A few short weeks ago, things were unquestionably good. The Seattle Mariners were hot, winning 6 of 7 games on the road, finishing with a 4-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, and pushing their incredible record to 13-2 on the year. It was an extraordinarily time for Mariners fans across the PNW to ride the wave of winning.
But then the wave came crashing down, soaking us all in the dripping-wet stink of losing.
Back at T-Mobile Park for a 6-game homestand against the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians, these two matchups were the real test of the Mariners’ legitimacy. And they failed in spectacular fashion. In front of a healthy mix of true believers and skeptically curious fans, the Mariners lost three straight games to the Astros and three straight games to the Indians, simultaneously breaking hearts, confirming fears, and forcing everyone to re-calibrate expectations.
Fueled by what I can only assume was a chunky-blend of desperation and frustration, the M’s flew to sunny California to take on the Los Angeles Angels for a 4-game series. And wouldn’t you know it, the Mariners returned to form, taking the first three games against the Angels and coming remarkably close to stealing game four and sweeping their way down the coast to San Diego for a 2-game interleague series against the Padres. The baseball gods giveth and taketh away.
WINNING IS HOT. LOSING IS COLD.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way–the Mariners have won a lot of games. But while their record clearly reflects that, it doesn’t fully capture the power that winning has on a team, or a fanbase.
Both winning and losing have energy. And as one game seamlessly rolls into the next over the long, 162-game season, the momentum of winning builds, cementing a genuine belief among the team that “we can beat anyone.” And in a game of failure (which Baseball most assuredly is), individuals and teams need every reminder of winning they can get. Conversely, they must dispel the feelings and reminders of losing as soon as humanly possible, lest it compounds further.
But winning or losing also affects fans. When we go to the ballpark, we’re hoping our team wins. And a hot team that’s doing a lot of winning becomes a must-see event. Especially during a season where expectations commonly hovered somewhere above garbage, but below competitive.
When the Mariners returned to face the Astros and Indians, the stadium was packed with fans trying to simultaneously harness their crossed-fingers to will the team to another win. But they didn’t, they lost. They lost six games in a row and it was brutal to watch. Each game felt like a stab to the hearts on everyone’s sleeves.
Then when the Mariners went on the road, many fair-weather-fans had thrown in the towel, condemning our boys to historic levels of losing. But they didn’t. Against the (figurative) odds of playing on the road in Anaheim, they won.
The point is that it goes both ways and can turn on a dime, so don’t hang too much of your fandom on any team’s record on any given day. The momentum of winning or losing will continue to change week in and week out, well into the summer and maybe even beyond. Even the best team (in terms of current record) in the MLB, the Astros, Rays, Dodgers, and our Mariners have all undergone and will continue to undergo hot and cold streaks throughout the season. It’s just part of the natural flow of baseball.
So far, this entertaining season and the Mariners’ accompanying wins or losses have been a fantastic display of exalting highs and agonizing lows. For those of us fans willing to go along with the ride it can be fun, it can be horrible, and it can be just more of the usual. SNAFU, if you will.
Regardless of how you feel right now, try to give yourself the space to wait a while, maybe until Memorial Day and then look back at the season to evaluate the team’s temperature. Hot, cold, lukewarm? All are equally possible and based on what we’ve seen so far, equally probable too.
So, you’re probably asking how the Mariners did against the Padres? They lost both, so yeah, hot in Anaheim and cold in San Diego. Now, they fly home to face the Texas Rangers for 4 games and Chicago Cubs for 2 games and we’ll all be hoping they swing the bats, throw the strikes, and string together a bunch of wins, but who knows.
Baseball generally, and the Mariners specially, are hot and cold consistently.