Are the Mariners real?
They are real, in a temporal, physical sense. You could dap up Felix, or slap Mitch Haniger’s ass. (That would be a popular option for a large section of the fan base.)
But are they actually as good as they seem? Will they hold the playoff positioning (the second wild card slot) that they currently occupy?
MATH IS HARD
They answers are no and maybe. The team has, as of today, won five games more than it should have, according to the Pythagorean wins statistic. (Pythagorean wins are a simplistic way of measuring a team’s record relative to its on-field performance, but it will do and you’re already bored by this parenthetical.) That is a significant over-performance.
The Mariners are a statistical mirage. They are on a hot streak at the roulette table. They’re hot, but they keep pulling miraculous, late inning, one run victories that come from Mitch Haniger’s adorable behind. That is not as good a strategy as the Astros’. They have a dope offense with last year’s MVP, and a dope rotation with two Cy Young Award winners.
The Mariners, meanwhile, have a dope but not exactly chronic offense, which lost its most notable player to drug use, and a rotation that might have been conceived under the influence of several bong hits. (What if, like, we got some underperforming guys, mannnnn? They’ll perform better with us, because we’ll, like, appreciate them more!)
SETH AND SUMMER 4 EVER
But who cares? Fandom is about the journey. Baseball, with 162 games in every season, is especially. Baseball wins and losses are like so many high school classmates: you might remember the more beautiful or cruel ones, but most of them you forget after a while.
What you really remember are the flirtations and social victories. Those feel a lot like a playoff run: hot, heavy, meaningful, and—especially in the recent Mariners’ case—completely ephemeral. You have to talk yourself into believing it’s real, despite obvious indications to the contrary, like Seth vis a vis Summer in Season 1 of the O.C.
In recent years, as fans have gained access to professional-grade scouting and statistics, some of that ineffable quality has gone away. It’s fashionable to sneer at a miraculous walkoff hit, or a completely inexplicable shooting heat check. Those sorts of random outcomes are the subject of cynicism, or at least rational, probabilistic dismissal. This reflex is protection from heartbreak.
But, sometimes, it works out. You might defy the odds and make out with the cheerleader/point guard/musical star. You might, for some brief window of bliss, be validated and rewarded for your one-sided love, which might be obsessive to the point of becoming troubling. In fact, sports fandom is the only arena (get it) in which that sort of stalkerish behavior is even remotely acceptable. (Don’t stalk people, nice guys.)
Baseball is especially well-built for this sort of fantasizing, with its near-daily games and dramatic August and September finishes, and a deep obsession, what with the mind-boggling array of stats and history to consider. There are few better ways to spend a summer night than listening to a baseball game on the radio, while you eat barbecue or a picnic with your friends.
So take a chance on the Mariners. They’ll almost definitely break your heart in the end, but getting there is what matters.