Gonna be honest. I woulda linked this article no matter what it said. Once I saw the phrase “slickly-packaged razzmatazz” I was sold.
But I read it, and BBC’s Washington Bureau Chief Simon Wilson sees America in America’s Game. Partially in the obvious — the beer, hot dogs, National Anthem and racing presidents about which the “razzmatazz” line gets trotted out — and sees something deeper. After making the time-worn observation about how even the best hitters fail two-thirds of the time, he says:
As a sport, it is really all about failure. Or more precisely how the players psychologically handle failure – the fact that they are going to miss the ball more often than they hit it. And as I have sat in the stands over the years, I have begun to realise just why there is such a rich tradition of treating baseball as a metaphor for life in America … This is indeed the land of opportunity where children grow up being told what a “great job” they are doing and how they might all be president one day. Which is all fine of course, except that for many, perhaps for most Americans, success never really comes.
But despite that — despite the odds being long, the economy sputtering for so long — Americans, he observes, pick themselves up, dust themselves off. They move to far flung places and start new jobs and try to make a new go of it. “Failure – the theory goes – will breed the next success,” Wilson says and believes that it applies equally to baseball and America as whole.
I want to believe that. Indeed, when I think of the promise of America or the American dream I don’t think of some Horatio Alger story. I don’t think of someone coming from nothing and making millions. I think of people who are near nothing anyway but still go on and still plug away and don’t spend as much time lamenting their lot as they do trying to better it, at least marginally.
Maybe that’s just as much a rarity — or even a fantasy — as the Horatio Alger story. And maybe it’s colored a lot by where I grew up. People in Flint, Michigan and Southern West Virginia tend not to go in for Horatio Alger. They just plug on. But I it’s what I think of as the best of America.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.