The Mariners and Royals resume their epochal battle for the soul of America this week, and lo and behold, they're both in first place. Like you expected anything else?
And so another chapter begins in this grand rivalry. Time for another crush of national media, a double-shot of nationally televised games, and another 72 hours of pure drama for the two most diametrically opposed fan-bases in this ancient, pastoral, holy, nation-defining game.
Nobody would have it any either way.
All true baseball fans, be they in Baltimore or Buena Vista, worship at the altar of this rivalry. If anything, just as the nation begs for more Duke-Carolina coverage and hype every spring, they want more. They want to learn more about baseball and, to be honest, a little more about life, from those fans in Seattle who call themselves The Nation and from the grand custodians of the game's history, the Royals. Who among us has not looked out over the Kingdome in the 7th inning of a Battle for Grass Creek game and not seen, at once, both themselves, and the smiling face of God?
I feel sorry for those lesser fans, as I'm sure the people in Seattle do. All we can do about is to keep being important.
Dayton Moore, known to most as a placid man, wants to crush the Mariners. He wants to grind their bones into powder and sprinkle it into their widows' coffee. He wants to do to Seattle what Chile did to Bolivia, he wants to be Rome to their Carthage.
Moore is on a mission, he is the grand Cincinnatus of the Eastern Empire, and thanks to Buster Olney's 700-page character study of him released just last week we now how deep his hatred for Mariner teal runs. Moore's hatred is a bitter one, tinged with respect. He knows the Mariner way works, but it makes his blood boil to see it do so. So with all the enmity of an ex-wife, he's worked to transplant the Mariner way to the Royals.
Strengthen yourself and weaken your enemy in one move, and you shall reap the rewards of the smiling octopus...
Moore has those words, from a long-lost Laotian text on strategy, tattooed to his wife's lower back. From day one as the head of the Royals he's chiseled away at the edifice of the Mariner insurgency (and he views it with that same sense of disdain, as something out of bounds). Not that anyone needs reminding, but he's turned Gil Meche, Miguel Olivo, Jose Guillen and Horacio Ramirez from Mariners to Royals.
Those moves were the prelude to the salvo delivered this winter, when Moore ripped the beating pancreas out of the twitching body of the Mariner body politic: he signed Willie Bloomquist.
You don't have to be as smart as Bob Costas (and man is he smart) to see what's going on here.
Who embodies the Mariner Nation more than Willie Bloomquist?
Bloomquist knows how important these games are. After seven seasons in Seattle, Bloomquist has achieved everything that anybody's ever bothered to give out awards for, not that he gives a damn about those things. No. The magical three double campaign in 2007 that had America glued to her televisions? Good luck trying to get him to talk about it. No, Willie wants to talk about one thing and one thing only: winning. In a sad time when 99.9% of baseball players don't even pay attention to their team's score or record they just play for themselves... I blame the schools. Bloomquist is old-school. An old-school, team-first, winning-only Mariner. And that's what he did: he won. He's a winner or the highest order.
Only now he's a Royal.
It still looks weird on the page, doesn't it?
So what did the Mariners do? They went out and signed Mike Sweeney. This is like that time Coach K did something, then Tyler Hansborough's dad did something back. Oh, mercy! This is bitter!
All week, Grass Creek Wyoming, the traditional dividing line between these two teams, has been abuzz. When, Guillen and Ho-Ram switched teams, well that was one thing. When Bloomquist traded in his space needle for fountains, it was like a baseball bomb went off across Wyoming: jersey sales, media chatter, fistfights, everything increased.
If you're one of Wyoming's six employers, good luck having your workers get anything done this week.