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Does Anyone Want to Win the AL West? We're About to Find Out!
The Free Friday Post.
It’s my birthday today. And I’m telling you this not because I care about birthdays, but I want all the people out there who are struggling with physical or mental health issues or who are just going through a rough time in their lives to know that healing is possible.
I used to hate birthdays. Once, as a teenager, I even walked out of a restaurant when the servers came and sang “Happy Birthday” to me because I was extremely self-conscious and shy and I begged my family not to have anyone sing to me in public and they did it anyway and also I was an ANGSTY teen. Stubborn and furious and anxious, I walked all the way home.
Anyway, I’m telling you all this because this year I am celebrating SURVIVING to see another birthday, after a terrible bout with long COVID, depression, a lawsuit, grieving several deaths, etc. I feel I have come out on the other side of a devastating few years, and though I’m still a work in progress, I want you to know that if you’re reading this and you’re suffering, just hold on. Get help, whatever that looks like for you. Try different medications or therapies if you have to. Give yourself time for your luck to turn, and for *good* things to happen.
For YEARS I felt like I just kept getting dealt blow after blow, and it was all I could do to just tread water and exist. Like, I *get* being depressed for six weeks or six months. But four years? Come on. How? No. It turns out a series of shitty life events can do that to someone. Getting sick or injured and becoming disabled—even if you’re one of the lucky ones and it’s only temporary—can do that. And it’s no one’s fault.
Anyway, today I celebrate being here for another lap around the sun, and I hope to take some of this hard-earned wisdom into *fingers crossed* my best year yet. Hell, I’ll even settle for a top 10 year. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how Bruce Lee tried to live like water. It’s radical, life-changing advice about flexibility and resilience and quiet strength. It’s a simple mantra I hold on to when I’m spiraling, and maybe it will help you, too.
I love you all and I thank you all for your continued support. I’ve written more about my mental health journey here and here. Anyway, now that I’m feeling better, I hope you don’t get sick of me. Because you’re going to be seeing me in your inbox almost every day for the next six weeks, until we have a World Series champion. :)
OK, let’s dive into this, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. The AL West is an absolute mess right now, as the Astros, Mariners and Rangers are all within a half-game of each other for the division lead with 10 days left in the season.
Houston is leading the division with 85 wins. The Mariners and Rangers each have 84. It’s possible 91 wins will be enough to take this division, which a few months ago looked like baseball’s best (at the top). Then, the Rangers fell apart, and the Astros failed to take advantage. The Mariners surged up the standings, then choked and got swept by the hungover Dodgers B-Team last Sunday. The M’s took care of biz by sweeping the A’s this week, which pulled their record over their last 10 games up to 5-5. Houston is 4-6 over its last 10; the Rangers are 6-4, despite their starting rotation being fed through a meat grinder.
And things are about to get wild. The Mariners’ last 10 games are *entirely* against the Rangers and Astros. Every night will be kind of like an elimination game worth double points in the standings.
The Astros get three at home against the Royals starting tonight, then finish with three on the road in Seattle and three on the road against an Arizona team fighting for its own postseason life. Not easy!
The Rangers get three at home against the M’s, then finish with three on the road against the Angels and three in Seattle. They *should* be able to handle the Ohtani and Trout-less Angels. But Texas has also looked the worst of the three remaining AL West contenders, so I don’t know how to feel.
Prediction? Sigh. The Astros will take two or three from the Royals and head into the final week of the season in the driver’s seat. But the Mariners will take two or three from them, and the division winner will not be decided until the final game of the season.
We will have our normal Friday night Dodgers chat tonight at 7 pm PT, and it looks like Sunday Night Baseball has chosen the Dodgers vs. Giants for their national game this Sunday, so we’ll chat then, too. But we will begin our Sunday chat at 11:30 PT/2:30 ET when the Rangers and M’s square off, because that’s the game I care most about. Hope to see you all in the chat!
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Something incredible is happening for Venezuelan baseball players across the U.S. this week, and I’m working to find out what’s going on.
First, on Wednesday, Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol was reunited with his mother, Ysmalia, for the first time in seven years, when she was allowed to fly to the U.S. to see her son. You should really watch the video of their tearful reunion at LAX if you haven’t already. “You’re so beautiful, my boy,” she said. “You’re so lovely. Oh, God, you’re big and beautiful.” Reader, someone is chopping onions in my house.
Because of the political situation in Venezuela, Ysmalia never got to see her son pitch in person in the big leagues until Wednesday night. He also got married, and had a baby girl. And she missed all of it.
But now she is here, and she threw out the first pitch last night and pumped a strike from the top of the mound.
This felt like a one-off, until Luis Arraez’s parents landed in Miami a day later to watch their son play in the big leagues for the first time. Arraez is also Venezuelan.
It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that two prominent Venezuelan baseball players who were both desperate to bring their families to the U.S. were able to do so this week after years of trying. And all of this has obviously been done legally, or it wouldn’t be publicized on social media.
This development comes as the Biden administration announced this week that it would begin allowing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to work in America legally. I don’t know if these two events are related somehow, but clearly something has happened that has allowed these ballplayers to bring their parents to the U.S. to see them play for the first time.
We talk a lot about mental health in these parts, and the pressure that these world-class athletes are under. Both of these men have reached the pinnacle of their sport—Graterol by playing a key role in a bullpen that won a World Series, and Arraez by winning a batting title. I have no idea how they were able to do this while being separated from their families, and while presumably worrying constantly about violent crime, economic upheaval, and the specter of their relatives being prime kidnapping targets in Venezuela.
I hope we see more reunions like this in the coming days. In the meantime, Graterol and Arraez are the Long Game’s inaugural Players of the Week for making me happy-cry at my desk.
Speaking of tears, are the Padres really doing this? After an absolutely miserable season, are they really teasing their suffering fans by finally—finally—winning more than three games in a row for the first time this season and pulling to within four games of the final wild-card spot? What a funny bit!
To make the playoffs, they’re probably gonna have to win their last nine games to finish with a 16-game win streak. AND, the Cubs, Reds and Marlins ALL have to lose at least six of their last nine or 10 games.
It’s not impossible. In fact, the way things are going, they’re probably going to fall a hilarious one or two games short. Which just makes their failure to, uh, exert maximum effort late in games when they were down by a run all year long that much more frustrating.
In other news, I’m fostering a dog who I’m calling Nugget. You can follow my Instagram for all the latest.
That’s all for this week! Thank you so much for being a free or paid subscriber to the Long Game. Paid subscribers will be chatting tonight (Friday) at 7 PM PT/10 PM ET in the app during the Dodgers vs. Giants game. We will also meet over Zoom tomorrow at 12 PM PT for an hour of baseball talk and creativity. The free list gets a chat on Sunday afternoon during the Mariners vs. Rangers game and during the Dodgers vs. Giants game that night.
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