10/18/11

Why do we bother with this?

Anyone who follows me on twitter (@drewkema) or knows me somewhat well can attest that I am quite partial to baseball in general and to the Seattle Mariners specifically. Awhile back I listed the things that the NFL did to its fans during the lockout, and today I list the things the Mariners have done to return my love:
- Won 116 games in 2001, but then lost to the Yankees in the ALCS (for the second year in-a-row, and then didn’t get back to the playoffs again.

- Lost more games than they won in 5 of the next 7 seasons, including the 2008 doozy when they became the first team ever to spend over $100 million and lose over 100 games. That means they spent about $1,000,000 for every loss! Math.

- This season, they played a stretch of 17 straight games in which they did not win one of them. They were losers seventeen times in-a-row.

- They put Miguel Batista on the mound for awhile. I'm nauseous.

- They gave an amount over $1 in return for the “services” of Carlos Silva. Even more embarrassing: it was $1 multiplied by millions.
The list could go on-and-on. Being a Mariners fan doesn't quite fit the definition of fun, and yet I’m somewhat obsessive. I still watch and I still root. I still get frustrated after every loss and excited after every win. Which brings about a question that I’ve started to ask myself a lot lately: why? Why do we as fans of any crappy team both doing this? Twins fans, you'll begin asking yourself this very soon -- that is, if you are still under the illusion that this past season is just a one year thing and haven't already. It's fun to follow a team when they're good and they win most days, but why spend valuable time watching them or reading about them when they're awful?

Two main things: baseball itself, and hope. Baseball is mostly understood. Hope is cheesy/cliché. I think both are true.

I didn’t play baseball after middle school, so I don’t have that firsthand love of playing the game, but it is still my favorite sport. I love that anticipation that you have with each wind-up and the possibilities that lie behind the next pitch. Granted, sometimes there are very few possibilities (Chone Figgins = out) and sometimes there are a great many (Dustin Ackley = anything). I love hearing the crack of the bat and then watching a stupid little ball soar through the air along with thousands of others, sometimes not sure if its going to get out of the park and other times in amazement at how far that ball might go (see: Jim Thome #596). It’s pure joy to watch Brendan Ryan play the shortstop position, leaving you right with radio announcer Rick Rizzs in saying, “hoooooooly smokes!”
There’s nothing better than those situations when all hell breaks loose during one play and all are left waiting for the dust to clear to figure out what just happened. The ball started with the center-fielder, but then it went to the catcher who threw to second base but then he tried to go back to home…wait…what? How many are out? Who scored? And then there’s the walk-off. There have been tons of crappy moments in recent Mariner history, but I will always remember in 2009 when Ichiro hit a walk-off two-run home run off of the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera. It’s moments like that that make you fall in love with baseball. Joe Posnanski nails it in this article after that fantastic last night of this year's regular season..

And hope. I can look within the Mariners' own division to find a solid example: the Texas Rangers. It took 50 years for the Rangers to win their first postseason series, but now for the second straight season they find themselves in the World Series. With the right moves (Teixiera-for-their current core), and some key things working out your way (who'd have thought Josh Hamilton would be an MVP player when he came over from Cincy? The chance was there, but the move was a huge risk at the time), a team can reach the top. It can happen with the M's. I hope it does.

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