Think back to when you were in high school for a minute and try to remember that one girl who sat behind you in third period English for an entire semester. You know the girl I’m talking about. The one who never said a word for four years, but ended up becoming an absolute knockout by the time you stumbled out of college.
You spent all those weeks sitting in front of her, never realizing she would turn into the girl of your freakin’ dreams. And when it was all said and done, you sat back and watched her run off with some musclebound, Ed Hardy-wearing douchebag, living vicariously through what shoulda-coulda-woulda been via one of those awkward “I knew you way back when” Facebook friendships.
What the hell happened, you thought to yourself. How did I so badly misjudge what that shy bookworm would become? Where did I go so drastically wrong?
Enter the 2011 Seattle Effing Mariners.
Yes, fans, your Mariners, they are that girl. Only this time, there is no Ed Hardy-wearing douchebag. There is no vicarious Facebook friendship. There is no regret.
No fans, there is only joy in this metropolitan Mudville of ours. Because while we failed to realize what this shy bookworm could become before the start of the season, we understand now what we’ve encountered. This is a playoff-caliber baseball team. Our playoff-caliber baseball team. And no one will take this blossoming beauty away from us. We’re embracing her. Because we’ve noticed, fellow Seattle sports brethren. We’ve seen what this ballclub is capable of, and we’re going to enjoy the living crap out of it. From now until October. Summer love.
God damn, it’s nice to not have expectations, isn’t it? To quote Peter LaFleur in Dodgeball, “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal.” Spot-on, Peter. Spot. On.
We had no hope for this team as little as one month ago. Think about that. In four weeks, the Mariners have gone from redheaded stepchild to redheaded, long-legged, big-breasted vixen. Damn you look fine, M’s.
Ever since we cut Milton Bradley, it’s like we can’t lose. One bad apple had spoiled the entire bunch. Like Ray from Remember The Titans. As soon as he was gone, wouldn’t you know it, sh*t turned around.
Sure, it hasn’t been all roses. There are a few thorns — Donkey in general, Ichiro in May — here and there.
But mainly it’s been fun. Because we’ve let it be fun. We weren’t instructed to Believe Big. We weren’t pledged a hefty bill of goods. We weren’t budgeting for Battlefield Earth so much as we were Slumdog Millionaire. And this is where we stand: Two games over .500, one-and-a-half back of division-leading Texas in the American League West, and with a seat all to ourselves in second place.
There is a laundry list of heroes that have gotten us to this point.
Felix Hernandez with his regal pitching performances.
Michael Pineda with a certain canyoubelievethat?! talent level that should have every fan questioning why the organization ever so much as considered handing the fifth starter’s role to a journeyman like Nate Robertson.
Justin Smoak with his ability to carry a patchwork lineup that more closely resembles a who’s-who of common cards.
Erik Bedard with his resilience (yes, I said it) in bouncing back marvelously from severe shoulder surgery.
Jack Wilson for his composure in handling the role of a backup with particular aplomb.
Luis Rodriguez for channeling memories of Alex Diaz and Doug Strange with his aeonian clutchness.
Brendan Ryan for hitting .384 in May, resuscitating a batting average that was on life support at the end of April.
Carlos Peguero for swinging harder than sh*t at everything that nears home plate.
Mike Wilson for being a g.
Franklin Gutierrez for figuring his stomach out.
The bullpen (with special consideration for the holy triumvirate of David Pauley, Jamey Wright, and Aaron Laffey) for outperforming all standards.
Jack Cust for returning to relevance.
Brandon League for returning from a week in hell.
And the list, undoubtedly, will continue to go on.
Fact is, we didn’t think this rendition of the Seattle Mariners would be any fun at all. Yet here we are in June and we’re having more fun than we’ve had in years.
It’s all about our level of expectation. This team might very well be headed for an epic collapse. Then again, it may just as well be destined for a World Series title. At this point, we don’t care. It’s a fling, a ride, an endeavor.
This is our high school moment. Third period English, the world at our fingertips, the girl of our dreams right behind us. We’ll turn around and say hi. Expecting nothing. Getting whatever tomorrow brings.