I Miss You, Mariners Baseball & Friends

I know things have been super quiet around here. I want to try and rectify that this year, I feel like I could use the distraction. The middle of January is coming up soon. As of today, we are 34 days from pitchers and catchers reporting, and only 16 more days and a few hours worth of change to Saturday’s Mariners FanFest. Player, manager, and other guest  announcements have not yet been made, but I am looking forward to getting back into the park, nonetheless. It’s always a nice little taste of summer, usually in the very, very cold.

Lookout Landing had a little post-holiday party last Friday that I was not able to go to, but seeing the party aftermath photos made me realize how much I miss baseball around this time of year, and all of the trappings that come with it. I have changed my game viewing habits a lot since 9 seasons ago (man, has it been that long??); I don’t watch every game; maybe 50-70% of them I watch now or am actually at. I follow along more on Twitter than on the game threads at LL (though I do want to get back to LL, since I have more followers on the Twitter now and doubt very highly that all of them want to be forcibly involved in my exclamations during a daily 9 innings), and I no longer have the time to follow trades and personnel as closely as I used to be able to (having a job where high attention to detail must be paid will do that for a person – when I started out, I was in school and had a lot of time during my day to catch up on news).

More than that, I miss all of you, even those of you I don’t know well. Current events and a slow offseason have kept us all in a different grind the past few months, and after the World Series was over, everyone seems to have gotten involved in world happenings and our own personal lives. It has been both entertaining and horrifying, and I am looking forward to getting back to “normal” over the next few months. I miss the game emotion both online and in person, and I miss seeing all your faces around the ballpark. I miss The Pen. I miss getting to the game early and standing around downstairs and just breathing in the salty air and having my vision full of green grass and green seats and blue sky. I miss the smell of kettle and popcorn, of hot dogs, of pizza and burgers and garlic fries. I miss the way the smoke shoots up from the grill above the Kidd Valley on the north side of the stadium while I’m waiting in line on the sidewalk below to get in. I miss interacting with the Mariners Twitter account about baseball things that matter. I miss taking pictures of the game while I’m there. I miss high-fiving strangers, and poking fun at fans of the day’s opposition. I miss the King’s Court, Felix starts, and Edwin Diaz closures. I miss Funk Blast. I miss seeing all the employees in their teal jackets, letting people know where they’re ticketed. I miss Tom Huytler’s voice announcing Robinson Cano at the plate. I miss the staff at the Hit It Here. I miss watching an outfielder leg it to the wall. I miss Kyle Seager’s grin. I miss looking out over the stadium and seeing the Space Needle, the Great Wheel, and the downtown area of the city. I miss that first sip of a good cold Manny’s Ale on a hot July day. I miss waiting in line for that Manny’s. I miss the buzz of the HVAC system by Edgar’s when you first walk in, and watching my fellow fans compete with each other for batting practice dingers that make it over the net there. I miss “All Right Now” at the end of a game. I even miss the slow shuffle out of the stadium and then navigating the traffic home from SoDo.

So as I sit in this office with our work systems down (as they have been for over four hours now since I got in), I look outside at the cold sky and construction going on across the street, and I think of simpler times. Of better times, when I can just toss a dress on and walk out the door, without having to layer myself awkwardly in everything I own before leaving the house. And I look forward to the moments when we will all be able to see each other again, have that beer, high five each other and our unknown seatmates, and watch the beautiful game of baseball. Not too long, now. Hang on, summer is coming…

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Mariners Start Thanksgiving Early

Yesterday it was announced that the Mariners made a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks; the first for the new Arizona GM Mike Hazen. We sent them Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker, and they sent us Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis. I had been out running errands so the house looks presentable for our guests today, and had just started a major overhaul of the living room when I took a break and checked Twitter and saw the news.

