I am eager to be the first to congratulate ex-Mariner Mike Carp on his presumptive selection to the American League All-Star team, now that he will flourish in 2013 as a first baseman/left fielder for the Boston Red Sox.
In the puny breadbox of Fenway Park, he will hit in the first half of the season .320 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs. When he plays left, he just needs to catch balls ricocheting off the Green Monster. So much easier than stopping balls before they get to the outfield wall, never a Carp strength.
We know this will happen because he has been given the Mariners Bump — a trade of an outfielder on the verge, who then flourishes elsewhere. Perhaps you know this baseball phenomenon better as the Morse Force.
You may recall that Mike Morse, an infielder/outfielder with promise, was traded by Seattle in 2009 at 26, same age as Carp, and went on to finish ninth in National League in 2011 in batting average (.303) and home runs (31). Now the Mariners have re-acquired him, at the cost of competent backup catcher (and leading hitter in 2012) John Jaso.
Or you may know this pupa-to-butterfly saga as the (Adam) Jones Jump, or the (Scott) Podsednik Pop, the Raul Ibanez Escape or the (Shin-soo) Choo-Choo. Jones, Podsednik and Ibanez became All-Stars after leaving Seattle, and Choo in in 2010 had an OPS of .885, ninth in AL.
Then there was Ichiro. MVP. All-Star. Rookie of the Year. Gold Glover. Face of a nation. Many were the thrills, records and headlines he provided in the Great Emptiness (post-2001). But through no fault of his own, he was paid $18 million to hit singles, and through much fault of his own, the Mariners clubhouse was privately grateful and relieved he left for the Yankees, where he seemed to revivify at 38.
Yes, I know. Every club has done the same thing — letting go talent that flourishes elsewhere. Part of the game. Woulda-shoulda-coulda. Nobody’s perfect. Yadda. Yadda.
It’s just as true that only two teams have never made the World Series, and one of them, the Washington Nationals, Morse’s old team, is one of the favorites to rep the NL in the Series. The other one, the Seattle Mariners, is not a favorite to be the AL rep in Series.
There is no one reason for the Mariners’ consistent ability to outmaneuver success, although I would encourage the club’s marketers to re-think the pervasive radio commercials playing now and featuring manager Eric Wedge saying, “Baseball is a game of failure.” It’s like telling your wife after you’ve forgotten her birthday/anniversary, “Husbanding is a job of failure.” She is not encouraged by the reminder.
The Mariners outfield has become a swirl of flashes and vapor, none of it really knowable. It’s like watching a ballroom dance through a keyhole.
As the spring games commence Friday, Mariners fans glimpse at the outfield candidates and wonder, as Casey Stengel once mused about the long-ago Mets, if anyone here can play this (outfield) game.
Certainly, centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez has shown he can do it at the plate and in the field. But his injury history is so perverse, I read the story of the Russian meteor blast and called the Mariners to see if he was in Chelyabinsk. That cosmic beanball had “Guti” written all over it.
The Mariners last season used four players in center, who combined to hit .244 with an OPS of .714, 20 home runs and 67 RBI. Woeful as are those numbers, it was their most productive outfield position.
Right field used six guys, who hit a combined .245 with .659 OPS, 12 homers and 53 RBI. The totals killed the deployment in left: Eight guys combined to hit .207 with a .647 OPS with 22 homers and 71 RBI.
Getting .207 out of left field is as demoralizing as watching the kid gunfighter in “Unforgiven” admit late in the fight he can’t see very well. What the hell are you doing out here?
Somewhere among Morse, Ibanez, Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Jason Bay and Julio Morban — the nine outfielders on the 40-man roster — there has to be someone young enough, healthy enough and talented enough for Mariners fans to like. Don’t even have to love the guy. Doesn’t have to be three of them, or even two.
Just someone that keeps a fan from throwing a shoe at Carp during the All-Star Game telecast.