“I guess there’s only one thing left to do,” said Felix Hernandez on Opening Day in Japan. “Win the whole (f—–n’) thing.”
King Felix’s teammates all shared motivated glances around the locker room while nodding their heads in agreement — except the baby faced Marco Gonzalez, who gasped and put on his ear muffs. Still, it was quite a scene. Mariners manager Scott Servais just delivered the whole squad terrible news: The front office is against this team! During the winter meetings four months earlier, General Manager Jerry Dipoto was in the toilet reading his contract, and it turns out that he gets a lifetime extension if he sets the single-season record for most trades. Because even he can’t justify trading everyone off a winning team, this team has to fail spectacularly to miss the playoffs for the 18th straight year.
Kyle Seager raised his hand, “Didn’t he already do that?”
Servais said, “No. He’s made too many trades, but he hasn’t set the record.”
“I meant tank,” Seager interrupted. “I just assumed that’s what we were doing here my whole career.”
Dipoto didn’t even wait to finish perusing his contract on the can in December before he started to assemble the best, worst starting lineup in the majors. He picked up his toilet telephone and traded Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz away, bringing in Jay Bruce (has been), J.P. Crawford (never was), and Carlos Santana (Supernatural). In fact, 10 days later, in that three-team deal with the Indians and Rays that sent Santana away for Edwin Encarnacion, Tampa Bay GM Erik Neander said, “We feel bad. Are you sure you don’t want Yandy Diaz too?” To which Dipoto said, “Who?”
He traded for the speedy Mallex “Ozzie” Smith and the quirky but powerful Domingo Santana, who up until now had one weakness at the plate — major league pitching. He signed a high-velocity but rough-around-the-edges closer named Hunter “Free Bird” Strickland, who was a star in the New York-Penn League. Dipoto even brought in old man Ichiro Suzuki, who was once one of the best players in the league, to be a clubhouse leader. Ichiro retired after two games.
“I’ve never heard of any of these guys,” said Servais when he first saw the roster of M’s spring training invites. “This guy’s dead!”
“Who?” said Dipoto. “Dustin Ackley isn’t dead … but cross him off anyway — people will know we’re tanking if he makes the team.”
But Dipoto’s plan backfired. The M’s broke the franchise record for best start with a 12-4 mark. Seattle led the world in runs scored, hit at least one home run in an MLB record-breaking 15 consecutive games, and many of their Quadruple-A starters were playing like their hair was on fire.
“I must stop the playoffs from coming!” said Dipoto, looking at his dog named Scioscia. Then he got an idea. An awful idea. Dipoto had a wonderful, awful idea. Instead of taking away luxuries to make the team experience more like the minor leagues, he started treating them like all-stars by giving them extravagant benefits — Seattle style. All players were treated to brunch vouchers to anywhere in the city, they received complimentary carbon offset credits, and Dipoto even made a deal with Amazon so each player had his own personal delivery drone.
After all, the only place any of these guys were any good was in the minors, Dipoto thought. Why not remind them how far from there they really are?
Being showered with praise and amenities did the trick. The M’s were promptly swept by their division rival Astros and played roughly .500 ball until after the All-Star break. Then it happened. This ragtag group lost enough to give Dipoto license to trade Mitch Haniger to the Mets for a player to be named later … Bobby Bonilla’s contract.
Being the master motivator that he is, Servais immediately called a team meeting in the clubhouse. He wheeled in a life-sized cardboard cutout.
“The way I see it, it’s July and we’re going to need 44 more wins this season if we’re going to beat the Astros and the A’s and win the division,” Servais said. “That’s why I brought in this naked cutout of Dan Vogelbach. With each win, you get to add a piece of clothing onto this pile of a man. If you don’t want to keep seeing him naked every time you walk through this clubhouse, you’re going to have win 44 more games.”
The joke was on them though. The Mariners have 68 games after the midsummer classic, but not even 68 pieces of clothing would be enough to cover everything. The rest is history. Fueled by eccentric dugout behavior, home run stealing/wall climbing catches, and flashy infield plays in slo-mo — all set to the beat of a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll montage, Seattle ran away with the AL West. Yes, it would be more Hollywood if they won it on the last game of the season, but they actually went 68-0 to the rest of the way, beating their own 2001 record of 116 wins.
Moments before the Division Series was to begin, Dipoto called a team meeting. In front of the whole squad, he confessed, “This is the fifth time I’ve tried doing the ‘fake tank and tell the team’ strategy. Why else would I have traded away Freddy Peralta and Chris Taylor for nothing? I knew it was only a matter of time before it worked — that’s Moneyball.”
“That’s not Moneyball,” Servais retorted. “That is actually the furthest from Moneyball that you can get. You might as well just play the lottery at this point.”
“Who’s saying I don’t?,” said Dipoto. “But I’m smart about it — I only play when the jackpot is over $100 million.”
For a team that was expected to be motivated moments before the big game, they found themselves instead just collectively shaking their heads in disbelief. Very confused, the M’s took the field moments later and were promptly swept by the Rays. Dipoto got his lifetime extension though because the fans and owners are finally ecstatic about the direction of the club. And besides, Seattle fans don’t even know there is a World Series.
Illustration by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)
Well done (applauds wildly). :)
Great read, however, how do you put Tim Beckham in the picture and not mention him once? Not sure if hes a bust, or a resurgent 2019 Nick Markakis.