One of my classes in college taught us uncertainty reduction theory. He basically says that people have an inherent need to acquire basic information in order to ease themselves into a new situation. Once this information is acquired, it becomes much easier to predict future behavior, which is essential for building and maintaining a relationship.
Heading into the 2020 season, we were extremely unfamiliar with these navigators and several mountains of uncertainty. Not only did the pandemic turn everyone’s lives upside down and delay the season by months, but when we finally got to see the Mariners again, we were reminded of just how inexperienced this group was. Seattle presents the youngest team in all of Major League Baseball. Two players from the starting lineup were making their big league debuts, already an intimidating and terrifying event, but they also had to make it against one of the best pitchers of his generation. These youngsters bravely entered Houston tonight, the uncertainty replacing the juice that normally fills the Minute Maid music box.
It only took until the second round for some of that uncertainty to be launched into the stratosphere.
A 438-foot, 111-mph rocket off a future Hall of Famer is a great way to reduce the behavioral uncertainty that obscures the start of a new situation. The Mariners and Astros occupy completely disparate ends of the baseball spectrum this year: Seattle as a freezing team trying to figure out how their plays fit together, Houston as one of the league’s most certain behemoths. Seeing Kyle Lewis put aside doubt in the form of a Pujolsian home run is what communications scholars rightly call the step out of uncertainty. You’d be hard pressed to find a better physical manifestation of the suppression of doubt than a home run that lands in a different area code.
If there was one player we could count on to step into the big unknown, it was our 10 year veteran at third base. Kyle Seager has seen, done and experienced just about everything you can on a baseball field. * While a game against the Astros without the traditional sounds of trash drumming was probably jarring at first, Seager seemed to settle in by his fourth inning. appearance against Verlander.
* Please spare me your playoff jokes. I’m so tired.
It was Seager’s 199e career long ball, over 100 more than the rest of his teammates have combined. The gentle sounds of a Seager bomb were welcome music to our ears at a time when the new wave was in vogue. Of course, the power of nostalgia can only take you so far before reality crushes you like a helpless trash can against a mighty bat.
With each passing round, uncertainty disappears and logic sets in. The Mariners are not a good team. The Astros are. As such, the Astros walked away when the Mariners kicked the ball, failed to bring a rally closer, and released an anonymous reliever after an anonymous reliever.
Things got out of hand in the fifth round. A potential double play turned into a draw when Kyle Seager made a stray pitch in the second, setting up back-to-back singles on two easier plays the Mariners missed. José Altuve equalized the game on a field single which, with better decision-making, should have resulted in a play at home. Instead, JP Crawford threw a first pitch which, in all fairness, almost managed to get Altuve, but did nothing to remedy the runner rushing home. Next hitter, Alex Bregman, struck a ball into right field that managed to land several millimeters to the left of Mallex Smith’s glove, placing what would become the winning point. For good measure, Houston added five more. I have to get rid of this uncertainty, you see.
In the end, things went as planned for the 2020 Mariners. Marco Gonzales was solid if not brilliant, Kyle Lewis showed the enormous talent we all salivated over, and the pen was flattened by the wildebeest. Get used to this while we are still hiding under low expectations.
Aside from the Kyles taking Justin Verlander to the stake, there were other micro-positives buried deep in the mud. Seattle had four players making their Major League debut. Evan White and José Marmolejos were in the starting nine, while relievers Anthony Misiewicz and Yohan Ramirez entered the back half of the game.
And now Yohan Ramirez is here, making it 4 @MLB debuts tonight. The last team to have 4 players made their MLB debut on opening day: the 1957 Chicago Cubs (Dick Drott, Cal Newman, Bob Will and Casey Wise). https://t.co/EpPooHkHJL
– Ian Kraft (@ Krafty_3) 25 juillet 2020
Both pitchers even recorded their first strikeouts! Misiewicz dusted Altuve with a bad footing in the dirt, while Ramirez, who throws the caps lock, stoked Martín Maldonado on a lightning bolt in the area. For those looking to adopt a cult new hero on the Mariners 2020, look to the curly-haired Ramirez and his absolutely unpredictable field locations. The rookie also allowed Alex Bregman to swing to complete the eighth inning, giving him two strikeouts to go with two walks on his first day on the job.
To manage our uncertainty about this club for the remainder of the season, academics recommend two courses of action. The first is the proactive reduction of uncertainty. This, in baseball terms, is all about making predictions about what will happen before you interact with the team. People will often try to predict what another party wants to hear (in our case, the sounds of victory), depending on what they learned from previous observations (the sounds of being hit by a semi-truck). In this situation, obviously, we should predict losses more often than wins. This will prevent us from being blinded by the things we should realistically know throughout.
The second movement is the retroactive reduction of uncertainty, which can only come after the fact. This allows us to explain the behavior of browsers by interpreting the meaning of their actions. For example, they were pitched today by a superior team, which means the same is likely to happen when they play against other dominant teams. Nonetheless, we will persist, as Mariner fans always do. I hope the cold comfort of a loss of Mariner hits you in all the right places, reducing pandemic uncertainty one step further while strengthening our certainty on one thing.
Even in the terrors of 2020, the Mariners will still be there to do what they always do best.