My initial reaction was that kind of sinking feeling one gets when you lose your keys and are late for work. I genuinely liked both players and losing especially Walker is a little frustrating, I thought maybe 2017 would be the year he finally nailed it down. And it might be, he’ll just do it in Arizona. I enjoyed (maybe too much of) the hype surrounding Walker. He and his family seemed to like it here, and I felt like he was a good personality to have on the team. He is certainly projected to do much better next year, so perhaps he’ll provide my fourth team with some needed oomph on the mound. Marte was so-so, delivering moments of fun, and it would have been nice to see him go further here since he’s still so young, but it seems like Jerry Dipoto has a plan, and last year’s plan worked out pretty well for us, so I’m going to go with the plan.

After spending some time moving furniture and ripping up flooring, I took another break and found this article by Dave Cameron via Twitter. Dave is right, Segura is the guy I’m focusing on, because of his .319 average, and his .368/.499/.867 line this season. Guy’s also only 26 years old, and already comes with a nickname; Jean the Hitting Machine. Getting a shortstop who knows how to handle a bat is not such a terrible thing, not for a team who could use just a little more power at the plate.

The other two I’m holding out judgement on. They’ll still be rookies through 2017, so who knows how much we’ll see them. I need to make this short because we need to get started making dinner and expecting company, so I don’t currently have the time to research what either Haniger or Curtis might have done, but again, I’m trusting The Plan. I think Arizona fans will enjoy our guys, and I hope to be enjoying theirs in a few months.

In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving however you choose to spend today, and stay safe out there, everyone.

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When my coworkers suddenly talk baseball

It’s always strange to me when people I know outside of the relationships I’ve built with Mariners fans talk to me about baseball. You know, people you see every day but never catch wearing a team cap or t-shirt or anything like that. Baseball is boring, or so popular culture will lead you to believe. It’s too slow, there’s not enough excitement, the NFL is superior, whatever the argument is, baseball is just sort of there, existing. This World Series, though, certainly turned everyone into a Cubs fan, and I had a number of people ask me what I thought about the Series as I walked past them in the hallway or got on the elevator or was in the middle of something else. Of course the thing for me, though, is there’s not enough time in one of those interactions to really get into it. I have nuanced thoughts that cannot be contained in a conversation as short as a tweet.

 

At the start of the playoffs, I didn’t have much care about who made it this year. I didn’t have favorites so much as I felt like I had teams to root against. I wanted the Rangers’ one-run luck to become apparent. I wanted the Blue Jays out to spite the fans of Western Canada that fill the seats at Safeco. I couldn’t root Cleveland because the Mariners should have an intense rivalry with them after 1995 and 2001, but somehow don’t. Not that the Indians were really desirable anyway due to the Corey Kluber Cy Young and Chief Wahoo’s continued existence. Baltimore? I didn’t really have a strong feeling about them but I could probably work myself into some annoyance if I think long enough about the Erik Bedard trade. Lastly on the A.L. side, while I didn’t want the Red Sox to win the World Series, I didn’t think that Red Sox fans would become appreciably worse if they did win it, so that made them maybe the “best of five evils.”

 

On the National League side, I wanted the Nationals to lose so it didn’t leave the Mariners as the only team to never make the World Series. The Giants have had an embarrassment of World Series riches over the last several years and may be getting too big for their britches, though I like their radio broadcast team. The Dodgers’ payroll surpassed the Yankees this year, and that’s never a thing I feel good about rooting for. I can’t say I have strong feelings about the Mets, so I suppose they would have been fine except they lost the opener to the Giants. The Cubs, well, I have a family affinity for the Cubs and I always liked Ryne Sandberg as a kid, but I’ve long predicted that the moment the Cubs take the Series, fans will come pouring out of the woodwork like Red Sox fans did in 2005, and I don’t care to be associated with that. Even aside from that, there are serious Aroldis Chapman problems there that just haven’t been addressed to my liking.

 

Was I rooting for the Cubs in the World Series? Yeah, I was, and probably the best part of that story for me is the retirees who are just getting to enjoy a Cubs championship for the first time. But did I feel 100% good about it? Not with Chapman on the mound, and not with Cubs fans showing up in Cleveland for Game 7 like they were Blue Jays fans coming down out of Canada for their series with the Mariners. I like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and especially Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th, but I don’t think I can quite get over supporting a team that features a known domestic abuser.

