Can baseball thrive in cities where nostalgia is suffocated?
The Texas Rangers are getting a new ballpark. We’re used to thinking about the stadium question in terms of tax dollars, and it is an obviously smart way to approach it because of all the things tax dollars turn into that aren’t baseball. Tax dollars are schools and roads and recycling bins, and their allocation is a collective expression of what is important to us, or ought to be. It’s an exceptionally boring way of declaring that most of us like this thing more than this other thing, not merely as sports fans or consumers, but as citizens and parents and people. So when the Arlington City Council voted to approve a master plan for a new stadium for the Texas Rangers, they kicked off a process by which voters will decide if they like air conditioned baseball more than whatever else you can buy with $500 million. Like recycling bins or public transit or a comical number of two-foot-long hot dogs. We’re used to thinking of this question in that way, and it is a good way to think about it.
Or: The Mariners fan's guide to watching the Angels.
The thing is, you’re a jerk. Let me back up. I’m a jerk, too. I’m a jerk, and you’re a jerk, and our folks are jerks. Probably not really bad jerks, or scary jerks, or even particularly vocal jerks, but jerks of a sort. You’re not a jerk because you weren’t raised right (although with the influences of those other jerks, who’s to say?). You’re a sort of jerk because being a fan of one team rather than all the other teams means you are quietly rooting for the failure of other human beings. Not exclusively, and not all the time, and maybe not in ways that are really bad, or scary, or particularly vocal, but sometimes, at least a little.
The one thing we can all agree on in this crazy hateful world is Korean broadcasters utterly losing it for Dae-Ho Lee.
It’s an odd, prickly moment for baseball and its followers. The new season is off to a jerky start for a lot of teams. Losing teams are drawing the ire of their fans; winning teams are drawing the ire of everyone else. We can’t decide if we should love or hate the Cubs. The Angels are wasting Mike Trout’s prime. Noah Syndergaard is either the best pitcher working, the best pitcher who isn’t Clayton Kershaw, or a pitch away from Tommy John, and quite possibly all three at once somehow. It’s bedlam! Home crowds boo players when those players return in a visitor uniform. Bat flips! Curt Schilling! Netting! Slide rule! We retreat to our corners, convinced we know epistemological truths about playing the game the right way. It can all feel very fractured and separate. We have our camps, but everyone is grumbling. In the early going, we can’t even really agree who is good and who isn’t, or even when we can start to say. Stadiums are chilly, and sparsely populated. Our experience of baseball feels a little odd and prickly, set amidst so much uncertainty and such small samples.
The Miley cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the Mariners. Meanwhile, Vince Velasquez allows runs, while Mat Latos postpones the inevitable for one more start.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Entering Tuesday’s game against Cleveland, Wade Miley had yet to allow a walk this season. Entering the fourth inning, this was still true. Then that changed in pretty dramatic fashion.
With the Mariners down 1-0 courtesy of a Mike Napoli RBI double in the third, Miley opened up the fourth by striking out Yan Gomes. Of his 48 pitches at that point, 37 had been strikes, with both his four-seamer and his changeup looking fairly solid. But things started going downhill for Seattle’s lefty shortly after that. It started with a Marlon Byrd single. Then away went the fastball command and in came the walks.
The set in question is not important, but since you asked we’ll be using Topps Stadium Club, 1993, the first set without Gary Carter. The number in parentheses is how many of the player’s cards you’d have to give up to get a Griffey from the same set. Mike Piazza’s ranking reflects an attempt on the author’s part to control for Rookie Card status.
On the persistent and insidious tough luck that Cole Hamels has pitched under.
The prevailing narrative surrounding Felix Hernandez is that he has been one of the great tough-luck pitchers of the modern era. King Felix. Felix the Great. Felix the Strong. Felix the Perpetually Let Down. Burdened with great talent and Mariners’ offenses that prominently featured Endy Chavez, the King’s reign would be recognized by many fans for the games during which Felix would pitch seven innings, give up one run, then sit helplessly on the bench as his team failed to do… much of anything.
Three middle infielders are hitting all the home runs.
The Wednesday Takeaway
In 1941, Boston Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr started off the season by hitting a homer in each of Boston’s first three games. For 75 years, that was the benchmark for hot-hitting second basemen, until Robinson Cano decided that it was time to meet that benchmark. Cano slugged two homers on Wednesday afternoon against the Rangers—one in the first inning, and another in the top of the ninth inning to cap a five-run comeback that powered the Seattle Mariners to a 9-5 victory over Texas.
One day in September, 10 men on a bad team came together to do something great.
The days leading up to the start of the regular season are odd. We’re like weird time travelers in a bad sci-fi movie, one foot sticking out of a singularity into the future, while the rest of us stands closer to the recent past and memory.
We know what came before us. We recall the moments of joy and failure, the win-loss record. Of course, our memories aren’t always reliable. The optimism of what might be, the fervent prayers of “But what if he did, though?” work an alchemy on our perception. That optimism chips away at our reasoning. It wasn’t that bad! His pitching was fine, it was the defense! He’ll stay healthy the whole year. We think we remember with clarity the peaks and valleys of the past, but really it’s hazy. Out of that haze villains and heroes emerge. Everything has been great or terrible before and will probably be terrible again, but damn it if we won’t find someone to blame or praise for it. Stack enough of those weird little time jumps together, and you have a franchise, always moving forward and jumping back, daring us to remember and dream in turn.