The year is 2018. There are rogue Mariners on the loose, upending the playoff race in the American League, threatening to crash the annual postseason party reserved for the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Indians and a rotating fifth wheel of definitely-not-Mariners.
The present Seattleites are rude, as uninvited guests often are. Because they’re not playing by the rules of winning, as established by baseball’s bourgeoisie. They’re patched together with hand-me-downs like Gordon Beckham and Andrew Romine. Somebody’s always got an injury, from Dee Gordon’s toe to Nelson Cruz’s boo-boo of the week. Their King is in exile… from the greatness he spoiled fans with for a decade. His Royal Court is dispirited, dormant, dotted with more green seats than golden smiles.
For trident’s sakes, their biggest star is staying home for half the season, after breaking some arcane sports law. (Don’t get me started on PEDs in baseball, just know I couldn’t care less about who’s using and who’s not. Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame, please, yesterday.)
The Mariners are playing above their heads, as countless pundits, fans, journalists, bloggers will tell you, while they (we) all wrestle with their (our) learned disillusionment.
Seattle’s run differential is positive, but puny blah blah far inferior to good teams blah blah blah, and their record in one-blah games is blah and blah, which is, as other voices have told you for week after week, unsustainablah.
(For the record: +9 and 16-8; Astros are +125 and 4-11. Two teams one game apart in the standings have never been farther apart in eptitude.)
I’m also not supposed to get excited about playoff odds this early, because there have been false alarms before, and I’m not talking about the twin 93-win M’s that missed the postseason in 2002 and 2003. Or the pleasant 88-win surprise of 2009.
Apparently, according to the fans of graphs at FanGraphs, the 2015 and 2016 Mariners had better playoff odds on May 28. Which seems disfathomable, yet facts:
Fuck that caution. I’m getting excited. Not just because I called the M’s to make the playoffs in 2018 — and then fall back to earth in 2019, which is beside today’s points. No, because it’s a hell of a lot more fun to scream on the roller coaster, then hug your family, out of breath, when the machine is done flinging you around the track, than to nitpick the flaws with Turn 8 (too rough) or how the drop wasn’t as thrilling as you remember from that other ride a decade ago.
The Mariners are 33-21. It’s a 99-win pace. IT IS A 99-WIN PACE. My father, a preacher, used to repeat his best lines. That’s my best line. It is a 99-win pace. The Seattle Mariners have won a hundred games once in their entire history. You know what year. If you (I) can’t get excited for this new moment, one full of promise, full of excitement, full of winning instead of losing, then why are you (I) even following this team in the first place?
Which is a fair question, most seasons.
To return to the overused, exhausted image of a sports season as an amusement park ride: Mariners fanhood is not invariably like the Disneyland teacups, where you will throw up at the end (seriously those cups are the absolute worst and nobody should ever ride them). It’s as exciting of a journey as one allows it to be. Some years ago, we took the boys, ages 5 and 3 at the time, to Disneyworld. At the top of the park, in the little kids’ zone, there’s a coaster called the Barnstormer. If you’re three, it’s a very fun word to say.
The Bawn-stow-moh lasts for all of 30 seconds. There are — OBVIOUSLY — no loops, no terrifying lurches that shuffle internal organs, no whiplashy sideways dives.
The youngest boy couldn’t get enough of it. We rode it five, six, ten times that morning, and again over and over the next day. (Some of my closest relationships, to this day, are with the ride attendants. Lucas, the perpetually bored operator, is a very nice young man now with a family of his own, settled in Jacksonville. Seat belt checker Gina currently heads her own department, the park’s Pixar Play Zone, and likes to volunteer at the local food bank.)
Seriously tho. I didn’t have to raise my hands when the Barnstormer wagons glided through the barn at speeds approaching twenty miles an hour, or when they dipped ten feet, or as they cautiously swerved a tad to the right, a tad to the left. But since I was there, and there to have fun, and there was joy to be claimed, I claimed it. The toddler and I giggled, sighed when it was over, ran back in line, rode it again. It could’ve been a chore, but it wasn’t. It could’ve been something I did as a duty, but it wasn’t. It was fun because I let it be fun. It was fun because of the people, and the journey, and the attitude I embraced.
Let 2018 take you (me) wherever it will. There’ll be chances to get off the ride later if it bores you or makes you sick. Imma coast for a while and not pull the emergency brake until later, and only if things get out of hand. Why even consider it now?