Ichiro Suzuki with his first swing of 2011 (Seattle Mariners via Twitter)
I love the Seattle Mariners. For this reason, I think I've become an extremely cynical person, but I can't just stop loving them. There are a lot of times when I have to check myself and make sure that my love for Jesus is even greater than this...so much so that I can't just 'quit loving Him' -- to make sure that love is just a part of who I am. Well, on a smaller scale, that's how it is with the M's. The image above of Ichiro taking his first cut of this year's spring training while top prospect 2B Dustin Ackley (13) looks on conjured up all sorts warm, fuzzy feelings. Last season, the Mariners lost 101 games. Translation: they're really bad. I watched them on TV a few times and hated it, and afterward I was thankful I didn't blow a huge amount on an MLB.tv subscription. When Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez wasn't on the mound, there was nothing enjoyable about watching my favorite team play. It's an awful feeling.
Living in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I'm surrounded by fans of the Twins, who would be considered the class MLB organization. Because of this, they were in the postseason (it's been 10 years since my favorite team was in the postseason), but they played the Yankees and, true to form, got swept. I attended the first postseason game, and a Yanks fan sat just behind us. Twins fans tried to get him worked up by shouting things like "Yankees Suck," which, as profound and clever as that is, didn't really affect him. He was accused, falsely, I think, of pouring a beer on someone and was almost kicked out of the game, but did return just in time to see Mark Teixiera earn his $20 million paycheck with a go-ahead home run just inside the right field pole. He was loving life. The thoughts are, man, it must be great to be a Yankees fan. They can have all the best players on their team. Would it be though? I'm not so sure.
Winning is always fun, but it's a lot like weather. The first spring warmth in Minnesota feels infinitely better to its citizens than any good weather in a place such as Phoenix, where its commonplace. Winning the World Series for the San Francisco Giants was elation. Winning the World Series for the New York Yankees is expected. How fun is that? "Yep, we won again, business as usual. Next season, please." I looked at this Yankees fan, and the only thought I had is that it's just so easy for them. How fun can that really be?
It's extremely frustrating to be a Mariners fan. Three years ago, the M's lost over 100 games. The next year, they won 85, sparking some hope in the fanbase. Then, last year, they lost 100 again. This year feels like a rehash of the 2009 pre-season...doom and gloom about the Mariners and how bad they are and how hopefully they can turn it around. Rooting for a bad team blows, and yet, I enjoy it, because there's still that hope. There's still that hope that, like the Giants did last year, the pieces will come together for a magical run. The hope that we can ride the Cy Young winner's arm, get a breakout from young guys like Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders and Ackley, and sneak into the postseason. Winning isn't expected, but I truly think it's coming. And when it does, it'll be complete elation. I may be happier than any Yankees fan could possibly be. I stick with them despite being bad, because soon we'll be good, and it'll make it that much better.