s coming (how can we not see the A’s coming, after all these years?), but you knew it, on some level, it wasn’t going to happen. Even though I myself gave in and announced it was time for the Mariner to make the playoffs, it felt more like a shrugging recognition of mathematical probabilities than any true belief in the team itself.

The truth now is that, after winning today’s game against Kansas City 7-6 with their pants over their heads the entire game, I have no idea what I believe about this team, and after spending a good decade and a half trying to view the game and team through a perspective that seeks to better understand it, that looks at the sport as a code to crack, I’m overwhelmingly happy to live in this ignorance. The truth is that, while searching for understanding can be deeply rewarding and enjoyable, knowing things, in my experience, often kind of sucks; doubly so when that knowledge is that your team is going to eventually fall short yet again.

So we find ourselves with the Seattle God Damn Mariners, who are 13-2, the second AL team to start with such a record in 30 years. No one, including very specifically the Mariners themselves, had the slightest expectation, plan, or belief that anything remotely close to this could happen. This lack of expectation, the joy that is intrinsically and very especially tied to happy surprises, is the magic touch everyone within 200 miles of this organization needed. This thing that has happened, this oh-holy-shit-these-stupid-idiots-won-again-somehow feeling is the very molecular center of what made so many of us fall in love with the game in the first place.

There’s something to this, and if you’ll forgive a little axe-polishing over here, I want to try and talk about it. You see, the history of the last 10-15 years of baseball have been about one thing, and one thing primarily: The quest to understand the game to better predict, control, and thus capitalize upon it. Outside of a few hobbyist-turned-front-office employees, the sabermeteric revolution has done little to advance the game for the only two sets of people in baseball who matter: The players, and the fans. You may be part of a very small subset of people who enjoys knowing that Aaron Judge’s average launch angle has increased 1.5 degrees since last year, and if so god bless go with grace, but understand you’re a rarity. No, the advancement of understanding in the game of baseball has been used as a cudgel to maximize certainty, and certainty attracts investors, and investors are the kinds of people willing to sit out free agent markets for years at a time so that a kid from Latin America whose entire family and community depend on his athletic gifts providing food and housing has to agree to a tiny fraction of his value at the height of his peak abilities.

The stockholder, Wall St, venture capitalist-mindest has subsumed the games higher levels; so much so that at the Mariners pre-season media luncehon Jerry Dipoto spoke about putting the team in position for “launch” during the 2021 season, as though they were a new iPhone model. These methods and concepts have no connection to the mindset that made us fall in love with the game. And without love, fandom is an empty, bleak experience.

So again we have this gift, these idiot Mariners with gloves taped backwards on the wrong hands, huffing sweatily around the bases, collectively praying their over-30 leg tendons do not pull or tear in the effort. These glorious, incomprehensible, 13-2 morons who do nothing but bash home run after home run, at rates heretofore unseen in the history of the sport. They are the team we need, the team the whole sport needs.

I’m willing to bet in your heart you didn’t believe in the 2018 Seattle Mariners. You probably don’t really believe in the 2019 Seattle Mariners either, and that’s okay. Goodness knows I’ve worn the skeptic cap with this franchise to rags the past few years. But I’m going to tell you something true, and I’m going to tell it to you because it’s both different than what I would have said any other time this decade, and the exact opposite of what I would have said two weeks ago:

Are the Mariners going to make the playoffs? My friends, I have absolutely not the slightest clue, and neither does anybody else, including the people who built this team. That makes me as happy a fan as I can remember being.

goms

gobiz

9-2: The Spirit of the Radio

“The real activity was done with the radio–not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television–and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind.” – Bart Giamatti, The Green Fields of the Mind

Transistor Radio

The lineups are posted as I’m making breakfast. Bacon and eggs with a side of Vogelbach. Coffee and Wade. The only sounds right now are our Sunday morning Beatles playlist, the sizzle of bacon grease filling the kitchen, and the pitter patter of my 2-year-old son’s feet running through the hallway. It’s three hours until game time.

Around 10:30 am, I log on to my trusty (hahahahaha) MLB At Bat App. The pregame show is starting. The routine begins in earnest. A recap of yesterday’s game, the Clubhouse Insider, the Roundtable, Blowers on Baseball, Clicks to Pick…none of the particulars matter. It’s all about settling into the rhythm of the season. It’s game 11 out of 162, only 7% of the way through the season, yet it’s as comforting as your childhood blanket or your favorite hoodie. You could probably stand to upgrade, but would it really be the same?

