This site was supposed to be a joke.
Launched on a day whose name is synonymous with distress, a fraction of a way through a season we didn’t believe was lost. Mehriners, a would-be ironic portmanteau that never quite turned out to be that way.
I hate to say it, but we gave up on this season. Or rather, I did—I can’t speak for my fellow contributors, but the months-long radio silence coming from this page speaks for itself. We all have our distractions, our other priorities, and as the Mariners’ season sunk deeper and deeper into the mire from which it never recovered, it was easy enough to give up and walk away. It wasn’t so funny when it was true.
I kept up with the Mariners this summer, but not in the way I hoped. The fervor faded, like in all lost seasons, and I got caught up in the whirlwinds that are life. I worked on my book. I swam in Lake Washington for the first time. I traveled a bit. The day I arrived in Boston, I watched the last few outs of Iwakuma’s no-hitter on my cell phone, narrating it to my mom and sister as we walked from our hotel to have dinner on a harbor patio. Two days later, we watched the team get bombarded in Fenway, a Kyle Seager home run the only redeeming moment for the few Seattle fans in the crowd, my mom screaming “Good!” with every blow struck against the M’s. I cheered too, rationalizing it as a better draft pick for the Mariners, and a better experience for the Fenway Faithful. Bigamy means rationalizing a lot.
The next day, as we killed time before our respective flights out of the city, I expressed remorse at missing a Felix start in my favorite ballpark, only to change my mind when I checked the score. It was that kind of season, where even missing out wasn’t really missing out.
Jack Z. got fired, Jerry Dipoto replaced him, and all sorts of long-awaited staff shuffling took place. As much as I occasionally enjoyed Lloyd McClendon’s antics, his managerial tactics always struck me as atrocious. In fact, in all these lean years, Don Wakamastu was the only manager I really liked. But the real changes, the necessary changes, are yet to come.
I was thinking about the shape of things last night, in the moments after the Royals won the World Series, when I couldn’t bear to turn off the TV because when my screen went black, it would mean baseball was gone. Gone, and far away, as far away as it will ever be, spring training but a distant concept featuring names we don’t yet know.
There’s a wonderful essay by A. Bartlett Giamatti, who would later go on to become commissioner, which he wrote about his beloved Red Sox on the final day of the 1977 season, the year our Mariners debuted. “The Green Fields of the Mind,” it’s called. There’s one part that struck me last night, at home, out of the (Royal) blue:
The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
The irony of being a Mariners fan is that, for so many years, we’ve felt the opposite. That while so many other fan bases treat the offseason as a time of rest, and the summer as a time of celebration, we’ve been forced into a parallel universe, where hope only exists when our team isn’t on the field. Maybe this trade. Maybe this signing. Maybe our front office has finally figured it out. At the beginning of this calendar year, all the projection systems pegged the 2015 Mariners as a sure success, but instead, the team faltered and failed and was dismantled, as best as possible, before our eyes. We blossomed in the winter, and withered in the sun.
And so, yesterday, on the day we stopped saving daylight, the baseball season came to an official end, five long weeks after our team’s games ceased to matter, and a month after they stopped being played at all. Once again, on the outside looking in, now longer than any other baseball team.
Three days after the Mariners were eliminated, I went to a game at Safeco. One last game, as part of the final homestand, as has become a tradition for me. I paid a fraction of the face value for my ticket, and enjoyed the mostly empty stadium, even taking advantage of the apathy of ushers to go sit with an old friend who happened to be there, directly behind home plate. Last year, my final game of the season featured Felix on the mound and the hope of a drought ending. This year, there wasn’t even the hope of a tomorrow. Next year, maybe.
There’s no word that encapsulates the Mariners fan experience more than that, on the day after baseball went into hibernation. We look at Cano, Cruz, Seager, and Felix, and think that, if we squint, we could see these men celebrating on some field next November. That “miracles” and “Mariners” are both the same number of letters, and former’s felt overdue for oh so long. That, now that next year is only two months away, now that a dead season has given way to dying leaves, we can see the shape of the future, and perhaps some promise therein.
After all, this site was supposed to be a joke. Maybe it still will be.