The Mariners begin 2011 season: Does the casual fan care?
Each Thursday, Art Thiel checks out the weekend sports scene locally and offers more casual sports fans some observations that can get them in and out of conversations without anyone catching on to your, ahem, casualness.
Whether at the water cooler, bus, lunchroom, frat kegger or cocktail party, you can drop in a riposte, bon mot or bit o’ wit to start a conversational conflagration, or put one out. Then walk away.
Mariners baseball: Seattle at Oakland, 7 p.m.; Saturday 6 p.m.; Sunday 1:05 p.m. (ROOT Sports) — The regular season begins for Major League Baseball, at the least the odd little version played in the Northwest. Obviously, every team starts with a degree of uncertainty, but the Mariners begin with a larger question: After nearly a decade of futility, is it time to quit taking the M’s seriously?
Baseball diehards will always take any MLB team seriously, but the more casual fan has options: The Sounders‘ pursuit of a goal; the Final Four and the college basketball industry’s rich tapestry of controversies, scandals and firings; the Barry Bonds trial (testimony about shrunken testicles is always a crowd pleaser), and the engrossing NFL labor dispute in all its bulging briefs.
To their small credit, the Mariners are making the decision a little easier by not offering any sloganeering or other dyspepsia suggesting that they are serious, at least about contending. In the off-season, they hired no players of great consequence, believing last year’s 101-loss season was a bleak freak unlikely to be replicated in the lifetimes of their children’s children.
The Mariners did hire a new manager, Eric Wedge, who, in the custom of most managers, did not field, hit or throw a lick in spring training, suggesting that his influence upon regular-season proceedings will be similarly nil. He does promise that a yanking of his chain will not provoke the serene, Yoda-like monologues of his predecessor, Don Wakamatsu, and his belief in belief systems. Instead, Wedge is prone to plucking the beating heart out of the chest of the miscreant. Should be fun.
But the gathered players tend to fall into the camps of has-beens and wanna-bes, the notable prime-time exceptions being Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. Some in both camps have put up some intriguing spring training numbers, but those numbers, as even casual fans know, are as bogus as the ones that brought down Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual.
So the Mariners are betting on piquing your interest by rolling out Friday in the road opener in Oakland (home opener is April 8 against Cleveland) a crew of those who once were with those that might be.
No real sense of now. The idea is to keep the powder dry for a time when enough quality might-be’s are in the now category. Problem is, the galaxy may not have that many years to live.
So the casual fan can feel justified in a complete absence of urgency. To the die-hard M’s fan in his or her circle, it will be wise to say, “Here’s my Twitter account. Tweet me in June if anything is going on with the Mariners. It may be warm enough then to sit outside. Oh, and let me know if they have one of those bobblehead things. My cat knocked over and broke my Adrian Beltre. Is he still playing?”
Yes. And well. Just not for the M’s.
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