Behind Enemy Lines

My First experience as a road fan at Seattle's Safeco Field

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Safeco Field and the beautiful city of Seattle. As my luck would have it, our beloved Houston Astros were playing a crucial series against their AL West Rivals, the Seattle Mariners that week. When I planned my trip in May, I did not expect the AL West to be as tight of a division as it has been. This made my trip to Safeco that much more interesting.

Game One: Aug. 20, 2018, Mariners win 7-4

“You guys are wearing the wrong jerseys.”

Mariner fans were very welcoming to us as we took our seats in center field for the first of the three game series against the Astros. The open stadium of Safeco Field allowed for ash to fall from the sky; it’s been a brutal summer for the West Coast and their battles with forrest fires.

A 3-3 game in the sixth, I decided it was time to explore the food our AL West rivals had to offer. Ultimately, I settled on a hot dog that was bathed in grilled onions, sauerkraut and banana peppers. Robinson Cano would crush golden boy Collin McHugh in the eighth with a three run homer to center field to give the Mariners the lead. Almost instantly, fans turned to us with the biggest smirks on their faces, they were going to get the last laugh that night.

“Oh, better luck tomorrow, Astro Fan,” yelled a group of fans as my directionally inept self tried to make my way out of the stadium.

“I’ll wipe my tears with my World Series ring,” I yelled back as I walked through the same block for the third time.

Game Two: Aug. 21, 2018, Astros win 3-2

The second game was a big day for me. For those familiar with my twitter group, #FearTheCock Fan Club, it was an exciting day to see Bradley Peacock start his first game of the season. Yes, I was livid when Hinch pulled Peacock, but it allowed us an introduction to Framber Valdez. As the Astros had to get creative with their pitching staff, I got more creative with my food options.  Choosing between the dumplings and the lobster sandwich was like trying to choose between my love for Brad Peacock and my dying allegiance to Alex Bregman. I chose the sandwich. Whether the sandwich is Peacock or Bregman is for you to figure out. Spending $18.50 on a sandwich was suboptimal, much like the Astros’ franchise record six double plays on the day, but it was delicious, and the Astros tasted revenge as well when they beat the Mariners 3-2. Interestingly enough, Mariners fans were pretty quiet after the game.

Game Three: Aug. 22, 2018, Astros win 10-7

It was finally time for the rubber match, the ever so critical third game of the series. Day games typically mean nice weather. That was especially the case at Safeco Field. By the fourth inning, I do not know what was more annoying to the home fans, the Astros bats or me yelling “send the runner!” to Garry Pettis every time someone got a base hit (Shout out to my boy Johnny G). They were up 9-2 at the end of the fifth and the extra money I spent on lower level infield seats suddenly felt worth it. The sports Gods are never late to punish, though, as the Mariners made the game interesting, scoring five in the sixth. Suddenly, the obnoxious road fan was quiet. That was until Tyler “El Osito Blanco” White decided to take Adam Warren yard to cushion the lead to three runs and helped introduce one of my favorite celebrations of the season. Where were you the day the Astros introduced the group stare? Me? I was in the stands of Safeco Field witnessing history.

“Are you guys even real Astros fans?”

“ Yes,” I replied bluntly ending the conversation. A lion never loses sleep over the opinions of sheep.

All things considered, Safeco Field was an awesome ballpark  to visit. This was my first experience being a road fan, and rooting for the defending champions definitely gave me this extra sense of confidence. There was not a thing a Mariners fan could say that a reminder of who won the World Series could not fix. The atmosphere, the activities, and the food inside the stadium definitely did the city of Seattle justice.

All that being said, let us compare this ballpark to the mighty Minute Maid Park.

Safeco has a metered bullpen where fans can track their pitch speeds. Minute Maid Park has a display of artifacts from the 2017 World Series Champions in the Union Station Lobby. Safeco Field has a throne fans can take pictures with every time Felix Hernandez pitches. Minute Maid Park has a mural commemorating their World Series Championship. Safeco has a diverse taste of food representative of the Pacific Northwest. Minute Maid Park has BBQ, a cornerstone of the city of Houston (the city of the defending World Series Champions).

Looks like it is Minute Maid Park in a landslide.

 

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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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