by: Patton Richard
I've become the largest Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates fan on the West Coast. I check my phone every hour or so when I'm not near a computer to make sure that they are winning. In any other year at any other time, I couldn't care less about these teams, this year is different, this year Anthony Rendon is available.
As you've probably figured out by now, I'm one of those people who wants to see the Mariners picking first next June. I've made no secret of it. Neither have a lot of other people. Historically, the first overall pick has offered a far greater return than any other in the draft, and being able to select from every draft-eligible player in the world is a position in which I would like the Mariners to find themselves next summer as they look to add talent to the system.
So who is Anthony Rendon? He is a power hitting third baseman at Rice University. Anthony Rendon had the best freshman season in Rice history where he hit .388 with an OBP of .461 and a slugging of .702. Then, he followed that up by crushing those numbers by hitting .394/.530/.801 with 26 home runs. People say the Evan Longoria comparisons don’t do Rendon justice, he is way further along than Longoria was at this point. According to Keith Law and Jim Callis of Baseball America if he were draft eligible this year, he would have gone before Bryce Harper.
There is still a lot of baseball left for Rendon including his junior year at Rice. But few players in the history of college baseball have ever matched his production to date, and those who have were some of the best draft picks in recent history. All Rendon has to prove is that he can keep doing what he has been since he arrived on campus at Rice. Imagine an infield with Rendon Smoak and Ackley, we’d be set at 3 infield positions with incredibly young talent. These isn't like when most teams get excited for future prospects, all 3 of them will have been considered top 5 prospects in baseball at one time or another.
Now I need to get something off of my chest, this isn't about being a good fan or a bad fan*. This is about myself and many others thinking bigger-picture than the present day. We're willing to sacrifice whatever joy there is in winning meaningless baseball games in order to see the team end up with that first pick. Forget the name. The name doesn't matter. The position matters. The first pick is the best pick, and it's been the best pick by a wide margin. Landing on top of the list would give this team the opportunity to very rapidly right a lot of prior wrongs.
That's what I’m cheering for. I’m not so much cheering for losses as I’m cheering for a win in something more important than a game in August or September. I know that seems like spin, but it's true. Yes, I take pleasure in seeing the team fail now, but that's only because every failure now brings us that much closer to a shot at major success down the road. Major success that could help get the organization turned around quicker than you might think possible.
Some people watch the Mariners these days because they still want to see them win. That's perfectly fine. Admirable, even, and a little romantic. After all, we watch baseball more than anything else to be entertained, and when you're content to let the longer-term play out as it will, there's nothing more entertaining than victory. But others of us watch to see the occasional highlight from a young player while the Mariners secure for themselves a higher pick. It's not a worse approach, and it's not a better approach; it's a different approach. But it's an entirely valid approach, as is the other. Which is why I get sick of people on both sides accusing those on the opposite side of being bad fans. It's a silly argument. We might disagree on what we'd like to see happen at the end of the day, but at the end of the year, we all want the same thing. We're all Mariners fans, and we all want to see the Mariners do well. It's just that at least a few of us have to keep an eye on the bigger picture, because not doing so is what got us into this wreck in the first place.
I’m glad the Mariners went 0-7 on this road trip, but the Orioles haven’t given us an inch by getting just one win in the last 9 games. But as displeased as I will be with every win that we get there will be a whole lot of people who will enjoy it, and you know what? I'm happy for them. They deserve to feel good after watching this team play such terrible baseball all year. It is usually a long time between wins. I'll suck it up for them.
It's funny to think about - it required an awful lot in the way of heartbreak and tragedy, but the Mariners have found themselves in the unusual position of being able to make a lot of fans happy every day, regardless of the final score. And really, that's something. If nothing else. What a weird year.
* I've never really understood the idea of there being "good" and "bad" baseball fans. Certainly there are more knowledgeable baseball fans, and there are more devoted baseball fans, but for every fan on the planet, baseball is simply a pastime, something with which we occupy ourselves for purposes of entertainment, the way a fisherman occupies himself with lures, or a birdwatcher occupies himself with binoculars. It seems to me there can be no "bad" baseball fans any more than there can be "bad" readers.
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