Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thing I'm Thankful For

During the off season it was all you could do to avoid people talking excitedly about the Seattle Mariners. They traded for Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley, they signed Chone Figgins and “The Kid” (not quite “The Kid” anymore) was back for one last farewell tour. That, coupled with the fact that Ichiro was still Ichiro1, led a lot of people to believe that the Mariners had a strong chance to wrestle control of the AL West away from Anaheim (or rather Los Angeles of Anaheim in California).

The other thing people couldn’t stop talking about this off season was how bad the San Diego Padres were going to be. Every article and television show that I encountered made sure to make a joke about the Padres having zero chance of finishing above fifth place. They were assured of being beat up on by the mighty Dodgers and the... purple Rockies. Adrian was guaranteed to be a member of the Red Sox by July and Tony Gwynn would continue to remind us that he is not his Father.

But here we sit. It’s the beginning of May and the Padres are 19-12 and the Mariners are 12-19. Two teams with opposite expectations at the beginning of the season with opposite outcomes. I was thinking about this disparity today and it occurred to me... Thank God I’m not a Mariners fan.

Since 1999 Padres fans have known to keep their expectations low. Even when we made the playoffs in the early 2000s it was on the back of an incredibly weak division, a division that let a team with a win total in the low 80’s into the post-season play. So now, when things are going well we can be pleasantly surprised and really get on board. But those poor Mariners fans, who since 2003 have been in that same boat, have to deal with shattered expectations and things not working out. If forced to pick between us and them, I choose us, even if they get Ichiro in the deal.

I guess my point is, and I’ve probably said this already, one of the things I love about baseball, and the Padres especially is that the stakes are so low. I find the Chargers tough to follow because the expectations are high and there are so few games, but the Padres play 162 times a year (165 if they make the playoffs) and for most of those games the outcome doesn’t really matter, it’s about the experience. For the last few years Mariners fans have had that too (ever since Bret Boone had to stop taking steroids). But this year they were given expectations and they began to believe and belief is the fist step on the road to misery.

We’re never going to be the Yankees. The pattern is established; we get sold on a rookie in the minors (Burroughs, Barfield, Greene) then that rookie arrives and either performs or doesn’t, but management is already turning our attention to the next guy in line. They do this until it works out and a team gels. Right now gel is forming and it’s awesome to watch and it’s even better because it’s not supposed to happen. Literally every time the Padres make the playoffs it’s a Cinderella story. And that’s kind of cool, because it means management has embraced their small market status. Unfortunately for those poor grunge rockers2 in Seattle, their management can’t get comfortable with the idea. So every so often they go out and spend money and acquire players and make people outside of the Pacific Northwest think that there is a chance in hell they can compete (they can’t). And those poor people have to live with the consequences. They should be just like us, a great city to live in, with a great ballpark and one or two players that are totally lovable, but secure in the knowledge that it’s going to take a miracle to win. That’s the beauty of small market baseball.

Sonics Forever.

1Read yesterday’s post about how Dallas feels about Jamie Moyer, that’s the way I feel about Ichiro times one thousand plus infinity (Ichiro is my favorite baseball player ever, I once wrote a three page essay about it).

2The second worst thing about living in Seattle is that people make grunge rock references. For God sakes that was 20 years ago, let’s let it go America.

1 comment:

Sean O'Donnell said...

"165 if they make the playoffs"