Shut Up With The Dumb Tweets

Everyone has seen the posters. You know the ones: it’s a, like, an awful I Just Bought A DSLR And Found The Option In Photoshop To Blur The Background To Make My Black And White Photo Of My Girlfriend Pop Out (I Made Her Lips Be Red Because Girls Are To Be Looked At Instead Of People). Or maybe it’s a dumb stock photo with the shutter speed set real slow so it makes the water blur (blurry = profound, you see), and then you have a line like “Stay Focused and Let Your Inner Light Burn.” I wish I made that up.

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Well, the good news is that Mariners Director of Player Development Andy McKay didn’t literally tweet such a thing today. But you know, in our wonderful postmodern media landscape, “literal” has come to mean both something that’s actually literal as well as those things which are simply metaphorical, but the adjective is too good to let up. I literally died when Dee Gordon caught that popup. I literally fell out of my seat when Mitch Haniger was doing a Cool Thing on instagram. And so on and so on. And so, cue, this:

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McKay has a job, which is more than you can say about me. But one thing I can say is that I have if not an expertise knowledge then at least an Ivy League postgraduate understanding of art history in concert with a deep skepticism of the way in which Silicon Valley bullshit has been used as a discursive blanket to elide deep structural problems in our economy (global capitalism) that can be smoothly mapped onto similar problems in the baseball world (also global capitalism, but with some ESPN faces defending it). I would also like to reiterate that I don’t think that it’s not for nothing that the Mariners are starting to treat things like mental health seriously (as, also, a medicated person suffering from a number of mental health issues), nor do I think that being less Just Play Through It is a bad development for the old boys crew or anything.

What really irritates me is that I know this kind of bullshit speaks to nobody, that it is a reassurance for the powers that be that they are Creatively Addressing An Issue And By Proxy Beating The Other Teams. What irritates me is that I know that this kind of posturing is not meant for an AA prospect who knows he’s never going to break into the bigs, that it’s meant for John Stanton and maybe even Jerry Dipoto to say that no, we aren’t like that last group who favored things like home runs and ISO (as if their options were that or a cool inspirational tweet that could be posted up on the office bulletin board).

I think, though, aside from the furor and the irritation that Mariners Director of Player Development is woefully misrepresenting art history, that what really bugs me about this is knowing full well that all this team literally has to do right now is say the following: “Hey! We might suck but also, guess what folks, you, like me, were so excited to see Tim Beckham–AL Player of the Week!–hit a bunch of dingers, and we know that this might not be sustainable but what an exciting thing to actually sell tickets on! It’s fun that some kids are outperforming their expectations, that this Mariners team is not beholden to draft lists and the franchise capital-D duty that tanked top prospects Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and so on? Why can’t they just fucking say that?!?!?!

If none of that is good enough, let me put on my pretentious asshole hat and have a problem with the way that McKay is talking about art here. It’s absolutely laughable to claim something–as many do–like the fact that a big block of clay somehow contains the world-historical masterpiece of David inside of it or something, were only we were able to wait for Michelangelo to come free it.

Art is not a thing hidden in the parts waiting to be uncovered, it’s something that is called into being which did not exist before. An uncut big block of clay will never become David again, because Michelangelo is dead, and he can no longer paint or make sculptures for us to put in museums to raise tourist money for Montparnasse or whatever. This might sound like The Weeds, but the reality is that this is the approach the Mariners front office has taken to making sense of what these rebuilding years are, and to be honest, you should be extremely upset about it.

David never existed in a mountain of clay waiting to be discovered. It was made with some clay that happened to be available to a world-historical artist working with the materials given to him.

Not a single one of these prospects the Mariners are currently trotting out to Save The Franchise have a David in them, waiting to be uncovered. They are good baseball players who might be contributors to a good team someday, but that’s all they are. And that is all anyone–Mike Trout included!–ever are or have or ever will be. When we pretend that there is a secret Best of All Time hiding inside every Brendan Ryan we ignore the truth that what made Brendan Ryan one of the most adored Mariners of all time is that he was good at one thing, and that one thing could be slotted into an otherwise designed lineup. But he didn’t have that great talent waiting to be found, deep inside. That is not a dig on Brendan Ryan. It’s a realization that his talent was wasted by a front office who didn’t know how to properly utilize the one thing he was good at.