 

I should take that back because I’m in deep enough with the Mariners that I would do it anyway, but I hope that the Mariners never test me (again) on that, and I hope that the players on the M’s current roster treat people with the respect they deserve.

 

Could I have rooted for Cleveland? I suppose. Their team was fun. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp are entertaining players. Francisco Lindor is great, Kluber is not a pitcher who is undeserving of awards (even if I want Felix Hernandez to win all of the awards for all of time), and Terry Francona was willing to push the envelope on bullpen usage, using Andrew Miller in ways that may advance the play of baseball for the future. Aside from that, not winning the World Series since the ‘40s is still compelling and I have a few friends who are Cleveland fans and I could root in their interests. Ultimately, though, the biggest strike I had with them is the continued use of Chief Wahoo as a logo and some of their fans’ use of that logo as an excuse to paint their faces red like the caricature. They really need to clean that up.

 

In a way, it seemed to me that the Cubs were the team of choice for most everyone who pays only passing attention to baseball, and that Cleveland was the team of choice for people who are contrarian by nature. Given that, I guess I fit better into the “Go Cubs” camp, if only because contrarians tend to be smart but maybe want to show it off too much for my liking.

 

In any event, we got to witness one hell of a Game 7 in Cleveland last night. It was a beautiful season finale, and maybe baseball will be better for it; maybe the Mariners can pick up a few more fans for 2017.

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Go, Cubs, Go.

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Mariners History and the Final Days of the 2016 Regular Season

I wrote this on the bus to work and almost worked myself into tears doing it, so I want to share:

They took MLB from us in March, 1970. When we got it back in 1977, we played in a concrete coffin that Dave Niehaus called an “ugly duckling” in the final day of its baseball life.

We didn’t win more games than we lost until 1991. When ceiling tiles in the Kingdome fell in 1994, the league demanded that the team that already traveled more than any other play the remainder of its games on the road.

They tried to take baseball from us twice more. Voters denied Safeco Field in September of ’95, before it had a name. Public money spent on pro sports facilities is repugnant and I am against it, but I am forever thankful the state legislature made it happen. Frankly, the Mariners shouldn’t even exist.

But it’s our guy who earned a higher vote percentage for the hall of fame than anyone else to play the game. We got to celebrate perhaps the best team to ever play in 2001 with an All-Star Game in our city. You could have put the ’01 Mariners against the NL All-Stars and I think they would have won. We got to see one of the most memorable in-season comebacks in baseball in 1995.

People forget that the Mariners briefly led the AL West in the final week of the ’95 Season. Despite falling back to a tie, the team hung their first banner on an inspiring performance of one of the most dominant pitchers the game has ever seen, and the “ugly duckling” turned into an ally when everyone scored on a ball into the bullpen.

That team would play one of the best postseason games in the history of the game. The game was a microcosm of a series where they fell behind 0-2 and won the final three. In the bottom of the 11th, the M’s surely would have accepted one run just to tie. To keep playing just one more inning would have been a success. Instead, we got two, and the team earned at least four more games instead of one more inning.

The 2016 Mariners probably shouldn’t even be here. Too many blown leads late and critical errors feel like they should be disqualified. But they aren’t. Their story is really the story of the franchise. We shouldn’t be here, but here we are. Let’s celebrate and play some baseball.

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Famous In Canada

In the last few years, there’s been quite a bit of hemming and hawing over who is to blame and who should feel shame over the annual Canadian invasion which takes place during the Toronto series, with some pointing the finger at M’s fans who don’t show up and others pointing to the Mariners’ play or special offers that may have been made to discount tickets for Canadian fans, but neither of those do much for those of us who actually attend. This year I decided I’d try to take a different approach to the series and make fun of Canada so the visitors understood they were guests and didn’t own the place.

