Cactus League Game 18, Mariners at Royals
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Ervin Santana, 1:05pm
I’d talk about this match-up between Cactus League heavyweights, but when you get right down to it, this is practice baseball in which Jason Bay bats leadoff (again) and where Robert Andino starts. It’s not nothing, but there’s no Felix and it doesn’t involve any of the pitchers battling for the final rotation spot.
So if you’ll indulge me, I wanted to talk about this. Jeff Sullivan’s leaving Lookout Landing, and while he’ll be writing here from time to time (woohoo), I’m going through withdrawal symptoms right now and it’s the early morning the day after his announcement. For many, Jeff’s writing kept them attached to this star-crossed team, especially if you’d moved away from the Northwest, or if you had a natural aversion to emotional investments in failing enterprises. I’m too far gone for that – if you could stay a fan through the Argyros years, a decade or so of futility almost felt familiar and comfortable, like a well-worn pair of the worst hiking boots ever sold. But it would’ve been worse – immeasurably worse.
The community he created and shaped was unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the internet. I’m still stunned that hundreds of people would come to together and essentially create and enforce an ethos and mores the way they did. Sure, it wasn’t for everyone, but it was pretty close to unique and it wasn’t dependent on any cabal of commenters to keep it going – new people would step forward and maintain the same basic system. At this point, there are only a handful of people there who were commenting in Lookout Landing’s first days (and from Sullivan’s first blog, Leone for Third), but it didn’t matter. The whole thing reflected Jeff’s idea of what a baseball community could be, and very early on, he didn’t have do too much to keep it in line. People just found it, people who didn’t just want to emote or make psychological judgements about ballplayers. People who care a lot about proper grammar, evidently.
I simply can’t imagine what it was like for Jeff to do this essentially every day for nine years. I can’t imagine staying up to write game recaps with win-expectancy charts for another 8-3 loss to the Angels or whoever. I can’t imagine trying to be creative as you watch one front office implode, and then watch another stumble a bit in the face of the sky-high (maybe too high) expectations we all put on them. I can’t imagine cranking out that much content and have it remain readable and funny. People talk about how amazing it is to see something like Barry Bonds stats from 2000-2003, or Pedro Martinez’s 1999-2000 peak, or maybe Bob Gibson/Sandy Koufax’s great years in the 1960s. The analogy isn’t perfect, and I get that, but after writing a tiny bit these past few years I feel like I have a better sense of how apposite it is: Jeff Sullivan has been Koufax level for years. I’ll miss the daily dose of it, but I’m thrilled that he’ll be posting here, and I’m thrilled I can still read plenty of Sullivania at Fangraphs. Koufax was the product of a time when easing back on innings or workload was the sign of weakness. I’m really glad Jeff’s backing off before he got too burned out to do this at all anymore.
If you look at the starting line-up here, scroll down to the pitchers – the guys eligible to come in and work an inning after Iwakuma. There’s righty Dominic Leone, who pitched for Everett last year and, predictably, hasn’t made an appearance in big-league camp this year. I just…wonder what it was that caused the M’s to pluck him from the back fields today. I know it’s too much to hope he’s the third pitcher used today, but I’m going to hope for it anyway. C’mon Leone, we believe in you.
1: Bay, LF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morse, 1B
4: Ibanez, DH
5: Saunders, CF (Welcome back, Michael)
6: Shoppach, C
7: Peguero, RF
8: Andino, SS
9: Triunfel, 2B