If it was a person, it would have a driver’s license.
It’d be wrapping up eleventh grade, might have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, may have just gone to prom. It’d be concerned about little more than finishing the penultimate year of high school before transitioning to a carefree summer filled with friends and fun. It’d be quite convinced it knew all there was to know in the world, yet still naïve to the reality that awaited later in life. It’d be a pain in the ass at times, an endearing goofball at others.
But it’s not a person. It’s a 17-year-old curse. A shadow that has loomed large, if not visible, over Safeco Field for nearly two decades. It has sucked the life out of a fan base that has become increasingly absent as time has passed. It has plagued a franchise and burdened a city.
Seventeen years without a playoff appearance. The longest drought of its kind in American professional sports. Even the Cleveland Browns have been to the postseason more recently than the Seattle Mariners. The biggest laughingstock in football somehow plays second fiddle to our baseball team.
In a word, it has sucked. No one has enjoyed watching these guys stumble their way through season after season. There have been washouts and rejects and has-beens and never-will-bes. Veterans who took their dying breath as major leaguers here, malcontents who tried to fight their manager, cleanup hitters who would spend time in prison, budding superstars who only thrived after being traded.
There were multiple guys who hopped in trucks and drove away midseason – the Mariners lead the league in that category. There was a fourth outfielder who couldn’t get a bunt down in crunch time, then fled the locker room on a beach cruiser. There were brutally botched drafts and a farm system depleted once, then twice, of any semblance of talent.
We penned odes to clubs that fought to no avail to stay above .500. We got our hopes way, way up for prospects who would never pan out. We let doomed Septembers tantalize us, then dopily refueled our optimism each spring.
We gave opponents free reign over our ballpark. Visiting fans would travel far and wide to watch their squad unleash hell upon ours, then loudly announce their presence to the few among us who masochistically slogged our way to the stadium in navy and teal. We let Blue Jays fans in. We let Yankees fans in. Angels fans, A’s fans, Astros fans, even those insufferable Red Sox fans. This was their home away from home and what could we do about it? Our players were terrible, our management hapless. We became witnesses to a seemingly eternal train wreck. We suffered. For seventeen long, miserable years, we fucking suffered.
It’s over. I hope the rest of the league enjoyed itself at our expense, because it’s fucking over. You had your run. Now it’s our turn.
The Mariners are back. Not just a little bit back, or mayyyyybe back, or could be back. They are fucking back. They are 20 – TWENTY! – games over .500 and in first place in the American League West. They have the third-best record in all of baseball and are hotter than a sunbathing habanero.
They haven’t lost in extra innings. They’re infallible in one-run games. Their pitching staff is stingier than a brand new slot machine and their offense is delivering the kind of punch that would make a pugilist cringe.
They just swept the team that was supposed to knock them back down to earth. They’ve won 20 of their last 25 games. They’ve had more walk-offs than a downtown parking lot.
Mitch Haniger is a folk hero. James Paxton is a dominating ace. Dee Gordon is a breath of fresh air, Jean Segura a machine, Nelson Cruz a thundering force. The bullpen murders hopes and dreams, the starting staff death by a thousand carefully-crafted, corner-clipping cuts.
What about perception? No one thought they would be this good. They’re only just now beginning to register on pundits’ power rankings, only occasionally getting airtime on SportsCenter. No one believed they’d be where they are. Who are these guys, anyway? Haniger? Healy? Gonzales? LeBlanc? And what about the run differential? They’re barely winning these contests. And the Astros, look at those sons of bitches. They’re killing fools. And the Angels? They have the best player in baseball. No, they can’t sustain this, not the Mariners…
You can take your run differential, crumple it up into a little ball, get it real good and tight, and shove it straight up your ass. You can take your preseason projections and shove those up your ass. You can take the Angels and shove them up the Astros’ ass, and then you can take the Astros and – you guessed it – shove them up your ass, too. It’ll be a big ol’ ass-shoving fest. We’ll host it right here in Seattle.
Forget the past. Leave logic and trepidation behind. This is it. This is fucking IT. This is the season we’ve been waiting for, the one we can go all-in on, the one that can have our hearts. It’s not time to dip a toe in the water. It’s time to back up, get a running start, leap off the deck, and go cannonballing into that pool with everything we’ve got.
Clear the fuck out. Go. Be gone. Because this is our time, right now.
If you know nothing else, know this: 2018 belongs to the Seattle Mariners. And it’s time you started believing.