I think it’s finally happened. I’m finally done with baseball before the end of the baseball season. I’m still going to be at the games I have scheduled – there is an Orioles series coming up, after all (I will be at all three games!), and a few other event games at Safeco that I want to attend (fireworks, Oktoberfest), and the absolutely necessary last game that I always go to every year (and always will unless some great catastrophe happens) – but watching this team be who they are and made up of guys I really genuinely do love dig their way to the basement is finally, after years and years of promise, taking its toll. I will go to the games I have scheduled because they already have my money, and because I do still truly enjoy going to the park, bad team or no bad team (remember how perky I was in 2010?) But I’m not really happy with the way things have panned out this year.
We are, after the All Star break, 11 games back, 7 games out of the Wild Card, and at .452. The best team in the league right now is the Kansas City Royals (ugh, these guys again?!) at .598. We are 6-9 after the ASG. Our offense has gotten better due to Edgar Martinez having come aboard as our hitting coach (I was very excited about this, and clearly have every right to be, as Edgar has been working some magic on one Mike Zunino, who is currently on an 11-game hitting streak, if I remember correctly), but our pitching has totally collapsed up to the point where we just handed over JA Happ to Pittsburgh because of two terrible starts, forked over Mark Lowe to the damn Jays, and sent Dustin Ackley to the New York Yankees, where he will finally be able to get a haircut and a shave. And for what?
Allow me to digress…in the club scene I am part of, there is a song called Dead Stars. When it came out in 2000, it became very popular. You couldn’t go clubbing without it being played, it was everywhere. In and of itself, it’s a good song; but after you hear it night after night, when you leave the state to go on tour and there it is again, when you can’t go onto a dancefloor and just dance to new stuff without hearing it, it gets really annoying and tedious. Plus, though it is a really catchy song, it’s repetitive as all hell (because that is the nature of dance songs).
Prospects are the new Dead Stars.
When Jack Zduriencik came on board in 2009, he promised a team made of pitching and defense. He promised better prospects. He promised a better future, and certainly in baseball, the word “prospects” is nearly synonymous with “future”. The problem with the future, for the Mariners, is that the future never comes. And what has my ire up so early today (yes, it’s nearly noon, but that is early for me on a Saturday) is this article with the headline “Jack Zduriencik says Mariners moves before trade deadline ‘more about the future’” This is a song we’ve heard before. I’ve been to this dance club a billion times. They’re taking away my favorite DJs (Jason Vargas, Adrian Beltre, Doug Fister, Brendan Ryan, Ichiro Suzuki), but they’re still playing the same tired club hit. And I still dress up and go out on a Friday night for this, expecting not to hear it.
So Zduriencik did what he said he would when he got here; he promised a team built on pitching and defense, and we got that. He promised to bolster our farms, and he’s done that, too. But the Mariners front office completely ignored that baseball is a three-slice pie, and unless you have the offense you need, you’re not going anywhere. Now we have a better offense slice, but the pitching slice has rotted in the sun this year, the offense slice hasn’t been great for years, and nobody wants to eat the pie anymore. We could have done better with our offense/defense ratios earlier on, but we didn’t; and I’m not telling Mariners fans anything new. Players we traded to other teams for prospects have gone on to remain solid players and to sometimes even flourish in their new homes. Prospects come on board, don’t do well in the minors, and then get sent somewhere else. Sometimes we dodge those bullets, sometimes they Dustin Ackley their way onto Safeco Field grass. More often than not, they just hang out in Tacoma, seeing major league playing time in September, or when someone gets injured, and there they stay, making the Rainiers a pretty good AAAA team, or a really good AAA team.
I still watch because it is baseball, but this is the earliest since 2008 that it has turned into a low priority for me. We still have two months left, and maybe something great will happen in that time, but the Mariners seem to be eternally looking forward to tomorrow, next month, next year, five years from now, without ever concentrating on the here and now. With every loss, fan confidence goes down and that is three hours of Netflix I could be watching, or a walk outside I could be taking, or something more productive than sitting in my hot living room, watching my team fall 8-2 to Arizona. And don’t even get me started on driving home after dinner yesterday, hearing ads for season ticket holders to jump on the chance for 2016. Are you guys for real?
I spoke with Mariners marketing VP Kevin Martinez once a while back, and apologized to him for being so negative over Twitter during a game that went particulary sideways for the boys. I hate negativity in general, and especially over something like sports. It’s a game, right? I should just suck it up and go hang out with friends or something. But Martinez said he understands we are mad because we care. And he’s right. I do care. I love baseball. I love the Mariners. I just want them to do well. It’s not a matter of personal pride or anything; I’m not some knuckle-dragger that’s going to punch someone because they don’t like my team. It’s because the game is part of this country’s history and it’s time I put my life into, and it’s become part of who I am as a person. It’s fun to watch baseball, and having fun is part of what makes us human. I enjoy it. I care. I just want the Mariners to do better.