Why I’m Still Looking Forward To Baseball Season, In Spite Of All Of This

Remember how, before the 2010 season, the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee and everything was exciting?  This past off-season was like opening a heart-shaped box of chocolates and finding a big ol’ turd.

A backup catcher, a bunch of relievers, a starter from Japan, and a backup short stop from Japan.  Until the Mariners made the big splash of trading away a flashy starting pitcher for a hopefully-successful catcher/DH, the Mariners arguably did more to bolster their triple A affiliate than they did their Major League club.

Then, we get the harsh reality that the Mariners – after losing nearly 200 games the past two seasons – are looking to severely cut payroll for the 2012 season; throwing out the time-worn adage, “It Takes Money To Make Money” in favor of the wordier, less fan-friendly, “Be Enough Of A Tight-Fisted Prick & It Doesn’t Matter How Few Tickets You Sell To Regular Season Games, Because Fuck You … To Make Money.”

In spite of all of this, I’m taking a page out of my blogger-brethren:  Baseball Is Better Than No Baseball.

I don’t usually go in for these hokey, Give Thanks For What You’ve Got types of posts, but if nothing else, I’m going to talk MYSELF into this season if it’s the last thing I do.  Yes, we all know the odds of the Mariners making the playoffs in 2012 are slim-to-none, but the fact remains that I’m GOING to watch these games, I’m GOING to listen to them on the radio, and I’m GOING to follow this team in print.  It can’t all be in vain, it just can’t!  If I truly believed there was no point to the 2012 season, then why should I even bother following this team?

So, for the next few paragraphs, this down-and-out Mariners fan is going to look on the bright side.

Reason To Live (for Mariners baseball) #1 – Felix Hernandez

I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I want to attend any Mariners games this season, which is saying a lot because just a year ago I was contemplating buying a 16-game plan.  I LOVE going to baseball games, even if the Safeco crowd tends to give me moron aneurysms; but why in the hell should I spend any money on this team that has proven it’s unwilling to spend any money to entertain us fans with a quality product?

Well, Felix Hernandez is that reason.  He looks so good throwing a baseball, I’d suck his daddy’s dick I’d look on approvingly from a legal distance.  You’ve got to take the time to appreciate greatness when it peaks.  Felix has been peaking these last two seasons and I don’t see any reason why that should stop now.

Reason To Live (for Mariners baseball) #2 – Justin Smoak & Franklin Gutierrez

Bet you would’ve thought I’d have some other guys ranked higher, but you’d be wrong.  Because I’m ALWAYS a sucker for “Best Shape Of My Life” stories.

You know how they go:  guy has a down year, looks a little sluggish, maybe spends some time on the DL, then he goes into the offseason with his job in jeopardy.  Instead of resting on his laurels and fat contract, he takes the bull by the horns, gets himself in the “best shape of his life” and comes into Spring Training (or Training Camp, or whatever depending on the sport you play) looking like a million bucks and ready to dominate once again!

Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor.

This year, we’ve got two guys in Smoak & Guti who fill the quota.  Of course, the “Best Shape Of My Life” guys are pretty hit or miss.  Remember LenDale White when he gave up tequila, or Carlos Silva when – in lieu of actual diet or exercise – took up yoga with his hippie girlfriend?  Remember how they came back to their respective teams just as respectively worthless as ever?  BUT, then again there was last year with Mike Carp.  He was charged with getting fit so he could transition to playing Left Field, and he really did that Bull By The Horns metaphor proud!

See, where so many people fall flat with the “Best Shape Of My Life” comeback is, more often than not, they only decide to get in great shape after their skills have already started to decline to the point where they now NEED to be in shape.  So, not only is it a slap in the face (because, ostensibly, you have to figure these players – if they were in the best shape of their lives back when they were in their PRIME – could have been so much better!), but it’s also a huge waste of time, because instead of being a worthless pile of crap, you’re now a worthless pile of physically fit crap.  Regardless, I’m still plugging my nose whenever I’m around you.

However, in the case of Guti and Smoak (as with Carp), you are talking about guys who are (hopefully) closer to the beginning of their careers than the end.  Getting into the Best Shape Of Their Lives at this point in their careers can ONLY be a plus!

Especially when we’re talking about Guti.  Because all along – ever since we learned of this IBS he’s been suffering with – we’ve always said, “As soon as he gets his illness figured out, and packs a few pounds back on, he will be back to his glory days in no time!”  I still stand behind that statement, and I can’t wait to see him prove me right this season.

