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Dealing with Grief & the 2015 Seattle Mariners

Friday, July 31, 2015

 

Just before the 2015 baseball season was set to kick off, the city of Seattle was abuzz with hope and expectations; why shouldn’t it be? Baseball experts everywhere were building the Mariners up to be one of the top teams in the game.  Talking heads on TV and the ‘net were praising General Manager Jack Zduriencik’s (Jack Z to most writers and reporters, as that grouping of letters would have even the Nate Silvers and Elon Musks of the world tearing their hair out trying to remember the proper spelling) offseason sabermetric and platoon based additions to the roster, not mention the big splash of signing the oft-injured, alleged steroid dabbler, and aging slugger Nelson Cruz to a 4 year/$57M contract. Needless to say, I was skeptical. The tickle at the back of my brain that used to be known as Eternal Optimism tried to grab my attention, but the new President of my emotions, Pessimism, had it locked away immediately.

As I went about my day, the people around me couldn’t help but stick out their chests and crow about this year being “the year.” See, my peer group tends to show love to one another by being as hurtful and condescending as is humanly possible. They all know about my deep love of baseball and are even more keenly aware of the deep love and constant disappointment I have for the boys combatting the “marine layer” at Safeco Field in Seattle. They know I have disapproved most of the moves Jack Z has made in the last couple of years and the opportunity to throw the national media’s glowing praise in my face proved irresistible.

The season has gone even worse than I had envisioned. While not believing the Mariners would be real contenders, I thought that the roster had at least enough talent to limp into a Wild Card slot before flaming out with a weak taco burp in the playoffs. It would have been a start and have broken up the 14-year stretch of postseason impotency.

Here we are, just days before the trade deadline and the M’s are stuck. They are on the outside looking in with little chance at making the playoffs, and have no pieces to sell as it would signal a white flag being waved by the front office, a front office who could see some overturn at the end of this season. Here we are, and I am gripped by overwhelming grief. As much as I complain about the play of the team and moves made by the suits in charge, more than anything else I want to win. There is no place more electric than a baseball stadium filled with fans believing that their beloved team can win it all, and again we won’t get to experience that here in Northwest, leaving us to grieve the death of yet another season. To help others as despondent as myself, I have decided to walk you through the five stages of dealing with grief as they relate to those who are “true to the blue,” so that next spring, we can wander back out to park and maybe embrace that little tickle at the back of our brains.

Step 1 – Denial

Denial is the part of the healing process that makes us stronger. It helps us deal with how senseless life can be. It blinds us to the fact that after a blistering start, crushing 18 home runs through the end May, Nelson Cruz started swinging a paper maché bat in June where he walloped just one souvenir between the foul poles. It helps us cope with the fall Homer Simpson took when he tried to jump the gorge on Bart’s skateboard and apparently had Robby Cano’s plate discipline and base running savvy in those blue slacks’ back pocket. Not recognizing the failings with each game, shaking our head and rolling with the ‘we’ll get em tomorrow’ philosophy is classic denial, and we ‘ve all experienced it this year.

Step 2 – Anger

My favorite part of dealing with grief is anger. It’s the most human reaction to something displeasing that we are capable of feeling. Hoooo boy, have I felt a ton of it this year. Particularly with Lloyd McClendon’s refusal to stop trotting Fernando Rodney out in meaningful game situations! The best waiter at the Home Run Ball Bistro’s ERA sits at a heart stopping 5.71 with a whip of 1.49 and he continues to get work in important spots, late in games! I MEAN WHAT THE, WHO, %$#@???! 

My apologies, I had to leave the room. I can’t even discuss him without having to take my blood pressure medication, which makes me drowsy. I’m in my early 30’s with high blood pressure. THANKS FERNANDO!!! 

Step 3 – Bargaining

The most philosophical of all the steps in the healing process is bargaining. You start to make deals with yourself and others inside your head. You promise that you will never say another unkind word about Brad Miller’s questionable defense at short if he starts hitting like we all know he is capable of, as he teases us with from time to time. If Jack Z cuts Rodney now I’ll stop calling for his HEAD AND MAYBE WON’T… deep breaths … We’ve moved past anger. This is bargaining. Perhaps if Mr. Z were to DFA a certain archery-obsessed reliever, I would applaud the move publically and not complain about another bullpen arm for the rest of the year. As the remnants of the season start to swirl around the drain, my biggest bargain is that in return for some smart moves and some glimmers of hope these last few months, I will write a bright-side only piece next spring that centers on the positives that came out of the 2015 season and the winter that followed. Bargaining can be hard.

Step 4 – Depression

After realizing that bargaining is nothing more than a giant crock of horse feathers, depression sets in and as a Mariners fan, the soil is ripe. It is vital to understand that depression is a direct response to loss, or losses, be it 90 or 100. There is a lot to be depressed about here. In 38 seasons, your Seattle Mariners have made the playoffs only 4 times. They are one of only two franchises to never even appear in a World Series (the other being the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, who will probably end that drought soon, maybe even this year). Robinson Cano is in the midst of a steep regression season in year 2 of a 10-year pact. Felix, believe or not, is not Dorian Gray and he does age. That window is closing, and I can’t think of anything more depressing than the King never getting to pitch in crisp, playoff baseball air. Sigh. I need a nap.

Step 5 – Acceptance

At the end of our journey is acceptance. It's often confused with being “ok” or “fine.” There is a good chance I’ll never be ok with what’s happened here this year, but I’ll learn to live with it. I accept that James Paxton’s boo boo to his finger made him miss most of the season. I accept that Mike Zunino might never be able to lay off those pitches 3-feet off the plate. I accept Dustin Ackley will never show us that pretty face behind that condemned crack house of a beard. For all the vitriol I feel today at how this season has gone I’ll come to terms and look forward to next year, talking about AJAX, DJ, and the Ketel Martini in the minors (more on nicknames to come), the brilliance Taijuan Walker flashed at times this year, and how Safeco in the summer is still one of the best places in the country to take in a ballgame while sipping a frosty beverage, no matter what is going on in the field.

We’ve come full circle and exorcised our demons and can now move forward amicably. Except for that beard … somebody hold Ack down and bring me the clippers.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News here.

 

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