Sunday, May 14, 2006

Short Shameful Confession

I just realized something Friday night, and it's been stirring in my brain all weekend.

For whatever reason -- I don't love the 2006 Mariners. Right now, I sort of feel like they're just the guys who work down the street from me. I like 'em and all, and don't mind going down to Safeco to hang out with them, but I don't really *love* them anymore.

My ex-team has come and stolen my heart back, see. I do love the 2006 Phillies, even though we're in a long-distance relationship.

It's sad, isn't it? It really hit home when Aaron Rowand got injured the other day. I felt like I wanted to send him a get-well card or something. Just because he seems like a great guy, not just from the way he's been playing, but even just the silly random crap he does on the sidelines. He puts in tons of time at fan events, both over the winter and even off-days in-season like Baseball 101, and he plays the way Phillies fans want to see a guy play -- 110%, hard-nosed, works his butt off.

The Phillies are full of guys like that, likeable for one reason or another. Chase Utley is another one in the Rowand mold -- he's talented as all hell, really great-looking, plays hard and works hard, and comes through for the team. Ryan Howard is the same way -- he knows he's got problems hitting lefties, but he's working on it, and I wouldn't be surprised if he became an even bigger nightmare to pitchers in the next year. Ryan Howard's also that kind of guy everyone in Philly can like; a cool dude who doesn't hate playing in Philadelphia, who's big and scary and baseball-mashing, but still has a smile for everyone.

While Pat Burrell takes a lot more flak than he deserves for not living up to expectations, and for making a lot more money than he probably deserves, there's no denying that he's stepped up this year so far. He and Ryan Howard are the Phillies' big HR/RBI leaders, a lefty-righty mashing tandem. Burrell's always been sort of negative towards the Philly fans and press and gets a bad rep as a result, but because I view him from afar, I've always been a reasonably big Burrell fan. Mostly because he's really cute.

And on the other side of the outfield we have Bobby Abreu. I know that I've said some harsh words about Bobby in the past, such as "he has great numbers but he doesn't help the team" back last fall when he was playing injured and I honestly thought he should just take a rest, but when it all comes down to it, I like Bobby. Besides being a perennial MVP candidate, he's a good guy. I was astounded when the Phillies came to Seattle last summer that a superstar like Bobby came out and signed stuff, making sure that pretty much every kid at the front of the stands got to him. There's nothing that Bobby isn't good at when it comes to hitting. He has power, he has speed, he knows how to take a walk, he knows how to hit the ball. His fielding is less than stellar, but it's certainly more than adequate. Basically, despite how I used to really adore Kevin Stocker when I was about sixteen years old, I'd say trading him for Abreu was easily one of the best moves the Phillies made during the sucky time of the late 90's. Yeah. We like Bobby.

J-Roll from the Bay! Jimmy Rollins is an enigma, that's to be sure, but let's face it, he's easy to cheer for. In the mold of "little fast dudes", the thing about J-Roll is that, much like Ichiro, how he's doing offensively often drives how the team is doing overall. Last summer things seemed to be completely dead in the water in August, and then J-Roll stopped sucking and started rolling, and next thing you knew, the Phillies surged and almost took the wild card from the Astros. While I'm not sure he's got a future as a hip-hop artist or anything, I do think the Phillies did a good job in deciding to keep him for the next several years.

Even David Bell, while I know everyone in Philly hates him, I know he's a pretty good third baseman. You could certainly do worse, at least. I've seen him singlehandedly lose games and I've seen him singlehandedly win games, and in the meantime, people boo him when he loses and don't cheer when he wins.

And hey. No more Endy Chavez. Welcome Shane "V for" Victorino, the Hawaiian wonder. Despite Rowand's injury being terrible, this is a good time for Shane to shine, and so far, that's exactly what he's doing.

I'm not as attached to the Phillies pitching as I could be, I know. I love Cole Hamels already, but who doesn't? Brett Myers is kind of like a frustrating obnoxious deadbeat little brother who's going to totally surprise us all someday by taking over the world, though. Gavin Floyd is sort of like a little puppy, where you're fine letting him roam the house and figure out his place, but worried he's going to pee on the living room carpet if you don't keep an eye on him. Jon Lieber's like the sysadmin who's always dependably doing his job and keeping things working, and nobody appreciates it, choosing only to bitch him out when the network goes down.

Ryan Madson is a dreamboat and I adore him and all, but he's been the worst pitcher on my fantasy team this year, which sucks. Ryan Franklin and Arthur Rhodes used to be in Seattle, and Tom Gordon used to be a Yankee, but I appreciate what all three of them bring to the table, I suppose. And despite how much I make fun of Rheal "Blame Canada, Nuke The French" Cormier, I remember him being the Phillies version of Shigetoshi Hasegawa in 2003, and thus will always have a soft spot in my heart for him (much like I have for Kevin Millwood since 4/27/2003). Even if he IS probably going to implode like a timebomb sometime this year.

Now, I'm trying to think of Mariners who I honestly really adore as players -- players who I can honestly see myself typing "Man, I really love _____" in a game thread, and mean it, like I can with half the Phillies. I mean, a few years ago we had some players I really adored and liked to cheer for no matter what. John Olerud, Randy Winn, Shiggy, Mike Cameron, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, even Pat Borders and Ben Davis, and cute-little-boy Gil Meche (not to be confused with Gil Meche v2.0, the haggard-haunted-guy). Even when the team started sucking, we ended up with weirder heroes, like Badass Bobby Bowflex Madritsch, and Ronnie The Bear Villone, and Mike Sidearm Myers, and Hiram "It's" Bocachica "Time", and so on. You saw the folks at the park, or the Bucky Backers, or several other weird fan cults popping up. It was kind of fun.

And now I look at the Mariners and try to come up with some unbridled affection for anyone. I suppose there's Kenji Johjima, now that I'm over the whole "goddamn Fukuoka Hawks" aspect of him. Ichiro is still the utter cool dude and I know how badass he is, but I've actually never been in love with him like so many other people are. I still adore Jamie Moyer as a fellow lefty from Pennsylvania who grew up idolizing Steve Carlton. Thanks to certain other bloggers and the IKEA caravan, I've gotten a much bigger appreciation of George Sherrill in the offseason. Eddie Guardado is funny to read about, sure, but I don't *love* him. Yuniesky Betancourt is really exciting to watch, and certainly Jose Lopez and Jeremy Reed are also exciting young guys, and King Felix kicks ass, but... staring at the Mariners' 40-man roster, the only guy who actually jumps out as being someone I really truly adore as both a player and a person is Doyle. (Heh heh, his picture on his Rainiers page is sideways. That's awesome.) I suppose I also have a bigger appreciation for Jarrod Washburn than anyone else in Seattle; I think he's got a great smile and the bluest eyes in baseball, plus a great sense of humor and attitude towards his teammates.

It's no wonder "You gotta love these guys" is no longer being thrown all over the place as the Mariners slogan. I don't know if it's that the team isn't winning, or that the team doesn't have personalities the town can embrace anymore, but... I'm sorry, Mariners. I just don't love you any more. My ex-team is back in the picture, and they've stolen my heart away for a while. We can still hang out as friends, though, right? I'll still come down to Safeco and see you, I promise, but if I call out another team's name during "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", you'll just have to forgive me, okay?

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