With every ill-advised decision their favorite baseball team makes, the frustration boils and festers until it can’t simmer any longer. It’s the kind of maddening anger that widens the eyes and quickens the pulse and feels as if it can only be satiated with destruction and rage. Unleash a fury of haymakers upon a punching bag. Smash a Louisville Slugger upon the ground until splinters fly in every direction and sweat drips to the earth. Throw a TV out a window, scream to the heavens, sprint until a lung bursts, whatever it takes to ease the angst. And yet the angst never eases.
The club’s latest maneuver has nearly everyone wondering whether the brass on the corner of Edgar and Dave have any clue what they’re doing. On Sunday, the M’s optioned outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for the activation of pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. In doing so, they elected to keep outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on the big league roster – despite the fact that Heredia had outplayed Suzuki in every facet of the game to begin the year.
Though any of number of excuses could be conjured to justify keeping the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer around, the reality is that the organization chose to honor a legend rather than invest in the on-field success of the ballclub. Anyone with two eyes and a passion for the game could see right through the front office’s intentions – and that, above all else, was incredibly irritating to a fan base that has suffered long enough.
To be a Mariners fan is to accept the notion that you will be patronized. Your feelings will be sacrificed, your attention perpetually drawn away from the product on the diamond, your money spent on empty returns and the hope for a better day.
Like magicians deftly performing sleight-of-hand trickery, there may be no better franchise in baseball at distracting an audience while simultaneously bludgeoning the emotions with Oscar-worthy video montages and an expertly-choreographed soundtrack. The pros they have on staff at Safeco Field can make a ceremonial first pitch feel like the goddamn climactic scene in Rudy. One too many beers and your average attendee will have tears in his eyes as some doofus who accomplished something no one would otherwise care about strolls to the mound and lobs a 40-foot three-hopper to whichever fringe major leaguer was unfortunate enough to draw the short straw that evening. Only when the suds settle and the final inning has long since concluded do we come to the realization that we’ve been used.
And who, I ask, wants to be used? The jaunt from the stadium to the car bears a strong resemblance to a walk of shame. The urge to slip off one’s shoes and sling them over the shoulder flutters through the confusion and indignity. We see our reflections in windows as we pass and my, how whorish we look in these slinky teal outfits in which we’ve adorned ourselves. There is no commitment here, no love. This is a flirtation gone awry, lust exploited for the benefit of the selfish.
So it is that we are patronized, time and again. And with each subsequent letdown, every questionable decision, every stark reminder that this franchise seems to care less about winning than its competitors, our ire is drawn anew.
Perhaps such a trivial roster shakeup shouldn’t elicit a reaction of this magnitude. But then again, the message being delivered by an ownership group that has yet to field a winner feels misguided and uninformed, almost as if the team itself is under some assumption that fans will come to the ballpark just to see Ichiro. Surely that can’t be the case – we’re talking about very wealthy men who have made myriad good decisions to find themselves in control of a major league baseball franchise – but such a belief, however foolish, has been echoed across all forms of social media by a resounding majority of Mariners faithful.
In the annals of Seattle Mariners history, the aftermath of each screw-up has seemingly been compounded by another equally damning blunder. It is this phenomenon that keeps fans from believing things will ever get better. Today, it’s the demotion of a player who deserves a far better fate. Tomorrow, it might be another poorly-designed rebuild, a crap managerial hire, or a decade wasted on potential talent that never comes to fruition. We’ve seen it all before, and it never ceases to amaze.
Failing fast and avoiding the same mistake twice is the mantra of well-run corporations across the globe. The Mariners don’t seem to abide by such a mindset, however. They commit similar flubs over and over again, extend long leashes to perennial underperformers, and operate on nostalgia rather than promise. It’s a recipe for disaster that has helped this team reap precisely what it has sown.
The fans deserve better. They deserve a winner, a championship, something to be proud of. But the franchise? They’ve made their own bed and earned every ounce of vitriol that comes their way.