I’m sure a lot of us will be up all night filling out our NCAA Tournament brackets before Thursday morning, which will also give us a chance to watch the Mariners first two games at 2:30am when they officially begin their season in Japan - dare I say the M’s two biggest games of the year, since they have a chance to sit in first place for an entire week!
But all kidding aside, I think it’s appropriate that this is the year the Mariners are in Japan for the Ichiro-fest, which included their current two-game exhibition against the Yomiuri Giants. It’s appropriate that this is the year that this franchise is basically throwing away $27 million to pay an aging and less-effective Felix Hernandez. And it’s appropriate that this is the year that Edgar Martinez is going into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Because as much as the M’s want to bill this as “The Year of Rebuilding,” it’s more like another “Year of Nostalgia” so-to-speak.
And if we treat it as such, then there might be less head-scratching and more appreciation for seeing these guys one last time in a Mariners uniform.
Now, I admit that tonight’s opinion doesn’t take this franchise off-the-hook for close to two decades of mediocrity. And I’m fully opening myself up to a defeatist mentality. But it’s simply a recognition that they’re not going to win many games this year, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
And frankly, I’d rather have a Farewell Tour for guys like Felix Hernandez and Ichiro in a throw-away season than one like last year, when each were seen as liabilities to a playoff contender.
And while it’s such a typical “Mariners” no-win situation to find themselves paying so much money to Felix, who’s clearly past his prime, at least it gives us a few more chances to pay our respects and thank him for his unwavering loyalty to this city during a borderline Hall of Fame career.
Felix might struggle, he might eventually be sent to the bullpen again, but win, lose or draw, I’m still giving him a standing ovation every time he takes the mound – and I can do so comfortably knowing that it won’t be affecting any playoff chances.
Ichiro might struggle too, but why not enjoy this one last go-around, while knowing he’s hopefully setting a good example for this “new generation” of players the franchise wants all of us to believe in.
And it ties in well with Edgar’s Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown in July and at T-Mobile Park in August, because it’s one more Mariners legend earning the spotlight in a season that’s proving to be filled with fond memories and sentimentality.
We all know that if World Series were won with the embracing of the past, the Mariners would have built a dynasty by now. Their marketing department is one of the best in the game.
And in a season where we’re all expecting nothing at all, it sets up well for this franchise to do what it always does best: Embracing this year of nostalgia as we say goodbye to some of the best the M’s have ever had to offer.