Reviewing The 2014 Seattle Mariners Commercials
I like the people with the Seattle Mariners who help put together the team commercials every year. I like the Seattle Mariners, or at least I think I do, or at least the Seattle Mariners are the most recent baseball team that I know that I have liked. Just the other day, the Mariners released their set of commercials for the 2014 season, and this is where you can watch them. The link’s been out for a few days, and the commercials have already started to air on TV, so there’s a good chance you’ve already seen them and thought about them at length. But I consider it a responsibility of mine every March to review the commercials and in so doing take them entirely too literally. This is the fulfillment of my annual obligation to myself.
A note: I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the lines, all commercials on TV got really weird. I don’t know if there ever really used to be straightforward advertisements, but now everything is surreal or tries to play off a really unusual joke. Take any commercial literally and your brain is going to refuse it. They seldom stand up to sense. So while some of the Mariners’ commercials don’t stand up to sense, that doesn’t make them sloppy. That makes them normal, because normal is weird, and that’s weird. Weird is in! Weird is hip! We’re not all going to go dateless! Maybe FanGraphs jokes should stay on FanGraphs. Okay, back to this. Brief reviews, in order.
As is generally the case, the best commercial in the group stars Felix Hernandez, who manages to have a playful personality to go along with his literally lethal repertoire that is lethal literally. Felix Hernandez could kill a man with his baseball pitches. What we have is Felix suddenly donning various regalia after each strikeout. Articles appear on his person out of thin air, and they change every time. Remarkably it’s taken in stride, considering the completely unprecedented nature of matter being made out of nothing, or, alternatively, teleported from an unknown location.
We know this hasn’t happened before, because when Felix first earns a crown, he looks up and says “huh?” He is decidedly unimpressed, and when it happens a second time, Felix responds with sarcasm. He grows accustomed in a hurry. The same goes for the people on the field behind him.
I’m not even addressing Felix’s mechanics. For his first strikeout, he drops down and throws at about 75% effort. For subsequent strikeouts, he somehow throws without leaving the rubber. I’d say that’s burying the lede, but I guess it’s fair to make the lede the scientific improbability of things appearing on a man where before there were no things. Of interest: Felix always keeps his uniform on, underneath the articles that appear. However, three of four times, he loses his hat, and it seems like in each case he loses his glove. Does he have to get a new hat and glove before the game can resume? What is that delay like? How about the delay of having to remove a suit of armor? What do you do with a suit of armor that you can’t wear during a game? Every time Felix strikes a batter out he ends up in violation of the MLB on-field uniform policy.
You wonder where the crowns and other articles are coming from. Are they created, or are they moved from another location? Are they removed from someone who was already wearing them? In that event I’d like to see that side of the commercial, too. It isn’t brought up, but without question this would get annoying, pretty quick, for everyone. It’s neat at first, but so is an earthquake, and no one wants to keep going through earthquakes. As such, I suspect, in time, Felix would start pitching to contact, actively trying to avoid strikeouts. So Felix would be worse, and he’d work slower (due to uniform delays), so Felix would turn into Miguel Batista. It’s quite the monkey’s paw kind of arrangement. “I want a crown every time I strike someone out!” /wish granted “oh no, the unforeseen connnnnnnnnsequences”
Slow Mo and Music
Sticking with the comfortable theme of scientific impossibilities, we observe a world in which everyone acts in real time, except for Robinson Cano, who exists within our world and his own slow-motion world simultaneously. Again, as was the case with Felix, what we’re seeing is a new phenomenon, presumably. Brad Miller hadn’t heard about this. We’ve certainly heard nothing about this. But Lloyd McClendon saw it coming, so maybe McClendon is a seer, or a visitor from a future time. I feel like, if I were Cano, I’d be considerably less cheerful if I could never speed up. One would adjust — one can adjust to just about anything — but I think you’d miss real speed if you could no longer operate at it, especially if everyone around you is scurrying by like nothing’s up.
There’s something extra strange: that which interacts with Cano is also slowed down. The Moose slows down. Grounders slow down. Pitches slow down. Miller and McClendon don’t slow down, even though they’re talking about Cano and looking right at him, making eye contact. Where’s the line between active and passive engagement? Are Miller and McClendon just coincidentally immune? WHAT IS HAPPENING
My favorite angle is the mocking one. Cano does everything smoothly, but he developed the reputation in New York of being an occasional candyass. People got on him for not busting it down the line to first base, and now the Mariners have aired a commercial that has Robinson Cano acting in slow motion. Yankees fans would be like “yeah basically”. Then they’d be like “what do you mean ‘Brian Roberts’”. I like to think the Mariners did this somewhat on purpose even though I’m certain they did not. I mean, they filmed the commercial on purpose, but, oh nevermind.
