Game 160, A’s at Mariners – No Gods, No Masters

marc w · September 27, 2019 at 5:09 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Justus Sheffield vs. Mike Fiers, 7:10pm

What day is automatically happy now? How do we get up to watch a regular playing-out-the-string ball game? Why couldn’t Felix have had Mike Fiers age-30-34 seasons? That’s not too much to ask, right? He’s just Mike Fiers! Why is he good now, and Felix has tearfully left for an unknown future? Why do we like something so unrelentingly cruel?

Justus Sheffield is starting, so ostensibly we can check in on the M’s rebuild, but I’m not feeling it. I hope the M’s are soon competitive, but they’re clearly not today. I hope Sheffield can become a solid #3 starter, but he’s not one now. I hope his change-up develops into something intriguing, but while it’s got a small velo gap, a la El Cartelua, it lacks the bite and swerve. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Sheffield, who’s improved markedly since being recalled, and could be an important player in 2021. But he’s still just a player. We’re missing an icon, and I’m not sure we’ll get another one, however many wins the M’s notch up in 2021.

Mike Fiers. What in tarnation? Fiers throws a four-seam fastball at 90 MPH, and while it’s got good vertical movement, it’s not all that special. He pairs it with a good curve, and an assortment of good-enough pitches: a cutter, a sinker, and a change. The whole thing adds up to more than a collection of sub-standard parts because of the way he uses them, and his command. In a game that now preys on fastballs, he’s thrown less of them and used his approach to generate a low BABIP to at least staunch the damage the HRs he inevitably gives up do. The low BABIP gameplan has even led to two no-hitters. Not bad for a non-prospect 22nd-round draft pick. Fiers career only really took off, haltingly at that, at the time Felix’s started to stumble. I’m going to keep seeing echoes of the King, little reminders of how fickle the game is, for years, but a day after Felix’s emotional farewell, I find myself randomly mad at Mike Fiers. Sorry, Mike. Nothing personal; your story would be encouraging and worth celebrating at another time. Today is not that time.

1: Long, LF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Nola, 1B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Lewis, RF
6: Vogelbach, DH
7: Murphy, C
8: Walton, 2B
9: Moore, CF
SP: Sheffield.

Felix’s finale occasioned some amazing, emotional writing. Patrick Dubuque’s “Long Live the King” is magisterial and affecting. Meg Rowley’s is equally so, and both hit on the unique ability of a guy like Felix to lift us out of time and space. Both use debt as a metaphor, albeit in opposite ways. It was so emotionally wrenching in part because we feel both sides: our hopes of championships and parades a debt unpaid, and at once filled with so much meaning and emotion and pride that he never asked for – we borrowed it all *from* him, and can’t pay it back (not that he’d ask us to). I love and I hate that it ended like this. I love that he got to hang with King’s Court, that the M’s could engineer a memorable night like this, right down to the mid-inning call to the ‘pen. I hate that all of this was possible because the M’s had been eliminated, like every other year, and thus gratitude, and respect would fill in for delirious joy. We’re all older now, especially him, and gratitude and respect are old-people feelings.


One Response to “Game 160, A’s at Mariners – No Gods, No Masters”

  1. LongDistance on September 28th, 2019 6:48 am

    I’m sad to see Felix go, and all the more so at this point when… so many ifs are hanging all over the way his career fizzled in Seattle. I loved watching him, and loved the fire and determination he brought into the game when it seemed he was about the only one on the field with any of that. And for that alone I’m grateful. But I have to admit I was already taking a step back over the past few years, and found myself watching Felix and thinking how sheer, incredible talent mixed with audacity and competitiveness, at some point had needed a bit of mature self-analysis. Not navel gazing… but an understanding that at the summits of professional sports, the incremental changes of age and physical prowess which would have next to no visible effect for mere mortals, become a very real thing to contend with. The difference between a 20 year old and a 30 year old at these levels, is real and real adjustments have to be made, both physically and mentally. All the guys with careers ranging well into their 30s have done that. And to ignore that is simply setting oneself up for a headlong run straight into the wall. Felix will indeed be going somewhere else and it’s going to be a complicated thing to see him step out onto the mound in another uniform. But… since when was being a baseball fan in Seattle not a complicated thing?

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