Moments Of Worth
As a sports fan, you can’t just look at a season as championship or bust. Maybe in select cases that makes some sense, but we’re all still here, and the Mariners have never won a championship. It’s about the experiences along the way, the things that lift your spirits, even if hope for a title has long since deteriorated. Approaching things as championship-or-bust isn’t sustainable. There have to be other upsides, other things that make it all worthwhile, and usually, there are. We’re all rational enough that we would’ve abandoned the Mariners entirely if we weren’t getting anything out of it. There’s something there, even if it too often feels like a barren emotional hellscape.
What is a baseball game but a baseball season crammed into three hours? Just as a season shouldn’t be winning-or-bust, a game shouldn’t be winning-or-bust, because of the same principles. A single baseball game is a collection of hundreds of individual events, all stringed elegantly or inelegantly together. Even if the ultimate event is a disappointing one, there can and often will be preceding events of worth. Moments that you’re glad you watched, in a game you sometimes wish you hadn’t. Moments you remember longer than you remember the final score.
Early Monday, the Mariners lost to the Indians. That much is typical, and that the Mariners lost in devastating fashion also seems typical. They wasted leads in the ninth and the tenth. Errors were committed in the bottom halves of both. Tom Wilhelmsen had the game in his glove, and he dropped it on the ground. If the Mariners were contending for the playoffs, this would’ve been a heartbreaker. As is, it just sucked. This game will subconsciously contribute to your negative impression of the city of Cleveland, even if you’ve never been for a visit. Ten years from now you’ll be in the Cleveland airport on a layover, and you’ll just feel kind of agitated, and you won’t be able to put your finger on why. There are much more palatable ways for a baseball team to lose.
But though the Mariners lost, this game came with particular moments of worth. There was Endy Chavez’s miraculous pinch-hit home run. There was Justin Smoak’s extra-innings home run. And there was a curveball. A curveball I’ll remember as long as I remember Tom Wilhelmsen dropping the baseball at first. An element of sports fandom is wanting to feel superior to other fans. A big part of that is a team seeming superior to other teams. A big part of that is a team making another team look feeble and stupid. In the bottom of the ninth on Monday, Tom Wilhelmsen made Asdrubal Cabrera look feeble and stupid. Wilhelmsen, of course, would look stupid himself moments later, but by that point the curveball was seared into my memory. You don’t soon forget a batter looking like this:
Baseball players, almost all of the time, manage to look like legitimate, talented baseball players. Tom Wilhelmsen threw a curveball that could make a man wonder what he’s doing. Yes, absolutely, the Mariners would lose the game. But they sure as hell didn’t lose all of it.