Game 158, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · September 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Daniel Mengden, 7:05pm

This season hasn’t gone according to plan for either club, and now the games are about seeing something from rookies and planning for the future. Given how different these clubs looked a month and a half ago, or at least, how different these clubs looked at themselves, it’s kind of stunning to see that they’re separated by a couple of games in the standings. The A’s, the team that sold off Sonny Gray, and who’d seen the rest of their good starters torpedoed by injuries, are neck and neck with the club that tentatively, sort-of went for it. As I mentioned yesterday, the A’s called up a couple dozen prospects, and the kids have been alright, producing an aggregate batting line that’s among the league leaders. Outside of Matt Chapman, they can’t really catch, but hey, if you want to put a positive spin on the A’s (at this moment) last-place campaign, you can do it.

It’s harder to do for the M’s, for reasons that have much more to do with expectations, payroll, expectations, injuries, and expectations than they do with the specific players and how they fared in 2017. More and more, I think trying to assess the team’s progress towards some ultimate goal is a bit futile, or at the very least, kind of a downer. I don’t mean to re-write Patrick Dubuque’s masterful summary of another year that felt like this one, but I do want to note that this year felt a bit like poetry. Poetry is not, pace many definitions out there, about “beauty” and it’s sure as hell not about who’s going to win the AL pennant. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.” Wikipedia’s definition gets at something important, too: “a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.” The key is the substitution of “ostensible meaning” for “concentrated imaginative awareness” of something else, something in addition to the plain text.

In a teleological sense, this year kind of sucked. Everyone got hurt, which hobbled the M’s chances in 2017, and now everyone’s a year older, there are no prospects on the immediate horizon, and the Astros and Indians look like they may be good for a long while. Hell, even the A’s – the poor A’s – can speak of their reasons for trading Gray, and how it moves them closer to their ultimate aim. The M’s can’t really do that, and – here I’m talking to myself, mostly – there are only so many ways of saying so. What were the rhythmic qualities of this season? What was substituted for bland “our goal is to build a world championship ballclub” talk?

This season was the tension between the sharp, business-like litany of transactions, beginning before the actual games, and continuing after the games are done, and a 91 MPH fastball, with plenty of armside run, snaking across the plate and boring in on a right-handed hitter. The transaction list grows; it becomes almost a parody of itself. The pitch is always 91 MPH. The batter may be looking change-up. The game itself is no longer interested in 91 MPH fastballs, and looks quizzically at the transaction list. The pitch bends confidently.

Is that enough? I don’t know. I just know that I can *see* this season, and that it reminds me of Ryan Feierabend, and that sounds horribly dismissive, and I honestly – honestly – don’t mean it to. I don’t doubt that the M’s brass has some sort of a plan, and that the flurry of moves and the lack of concrete steps forward in talent isn’t dispositive proof that it’s flawed. I know that the Mariners gave up 36 HRs on fastballs between 90-92 MPH, but I don’t know how we’ll see Kyle Lewis next year, or what Evan White might do in the Cal League. I’m worried about the A’s, but then, the A’s looked dead in the water like 3 months ago. This season was a 91 MPH fastball, arcing back towards the middle of the plate. If you want a strikeout, that’s not the pitch you’d throw. But it could set up another pitch, and I look forward to seeing that pitch next year.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Haniger, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Alonso, 1B
6: Zunino, C
7: Valencia, RF
8: Beckham, 3B
9: Motter, SS
SP: Paxton

Dave’s post on Bruce Maxwell is a solid one mostly for the slightly off-topic but absolutely necessary entreaty to donate to Puerto Rico relief efforts. Puerto Rico needs a ton of support right now, and if you want to do it because Edwin Diaz (or Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor or Roberto Clemente) is from there, cool. If you’re moved to help fellow Americans in need, great. If it’s a more universal desire to assist when you’re aware of suffering, do it. Just help.


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