Are we really going to do this again? It’s just—you’ve burned me so many times before.
April is upon us and there’s an air of hope drifting through the Seattle spring breeze that these parts haven’t seen in years, bolstered by ESPN’s prediction that you’ll be among baseball’s elite. My heart’s telling me it’s time to let you fully back in my life. But…
I’ve been a die-hard Mariners fan since I was still playing Little League in Montana. I’d tune in daily to watch the coolest team in baseball: Griffey Jr., the Big Unit, Edgar, Buhner, pre–über tool A-Rod. Y’all ruled, even if it didn’t translate to deep postseason runs. Eventually most of those guys left, but you still turned into the most unexpected juggernaut in sports history in 2001. With Ichiro and a record 116 regular season wins, you seemed destined for your first World Championship. Which didn’t happen because the Yankees knocked you off in the American League Championship Series. But still. The future looked bright!
And then you morphed into a horror show of unmitigated incompetence. In the decade spanning 2004 to 2013, you averaged more than 90 losses. You’ve signed train wrecks like Carlos Silva and Chone Figgins, traded away future All-Stars like Adam Jones and Asdrubal Cabrera for busts like Justin Smoak, and led me to innumerable obscenity-laden comment tirades on the M’s blog Lookout Landing.
What’s worse, since 2001—your last trip to the playoffs—you’ve become irrelevant, like some low-rated niche cable show I can only discuss with fellow crazy fans. During that same stretch the Seahawks went to three Super Bowls and won one. The Sounders are more popular than you, and they’re only played five full MLS seasons. Heck, the Sonics have more loyal fans than you, and they’ve been gone since 2008. With all due respect to the Storm, you’ve managed to become the fourth most popular pro sports team in a three-team town.
But last year, against all odds, you had a shot at making the playoffs until the last day of the season. And then you built on that success this winter by signing baseball’s reigning home run champion, Nelson Cruz. When you add that kind of power to the core of King Félix, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Hisashi Iwakuma—plus the rising young pitching talent of starters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker—my gut says it seems crazy that you wouldn’t make that slight improvement required to jump into the playoff conversation. And though my brain is hesitant to agree, even the analytics experts at Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs both have sabermetrics that project you’ll still be playing come October.
I want to believe. I want to experience the King’s Court—in all its noisy, yellow, and obstructed-view glory—in the playoffs. (But seriously people, hold the damn K cards at chin level.) I want to develop new vices to cope with the stress that is living and dying on every pitch of a playoff game. But more than anything, I just want you to give this city and this region a reason to care—really care—about baseball again.
Love (against my better judgment),
This appeared in the April 2015 issue of Seattle Met magazine.