Reason To Live (for Mariners baseball) #3 – Other Young Guys

I’m just going to lump all the rest into this section for obvious reasons.  Will Dustin Ackley continue to show why he was taken #2 overall?  Will Jesus Montero justify why he was worth Michael Pineda?  Will Seager, Wells, Carp, and the rest of the guys who ultimately get a shot with the big club make strides in becoming bona fide Major Leaguers?  Will we see some surprises come out of nowhere to make a big impact on the Mariners?

Likewise, will the Big Three pitching prospects – Walker, Hultzen, and Paxton – get to show what they’re made of later this season?  Remember when the Mariners had another highly-lauded Big Three of Gil Meche, Joel Pinero, and Ryan Anderson?  Remember how THAT turned out?  Will Walker, Hultzen, and Paxton be just like those guys, or will they actually be, you know, good?  To think about all the trades we could’ve made with that prior Big Three … it makes my stomach turn.  Hopefully, holding onto this trio of talent doesn’t bite us in the ass like it did a decade ago.

Reason To Live (for Mariners baseball) #4 – Ichiro & Chone Figgins

Yes, I know, you think I’m batshit crazy for listing these two guys, but hear me out!

I’m not exactly thrilled with Ichiro after last season, but there ARE some interesting storylines about him right now.  First is:  he might not be batting first anymore.  That may not mean a whole lot as far as Wins & Losses are concerned, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  I can’t remember him EVER hitting anywhere else in the lineup.  That novelty alone will be pretty cool … at least for the first couple weeks of the season.

Second:  you’ve got the very real possibility that this is his final season in a Mariners uniform.  Say what you will about the guy, but he’s a Mariners Hall of Famer – and he’s probably also a Major League Hall of Famer.  Many people (myself included) think this SHOULD be his final season – he’s overpaid and he’s now under-producing.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take this season to truly appreciate all the things he’s done for us.

As for Chone Figgins, I’m mostly hoping that by him batting leadoff, he gets his mojo back and builds up some semblance of trade value so we can ship him off without eating the entirety of his fucking contract!  Not that I’m hoping to do the cheapskate Mariners’ front office any favors by saving them money, but if he were to prove to be an asset in the Major Leagues, who knows?  Maybe we get a good prospect back or something, in addition to not eating that salary.  It’s the best we can hope for.

The least we can hope for is:  he’s not the total fucking disaster he’s been the past two seasons.  I guess we’ll see.

For the record, the most we can dread is:  he IS the total fucking disaster he’s been the past two seasons, but the team won’t stop trotting him out there night after night, until they’re finally forced to cut him, where he lands on the Angels and helps lead them to a World Series championship by hitting the game-winning grand slam (off of Felix Hernandez, who was foolishly traded for some magic beans to the Houston Astros, who will be an AL West rival starting in 2013).  Moving on.

Reason To Live (for Mariners baseball) #5 – Ron Fairly

Seriously, Mariners, get him on some more games this season!  Give Fake Ron Fairly some more ammo on Twitter!

Shocker: Two In The Pink, One In the Mariners

Last night my brother and I took our dad out to dinner for his birthday, just as the Mariners game was getting started on the West Coast.  As you may well know if you’ve ever been to The Outback, they do indeed (at least the Tacoma Outback does) have televisions showing sporting events as they happen.

As it turned out, they sat us way on the right side of the restaurant, and there was a pole RIGHT in my way, blocking just about all the action on the TV.  I could’ve made a fuss and had us moved to a table with a better view … but that would’ve resulted in me watching the Seattle Mariners play baseball.  Understatement:  I’m glad I didn’t switch tables.

What good came of this game?  I guess Ichiro has a couple more hits to throw on the pile.  Two of our weakest hitting regulars (Figgins & Ryan) both got doubles.  We only missed on 4 of our opportunities with Runners In Scoring Position (instead of the usual 12, making this loss far less maddening).  We didn’t technically get shut out (though our run was unearned).  And HEY, Doug Fister got the Complete Game!

But look, we were destined for failure from the get-go.  Major League Baseball teams canNOT have Adam Kennedy batting 4th in their lineup and expect to score runs or win ballgames.  It’s just not going to happen.

Anyway, as I said, I didn’t watch the game.  So, to make it up to you, I hereby produce for you the single greatest Twitter account known to man.  Fake Ron Fairly!  Coming up with such gems as:

  • The #mariners would have a lot better record if they won more games
  • @TheGreenHydro goes way faster on water than it does on pavement….or gravel
  • One interesting thing about having a retractable roof is that you can open it when it is nice and close it when it rains. @safecofieldroof
  • If Pineda can pitch a complete game shutout, the #mariners should be in good position to get a win

And maybe my favorite:

  • #Pineda reminds me a lot of Bob Wells, just taller, thinner, and with a completely different repertoire.