In the coming months the Mariners will build a series of clay tablets and out of them they will design some beautiful, sculpted men, some of whom can hit a baseball and some of whom can catch it. But the problem will be that at precisely the moment that this franchise should be excited to sign another Brendan Ryan–a bat-last infielder who can free the spots for the Tim Beckhams and the Mallex Smiths to learn how to tick their averages upwards to .300–they will turn every last person into the Michelangelo sculpture finally designed to save baseball for the Emerald City.

Of course, what I hope you realize is that what they are actually saving is not baseball but their own stupid jobs. And why in god’s name do you care about that?

3-0: Mariners decide to beat Red Sox, rub it in pt. III

(pt. I here)
(pt. II here)

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The pink glow stretched out its arms amidst the afternoon sun like an eclipse–light on light, bright on glow. Faces weren’t lit as much as they were unshadowed, a low undereye glare, the opposite of what eye black is supposed to provide for the players but perfectly designed to tell fans in a rebounding year they must be there for a reason. It’s glowing, and all.

Can’t see what’s happening on the basepaths? it says. Well, why would you? Look, pink glow, buy a new fun lightup cocktail. It’s on the sign up above. Fun at T-Mobile™ Park with your friends. Uh…um…………Cougs night, or Dee Gordon Bobblehead or something.” Glare is Good, says Gerry GekkoDipoto. Glare is Good.

He saw it all as he stood in line, his printed-out ticket crumpled on acid-free Hammermill copier stock grasped in his hand as if were his pass to get into heaven, St. Peter waiting with scanner in hand to deliver redemption or damnation.

He saw it all inside there, and he didn’t pause, he didn’t stop for a minute to think about how different it all looked in this, the first year of the park’s new branding. The new lineup. He wasn’t exactly the kind of person to notice these things, so the strange conversations bubbling up amidst the fans around him in line– mom, who is that guy? Where is Ichiro? Will Félix pitch tonight? –went past his grayed ears like a peopled language in a newly globalized city. But minutes later he was told at the gate that they weren’t accepting printout tickets any longer. With the line held up, he was soon downloading a newfangled app on his Google Pixel 2, the damn thing the text is so small how can you even see it here on this damn thing wait…is it…no AH HELL now what have I done close the app wait no before they scanned the barcode. just this time , she said, with ticket gun in hand.

It was always something, with Harold. Last time, he locked his keys in the car, missing almost the entire game he had planned weeks to see. But it was different back then, knowing he was going to see Big Papi and maybe Kevin Millar, although he did recall it had been a while since he saw him actually on the field. Nevertheless, he made it into the newly-mintedpinked walls before first pitch this time, barely, setting down just in time to see Chris Sale strike out the side–Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana, and Jay Bruce–all wearing Mariner white.

Soon, Chris Sale was giving up home run after home run: two off the bat of someone named Tim Beckham, one from Edwin Encarnación, even one from Ryon Healy, who sent Harold to google on his phone for the duration of the fifth inning trying to understand why someone named “Ryan” had a 0–or was it an “o”–in his first name. It was Lenin who once said there are decades when weeks happen and weeks where decades happen. Well, poor Harold sat there in section 201, watching children young enough to be the children of his own ordering alcohol, and parents of children with tattoos up and down their arms like scars and he realized that the real truth was there were decades where decades happened, and that he had lived through them all. He left to get another beer.

Deborah was there, of course. She had given up fantasy baseball and started a new retirement career editing manuscripts for a literary journal based out of Cambridge where she had first met Harold, in graduate school. They both knew that she was the real brains of the operation, but in this moment what Harold really wanted was a refill on his beer, so he didn’t mind the Sox walking in a run during the sixth with Jay Bruce at the plate for the M’s. He long ago gave up the delusion that he had to “explain” baseball to his life partner who had always been one step ahead of him in the first place. Meanwhile, the Mariners kept adding runs, and everyone in the park knew it was one of those random things they shouldn’t take for granted but nevertheless would: the statistical outcome of 162 games colliding with one misplaced pitch to a 26-year old draft pick bust which suggests that maybe, just maybe, anyone could do it.

