When Doug Fister toed the rubber at Safeco Field, t-shirt makers, and to a lesser extent fans, were waiting in anticipation.
He pitched six innings, allowing a hit, four walks, and no runs. But who cares?
In the back of every mature, refined, sophisticated male’s brain remains at least a shred of our adolescence, specifically, the shred that used to chuckle internally during sex education.
For the last couple of days there has been an outpouring of puns and double entendres by Mariner fans.
It’s been a long time since a player received so much interest simply based on his name. Not even “The Hyphen” (aka Ryan Rowland-Smith) can top Fister’s tongue-in-cheek hype.
And the hype should be embraced.
Every baseball city has stars. Hell, even the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates have stars, though they seem to be changing area codes frequently lately (Go Andrew McCutchen!).
But great baseball cities have cult heroes.
And Seattle fans used to chant for Steve Scheffler, an awful center, at the end of Sonics blowouts, as his entry into the game assured its finality.
We have embraced the underdog before.
In 2004, a few months after I read Moneyball, the Mariners hired Bill Bavasi. I almost denounced the Mariners. I hadn’t bought memorabilia since then, until this year, when the Ken Griffey Jr. signing inspired repeal to my boycott.
Now FX allows the word “shit,” and the Mariners are trotting out a Fister.
And the Sonics and finality have a newer, gloomier relationship.
I never stopped buying memorabilia entirely. Rather, I replaced the teal next to my blue with red.
What I found is that at the very least, Cubs fans with t-shirt presses are more creative than Mariner fans.
There are shirts celebrating Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot, who combine as the “silent T’s.”
Theriot, whose name spells “The Riot” with proper—or improper punctuation—is a widely celebrated figure among north side t-shirt makers.
If they play their games for a National League Central Division rival, Cubs shirts may make news.
So what is available for Mariners fans?
When Griffey made his Safeco Field return in 2007 I scoured the Internet for a unique shirt.
I found a veritable catalog of Griffey jerseys, some female shirts from the 90’s that said Mrs. Griffey (not my style, not that there’s anything wrong with that), and a vintage “The Kid” shirt on eBay for nearly $100.
My fruitless search ended when I was unable to find a shirt of any kind that wasn’t some sort of officially licensed item.
I can see the shirt now, a silhouette of an umpire punching out a batter, No. 58 on the back with Fister above.
Or if you’re more of a realist, and understand that Fister’s heavy sinker (which feels dirty to type) is more of a contact-oriented, groundball-inducing pitch, perhaps the image of player swinging at a pitch on his hands with the slogan “You got Fistered” is more to your liking.
Regardless, this is all for naught if Fister isn’t a successful big leaguer.
While a recent trend has serious statistical analysis of minor league numbers as precursors for big league success or failure, Fister’s best projection may be unfairly quantified using those means.
Fister is a not a strikeout pitcher, but a control pitcher with a command pitcher ceiling. Think somewhere between Carlos Silva and Derek Lowe.
The Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners' Triple A affiliate, have spent a large portion of the 2009 season fielding the professional baseball equivalent to a keg league softball defense.
Mike Carp is hardly a wizard of glove work at first base, and Mike Morse played more than 15 games at each of the other three infield positons.
Chris Shelton has played 65 games at third base in Tacoma, and committed 17 errors. All advanced metrics aside, one of every nine balls hit to Shelton at third has resulted in an error.
Even Brian Lahair, part of the Mariners remaining ensemble of low-ceiling, minor league, average-fielding-at-best 1b/DH’s has played 54 games in left field.
By contrast, the Mariners presently field perhaps the most formidable left-side of a defensive infield in baseball, with Jack Wilson and Adrian Beltre manning shortstop and third base respectively.
Baseball sense aside, Jack Zduriencik has made it clear that he’s in Seattle to win a championship. Lip service or not, that's pleasant to hear, but for now, I’d just settle for a t-shirt.