Hisashi Iwakuma, the all-business pitcher and the all-surprising person. Not gonna lie — this one’s grown on me, and it’s mostly because of this one single screenshot:
Here’s the thing I don’t understand. Charlie Furbush is surprised by Iwakuma’s balloon animals. He’s surprised by Iwakuma’s break-dancing. He’s surprised by Iwakuma’s singing in the shower. Charlie Furbush and Hisashi Iwakuma have been teammates on the Mariners for two seasons. Spend two seasons with a guy and you usually get to know him pretty well, even if you don’t mean to. Hell, Mike Zunino isn’t surprised by Iwakuma, and he’s been a teammate for a fraction of the time as Furbush. What is the history between Furbush and Iwakuma? Why did they keep such distance from one another? What’s brought them together in 2014? Did something about Furbush make Iwakuma uncomfortable before? Did something about Iwakuma make Furbush uncomfortable before? I should also note that Iwakuma is probably forbidden from break-dancing per the standard terms of his contract. Which doesn’t mean he wouldn’t still do it, but he probably wouldn’t do it in the team’s own weight room.
Old School Kyle
Kyle Seager is pitched as an old-school style of baseball player. What this actually means is that Seager is white and mostly adequate across the board without having any particular standout skills. He’s a guy who works hard to maximize his relatively ordinary talent. Now, as far as the commercial is concerned, I don’t know what’s old school about starting a game with a dirty uniform, since I’m pretty sure even in the olden days they had laundry. There’s certainly nothing old school about using Twitter, no matter how you do it, and if you equip an old typewriter with Internet capability then to be honest that’s pretty cutting edge and sort of hipster. Even if Seager wanted to practice getting hit by pitches, I’m pretty sure the Mariners would put an immediate stop to it on account of not wanting to be reduced to starting Willie Bloomquist. You know who’s the most old school? The Seattle Mariners’ front office. They could’ve alternatively shot that commercial. But then I would hate that commercial and the individuals featured within it. The new school’s pretty good. The old school can be kind of antiquated, and if you go back far enough, super racist. And if you go back even further, wow, dinosaurs! As you might be able to tell I don’t have many thoughts on this commercial.
First of all, yeah, no one’s going to recognize Henry Chadwick the first time. Everybody will recognize Henry Chadwick the second time, and all subsequent times, because the previous times will have identified the man as Henry Chadwick, and people pay attention. And then, if you’re going to go to the trouble of bringing up Henry Chadwick, you probably shouldn’t tell people it “makes no sense” to use a K for a strikeout. It’s weird, to be sure, but there is an explanation, and it’s kind of famous — the S was already used to denote a sacrifice, and K is the last letter of “struck”. So Chadwick went with K, and K is kind of the most distinctive letter in “strikeout” anyway. Who’s narrating this? Why didn’t he look that up? I just looked it up again and it took me 30 seconds. A little research and the narrator could’ve avoided his completely erroneous conclusion! How embarrassing for him, this is going to air on television a whole bunch of times.
The Felix commercials will stick — Felix isn’t going anywhere, and I think the guy behind him in center field is Abe Almonte, who also isn’t going anywhere. Even if he does, he can’t be identified in the spot conclusively. Seager’s commercial will stick. Iwakuma’s is a little more dicey, as you never know when Furbush might get traded, and I think that’s John Buck there in the break-dancing scene, and Buck could go away with little notice during the summer. Cano’s commercial will stick, because Brad Miller is the shortstop and Lloyd McClendon can’t get fired that quick. By keeping all the commercials in steady rotation, it’ll take longer for them to get old, but I don’t find any of them to be genius. There are just individual highlight moments, like Furbush’s stare, or Felix earning his first crown. In other words, there are moments like Bullpen Face and last year’s Dustin Ackley, but there’s no Larry Bernandez in the crop. Maybe that would be unfair to expect. They’re 30-second commercials, and being incredibly and consistently clever is hard.
As always, I appreciate that the Mariners have people who make this a priority, and I appreciate that the team commercials are a point of pride. I appreciate that this is a thing to look forward to, and I appreciate the players’ willingness to participate. I appreciate that my standards are impossibly high and if you’re trying to be funny I’m difficult to please. Maybe all of next year’s commercials should feature John Mulaney instead of Mariners stuff. If I still like John Mulaney by then. But who could possibly ever grow tired of John Mulaney? He’s adorable! The cold truth is that no matter what you do you’re probably going to have a hard time selling people on the Seattle Mariners. Better days ahead, hopefully.
Oh wait, I just realized something. Another way in which Kyle Seager is old school is that he’s a talented and productive position player on the Mariners.
For the second year in a row, the Mariners are “True to the Blue”. For the second year in a row, I’m perplexed. Is it a reference to people who are blue, or depressed? Is it a reference to Seattle Mariners tradition? In either case, if the Mariners were to stay true to the given blue, it would seem to promise a summer of agony. “2014 Seattle Mariners: we’re going to Mariner again.” Good seats are still available!