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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Larry Stone: Some fans might need convincing before getting on the first-place Mariners’ bandwagon

UPDATED: Fri., April 23, 2021

Seattle Mariners center fielder Kyle Lewis heads onto the field before a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Seattle.   (Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners center fielder Kyle Lewis heads onto the field before a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

You want to love the Seattle Mariners, you really do. Right? But for so many years, the love affair has been unrequited, leading to little else but heartache and despair. You give, but they don’t give back.

So now here comes a gutty, fun, and (so far) successful Mariners team, trying its best to win back your heart. But those scars are still tender. You still remember all those other times they tried to convince you they had changed, only to go back to the old disappointing ways. But you want to believe this time is different. Right?

Let’s listen in on the internal battle raging within one vacillating fan’s brain Tuesday. On one shoulder is a miniature Rick Rizzs, trying to convince this conflicted soul that the Mariners’ early success is real, not a mirage, and fans can gather all their lingering reservations to toss across the floating bridge, straight into Lake Washington.

On the other shoulder sits a grizzled, cynical curmudgeon, beaten down by past transgressions and screaming, “Don’t be a fool! They’re going to sucker you in and then stomp on your heart, just like they do every time.”

Mini-Rizzs: “What’s wrong with having a little faith? Baseball is built on romance and trusting our heart. Like Ted Lasso says: ‘Believe.’ “

Curmudgeon: “Three words, Lil’ Rizzser: Thirteen. And. Two. I believed in 2019, when they got off to that fantastic start, and look where that got me. I vowed never to make that mistake again.”

Mini-Rizzs: “But that team was seriously flawed, C-Man, and we all saw it. I mean, Tim Beckham had the best week of his life. Domingo Santana was hitting a dinger a day. You knew Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion were on borrowed time. As Scott Servais said on Tuesday, this year’s team and that squad are about as different as night and day. This roster is far more legitimate.”

Curmudgeon: “Legitimate? I’m looking down the lineup card from Tuesday: .238. .200. .138. .214. .184. .120. That would be a legitimate list of IQs at a Mensa meeting, but not for a playoff team. Once you get past Haniger, France and Seager, there’s not much there.”

Mini-Rizzs: “Holy Smokes, that’s exactly what’s so encouraging! You know the offense is only going to get better, and yet they’re winning anyway. Now Kyle Lewis is back, and that’s going to help everyone. And it’s only a matter of time before the kid, Jarred Kelenic, is up here to give the whole lineup a jolt. In the meantime, you’ve got to love this team’s heart. All those comeback wins. They’re never out of it.”

Curmudgeon: “Heart doesn’t earn playoff berths, my friend. Did you notice they lost today?”

Mini-Rizzs: “Did you notice they split a series with the best team in baseball and played them right down to the wire today, toe to toe? You must be a barrel of laughs at parties.”

Curmudgeon: “I haven’t been invited to a party since 1983.”

Mini-Rizzs: “I’m shocked. Hey, this team has something special. I haven’t even mentioned the pitching. Losing Paxton hurt, but another one of those talented kids, Logan Gilbert, is going to be up here, probably by June. Every one of these starters has the potential to be a big winner. That’s going to carry this team a long way.”

Curmudgeon: “How long have we been hearing about potential? All that usually means for the Mariners is something that is never reached.”

Mini-Rizzs: “You’re a ‘glass half empty’ guy, aren’t you?”

Curmudgeon: “No, I’m a ‘glass broken into a million jagged pieces with the shards opening up a vein’ guy. Or as I like to call it, a lifetime Mariner season-ticket holder.”

Mini-Rizzs: “Well, there’s a lot of positives that gives this start legitimacy. Starting with the bullpen. If you’ve noticed, it’s been one of the best pens in baseball so far. No team is giving up a lower batting average from its relievers. Counting two scoreless innings on Tuesday, they’ve now gone 24 straight innings without giving up an earned run, and 19 1/3 innings without giving up any runs. Strong bullpens are what give a team consistency throughout the season.”

Curmudgeon: “Yeah, well, I already break out into a cold sweat when I see the name ‘Montero’ on the back of a Mariners uniform. Baseball PTSD. And now when Rafael goes out to save a game, I’m getting flashbacks to the Fernando Rodney Experience.”

Mini-Rizzs: “You really are a Debbie Downer, aren’t you? This bullpen has a bunch of power arms on the back end, and that’s how you win games in the long haul. Have you been paying attention to what Kendall is doing? No runs and just one hit allowed in 7 2/3 innings. He’s sending hitters to their Grave, man. No pun intended.”

Curmudgeon: “Liar.”

Mini-Rizzs: “You got me. It was very much intended, like a Justus Sheffield slider on the black.”

Curmudgeon: “Sorry, I’m still not convinced. It’s a nice start. I don’t see a nice finish. Don’t forget, the year they started off 13-2, they lost 94 games.”

Mini-Rizzs: “Just because it happened once doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. What a sad way to go through life, always expecting the worst.”

Curmudgeon: “What a tough way to go through life, always expecting the best and then being disillusioned.”

Mini-Rizzs: “I’m telling you, this year it’s going to be different. Nothing but happy totals. You can see it. Admit it, you like these guys. I can just tell, despite all your grumbling.”

Curmudgeon: “Oh, curses. I do! I really do! I promised myself I’d never get sucked in again, but I just can’t help myself. They’ve got me. Can I order playoff tickets yet?”

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