So close. So, SO damn close. A mere 3.1 games away from the kind of magnificent, glorious, ignominy I revel in as someone who pays a lot more attention to the Seattle Mariners than any sane UK resident should.
The 2020 Seattle Mariners are, according to Baseball Prospectus’ mighty PECOTA projections, on track to be the second worst baseball club in the Major Leagues. There are caveats of course. The fact the Royals and Tigers are projected to have a couple more wins than Seattle’s 66 this season, for example, probably has a lot to do with the fact they have to play each other 19 times this year and they’re both so crap they are bound to eventually beat each other up. We don’t even have that. We’ve got a year of watching Mike Trout, Matt Chapman, Jose Altuve and the Toddfather (!) destroy a pitching rotation made up of seemingly lovely men whose names fit all too nicely in front of the phrase “…saw his ERA rise to 6.09 on the season”.
I think my joy in this unequalled ineptitude comes from a very deep place. At University, as a 19-year-old football fan, my mate Boomer had a motto about me that he’d repeat whenever I got home from watching my local team take another heavy defeat on a Saturday afternoon. “Bamos gets relegated. It’s what he does”. In that second year of University, the three football teams I had either a prominent support for (my local team), or even a passing affinity to (the big team I supported as a kid, the City where we were at Uni), all got relegated. It isn’t possible to experience that and not feel a bizarre sense of pride, to revel in the fact that while what you’re watching is inherently terrible, it’s still YOUR terrible.
Reading Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch probably helped cement this. His account of following Cambridge United on their astonishing 31-match winless run in 1983 kind of glorified failure in my mind. As he says in the book, “I would like to be one of those people who treat their local team like their local restaurant, and thus withdraw their patronage if they are being served up noxious rubbish. But unfortunately…for us, the consumption is all; the quality of the product is immaterial.”
It’s one of the reasons why my normal joyous exterior really cannot fathom the fans commenting on Facebook under every Mariners post about their 18-year playoff drought. “We’re doing something great for Pride!”, say the M’s. “How about doing something great to make the playoffs INSTEAD, idiot ballclub!”, say weird angry men. Yeah man, sorry, the team can’t win this year, the social media dude was busy posting rainbows on the internet.
Those commenting guys don’t care about a rebuild, a 2022 divisional title challenge, or a stacked farm system, I guess, which is what the Mariners are actually all about in 2020 and why PECOTA isn’t happy with them.
Anyway. Only the Orioles are apparently in line to win less than those magical 66 games, with 62.9. Despite this, those pesky birds still have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs. The beautiful, untouchable Mariners sit pretty as the ONLY ONE of the 30 MLB clubs with a literal 0.0% chance of doing that. If that’s not the sweet smell of success, I don’t know what is.
Here’s your hero, shortly before finally connecting with a baseball
The battle with the Orioles might define this season for me. I went along to the opening of the new Home Run House venue in London back in February with a mate – an Orioles fan – and, emboldened by a couple of free beers, we stepped into the batting cages. For two minutes each, we swung a bat and aimlessly tried to hit baseballs as far as we could, standing static and wild like fat windmills trying to swat pigeons. The score, after each of us attempted to hit around 30 balls each? A pathetic, barely credible, surely-its-harder-to-miss-that-many-balls, 1-0 to YOUR 2020 Seattle Mariners. It was appalling and bad and unwatchable and it was bloody brilliant.
It’s going to be a hell of a year. And I’m ready to sit back and enjoy it.
Bamos is covering the Seattle Mariners during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @applebamos