Rationally Irrational

As I write this Tuesday evening, the Mariners are one game over .500 and trying to make it two. So, naturally, the newsosphere is full of caution. “The season is only a third over.” “A lot could change quickly.” “This is no time for irrational optimism.”

Talk about radical misperception.

Baseball is all about irrational optimism.

Think about it: At least 50 times in each game, somebody voluntarily confines himself to a small box while another guy throws rocks at him. Blunt force trauma is no less dangerous to life and limb than holes-poked-in-you trauma is. Yet these people are optimistic that those rocks won’t hit them–and that they can use a piece of wood to defend themselves against the rock-thrower.

That’s pretty darn irrational.

Every year fans decide, on no evidence whatsoever, that this will be their team’s year.

Ridiculously irrationally optimistic.

The commissioner forces through strange new rules in the hope of making games shorter, yet never addresses any of the delaying tactics players use to control the pace of the game.

Incredibly, stupidly, irrationally optimistic.

So don’t talk to me about keeping my hopes realistic.

Bigger picture: America is full of irrational optimists right now. Justifiably so in many ways.

Removing mask mandates and distancing rules even though vaccination rates are still hovering around 50%. Trusting the unvaccinated to not claim to be vaccinated. Expecting Republican lawmakers to respond favorably to appeals to patriotism, honor, and justice.

It’s been a very long year and a half. Nobody is going to dial it back and settle for rational optimism.

Not that rational optimism is even being offered. This is a confrontational, contrary age. Irrational optimism not your bag? Your only alternative today is irrational pessimism. “Earth is going to be destroyed by an asteroid.” “COVID-19 is the first stage of the zombie apocalypse.” “The Mariners won’t win another game this season.

I don’t know about you, but if I have to make that choice, I’m not going to pick looming disaster. We’ve been there and done that for quite long enough, thank you.

While I was writing the previous two paragraphs, the Mariners gave up six runs in one inning. I’m choosing irrational optimism. Maybe they’ll come back in the last three innings to win. If not, there’s going to be another game tomorrow. After all, the season is only a third over and a lot could change quickly.

Take Me(self) Out, Part 2

It turned out to be a very good ballgame. As long as you’re not an As fan, anyway.

Perfect weather: sunny and warm, but not furnace heat. SPF 80 sunscreen may have been overkill, but better too much than not enough. I’ve had enough painful sunburns to last me a lifetime, thanks.

Decent seat: five rows back from the Mariners’ bullpen, which made for an interesting perspective, even if it was further away from the infield than I really would have liked. I did have the fun of seeing a foul ball zoom by overhead. Here’s a shot of the Mariners’ closer warming up to give a sense of the perspective I had.
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The Mariners came from behind to win for the second day in a row. Can’t argue with that.

And some of the questions from this morning’s post got answered.

Franklin should be back, spiked shin and all, soon, possibly as early as Friday. Miller, the SSotF did a creditable job filling in at second, which allowed Brendan Ryan to play short (more on Ryan shortly).

Early on, it looked like the imposter pitcher showed up, but then Iwakuma got his act together. The seventh inning was rocky as well, but he and the team survived.

No astounding emergency call-ups for the As, but they had better call up or otherwise acquire a catcher unless Norris will be back very soon. As we’ll see in a moment, trusting everything to their current healthy catcher is a risky business.

Donaldson’s bat apparently took the day off, as he went 0 for 4. Coco Crisp’s wrist is holding up so far. Not only did he hit a home run on the first pitch he saw, but he also launched the vicious foul ball I mentioned in the third paragraph.

So that’s a 5-4 road trip for the Mariners against three of the best teams in the league–or at least, three playoff contenders, depending on how you really feel about Tampa Bay.

Back to Brendan Ryan. Ryan is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game today, and one of the worst hitters in the majors. Which explains why I started looking for a wall to bang my head against when he came to the plate with two outs, two on, and the Mariners down by a run. When he fell behind 0-2, I stopped looking for a wall and started eyeing the back of the seat in front of me. And then he did this:
http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=29914595&topic_id=8877606

I was very glad to see Vogt get up and finish the game. My first reaction when I saw him rolling on the ground was “The As catchers are cursed this year.” I said earlier that the As need a backup catcher desperately. Had Vogt not been able to continue, their only choice would have been Josh Donaldson, who was a catcher before he moved to third base. Not a good place for the team to be in. But Vogt is apparently OK, and the As are undoubtedly digging through the waiver wire looking to see who’s available.

Certainly the Mariners caught a break there. Looking at the replay, that second run might actually have been the third out, but that happens some times. All part of playing the game.

Also notable on that play: If you have very sharp eyes, you might see me in the background as Ackley and Vogt collide. Look five rows up behind the Sonic.net sign at the 1:30 mark.

There you have it: one of the worst batters on the team came through with exactly the hit the Mariners needed, they took the lead, and went on to win. Perfect. And that is why I watch baseball.

Take Me(self) Out…

By the time you read this post, I’ll be out of the house and on my way to a baseball game. My Mariners are in town for the last time this season. They’ve got three more games against the As–the last three games of the season–but since those games are in Seattle, this is my last chance to see them live this year.

The As are 71-54, fighting with Texas for the division lead. Even if they lose the fight, they still have an excellent chance of making the playoffs.

The Mariners are 58-67, fighting with Anaheim for third place in the division. It would take a minor miracle for them to finish the season at .500; they’re pretty much right on track to match last year’s 75-87 record.

The game is at O.co Coliseum (no, that’s not a typo, it really is “O.co”), one of the grungiest stadiums in all of baseball.

And yet, I’m still happy to be going.

Despite what MLB says, until there’s a team in Portland or Vancouver, Oakland is the Mariners’ natural rival, not San Diego.

There are still stories to follow.

On the Mariners’ side, will Rauuuuuuuul break the over-40 home run record? Counting today, he’s got 37 games to hit 10 more. Five more would give him the over-41 record.

Will their second baseman and short stop of the future avoid another “learning experience” in the field? Errors are a fact of life, especially for rookies. But do they have to come in clumps like this? How long will Nick Franklin, the 2BotF, be out of action after taking the As’ catcher’s spikes in his shin last night?

Will their number two pitcher show up with a seven inning, one run performance like his last start, or will the imposter who gave up six runs in the previous game show up?

Across the diamond, the As specialize in building teams of no-names and getting top performances out of them.

Will an emergency call-up come out of nowhere to astound?

Will Josh Donaldson continue his assault on a .300 batting average and .900 OPS?

Will Coco Crisp’s wrist hold up? For that matter, will former Mariner, now A, John Jaso recover from his concussion and get back into the As lineup? He hasn’t played since July 24, and may be out for the rest of the season. (Jaso took foul balls to the head on the 23rd and the 24th. Who says baseball isn’t a violent game?) How long will the As’ other catcher, Derek Norris, be out after fracturing a toe when he got his spikes caught in Nick Franklin’s shin last night?

There’s cause for depression (a 4-4 record on this road trip so far) and optimism (those 8 games were against three of the best teams in the league, and had the Mariners avoided a couple of mental lapses, the record on this trip could easily have been 6-2).

Depression: Why can’t the Mariners manage to pitch, hit, and field in the same game? Other teams do it.

Optimism: At least they manage two out of three most days. That’s more than we could say a couple of years ago–or even at times earlier this year.

But the bottom line? It’s baseball, damn it!

See you all tomorrow.