There is only one reason-besides mental illness-that I can come up with, as to why I am a fan of the perpetually mediocre Seattle Mariners. I believe it is because I tend to favor local teams. The University of Washington-yes; Washington State Cougars-never, ever; not if my life depended on it. I grew up a Dodger fan, but when Seattle got there own team-the Pilots in 1969, I was thrilled. Major league baseball in my state! Hooray for Ray Oyler! But some used car salesman bought the team during spring training the following year and moved the Pilots to Milwaukee.
Seattle got another team to start the 1977 season, but the name Mariners was not as cool as Pilots. That’s another story. I still pull for the local teams, but I question how long my Mariner support can continue. I feel the calling of Dodger Blue. I feel the spirits of Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Junior Gilliam, Charley Neal, John Roseboro, Jackie Robinson, and Don Drysdale calling me back to my childhood love. I love Dodger Stadium, having been there a few times enjoying baseball and Dodger Dogs. I have always loved their home uniforms and caps. My favorite player was and still is Sandy Koufax.
But it is hard to leave the Mariners after nearly 40 decades. Like a long marriage, it is sometimes difficult to give up, admit that its not working. I wonder if there is a sports fan counselor one can go to for therapy, trying to work things out with your current favorite team?
Comparing the history of the Mariners to that of the Dodgers is like comparing a cheap dime story paperback with a literary classic. Granted the Mariner history is far shorter, but I feel abused. How much more losing, how much more mediocrity can I take. From 1995 through 2002 was fun, but outside of the Pat Gillick and Lou Piniella years, there is nothing much to get excited about.
I will still write about the Mariners, but will also write about any baseball subject that catches my attention. That is to protect my remaining sanity as writing about the M’s last season was like writing about the M’s of any season. A year has four seasons; winter, spring, summer, and fall. The Mariners have one season, the same one. I need a change.
My website: http://terrynelson.net/
My e-book Loonies in the Dugout: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391479731&sr=1-3
I watched Tampa Bay’s Jose Laboton hit his walk-off home run to beat Boston. As usual with all walk-off home runs there is a tunnel of players at home plate to pound him on the back as he runs the gauntlet to touch home. Then the players gather into a 25 man group hug, jumping up and down together like soccer fans on meth.
I thought how odd it was. In the old days, the player who hit the game winning homer was met at home with handshakes, but not the whole team, more than likely the hand shake came from the on deck batter and whoever else straggled out. The team usually waited near the dugout. Not much hugging though.
The same activity, though a bit more chaotic, happens when a team like the Dodgers, later in the night, wins the division series and advances to the championship series. They also like to pound each others backs, give hugs, and jump up and down like those meth head soccer nuts. I remember when the Dodgers won the 1965 World Series against the Twins (I was a mere child). Comparing the Dodgers win over the Braves in the NLDS and the 65 Dodgers, you would never know the 65 team just won the World Series. The smiles were all the same, but the body language has certainly changed.
I forget which player from days earlier than the 60’s said, you have to have a lot of boy in you to play baseball. (I think it was Don Newcombe). Certainly true of todays players who act like little boys when a home run ends the game or their team wins the World Series or league championship. It is not meant as derogatory. I find it ironic because today’s players make more money then players in olden times. It means millionaires celebrating like today’s players do, is an indication that money has not jaded them. They act like the little boys in themselves, as if the are back in little league.
Teams used to celebrate in their clubhouse, now they do it on the field. Nothing wrong with any of it, but, to be honest, it is getting redundant. Some team needs to bring into existence the next evolutionary act of celebrating. Maybe winning players jumping into the stands and hugging fans, kissing babies, and posing for twitter pics. I like it.
San Diego came into Safeco Field with a 6-31 road record. Their ERA on the road is 4.95. They have one of the worst offenses in baseball and have hit the fewest home runs. Yet they win game two 1-0 on a home run by a player with fewer homers than Ichiro. Edinson Volquez who had not won since May 12 made Mariner batters look silly in the final game.
