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Staying Invested in Fall Baseball

By: Kate Preusser

Russet
I’ve lived places where autumn comes gradually, the leaves warming to russet and gold, bright blue skies that hide the chill in the air. Fall in Seattle, however, slams home like a gate, the sky cemented over, rain speckling the windows. There’s no pretending here, no lingering over late-summer sunsets; it’s a little like getting whacked upside the head with a pumpkin spice candle: sudden, but hey, it could be worse. This is about the time, too, when the Mariners free-fall out of contention for a Wild Card berth, relaxing their admittedly slack hold on the hearts and minds of Seattle sports fans who turn their attentions across the street to the Seahawks and Sounders.

It’s always a struggle to stay invested over these last few weeks, and although it can feel lonely―will the last person in Safeco Field turn out the lights?―there are a good many more teams who are not in the postseason conversation than there are teams in it. MLB should court the interest of those of us who are biding time until 2018, feeling morally obligated to continue to perform our fandom while financially unwilling to sink any more money into the current team. The Mariners are good at this, unveiling last-minute promos like a King Felix Funko Pop figurine to charm fans back into the ballpark, but surely there are more global measures that could be taken. Some ideas:

  • Install a series of washers and dryers along the main concourse, and invite fans to do their laundry while watching a game. Make sure to include some extra-large-capacity washers for those cold-weather blankets and duvet covers. Clotheslines could be strung between empty banks of seats to dry delicate items, with the added bonus of creating the optical illusion that people are watching the game.
  • Allow fans to bring in not just snacks but entire crockpot meals. Nothing says fall baseball like a chili cookoff.
  • Sell multiple seats as one seat and set them up like the little pod on international first-class flights, where one is guaranteed a minimum of human interaction. There can still be peanuts, though.
  • Roving attendants who will untangle your headphones, update your phone, or scrape those extra-sticky price stickers off for you. For a small additional fee they will listen to all your voicemails and call everyone back with the message, “Never leave this person a voicemail again.”
  • Right field now is just one large petting zoo. The llama is in play.
  • Use the video board to show episodes of Frasier. Provide pillows and blankets for the inevitable naps.
  • Stack seats to create corn maze–type environment. At the end of the maze you arrive in the bullpen. Congratulations, you’re the next pitcher up.

Henderson Alvarez????

By: Trevor Strunk

Untitled
Classically, September and October are the most exciting months of the baseball season. In the weeks and months before the World Series, divisional and Wild Card races tighten and become must-watch television, edge-of-your-seat kicks to the finish line of the playoffs. Because if it’s true that the playoffs themselves are anyone’s game, it’s also true that the final months of the MLB season can only be won by the most finely tuned and persistent teams. This pressure and intensity is distilled into the last few weeks, making September baseball a cultural event, a moment as much as a game.

Well, for some fans it’s that, anyway. For others, the energy and excitement of September baseball is more a thud or a long, protracted sigh that can best be described in the following phrase I found myself saying out loud the other day: “Wait, Henderson Alvarez is pitching for my favorite team?”

We’ve all been there. Whether you’re an Athletics fan in 2016 or a Phillies fan in 2017, you’ve had that moment when you check your local sports headlines only to―utterly without warning―see the name of former standout starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez. “When,” you ask out loud, “when precisely did former standout starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez sign with my favorite team?” And then, as a follow-up: “Could this be some other Henderson Alvarez with whom I am unfamiliar?”

But when you discover that no, this is, impossibly, the very same Henderson Alvarez―the one who pitched 187 innings with a 2.65 ERA in 2014―who is pitching for your favorite team, a lot of things change. You start to realize the deeply flawed nature of reality, in which, say, a former front-line starter might appear on your favorite team during a truly meaningless season-ending slog to the no. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. You recognize the impossibility of ever really knowing anything as a certainty (such as whether your team is employing former top starter Henderson Alvarez or not). You realize baseball is a cruel and arbitrary game, in which even Henderson Alvarez himself might nod and end up on the worst team in baseball, starting one game in September simply to remind some harried writer that he hadn’t been paying attention.

Yes, the Henderson Alvarez problem is perhaps the most compelling in all of baseball today. It can impact any unwary fan, any rebuilding stalwart patiently waiting for relevance in the early, blaring days of the NFL season. So if you’ve found yourself saying sentences like

  • “Who is H. Alvarez? It can’t be who I think it is.”
  • “Hey let’s just check my team’s record and who’s pitching (probably not Henderson Alvarez!).”
  • “Well, it’s been several weeks since I checked my favorite team―which does not have Henderson Alvarez, noted low-strikeout control artist―on it; I wonder who they are employing to throw the baseball for the first four to six innings?”

then you may already be suffering from Henderson Alvarez Late-Season Fatigue (HALF). If you find yourself experiencing HALF, contact a registered physician or consult Baseball Prospectus’ midseason top 50 prospects until you can better handle the fact that your team (which is horrible) employs Henderson Alvarez (who, yes, still exists).