To be honest, in recent years, I’ve been paying attention more to my original Major League Baseball team than our local one.
After all, I grew up in the Los Angeles area where, during the first 10 years of my life, my team–the Brooklyn and then Los Angeles Dodgers–won four World Series. When I was just 14 days old, the Dodgers put away the New York Yankees in a game 7 at Yankee Stadium.
I grew up with heroes like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, John Roseboro, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, his brother Tommy and on and on. Put me on a game show and ask me to name as many of those players from that day and I know I’d get most of them.
I grew up at a time when baseball games on TV were a rarity and a treat. The Dodgers were never on unless they were on the Saturday Game of the Week, or occasionally, when they headed north to play their rivals, the San Francisco Giants. That was a big deal in southern California. The rest of the season, most evenings around our house were spent listening to Vin Scully on the radio, so we could follow what those Bums were up to.
Shortly after I moved to Seattle, the city was awarded a team to replace the Seattle Pilots, who left for Milwaukee after just one year here. In putting together a brand-new Major League franchise, we landed Dick Enberg’s sidekick on the Los Angeles Angels broadcasts, a guy by the name of Dave Niehaus.
How lucky we were.
So, over time, I learned to cheer on the local team, despite their record. We would always have brief glimmers of hope, only to see them wither away, season after season. That is, until 1995 when the Mariners took fans on the ride of our lives. For the first time, Seattle got to feel what it was like to be in a pennant race, to host playoff games, to have last second-dramatic finishes. But unfortunately, the ride ended short.
In 2001, one of America’s most tragic years in my lifetime, the Mariners managed to win 116 games in a single season. We thought for sure this was the year. It wasn’t.
21 years later, I’ll be the first to admit, I was slow getting to the party. I wanted to believe, but after two decades of frustration and my childhood team putting a winning team on the field, it made it too easy to not take this year’s Seattle Mariners seriously. We had just missed the playoffs last year and of course, the mantra is always, “Yeah, wait until next year.”
But it finally happened.
I’ll be honest. Some of my baseball buddies would tell you that I was running around saying that Mariners Manager Scott Servais would probably be gone by the 4th of July. Once again, we started strong and then had a late-June crash and burn. In my mind, when we needed a new manager sevenf years ago, we hired some assistant coach from the Angels and saved a few bucks.
However, team President Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais had a vision and where so many had failed before, they did those pain-staking, not-gonna-happen-overnight things that get you a competitive team for now and for the future. Not just dragging in a big name or two on the edge of retirement, but bringing in the right position players. It’s that rare crescendo of good scouting, good gut instincts, making a killer trade-deadline deal and locking in some of those key players so they’ll be here for years to come.
The 2022 Seattle Mariners are real, they’re the team I’ve been waiting to cheer for, and I’m now a born-again baseball fan.
Apologies for my lack of faith in this team. And thanks for bringing back baseball fever again throughout the Pacific Northwest.
I stand corrected.
So, I had finished writing this prior to the Mariners’ first game against the Houston Astro’s. Yes, the one where we had a 4-0 lead and a 7-5 lead as we headed into the bottom of the 9th.
For some God-forsaken reason, for the final batter of the game, Scott Servais chose to bring in struggling Mariners starter Robbie Ray to get the last out. For the Dodger fans reading this, yes, he Kimbrel’d it.
Why in God’s name he chose to give the ball to Ray baffles even the newest baseball fan. Yes, Robbie won the Cy Young in 2021, but this year, it frankly hasn’t been pretty, including recently. A week ago, I watched him give up 6 runs to the lowly last-place Oakland A’s in one of the last regular season games of the year. Then, last Saturday, we saw him melt down against the Toronto Blue Jays and give up 4 runs. Now, you’re going to let him pitch to Yordan Alvarez, who has terrorized pitchers all season long? We had room on the bases. Why not intentionally walk him? This was not a wise decision.
Don’t tell me about statistics, just go with common sense.
But instead, we all watched, we waited and we saw what we expected. Alvarez walked up and knocked out a 3-run home run, stealing a win from the Mariners and the fans who had poured their hearts into that game.
Even psychics say that one was too easy to call.
The disappointment was equal to a certain Seahawks Super Bowl a few years ago when Russell Wilson threw an interception, instead of the team just running the ball a yard.
Robbie Ray? Really? (wow, I sound like Scoobie Doo) Was Bobby Ayala not available? For that matter, maybe the Mariners should have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Oh, there goes my blood pressure again. Well, perhaps we can right the ship tomorrow.
So, I now sit corrected.
And now, I’m sitting up straight.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said that the reason he went with Robbie Ray was due to the process that got them to the playoffs that they used all year. His words:
“Obviously, it didn’t work yesterday, but that has nothing to do with our process,” Servais said Wednesday. “We have a really good process. It’s something that we have developed over time, specifically the last couple years, in our decision-making. … We made the decision we made based on the players we had available, based on the numbers and the information I had available — and stand by it.”
OK, so you’re saying you’re removing the thinking portion of managing and using basically a computer-style model and letting it make the decisions.
Yeah, that’s great. But I will point out, this is why we don’t have self-driving cars yet. After your car runs over a couple of people, you might want to take the wheel.
OK, I’m done.