My name is Luke and I have a problem. I have been a Mariners fan for twenty-three years.
To be fair, I shouldn’t be introducing myself in that way because I am in no way a recovering Mariners fan. No, I am as addicted to distant hope and irrational belief as I’ve ever been. Maybe I have progressed from the worthless optimist who would drink a shot of whatever Bill Bavasi poured in front of me, maybe not.
Despite the constant attempts to make myself realistic about who the Mariners are and where they stand, a large part of me still believes the Mariners will win the AL West this year, and all of me still hopes it will happen. Now might be the worst time of year for addicts like myself. Pitchers and catchers just reported. There is no football to distract us from the bigs. We have yet to see a game to remind us of the holes in this roster. There has inevitably been a big off-season acquisition that is supposed to be the savior of the franchise. This year’s saviors name? Jesus. Seriously. Jesus. Yes, there is just a different, special, glint in the Moose’s eyes in mid February that makes it impossible not to believe.
This year, however, it is more ridiculous than ever to get my hopes up like I am. Of the top two teams in last year’s AL West race, one is the reigning American League Champion who is returning most of it’s roster and upgraded its starting pitching with the addition of the most coveted foreign player of this off-season. The other? They too are returning most of their core and added one of the greatest baseball players of all time, in his prime, to the center of their lineup. Even Jack Zduriencik himself is trying to temper expectations in what some people are calling honesty and others are calling “if I tell them we’re not going to win now then maybe when we’re twenty games out two months in they won’t want to fire me”. Okay, so maybe I’m the only one calling it that. Look, I really like Jack and think he’s doing some great things, but when it comes to this season, his quotes over the last few weeks haven’t felt exactly like a motivational pep talk. Earlier this month he said,
“Then you look at what happens in this division. No matter how you shake it, you can’t ignore what Texas and Anaheim did, and those clubs were ahead of us prior to these moves. So it’s an uphill battle. We’ve got a real challenge before us.”
Now go get ‘em boys! So what do you do if you’re in this position like me? Every logical part of you sees the signs. This is a rebuilding year. Wins will be scarce and little victories, like Smoak hitting for a better average or Ackley improving his defense, should be celebrated. It’s going to be a long, slow season and you probably won’t see the payoff until 2014. On the other hand, your heart wants you to believe. Eric Wedge is a great coach. The young chemistry of this team can carry them a long way. Felix is everything you want in a team leader. Jesus is here to save the offense. Seriously?! Jesus! And I’m supposed to be realistic about this?!
My vote? Go with your heart. Isn’t that what sports is all about? Giving into that hope and belief? Plus, I’m an addict, so there’s that. So although my mind says this team will finish around 70 wins, over 20 games out of first, and be completely out of the race by mid-May, I’m picking with my heart. The M’s finish with 87 wins, the other teams struggle a bit and we take the pennant, and the Seattle Mariners go to the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history. And even if I’m wrong, I’ll be happy I let myself believe. Now please remind me I wrote this in mid-May when I when I’m crying into my pillow while whispering “There’s always next year, there’s always next year”.