I attended the Mariners game yesterday, Wednesday, May 17. It was a day game; it started at 12:40. Day games are the best.
Weekday games are even better. The atmosphere is looser than normal. Fans tend to be people who live and work in the city proper, instead of the regional assortment that comes in for night games and has to worry about traffic, school nights, and the rest.
Weekday daytime crowds are made up of grown ups at ease, people who work outside of 9 to 5 or who are playing hooky. These games feel like a special occasion or a cheat code, especially when the day is sunny and warm, like yesterday.
All that was great, like you’d think, but there were some problems.
1. Robinson Cano got busted for PEDs
This is not great. Robinson Cano, the Mariners’ biggest star and most irreplaceable player, has been suspended for alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Yesterday was the first game of his suspension.
Robbie’s reputation took a tremendous hit. He was one of the more uncontroversial, recognizable, and beloved stars in baseball. In the best case scenario, Robbie will end up like David Ortiz. Big Papi was identified as a PED user in the 2010s, when a positive 2003 PED test was leaked to reporters. Ortiz is so beloved that we have collectively chosen to forget this alleged transgression. Cano is similarly famous and beloved; perhaps this suspension will be similarly footnoted as well.
That seems unlikely, though. Cano will miss about half the remaining season, and will not be allowed to participate in the playoffs if the Mariners make it. The Mariners are less likely to make the playoffs because of Cano’s absence. He is the best-hitting second baseman of his generation, in the middle of a fine late-career season, and players like that can’t be substituted for.
Cano’s banishment from what should have been the best team of his Seattle tenure won’t be easy to forget. If the the M’s make the playoffs (and they won’t, who are we kidding), Cano’s absence will be very obvious. That tangible failure will be much more memorable than a PED test that may or may not have happened in the Aughts or ‘90s.
2. The Mariners played badly, maybe because Robbie got busted
The Mariners didn’t seem with it yesterday. In the middle innings, Robbie’s inadequate “replacement” at second base, Andrew Romine, made a really dumb mistake.
Romine hit a line drive to the first baseman and peeled out of the basepath. But the first baseman baubled and dropped the ball: if Romine had run out the play, he would have easily been safe on first on an error. Instead, since he ran out of the basepath, he was out. This play was something I was, no joke, taught in Little League: always stay in the basepath, so you don’t get out, and always, every time, run all the way through to first base if you put the ball in play.
Had Romine not screwed up, the Mariners would have had a man on first with no outs, the beginning of a rally—a situation they never created at any point during the rest of the game. They were unable to score until the ninth, on a meaningless solo Kyle Seager home run.
But the worst play of a day filled with distracted plays came in the top of the ninth. The Mariners were, at this point, down one run, with their best batters coming up in the bottom of the inning. The bases were loaded, but there were two outs. The Mariners had a strong chance to get out of the inning and tie or win the game.
Reliever Mark Rzypchinzhyidkenzined struck out the batter, but the catcher dropped the ball, and two Rangers scored, and the Mariners ultimately lost, after giving up one more run and loading the bases yet again. The game had been tied, 0-0, going into the 8th, after a strong pitching performance by starter Christian Bergman.
The team made blatant mistakes, and they seemed angry and out of it. I don’t doubt that they felt the loss of Cano acutely. Cano is rightly revered by his fellow ballplayers, and his teammates look up to him. But the Mariners had to feel abandoned by Cano. His teammates know he is integral to their playoff run, and he will not be around for about half of the season because he made a dumb, selfish decision. The Mariners’ morale can’t be very high.
3. This terrible white man was white man-ing all over the place
I scored excellent tickets, a few rows behind the Mariners’ dugout. So had a middle-aged white man, who felt that his seating arrangement entitled him to act like an asshole. Actually, he probably always acts like an entitled asshole; maybe the seating was incidental.
In any case, this man, who looked to be in his 40s, and was wearing wraparound Oakley shades, a nasty moustache-goatee combo, a Mariners work out shirt, and a lot of glossy hair product, was talking loudly (and louder and louder as the game and the beers went on) to his six business colleagues, who were sitting in the seats surrounding him.
From the sound of it, they worked in middle management at some sort of hospitality or food and beverage corporate office. They talked about that boring corporate stuff endlessly, at increasing volume. At one point during the gruesome but exciting 8th inning bullpen meltdown, they shouted across several sections towards an old man. They thought he was this guy Jeff they knew who had just retired. They kept shouting “JEFF!” at this guy a few sections over. The guy may or may not have been Jeff, but he was definitely embarrassed.
Worse, the Oakleys man kept shouting at the Mariners when they screwed up. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se—I think that it’s fair game to boo the home team when they really fuck up, which happened several times yesterday.
But this guy was over the line. He was sitting right by the dugout, so he knew the players could hear everything. He was saying some really nasty things—screaming them, really, like an abusive boss. His voice was filled with drunken rage, like he was starting a bar fight at 1 AM on a Saturday morning. He was going hoarse with anger. He called the Mariners idiots, said they were overpaid, said he would have done a better job.
Everyone in the sections around this guy could hear all of it, and it was scary. After one of these outbursts, everyone got quiet, the way you would when someone starts screaming abuse at someone in a bar or restaurant. This man didn’t get physically violent, but you got the feeling that he was looking for an opportunity. He didn’t get 86ed, because he was white and middle class, and the Mariners would rather kick out a nice lesbian couple than someone like that.
This white man was shouting or loud-talking the litany that every terrible fan loves to recite. The abusive rage of this man was filled with all sort of subtext: this team, full of latino men, were idiots, they didn’t deserve the money they were making. He could do a better job than the players or the coaches, and clearly he felt that he deserved a chance to do it, expertise, experience, and athleticism be damned.
None of us said a word, told the man to cool it. Neither did the usher, even though it’s his job. The man’s anger and rage cowed the section around him. After all, it’s Trump’s America, and white men’s rage matters more than the comfort or safety of anyone else.
Though athletes have thick skins—assholes and hecklers are part of the job—I’m sure that the outbursts made the Mariners uncomfortable, didn’t help matters on a day when the team was already raw.
I always stay if it’s a close game, but I left early. So did the Mariners. They lost 4-1.
Also published on Medium.