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.

13-2: 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.

4-1: Teal Laces

Flipping on the TV on a lazy Saturday morning shows James Paxton, freshly shorn like a newly enlisted soldier. He stands tall and strong as always, but something is off, because he is not only no longer ours, he appears no longer him. Where once was a tall, awkward, good-humored guy from British Columbia now stands just another smooth-faced cog; just another Yankee.

Nate Karns is there, starting across for Baltimore across from Pax. Ours for one season, for 94.1 innings in 2016 we tried to convince ourselves the promising, powerful pitcher from Tampa was in there, somewhere. It was just a matter of consistent mechanics. And staying healthy. And executing his game plan. The next start was always going to be the one he figured it out. Then there weren’t anymore starts. Until today.

Drew Jackson is in centerfield, and in the major leagues no less. A Mariner only in dream; a slick-fielding shortstop who just needed to be held upside down and shaken until the Stanford dripped out of his swing. He was going to be ours, we dreamed, and that’s all a team’s prospects are. They’re all dreams, and hopes, and future parades and confetti and sweet, sticky champagne covering locker rooms. Future glories stored up in our minds, waiting for reality to fall in line.

Brett Gardner swings at the first pitch and lofts it to center, the ball’s gentle parabola allowing Jackson to settle under it easily. He shields his eyes, and squeezes it tight. A big leaguer, but not ours.

***

They are scattered everywhere now. The Mets won on Opening Day behind a Robinson Cano home run, and a perfect Edwin Diaz 9th. Jean Segura is trotting home as Bryce Harper hits a ball almost 500 feet in Philly. Nelson Cruz looms in Minnesota. They did not bring us the postseasons we are so desperately, hilariously overdue for, but they brought us much, much closer than anyone else has in a very long time. Despite falling short, I’m still very grateful to them for the run.

The ex-Mariners are everywhere, it seems, and we are going to see them all year.  They will haunt us, because they are the past, and that’s what the past does. When this year’s team stumbles, as the season’s math trickles into the gaps in this roster’s inadequacies and slowly widens them into canyons, we are going to miss them. As losses pile up we will sit, and we will wonder “what if?” That’s the price of giving up before the end. That’s the cost of not doing everything you can.

Jay Bruce is a Mariner now, today, at this very second, and tonight his three-run home run in the 5th inning gave the team just the amount of cushion it needed to survive the already glaringly obvious issues facing this team on defense and in relief. It doesn’t feel right to me. Jay Bruce isn’t a Mariner. He’s a Red. He’s the super prospect who became a star by 23. He hit the home run that sent them to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. He was supposed to be a great one, instead he’s a failed attempt at a salary dump. His transient existence on this team exists merely as placeholder. The few moments of joy he provides are ancillary, the good memories an accident of process, loose strands of happiness burped from a machine that seeks nothing but greater efficiency

We are going to feel this way, all year, and we’re going to have to decide what matters for us. Being a sports fan means rooting for “our guys”, but our guys are almost all gone. They’ve been scattered to every corner of the sport’s map, a re-imagining that asks you, requires you, to root for laundry and laundry alone in a more obvious way than seems fair. The Mariners won tonight, and that was great. They’re 4-1, and a fast start sure is more fun than the other, more familiar start. But I struggle knowing what to root for. I think I’ll struggle all year. More and more, I just find myself finding and rooting for my guys.

***

Jesus Sucre is catching for Baltimore. The 2019 Orioles will be terrible, and I imagine Jesus knows that. Like many of his teammates, he is being asked to do more than he has in the past. He’s being asked to do more than he can. In the bottom of the first, Karns spot a moving fastball at the knees to Aaron Judge. Sucre’s practiced, deft framework snaps the glove shut and holds it still, and there you see it: Sucre’s glove has teal laces. He was ours once, and part of him is ours forever.

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.