So, follow him, won’t you?  You can get in pretty much on the ground floor, as of this post hitting the Internet, Fake Ron Fairly only has 153 followers.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 92

Boy, this Mariners team looks to be breaking records left and right (though, the ultimate record of Most Losses In A Season seems to be pretty safe). This time? Most runs given up by a Mariners pitcher in a single game (Ryan Rowland-Smith, tied with Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer with 11). Something tells me RRS won’t be joining the ranks of the Big Unit and the Ageless Wonder anytime soon. This looks to be the final straw here for my favorite pitcher, but then again I’ve said that a few other times this year to the same effect. But, let’s face it, after a beating like that, you’ve GOT to send him down, if for nothing else than to preserve whatever microscopic shred of self-confidence the kid has. Let him go down to AAA. Let him regain command of the strike zone. Let him pummel on some hacks for the next month. Then, bring him back in September and give him every opportunity to try to catch fire out of the bullpen. This is going to be interesting to see play out. Likely, this defeat last night was his last start in a Mariner uniform. It might have been his last start in the Major Leagues, though I’d be less inclined to bet on that. Looking back over his starting career, any success he saw in abbreviated seasons the last two years were rife with him getting into and out of jams. This year, he seemingly hasn’t gotten out of ANY jams. So, we’ll see. Going into next year, we have Felix, Vargas, and probably Fister. Michael Pineda will certainly get a shot and if he’s anywhere near as dominating in Spring Training as he’s been in Tacoma, he’ll likely crack the #5 spot in the rotation. I have no doubt that Jackie Z will go out in the offseason and pick up another veteran or semi-veteran starter. Meaning that the only way RRS makes the squad next year – besides showing remarkable improvement over this year’s Nagasaki – is if Fister falls on his face. The odds are long for RRS. It starts now with ass kicking in AAA. (by the way, record for most losses: the Cleveland Spiders in 1899 with a 20-134 record; most losses since the 1960s: the ’62 Mets with a 40-120 record. It’s like Ron Fairly said: “Everybody wins 60 games and everybody loses 60 games; it’s what you do with those other 42 games that determines your season”).

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 84

It was kind of an ugly series over the weekend, even though we won the last game in extra innings and lost the middle two by 1 run apiece. It just never felt like we were in either of those middle games, with the horrid hitting in Felix’s start and the horrid pitching in Rowland-Smith’s start. Thank Christ for Vargas, with his season-high in strike outs. The fact that it took until the extra innings is a testament to how bad the offense is. Now, I don’t know if Ron Fairly was smoking crack rock when he made the statement, but when the Mariners scored in the 10th inning, he said it was only the 2nd extra-innings run we’ve scored all year. Truth be told, this WAS only the 2nd extra-innings win we’ve accumulated all season, which is supremely sad. FYI, Vargas has 7 Quality Starts in his last 9 (a Quality Start being at least 6 innings pitched and 3 runs allowed or fewer). To compare, Felix has 7 Quality Starts in his last 8 (though, to be fair, Felix has 12 Quality Starts in his last 13, with 4 complete games in that stretch). Did you know Felix’s middle name is Abraham?

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 83

I love Ron Fairly, okay? There, I said it. I miss that gruff, repetitive bastard. I miss that gruff, repetitive bastard. Well, for anyone around a radio this weekend, he’s been doing games with Rick Rizzs what with Dave Niehaus being on vacation this week. For the most part, I don’t have a problem with the rotation of guys the Mariners use to announce their games on television and radio. I even understand why they have Niehaus only going 3 innings on TV before doing the rest on radio. What I kinda don’t understand is why Dave Sims was brought in to do the other 6 television innings, when they already had (and still do have) a perfectly capable and likeable guy in Rick Rizzs – who’s been demoted for a few seasons now to being exclusively radio. It’s not that I dislike Dave Sims – or really have much of an opinion at all about Dave Sims – it’s just that Rizzs is the man! And, in lieu of Ron Fairly leaving the team at the end of 2006, we brought in Mike Blowers – another guy I don’t really have much of an opinion about. The best compliment I can give Blowers is that he’s not Tim McCarver – the most annoying man in the history of Men Talking On Television. So, I guess I better refrain from ever complaining about Blowers or Sims or anyone else. No, I’m not worried about Tim McCarver slumming it up following the Mariners around all season. But, you never know who’ll be the NEXT Tim McCarver … ye gods, that’s a frightening thought (I imagine it would sound a lot like Dave Valle)