Mood Swings

Baseball is not a game for the weak of heart. And I’m not even talking about playing the game. Even watching it isn’t for those with heart conditions.

Two weeks ago, the Mariners were at .500, clinging to respectability and their fans were starting to mutter about “next year”. I said “They’re not doing well enough to allow one to hope for a turnaround, but they’re also not doing so poorly as to force one to give up on the season.” They were nine games behind Texas in the AL West and six games behind Boston and Toronto for a Wild Card berth.

How true those words proved. In the past fourteen days, the Mariners have played 13 games, winning 11 and losing only 2. That gives them–as the TV commentator pointed out several times last night–the best record in baseball since the All-Star Break. They’re now five and a half games behind Texas and only two back of Boston.

In other words, they’re not in a playoff slot, but they’re relevant. Even more: if they keep winning at their current rate, they’ll finish the season at 101-61. Winning 100 games doesn’t guarantee a team will make the playoffs*, but with the expanded Wild Card, the odds are certainly in favor of getting in.

* Just ask the 1980 Orioles (100-62), the 1993 Giants (103-59), and half a dozen other teams, going back to the 1909 Cubs who finished 104-49, a full seven games behind the Pirates.

Of course, the likelihood of winning 84% of their games over the next six weeks is negligible. According to fans’ guts, which base their estimates on the Mariners’ forty year history, the most probable outcome is an epic collapse in which they lose eighty-four percent of the remaining games to finish at 70-92. That slideplummet could–will, says the gut–begin today against the Angels, who have now lost eleven straight.

Back in reality, of course, the odds are good that the Ms aren’t going to win 101 games and just as good that they’re not going to lose 92. FiveThirtyEight’s updated prediction has them finishing 87-75, with a 44% chance of making the playoffs*. That’s…not bad.

* Since we were talking about the Cubs’ World Series drought two weeks ago, I feel obligated to point out that FiveThirtyEight’s current prediction is for the Cubs to finish at 100-62, with a probability of making the playoffs over 99%. But even with that, FiveThirtyEight gives them only an 18% chance of winning the World Series.

But tell that to the heart. Unless you’re one of those rare people who can sleep on a roller coaster, this is the time of year when your heart gets a real workout. Remember: nobody, not even the lowly Braves (44-74) has been eliminated from the playoffs yet. Any victory could, in theory, be the start of a run like the Mariners have been on for the past two weeks. And any loss could be the start of a plunge to the basement.

So, take your nitro tablets, hold on to the grab bar, and turn on the TV–better yet, collect the family and head to the ballpark, if you haven’t been priced out of it.

Forget Rio; the action is right here. The real playoffs started April 3, and the teams are playing every day.

2 thoughts on “Mood Swings

  1. As I’ve said before, I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the run of the 1951 New York Giants, capped by Bobby Thomson’s home run. That has left me with an incurable optimism for my baseball teams,Giants, Mets, and Mariners, but also for life in general. Which, I’d say, is much better than the opposite. I’m glad I wasn’t born 5 years earlier, to suffer in my formative year through the Giants of that year, who hit the cellar with a resounding thud.

    And yes, it’s annoying to hear all the so-called fans who think the important and interesting games don’t start until October. Six months of great ballgames, shrugged off as mere preliminary window dressing.

    Cost? Where else do you get a good seat at an evening’s entertainment for about 30 bucks? Yes, I know about food and drinks, but if you go to the theater, you still have to get dinner. Suck it up.

    Go Mariners! Bobby lives!


    • Can’t argue with any of the first thoughts. But $30 can really add up, especially if you’re bringing kids as you should; where else will the next generation of fans come from?

      Let’s not forget the role of sports in general and baseball in particular to build community. That only works if all of the community can afford to attend. Watching a game on TV doesn’t give you the same connection to your neighbors as sitting in the bleachers with 30,000 of your closest buddies. (Yeah, I’m an incurable optimist in that regard. Wanna make something of it?)


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