“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Mariners” Chapter 66
By Bruce Williams
“I wanna say one more thing to all the fans out here—this coming week we want to fill every seat possible! Keep coming out, keep supporting—we can’t do this without you guys and we appreciate everything and we love you guys!”
—A baby-faced and raspy-voiced Jarred Kelenic gushing like a kid talking about his Christmas presents as he stirs up the fan base after a monumental M’s victory.
I know, I know…I’ve written about the M’s before—wearing my constant optimism and flagrant homerism on my sleeve. After a twenty year playoff drought (the longest currently in any of the four major sports), and serving as an internet piñata for every local keyboard curmudgeon and Debbie Downer, the M’s are still in it with three games left in the regular season (as of this writing). Similar to that girlfriend who keeps breaking your heart, here we are on the precipice of the playoffs with just a long weekend left in the 162-game year and tied for the second wild card slot. Regardless of how they finish, what a great ride it’s been—and it’s just the start…we’ve got a stable of young studs on the rise and deep pockets to spend now that we’ve freed ourselves up from the yoke of backloaded veteran contracts (cough, Cano, cough).
Back in April I offered a pie-eyed forecast for this young team, pining with the eternal hopefulness of Spring that they could be 90-game winners, contenders…relevant, even. I hung it out there on social media knowing full well I’d get sledgehammered—and I did, a bit. Following the Mariners’ home page and reading the comments and sizzling rebukes below I found myself asking aloud, “Why are these people here?…They’re so negative.” I think it’s a thing to kick someone or something when they’re down…a certain schadenfreude some casual fans use to insulate their wary expectations. Not me, though. I like to fall in love stupid, tripping over my laces as I smile dumbly at the TV…wholly enamored with what DiPoto has managed to scrounge up from the farm systems of opposing teams. Among them my favorite player—the above-mentioned Kelenic, and my future favorite player, the statuesque Julio Rodriguez.
I looked back at that April post and saw the usual suspects among my friends casting their litany of doubts, and admittedly I was wrong about almost everything in my prognostications except my expected level of their success. I name-dropped virtual non-factors Taylor Trammel and Kyle Lewis; I expected big things out of young arms Sheffield and Dunn and they’ve been pretty quiet; same goes for Evan White. I was right about J.P. Crawford and Kelenic (well, at least of late), and also about Logan Gilbert being a long, tall drink of high heat chin music. Friends Brett Lewis and Kris Reekie get call-outs because they were right there with me in the We-Believe camp, way before the team co-opted the Ted Lasso mantra.
It takes some balls to support a team with this little measure of success. After all, the beloved 1995 season that the team shamelessly shills in their throwback promotions every year resulted in a four games to two loss in the AL Championship Series to Cleveland…we didn’t even make it to the World Series that year—let alone win it. And that’s our greatest year. Even the year they won 116 games in the regular season they ended up choking in the ALCS in a case of premature elimination.
I saved this last paragraph for late Sunday night. After a rousing come-from-behind win late Saturday to stay in contention, the M’s laid an egg on the final game of the season and were eliminated once again. A teary-eyed Kyle Seager waved goodbye to the crowd, perhaps for the last time, as he’ll turn 34 next year and it’ll cost them 20 million to keep him versus the two million buyout to simply let him go. Another year fallen short, another year for the Negative Nancies to pile on until they finally see that we’re onto something here. I’ll welcome them back on the bandwagon when things heat up this time next year. Can’t wait.