 

Megan and I went to Tuesday’s Mariners-Blue Jays game, and after some discussion with Twitter, I brought a handful of Canadian-trolling signs to display. By now, you’ve probably seen most of the signs, since the Mariners re-tweeted the photos I took of them and my mentions crumbled to the ground as I kept getting notifications of likes, re-tweets, and responses, but just in case:

 

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Fridays At Safeco

I am writing this at 4AM, because the heat has taken such a toll on me over the last 12 hours, and I could only sleep for about four hours or so. I get a lot of flack from people in more arid or humid states about complaining about the weather here in Seattle the past few years, because their weather is worse by comparison. But here’s the thing; I live here so I don’t have to deal with your ugly 90F, 80% humidity. Having the weather we’ve had in this area this year is not cool with me. The Pacific Northwest is supposed to be a lot more moderate weatherwise than it has been over the past five years or so. It kills my ability to sleep or any desire I might have to even go outside. The last game I went to was last Friday, and it was so unbelievably hot out, it’s a wonder the guys on the field didn’t just fall down with exhaustion. I wore the lightest clothing I had and was still miserable. My friend who doesn’t wear hats ever, BOUGHT A HAT to keep his head away from the sun (and I cannot emphasize enough how strange an event this was). This heat is not OK.

But I digress. Here are some pictures.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.18.47 AMAdam Jones, at the one Orioles game I was able to attend this year. The Mariners and Orioles are currently in the Wild Card chase, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays. I don’t know if Jones would have thrived here like he has in Baltimore, but I’d like to think he would have been an amazing long-term piece of our roster, if Bavasi hadn’t made that terrible move, and then Zduriencik had the sense to give him a good contract (I feel like he would have). When I was in Camden getting my “first game” certificate a few years ago, the people in the office there asked me why I was an Orioles fan (I was wearing my Mariners jersey), and I said “Adam Jones!” They all nodded in sage agreement. Baltimore understands what we gave up, and I’m still glad to have chosen the Os as my second team.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.19.16 AMKyle Seager gets ready to swat a ball. Having Seager out of the lineup the past two games has hurt us in the WC a bit, so I really hope he can recover from his foul ball issues soon. I understand we might get him back as soon as tonight, so that’s good. Keeping my fingers crossed. We can’t afford a lot of losses at this point, if we are to see games scheduled after the formal end of the season.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.21.13 AMThis is Jonathan Schoop. His first full year with Baltimore was 2014, also the year I went to Camden in April. I knew he was special then, because he ran the bases like he was born to do it. That same year, I got to see the Os win the AL East. Two years later, Schoop is still there. There are a lot of good players to choose from as favorites on Baltimore’s roster; Schoop might be my second.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.22.43 AMDae-Ho Lee, checking his swing late in the game. Lee’s production seems to have tapered off during the last half this year, but it hasn’t stopped fans from being really into him. His one-year contract makes me wonder if the Mariners will bring him back. At 34, perhaps a minor league contract? Admittedly I haven’t done much reading about what might happen for him, but this season will be super memorable because of him, so if nothing else, I can completely appreciate that. He’s been a fun surprise this year.

I have been watching games or making sure I check in on them at the very least; Tom is doing a tour this year, so I have been trying to balance my personal life with my baseball life, which means that I have missed some things and caught others, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and formulate opinions about what’s been going on. Recently, given the Wild Card situation we are facing, I have been trying to not take things too seriously, even though I know that things are pretty freaking serious right now for the Mariners. We have a little over a month left of regular season baseball. The team has been fraught with injury and players not panning out quite the way the organization had hoped. Usually it seems to be only the latter, so having both of these situations occur and still being in the Wild Card hunt is pretty impressive, if you think about it.

But I don’t want to get too invested, not with things this close. Down that road leads madness and heartache and a lot of swearing, and this year I’ve just been wanting to have fun watching baseball. Obviously I am pulling for this team, and I won’t allow our recent losses to dampen my spirits. I still think this team is the Real Thing, I still love my Mariners, and I am still keeping the words post season in the back of my mind. Not too far back, though, I might to use need them soon…

 

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