Could It Be The Hats?

I was talking with an avid Seattle Mariners fan the other day about the team re-signing Ichiro. I was excited about it, because he brought a lot to the Mariners during his first term and, even though he now clocks in at 44-years-old, he could still bring a lot into the clubhouse if not on the field.

The friend downplayed the impact and expressed a bigger concern about all the injuries the team’s had since they started spring training. I was acknowledging the early season bad luck when he then blurted out an explanation, a possible theory behind those injuries.

The Mariners’ hats.Over the years, baseball has proudly become one of the most superstitious of all the sports. When a pitcher walks to the dugout after an inning, he steps OVER the chalk baseline, never on it. When a batter backs out of the box between pitches and does his ritualistic batting glove adjustment, it’s to better his odds of getting a hit. Fans are equally superstitious, turning their hats around in the 9th inning to convert them into “rally caps”, as if what they’re wearing will cast some positive mojo upon their team.

Oh, and there have been some great team superstitions that turned into traditions. Of course, the most famous was the “Curse of the Bambino”. The Boston Red Sox had a player named Babe Ruth, who was not only a great pitcher, but also had quite the bat. For some reason, they traded Babe to the Yankees in the 1919-20 off-season. Die-hard Red Sox fans know that the curse was credited for keeping the team out of the World Series for 86 long years.

When tavern owner William Sianis took his goat to Wrigley Field back in 1945 to promote his Billy Goat Tavern, he was kicked out. So he placed a curse on the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs didn’t make it to the World Series for 71 years. Apparently, that’s all a goat curse will get you.

Now, back to the Mariners. I’m sure not going take credit for this theory. In fact, here’s a nice article on the subject. But the bottom line is that the Trident that appears on their hats is apparently bad luck.  Oh, sure, the head of Neptune’s spear usually means good luck. But, to make it look like an ‘M’ for Mariners, they turned it upside down. You know what they say about horseshoes and if you turn them pointing down, the luck will run out? Same thing. With the Trident pointing down, all of the Mariners good luck has just run out.

Amusing theory. It would be absurd to think that it could actually be the cause of all their injuries. Then again, the team has never made it to the playoffs in years that the down-pointing Trident appeared anywhere on their uniforms.

Maybe just to amuse those superstitious people, we should get rid of the Trident for a season or two. Like now. Is it gone yet?

In the immortal words of one of the greatest philosophers of our time, Bud Light, “It’s only superstitious if it doesn’t work.”

Tim Hunter

Take Me Out Of The Ball Game

sad baseball

I’m a baseball fan.  This must be understood if anything good is to become of this blog.

Wow, how Dickens!

Seriously, I was raised a baseball fan. The games were on the radio every night at our house. Back then, TV games were a treat and rare.  You either went to the ballpark or listened to Vin Scully & Jerry Doggett call the play-by-play.

I played Little League.  Baseball was the sport and a big part of my life. Other sports weren’t as organized at that time, although I began to dabble in basketball in my later years of adolescence.  But having a team like the L.A. Dodgers as your team, it meant winning and going to the World Series most years. Because they played the Series games during the day back then, teachers would actually bring in a black & white TV with ‘rabbit ears’ so we could watch those historical events.

Fast-forward to present day Seattle.  We have a team called the Seattle Mariners that made a couple of runs over their decades of existence, none ever resulting in a World Series. 1995 was a magical year with miracle wins along the way and a dream team combination of stars and over-achievers.  In 2001, we won an amazing 116 games only to get blown out in the first round of the playoffs.

And that’s been it. Since then, season after season, the routine has become hope that turns to despondence anywhere from April through late-July…and then, it’s football season.  I was thinking about it.  In Seattle, the difference between fans of the football team and the baseball team can be summed up like this: If you’re a Seahawks fan, you go to the Team Store and spend some serious bucks on a jersey.  If you’re a Mariners fan, you take whatever Fred Meyer or Penney’s has on sale and call it good.

Oh, now there are the die-hards who love their Mariners and are getting pretty pissed off at me right now. Tune in any of the home games in the next few weeks and they’re the ones you’ll see sitting down by the field, checking their phones and looking for the fast-forward button for life.  As a baseball fan, it’s hard for me to get excited about this team.  Oh, we have the stars, we just don’t have the leadership or that special “it.”

The “it” is what takes a team like Kansas City from a bunch of rag-tag, dreamy-eyed players to winning the World Series. Last year’s Fall Classic was exactly that.  I’ve had 14 years of post-season baseball to enjoy that didn’t include the Mariners.  Real baseball fans know what I’m talking about. Sure, by then, football is underway, but those final weeks of baseball’s endurance challenge keep me coming back year after year.

Coming back?  Yeah, part of that 14-year history is knowing that, by August, the Mariners are done. By then, I’m no longer checking to see if they won or lose and I’m actually paying more attention to my back-up teams (you need those in Seattle) the Red Sox and the Dodgers. At least one of them usually makes it to the post-season.

Again, the die-hard Mariners fans will call this blasphemy, but I’m just not finding them to be a team I can believe in.  I would LOVE for them to prove me wrong.  I hope they right the ship and get this collection of players to live up to their potential.  But the biggest reason behind my doubt is inspired by the ownership’s decision to name a manager who has never managed a major league team before. Ever.  Or a minor league team, for that matter. It sounds like the plot of a Disney baseball B-picture.  At least in “Damn Yankees”, the guy with no experience had the devil helping him out.

If I accept this, I’d also have to hop on board a 747 with a pilot who has never flown before, or have a surgery performed by a guy who isn’t a doctor, but who has watched every episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Yes, I’m venting.  It’s because I care so much about the game of baseball that I’m sad it’s not taken seriously when you’re lucky enough to have a major league team.  I’m not asking for an immediate championship. Hell, I’m 40 years into this adventure. I’d settle for a competitive team, that shows up and has the desire to win every day.  I’m just not feeling that with this year’s edition of the Seattle Mariners.  At least, not yet.

It was the great Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda who said it best:

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

Here’s hoping the Mariners figure out that final third.

It’s early in the season.  I think I’ll wander over and check on soccer for a while.

OK, I’m back. Go Mariners. Please.

Tim Hunter