Jun 12, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen (54) pitches to the against the Houston Astros during the 9th inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Conclusions: Don’t Jump To Them


Being a passionate fan of a profession sports team can be tough. We invest so much time, and money, and feelings into the team and what they do. And when things go wrong — something that happens more often than not in most cases — it can have such a large impact on us.

Some might say that fanatics care too much about their team. That it is unhealthy to let a game hold so much real estate in our minds, and our hearts. And those people may be right. But it doesn’t matter to most of us. We love the sport, the team, and everything that comes with it.

It just so happens that much of what accompanies that is somewhat less-than-positive. And when you are a fan of a team like the Seattle Mariners, you have to endure that more often than most. And it gets old pretty quick.

Or at least, it feels like it does. We go through year after year of disappointment, and sometimes it begins to be too much. We think to ourselves, “how much losing can we put up with?” Being a fan of a bad team can be terrible at times. But yet, we never stop. Talk is cheap.

This team has not made a playoff appearance since 2001. The last respectable season we saw was 2009, and we know how long that lasted.

It is safe to say that, while they may lack a large number of consistent fans, those that stick around are some of the best. As tradition, year after year, we come back with high hopes, only to be let down again. But we repeat that sick cycle over and over without hesitation.

And with that level of fandom and passion comes, to put it gently, over excitement, be it positive or negative. We have so much invested into the team — both monetarily and emotionally — that whenever something abnormal happens, we immediately have a knee-jerk reaction to it.

If it is something positive — like Henry Blanco‘s grand slam (part-inspiration for this post) — we want to cling to the moment of goodness because, unfortunately, we don’t get a whole lot of them. We are “jonesing” for something positive from the team that we care so much about, so anything that remotely fits that bill becomes a bigger deal than it should be.

I am not suggesting that anyone believes that Henry Blanco is going to be a good hitter, all of the sudden, at 41 years old, for the Mariners. But there are those out there who will begin to think that he is better than Kelly Shoppach, and that anyone who was perplexed by cutting him overreacted.

Those people are most likely wrong. Again, we don’t know for sure (don’t jump to conclusions), but there is really no reason to believe that Blanco will perform better than Shoppach, even when Shoppach is at his worst, which he has been.

Some fans have very little sense of probability, or sample size. They see a player do one thing, and that is all they care about. Nothing else matters, including past performance . This is a very small portion of fans, but they are there.

The fact is, his home run was a statistical anomaly. It does not mean anything for the rest of the season, or give as any insight into what to expect from him. He just is not a good player at his age.

And then, there is the negative side. When something goes wrong — say Tom Wilhelmsen‘s recent struggles — people use it as fuel for the fire. As an opportunity to express their ill-feelings towards the team. Oh, a player is struggling? What else is new, right?

These kinds of reactions are much more common, among all types. From casual fans, to bloggers (cough cough Dave Cameron). It is hard to ignore negative occurrences when we have so much invested in the team.

In the case of Wilhelmsen, I have had multiple people ask me about what I think about him. Because he has struggled this year, especially as of late, to a degree that we have not seen yet. We are used to seeing such dominance from him, that any struggles he goes through instantly scare the hell out of us.

The fact is, closers, and really all relievers, are extremely volatile. There is a reason they are in the bullpen and not the rotation. They usually just aren’t quite as good.

Every pitcher goes through a period of struggles. Starters, relievers, closers, aces, back end starters. No one is good all of the time. It just so happens that closers are put under the microscope much more than other players. When they have a bad game, they “cost their team the game.”

If another reliever struggles in the 6th inning, no one really cares. Because one, there are three innings left. It isn’t a high leverage situation. And two, they aren’t the big name closer. People don’t expect as much out of them as they do guys like Wilhemsen.

In my opinion, Wilhelmsen will be okay. Key word there is okay. I don’t see him getting back to where he was last year, but he is better than he has been lately. But, we just do not know for sure. We have to wait it out, because things change so frequently.

In short, sometimes it is hard to not take every single thing that happens really seriously. We put so much into our team, that any time they waver from the norm, it has a massive affect on us, both good and bad.

But we have to be careful to take a step back, and look at the big picture. Henry Blanco is not a good baseball player. Tom Wilhelmsen is probably better than he has shown lately. The Morse for Jaso trade is probably pretty even right now. These things take time to iron themselves out, and a few games do not tell us enough to make a conclusion.

This may seem like a somewhat obvious message, but it isn’t in practice. Most  of us are guilty of overreacting from time to time, because it is hard not to. But it is smart to just take a step back, and look at all of the facts before making conclusions.

 

I realize there were some generalizations made in this post. Not everyone does this, but I felt it was common enough, particularly as of late, that it needed to be addressed in some way. Some people do exactly what I said above, and they shouldn’t.

 

Tags: Henry Blanco Seattle Mariners Tom Wilhelmsen