All in all a very embarrassing series that drew a paltry 44, 321 for the three games. The good news is that after hitting .181 against the Dodgers, Mariner hitters slugged .243 against the Padres. They just couldn’t score.
The problem is not Safeco Field. It’s dimensions are not that big, there are much bigger parks to hit in. It is a great place for gap hitters. Here are some numbers to prove my point.
In 2001 Mariners hit .283 at home, 293 away. In 2002 .264 at home, .285 away. In 2003 .264 at home, .278 away. 2004 .255 at home, .284 away. They hit better at home in 2005 .260 to .252 away. In 2006, .265 at home, .277 away. 2007 .283 at home, .290 away. Once again they hit better at home in 2008 .271 to .260 away. In 2009 .255 at home, .260 away. 2010 was balanced, .235 at home, .236 away.
Then we come to 2011. They hit .223 at home, .242 away. The numbers are worse this year. The point is that though the road numbers were ususally better, they still, for the most part had good averages.
The common theme the last two seasons is that the team is made up of young players trying to establish their careers. And Safeco Field is getting into their heads. It is the elephant in the room. You tell yourself not to think about elephants, but all you think about are elephants. All the players think about is that they can’t hit at home.
It is an aberation, one that needs a talk from the manager, the hitting coach, or a psychologist to get them thinking correctly.
You watch them on the road and you see confidence. You see them at home and they flail away at bad pitches and look like little leaguers at the plate.
The Padre series is the low point of the season so far. The Mariners for some reason have fared better against good teams and with the Giants, a better team than the Padres, it is time to get untracked.
I few blogs ago I revealed my fan stats that showed my record when attending Mariner games. My won-lost percentage is over .500 and since the Mariner historical record is far below that magic number, I have proven over the years to be an asset. They have a better chance of winning when I am at a game.
But like an old veteran player in the twilight of his career, I want to play for a winner one more time, or at least an exciting team, so I am wondering if fans of one team can ethically declare free agency and go to another team. The obvious problem in picking a new team is that I really can’t move to a different city, but I can keep track of wins and losses based on watching my new team on TV.
First a short fan history. Growing up in the 1950’s there was no major league baseball in Washington. My best friend loved the Milwaukee Braves. But you can not pick your best friend’s team. That is just not right. So you pick his team’s rival, which in the late fifties were the Brooklyn Dodgers. He called them bums. I took offense and they became my team.
It stayed that way through the sixties when they were dominating with Koufax on the mound in Los Angeles. I loved how they used their farm system, always bringing up players, who if not becoming stars, played a key role on the team.
Then one day I am watching the bums on TV and wondered where the Dodgers went. It was the era of Brett Butler, Eddie Murray, Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry, and all those free agents who were nearing the downhill side of their careers, if indeed they were not already there. I realized they were not Dodgers, but just players wearing a Dodger uniform. I felt an emptiness in my baseball soul.
By this time the Mariners were on the scene and living close enough to get all Mariner news I was like a territorial pick and they became my team. While they teased in 95 and the early part of the decade the Mariners have turned sour. How much can a fan take?
I can not be a fan of Boston or New York, because that is being a front runner. Cubs? Too cute and they never go anywhere. Historically they are as frustrating as the Mariners.
I thought about the Reds because I am somewhat of a leftist, so they seemed politically correct at least. The Brewers are the old Pilots that moved from Seattle, so they became a strong favorite. But then I looked at a team that seemed to be on the rise. They had Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and were making good moves over the off season. Then came the Strasburg game.
Washington has a new stadium, cool uniforms, great caps, solid young players, and oh yes, Strasburg. The Braves were once America’s team when they were on TBS. No more. What could be a better fit for America‘s team than the Nationals.
With my proven track record I can help. Maybe Scott Boras can branch out and represent fans with winning records. Does anyone have his cell number?