But Harold knew that was all a lie: the structural lie that gives baseball its particular lure, as well as the inevitable betrayal that comes to all who take part in its fiction. He stood in line for an Elysian on the main concourse while the Sox bobbled an infield grounder from Tim Beckham, and he didn’t think about what this kid was going to do in July because he was thinking, first, that he needed a drink, and second, that he didn’t know how to tell his son about the cancer that was living inside his bones. His phone buzzed, and soon, he was departed with nine dollars.

The sun was setting by the time he got back to his seat, and he kissed Deborah on the side of her head as he spilled a little of his overfull beverage on the side of her jacket. Clumsy Harold. Were they in their twenties it might be A Thing, but they both laughed, and watched as the sun began to set behind the flags in left field they both knew would switch positions daily for the next sixth months, as if any given day their relative order meant anything permanent, at all, whatsoever, as if time ever ceased its endless march to let a moment sit still. Then Domingo Santana hit a home run.

As the game wound down, Harold wasn’t upset about the new pink lights or the strange sign up above that didn’t quite seem to fit the aesthetic of the brick additions to the postmodern park that many consider to be one of baseball’s crown jewel cathedrals. He didn’t think about missing Robinson Canó or ask where Kevin Millar was, because he had given up on thinking about those things a long time ago. Instead, he handed Deborah some napkins for her jacket and took a sip of his pilsner, smelling the crisp spring air and feeling the wool from his socks on his feet that used to irritate him, their itch, and he welcomed the feeling because he knew that feeling something, anything, even an itch, was one of the most miraculous events in the history of the universe.

After the game, he was funneled out of T-Mobile Park with the rest of the masses like cattle. He overheard various conversations about what kind of hope this Beckham kid might embody, what prospects Encarnación could bring in August, or if Félix had enough to survive until June. He heard these words and they went straight through him, around him and past him as he moved through space and time, his feet measuring the concrete distance between the plastic seat he had just sat in and his parked car next door in the parking garage. He thought about telling those kids the secret that he had discovered, why he had been thinking of other things, but decided against it knowing full well that they would, if willing, find it themselves if they managed to live that long. He wished he could tell them what it means to make a moment mean simultaneously everything and nothing, and how to live with that contradiction.

He wished they could know, but he knew that someday, they would, and that for now, he had to get to his Acura before the garage closed.

Ok, so the Mariners are trading Mike Zunino for Some Guy

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Ok for real though we heard something like this was coming with Divish’s tweet yesterday, which depending on how you felt about Tuesday’s impending #POLITICS nightmare either was a huge deal, or just a tweet you scrolled past. Either way man, Jerry got at it fast, as is his wont.

First: a rumor he’s gonna tear it all down, to the bone. Then, denial, no, maybe just making some people available, but building a core around x, y, and z. Then less than 24 hours later we’ve traded the Mariners top pick in the 2012 draft to the Tampa Bay Rays for Mallex Smith, a legitimate Major League Baseball Player who was also born in like 2009 or something. This bodes well for the rebuild. It’s coming, either through a big-ol’ tear down or a middle one. Either way get ready folk’s.

Look, it’s a bit of a bummer, only in so far as we knew this team was ill-equipped to compete with any number of teams built to you know, actually succeed in the playoffs. That doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to watch guys we started to identify with and enjoy go elsewhere, even if all that happens is they accrue 4.2 fWAR over the next five seasons and get a bad spiderweb elbow tattoo. Mike Z was a dude, by all accounts, and I’m gonna miss him.

Still, we asked for change. I think about what the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis said after the 2016 election, challenging people on both sides of the aisle. You may think this is upsetting he intuited, but the real question is do you actually want the world to change, for the better? The Mariners trading their twenty-something catcher for an outfield prospect certainly doesn’t matter at the same level as family separation at the border, or any other number of timely issues facing western democracy. But I have to think it might be an ample metaphor for our baseball fandom, as we now enter, what, the five-hundredth season of no playoffs in Seattle: do you really want them? do you really want the Mariners to make the playoffs? Do you really?

 

 

The Mariners Beat The Padres In The First Spring Training Game Of The Year And You’d Better Not Expect Many More Of These From Me This Season

The Mariners first game of spring training gave us some crucial looks into what will be thei–zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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!)

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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:

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 5.30.09 PM (2).pngPerhaps 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?