SECTION 331

Pushing a Giant Baseball Up a Hill and Watching It Roll Back Down Since 2008

Some Thoughts While the Ms Take On the Twins

I haven’t been able to watch as many games as I’d like to this year, but due to the modern convenience of email, I always know whether the Mariners have won or lost. I remain envious of those who have the time and wherewithal to continue blogging, especially those who are not being paid for their endeavors. I have also been suffering from that delightful bane of the existence of every person on this earth who enjoys writing; the monster of writer’s block. And yes, I feel terribly lame having writer’s block when the topic of my scribbles is not a figment of my imagination; I mean, the things to write about should just be there, because they happen every day, so there should always be a lot to write about…right?

I find myself spending more time on Twitter than I should, and less time reading about the Mariners than I want to. I should know more about this team than I do right now. I should know more about other teams than I do right now. I haven’t even been reading books about baseball, and the fact that I haven’t been reading is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all, since reading is a really good way to get information in and get the brain going. But I just…haven’t.

I was not surprised to check the standings today and find out that the Ms were still at the bottom of the AL West. I was surprised to see that Oakland is sitting rather securely in second place, with only a month left in the season. I am also rather shocked (or at least mildly stunned) to see that, as of this writing, the Seattle Mariners have a better record than the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Minnesota. OK, maybe not so amazed at that last one, given our 7-1 record against them thus far. We’re even doing better than about half of the National League. Maybe this whole post will be about how surprised I am at the things that have been happening while I haven’t been paying attention. Hey, did you guys know that there is a hurricane on the east coast?!

I was at a friend’s place watching the game last night, and as Trayvon Robinson made yet another marvelous diving catch in left field to rob the Twins of any sort of running or base safety, I marveled at how frequently Robinson has done this same thing in multiple games just recently. The first one I saw was against Cleveland last Monday, and it happened right below us; Robinson slid so fast and so far, his head was mashed up against the left field corner where the lower box seats jut out into the field. But he made the catch. The second happened the night after, during the Supreme Court game; same approximate area, same running catch to save Felix some trouble. And then again, last night off the bat of Joe Mauer in the first inning. Robinson wasn’t even a blip on my radar last year, just another Tacoma Rainier trying to get up to the bigs, mashing his way through the triple A teams, but not doing all that well up here. At least, not well enough to make an impression on me. This year his batting is still not anything that blows my socks off, but defensively, I’m impressed with his speed and willingness to just throw himself wherever the ball takes him without, it would seem, much regard for his own safety. He’s been fun to watch. If the Mariners are going to continue going younger, hopefully they can work on his hitting and keep him around. Knowing my luck, he’ll be gone before Spring Training, or completely tank sometime between now and the next ASG.

Unlike probably a lot of others, I have not yet lost faith in Justin Smoak, no matter how recognizable Jeff’s comments are to the inner workings of my brain. I think it’s sort of safe to say that I have lost interest in Justin Smoak, the same way I long ago lost interest in donuts; when you work at making donuts, the allure of donuts fades. Sure, sometimes you just have one because it’s there and maybe you’re a little hungry after dinner, but after spending so much time with donuts, they’re just not as great as they were when you first got hired. Justin Smoak is a lot like that. Now, however, I sort of have a thing for cupcakes, because they’re sweet and a little different than donuts; so I’m hoping that Smoak turns into a cupcake. Hopefully by the end of next season. Even though by now I am used to the good/bad sides of Brendan Ryan, I think one guy on this team who is so sharply like that is all I can handle. If Smoak has not figured himself out by the end of next season, then I just don’t know. A lot of others are probably ready for it to be over far before then, but even in my indifference I am eternally optimistic. Jon at ProBallNW took a look at Smoak’s career thus far a week and change ago, and he does not seem as hopeful for Smoak’s future. The bit there about a Michael Saunders-style revamping piqued my interest though; what have we got to lose there? Rubber-band-aided swinging practice, anyone? I realize that what works for one batter might not work for another, but at this point something has to be done. I want to be interested in Justin Smoak again; and not because he poses a threat on another team in another city. I’m still all about having dignity as a fan, and the Smoak trade cost us a lot of dignity; not only did we have to admit that the Cliff Lee trade had failed us miserably, but we were also faced with Josh Lueke and all the issues that came with him. I just want this to work out for us, and I am not giving up on Smoak. Not yet.

Tonight’s game is a mess so far in the top of the 7th. Jason Vargas was just awful, and before he was removed from the hill for Carter Capps, some tempers were flaring a bit after Vargas allowed a home run. Vargas apparently was not a fan of the ump calling a ball on a 75MPH curveball, and there was an exchange of words and some puffing of chests, which Eric Wedge rushed out to calm. Everyone is greasy in Michigan tonight (at nearly 8.30PM it is still in the 80s there), and I know these guys are all supposed to be professionals, but I have to think that one’s own failure coupled with what is to me an intolerable heat level and exercise would make a guy a little cranky. If we come back from this tonight I will be astonished.  Carter Capps and Vargas have obviously been drinking out of the same Gatorade cooler, and things are not going well.

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