On Sept. 24, 2016, I attended a Saturday night game between the Phillies and Mets at Citi Field. Jorge Alfaro started. So did Roman Quinn. It was the kind of game I had waited to see for a long time.
The Phillies jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Maikel Franco homered. Darin Ruf homered. Odubel Herrera had three hits including a triple. Alec Asher pitched admirably. Sitting in left field watching the Mets fans scream obscenities at pitcher Sean Gilmartin, I could only chuckle, munch on my Shack Burger and sip my Newburgh Cream Ale knowing that, for once, a Phils game was in the bag.
Then the wheels slowly began to loosen. Asher surrendered a single. Franco committed an error. Asher gave up another two hits. Soon it was 10-4. Then the Phillies shuffled through its Rolodex of relievers, and each seemed to give up at least one run. Joely Rodriguez. Hector Neris. And then in the ninth, with the Phils up 10-7 and the Citi Field crowd buzzing, Michael Mariot entered.
With one out in the ninth, Mariot unfurled a pitch that Jay Bruce hit into Astoria. Now it was 10-8, and the crowd in Queens – at least those who stayed after being down 10-0 – percolated the same way they did every time the “Cha-Cha Slide” hit in 2007 and 2008.
To fuel this fire, Mariot walked Eric Campbell. Then he walked Michael Conforto. With one out, the winning run was Lucas Duda, and he was striding to the plate.
I wasn’t happy. I was frustrated. So I did what you can easily do these days: I opened Twitter and typed:
Michael Mariot is not trash. There is no proof online or elsewhere to indicate that anything Mariot does is “trash.” In fact, he’s a 28-year-old guy from California who has worked hard enough to become one of the very best in what he does for a living. Not many kids who play baseball earn the opportunity to pitch 49 major league innings, but Mariot has done just that. He’s very good at what he does. He’s pretty far from trash, in that, again, he is not trash.
Mariot wiggled out of the jam in that ninth inning on Sept. 24. The Phillies won. All was fine.
On the ride home I noticed a new Twitter notification. It was a response to the Mariot tweet I sent:
The tweet was from Emily Garay, Mariot’s girlfriend.
I felt really stupid. I went out of my way to tell Twitter – a collection of people reading and writing updates on everything from the mundane to the important – that I was mad about a player’s performance. Moreover, I didn’t even comment on the performance itself, but on the player. And now I was being called out for it.
Garay was right. Mariot is more successful than I. Not just because he throws a big-league fastball and is one of the best at his occupation, but also because he doesn’t spend time on Twitter telling people he thinks people are trash. Typically I try not to be negative on Twitter (temptations are strong), but sometimes it takes someone calling you out to remind you how literally stupid you can behave.
Growing up, I leaned hard on my sports teams to distract me from the messes I was making in my life. The 2007-11 Phillies run came during a period of really stupid behavior. I disrespected people. I acted carelessly with my own health and wellness. I had little or no direction in my life, opting not to challenge myself whenever presented with an obstacle. The Phils were a crutch, and when you’re that reliant on something, you tend to take out your anger and frustration on the crutch, rather than the real problem.
I feel as if I’ve improved my behavior in recent years, but those darker events still occur. And maybe that night I felt a little darkness, let my frustration get the best of me, and decided Michael Mariot was going to feel my wrath.
But my wrath is insignificant. If I have to use Twitter as a method of venting frustrations, I must not be that successful.
So this year I resolve to be better than that. I resolve not to vent frustrations on Twitter and, instead, pause, take a deep breath, think about why I’m upset, and work it out internally. No person should be the target of my own problems.
Trust me, the 2017 Phillies could provide a wealth of opportunities to become frustrated. But nothing that happens on that field is ever that important. Don’t let baseball make you angry or frustrated. And if you find yourself in a particularly bad moment, when darkness has overshadowed you and you feel about to blow, try to pause, take a deep breath, then think. It really does help.
As for Mariot, I hope he has a great season and continues to find success. Whatever he does on the field, I’m sure that’s what it’ll be.