Right on the Edge

There is one small fringe benefit to the Mariners having gone to Japan for that pseudo-Opening Day.

In a normal preseason, Seattle plays San Diego about five hundred times. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. While it feels like five hundred, the actual number is closer to four hundred.

Anyway, the over-Padreization is due to a combination of factors. Most importantly, the Mariners and Padres share a training facility, so it’s convenient for them to play each other. And then there’s MLB’s late, unlamented effort to force every team into a “natural*” rivalry with a team in the other league.

* The problem, of course, is that not everyone has a natural rival. Prior to Houston switching from the NL to the AL, they were an obvious rival for the Rangers. Similarly, Angels versus Dodgers and Giants versus Athletics made perfect sense. Seattle got stuck with San Diego because they were the Wests’ leftovers. After Houston moved, it got even worse. Houston got saddled with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Seattle and Texas shared the Padres and the Colorado Rockies. Thankfully, MLB has mostly abandoned the whole concept.

But I digress.

Thanks to the Japanese excursion, the Padres and Mariners only play three preseason games this year–more like two and three-quarters, actually, since the March 5 game was a split-squad matchup* for San Diego.

* A split-squad game is where half the team plays in one game and half in another. This is often done in the early stages of Spring Training when a large chunk of the minor league players are still in camp. The idea is to give them a chance to show what they can do in something that resembles a real game without shorting the playing time of the guys who are either already slotted for the big league club or in competition for a spot.

The Mariners tied the split-squad game, lost resoundingly last night, and will play again this afternoon with a chance to finish the preseason 1-1-1 against their unnatural rivals. Tomorrow will be an day off for everyone, and then the season starts for real on Thursday.

Nobody puts in much effort in the last preseason game. The roster is largely set and getting hurt right before the season starts would be awful, personally and professionally. So everyone gets a little in-game action, goes at about three-quarters of their ability, and calls it a day. It’s generally a relaxed affair, and–benefits to the players aside–a good way for the fans to wrap up their own Spring Training.

None of which is to say that the last few games are devoid of excitement, good and bad. Boston pitcher Rick Porcello took a line drive off the side of his head yesterday. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured–I presume he’s been getting follow-up medical exams since he came out of the game, though the news media aren’t saying anything about it–but it’s not the way anybody wants to wrap up their preparations for the season.

While the Mariners and Padres are facing off for the third time, the Red Sox and Cubs will be playing for the second time this year. Wednesday’s off day will be a travel day for both: the Cubs will start the season in Texas and the Red Sox–with Rick Porcello–are heading cross-country to Seattle.

Regrettably, I won’t be able to watch the real Opening Day festivities this year. I’ll be at work when the Mariners and Red Sox take the field. Oddly, my request to take the day off as a religious holiday was denied*. But I can listen to the middle innings on my way home and watch the end of the game. Hopefully the Ms can stretch their lead over the rest of the AL West.

* No, not really. But I did consider asking.

(Guess what: it’s still early enough for everyone to be optimistic. Yes, even fans of the basement-dwelling Oakland As.)

See y’all at the park.