The game begins. I’m not watching. I rarely watch anymore. I listen. Aaron Goldsmith, as is his routine, gets things started with the same phrase he uses at the start of every game. “And now, here’s the voice of the Seattle Mariners, Rick Rizzs.” Rizzs, Seattle’s Great Uncle, is now going through his routine. Weather report, short recap of yesterday’s game, umpires, scouting report on the starting pitchers. I’m all caught up. Is some of this information repeated from the pregame show? Of course it is. But you weren’t paying attention to the pregame show, were you? It faded into the background, the way baseball is designed to.

Unlike radio, TV forces you to pay attention. It requires your attention. Full attention has a way of lulling you into a false sense of ‘knowing’ that radio doesn’t. When you were young, a Derek Jeter a jump throw looked great. But we have so many stats today that have helped us to understand how much our eyes lie. Analytics tell us he’s doing that because he’s out of position, slow to the ball, and needs to look spectacular to make the routine happen. TV announcers can’t tell you your eyes are wrong. The images and sounds must match, or the viewer will be thrown off. Radio gives you freedom.

We leave the house and make a quick Target run. I’m going to miss probably a good inning and a half, but it’s OK. I can look online instantly to see what I’ve missed. Plus, Rizzs will be sure to get me caught up at some point.

After leaving Target, I get into the car and Aaron Goldsmith is still detailing the top of the third. I’m very confused. It seems the M’s are good, offensively? We get home, and I start up the At Bat app again. The bases are juiced for Daniel Vogelbach. But it’s lunchtime, so I start making a sandwich for my son. If you have kids, you know that you can’t delay prepping food for them while you pay attention to the game. Prepping food for them takes your attention. The radio becomes background noise again, until I hear Goldsmith’s voice begin to rise. I can tell by the tenor of his voice this is not a grand slam, but it’s good news. The ball bounces off the base of the wall, and Vogelbach, who (we have been told numerous times) just needs opportunity, makes the most of this one, standing on second base having cleared the bases and given the M’s a 7-1 lead. I hand my child his sandwich, peel some mandarines, and sit down for lunch. The radio becomes background noise again.

There’s a rhythm to baseball on the radio. There’s a conversation happening and you can choose how to listen. You can listen intently, and you can gain incredible insight and details into the game. Or you can listen passively and only pay attention when the voice on the radio tells you to. And no one is better at this than Rick Rizzs.

You see, Rick Rizzs is the Platonic ideal of a radio broadcaster. (Put down your pitchforks. Dave is, and will always be, the greatest Mariner. Being the Platonic ideal is great, but not as fulfilling as being the GOAT.) Everything Rizzs says is purposeful. With intent. After finishing lunch, I begin cleaning the office, and my brain wanders away from the game. Rizzs is engaged in friendly conversation with Aaron Goldsmith, casually keeping us aware of the on-field activities. Suddenly, Rizzs’ voice rises and grabs my attention. I would be lying to you if I told you this was transcribed precisely, but what I remember is “…this one is…gone! Goodbye baseball! A line drive laser of a home run to left field, off the bat of Edwin Encarnación. He’s rounding the bases, carrying the parrot, after a 2-run home run here in the 4th, to give the M’s a 9-2 lead, and how about the day Eddie Encarnación is having with 4 RBI already.”

I know so much of it because Rizzs has a rhythm, a routine. There’s a purpose behind this rhythm. Every time. “Swing and a drive! Deep to [direction]! Going and going…goodbye baseball! [Player X] with a [x amount of RBI]-run homerun to [direction] to make the score [x-x]. His [xth] of the year, and the Mariners now [lead/trail] by [x] runs.” If you’ve heard Rizzs announce one home run, you’ve heard him announce all of them.

So much repetition. But when you’re listening to the radio, there’s no rewind button. You don’t have the visuals to help you. The rise in Rizzs’ voice alerts you to pay attention, and the repetition is there for what you missed. It’s OK to relax while listening to baseball on the radio. Uncle Rico’s there to help you.

At this point, the M’s lead 11-2, and the only drama left (besides how many runs the bullpen would let up) is whether the game can be finished before it’s rained out. I look outside. I have a softball game later tonight. I hope the rain will hold off both here, where I spent my childhood, and 2,000 miles away, where Rick Rizzs spent his childhood in, say it with me, the south side of Chicago. I begin thinking about what I need to do for dinner, cleaning the house, prepping for the week. I decide it’s time for baseball to firmly fade into the background. Rizzs will let me know if I need to check in.

(he let me know when Vogdor crushed his second dinger of the day, please continue to give that man ABs, Servais, plz and thank you)

See Hear you tomorrow, M’s.

8-2: The Mariner Won Today

Congrats on correctly predicting this, no one

Photo credit: Matt Marton / AP

The Mariners won today, 9-2. I’d love to tell you how that happened in detail but I couldn’t watch, and also there’s no particular reason for this roster to win any game on any particular day. So how did the Mariners win today? Well brother and sister, you tell me. I know It’s by and large a lot more dingers from a variety of guys the Mariners either acquired because they had to in order to get rid of someone expensive they didn’t want, or guys that were so bad last year they were hanging around the MLB clearance rack, snot-covered from over eager baby hands smeared all over him.

What I really know is the Mariners should have probably lost and instead, like eight of their first 10 games, they won. Because of the way this team has historically been, and the way I very much am, I want to use that to talk to you about depression.

(What a seamless transition!)

“Depression lies” is a phrase I hear a lot when talking about mental health. I’m sure that in many circumstances it can be true. For myself I’ve always felt that depression, by which I mean that feeling that sucks any ability to engage, share, or facilitate emotional experience with either myself or the people in my life who need me to be emotionally present straight through my nostrils and dumps it in a fat puddle on the floor for up to weeks at a time is the byproduct of too little lying. The truth is, looking around at the state of things, we probably shouldn’t be happy, and any unchecked mental push towards that reality without some built in fail safe distractions, or mild self-deceptions can lead us too far down a path most of us aren’t really meant to go down.

I’m more fortunate than most, but I have plenty of my own baggage. I got married far too young, and had children before I should have. I’ve been, in the past, extremely poor with my financial management and responsibility. I’ve abused alcohol, neglected anything resembling exercise, lied to avoid work responsibilities, and a lot more. I’ve shut myself in my bedroom with curtains drawn and a bottle of whiskey, door locked and wife and young children on the other side, just to try and grab a moment’s escape from the world. I count those experiences and many more like them as losses, and I’ve lost. I’ve lost plenty.

The latter half of 2018 was not kind to the Mariners, and it wasn’t kind to me. As the team’s hot start and miraculous May-June run faded into a fractured locker room. 17th consecutive missed playoff appearance, and an avalanche of self-induced scandals, I and my family were threatened by mounting work stress, financial obligations, fracturing relationships, and my response of bottoming out and being completely useless. Any honest appraisal of the situation in both cases could only return that, while things weren’t lost, there just weren’t a lot of fact-based reasons for hope. As the Mariners broke up their roster I spent the the holiday season in a self-medicating fog; each day’s challenge merely and solely to not go to bed before it was over. As I fell to sleep every night, it always felt like a loss.

Nothing substantive changed, for either of us. The Mariners did not stumble upon a previously undiscovered Next Moneyball, and find themselves three steps ahead of the rest of the game. I did not break through my depression through therapy and/or medication, as useful as both can be to so many. All I can say is for awhile now small problems that would have recently left me quivering in a heap have been overcome, one at a time, day by day. Work stress feels like nothing more than exactly that: the stress of a job that doesn’t define my daily experience, and is dealt with and left in the proper proportions.

It never feels easy or routine, and I always expect it to fall apart. There are so many reasons it should, and probably will. In the past I’d have almost thought those reasons into existence. But I had a thought a few weeks ago about things turning to shit, and I’ve held onto it ever since: It doesn’t have to. All I have to do is win today. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

The Mariners are 8-2, and you probably don’t need me to tell you that, well, lol. They really shouldn’t be. They can’t pitch. They CANNOT field, and the bullpen is Evel Knievel soaked in gasoline jumping over that Game of Thrones green flame stuff while holding a box of lit matches. It really, honestly, probably will end very poorly. But it doesn’t have to. It just might not. The Mariners won today. That’s all I can ask of anyone.

7-2: Mariners continue to swear off pitching and defense as they lose to the White Sox in Chicago

Here come your rootin’ tootin’ Seattle Mariners, current leaders out in baseball’s reckless, restless AL West. They’re a bunch of brash batslingers that’d just as soon hit a baseball through your torso as they would look at you. Dingers and dongs, moonshots and mashed taters — this team has ’em all in spades.

Does it matter that Seattle’s bullpen is about as sound as an abandoned, unstable mine shaft? Heck no it doesn’t! Or that their defense is less trustworthy than the local snake oil salesman? Absolutely not! Defense? We ain’t got no defense. We don’t need no defense. We don’t have to show you any stinkin’ defense! None of these problems are something that a few more home runs can’t solve.

The 2019 Seattle Mariners: Long ball as the cure-all.

For better or worse (I say that, but in this case it felt distinctly worse), all of the early-season Mariners themes and tropes were on full display today. The M’s snagged an early lead, watched it slip through their fingers like a misplayed groundball, came storming back with a vengeance… only to ultimately blow it. This game was long and fun and a little bit frustrating and entirely ridiculous. I anticipate feeling similarly many more times as the season progresses.

GOOD – Dingerz

Domingoing going gone: I picked Santana as my New Favorite Mariner this season and boy oh boy has he been a real treat to root for. In the top of the first inning, he inside-outted the crap out of a ball, smacking it several rows beyond the right field fence for his fourth dinger of season. He already has 13(!) RBIs, which leads the AL.

Vogey oppo taco: Another day, another opposite field line-drive homer from Vogelbach. He took a 96-mph fastball, located up and off the plate, and lasered into the left field bullpen. The balls may be juiced, but Vogdor’s power is real. Hopefully he gets CONSISTENT at-bats moving forward (Servais, please).

Healy doesn’t GIDP: If Ryon keeps this up, I promise to stop acting so surprised every time he does a good thing.

Haniger to the deepest part of the park: Off the bat, this seemed like a fairly normal fly ball, but it just… kept… going. Landing just beyond the reaching, grasping glove of center fielder Adam Engel. Like Goldsmith, I initially thought that this ball might have been caught. But no! Mitch would never let us down like that.

Four more home runs! The early-season dinger parade has been incredible to watch. The Mariners actually increased their team wRC+ today — from 162 to 165! The incredibly explosive nature of this offense won’t last, but it has certainly been fun so far.

BAD – Infield defense

Despite being named last week’s AL Player of the Week (woo!), the Mariners shortstop had looked a little shaky in the early going on defense. And then today he committed… three errors! All in one inning!! It was bad!!! (Some real BeckHam-fisted plays going on out there, if you ask me.) If Beckham had cleanly fielded a couple of routine grounders, Kikuchi may not have allowed a single run in the first inning. As it was, the two unearned runs Chicago scored in the first proved to be the difference in the ballgame. Blech.

The Mariners now have 16(!?) errors in eight games. That is… a lot. I’m sure that they all Take Pride in Their Defense, but their infielders really have to get it together moving forward. Errors certainly aren’t the be-all, end-all defensive stat (duh), but if you’re committing two errors per game as a team, something is definitely wrong.

UGLY – “Relief” pitching

Once again, the Mariners bullpen showed that it’s largely a ragtag collection of bits and bobs mashed together with journeymen and castoffs. Today, Cory Gearrin and Zac Rosscup combined to throw 34 pitches, only 14 of which were strikes. They gave up a total of three walks, a hit, a HBP, and three runs. They only recorded a single out en route to surrendering the lead.

It was brutal, and Servais just kinda watched it happen. But in reality, who else is he going to turn to? Who do you trust in that bullpen to get an out in a high-leverage situation? Swarzak is probably the best guy right now, but he’s just coming back from injury so maybe you want to ease him back in a little bit? I don’t know. There have been injuries and some better players may join the relief corps in the near future, but right now it’s pretty damn ugly.

– – –

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention Kikuchi’s outing. This was his first true road start in MLB and his first outing since his father passed away earlier this week. That sounds… incredibly tough. But routine and hard work are often good ways to process and move forward, and Kikuchi said he was set to take the mound today.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start. As mentioned above, the M’s defense really let Kikuchi down in the first inning, putting unnecessary traffic on the basepaths and letting unearned runs cross the plate. This prevented Yusei from settling into a groove early. Then, after allowing a leadoff double in the second inning, he had some bad BABIP luck (bunt base hit, ground-ball single, ground-ball single) and gave up three more runs.

At this point he had already thrown 49 pitches and allowed six runs before recording a single out in the second frame. It was shaping up to be a real nightmare outting. But then… he settled in. Groundballs started finding the gloves and his infielders, and Yusei needed just 44 more pitches to record the final 12 outs of his outing. His final line wasn’t the prettiest, but it could have been so much worse.

In a Stepback Season, where the wins don’t really matter, seeing a big mid-game bounceback like this from Kikuchi feels huge. When a guy hasn’t struggled on the MLB stage before, you never know how he’s going to respond to this sort of adversity. I don’t imagine this was the outing Kikuchi was hoping to have today, but it definitely made me a little bit more optimistic about his future with the M’s. And that’s a nice feeling.

Go get ’em tomorrow, Mariners.