The happiest Mariners employee Sunday afternoon was Daniel Vogelbach. The most gratified employee had to be general manager Jerry Dipoto, who had taken three years of grief for acquiring Vogelbach at the cost of Mike Montgomery, a versatile starter/reliever who helped the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series.
The midseason swap was puzzling, because the Mariners at the time were short on pitching and didn’t need a first baseman/DH with a beer-keg body who couldn’t play defense.
Dipoto was resolute.
“He rakes,” Dipoto told the Seattle Times. “He rakes everywhere he’s ever been. He’s an elite strike-zone controller with well above-average power. He has absolutely tormented right-hand pitching, especially this year.”
He raked everywhere, it seemed, except the majors.
In eight MLB games in 2016, 16 in 2017 and 37 in 2018, Vogelbach was a Mendoza Line warrior (.197 with four home runs), a guy who fit the classic 4A profile of minor league dominance and major league diminishment.
Then Sunday, he became, at 26, an American League All-Star.
A year after he was sent down to AAA Tacoma five times.
Cue the Gloria Gaynor chorus of I Will Survive.
“Being an All-Star was never really something in the back of my mind in those times,” Vogelbach told reporters Sunday in Houston, where the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Mariners with a 6-1 win. “Just trying to get an opportunity to play was No. 1. I want to prove (the Mariners) right for giving me the opportunity.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t think it will until you are there.”
Since the rules of the All-Star Game — this year July 9 in Cleveland (4:30 p.m., FOX) — mandate that each club be represented, the Mariners, in their teardown year absent Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, Edwin Diaz and James Paxton, had to have somebody. Dipoto was not allowed to trade away the automatic berth for a reliever with a 6.00 ERA.
That doesn’t mean that Vogelbach was merely a token.
In 51 games as DH and 28 games as 1B/PH base or pinch hitter, the six-foot, 250-pounder leads all designated hitters as of Sunday in on-base percentage (.384) and OPS (.919) after hitting 20 home runs and drawing 56 walks, the latter also most among DHs.
Vogelbach is one of three Mariners 26 and under to hit 20 home runs before the All-Star break, joining Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. To put the those three in the same sentence stretches the limits of the sports imagination.
While it’s well underst0od that learning how to hit major league pitching comes soon for few and later for most — Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez being the poster child, delayed until 27 for a full-time job — the impatience among media and fans for instant gratification, especially for players added at midseason, is relentless.
“It just really makes you realize you just have to keep pushing,” Vogelbach said. “There were a lot of questions last year about whether I’d ever get an opportunity. I just tried to stay as positive as I can and just continue to perform at whatever level I’m at.”
After shedding Cruz and Cano, and this year Edwin Encarcacion and Jay Bruce, coupled with an injury to Ryon Healy, the Mariners had no reason not to give Vogelbach the plate appearances to get down his timing and upgrade his knowledge of pitchers.
He’s still well below average as a fielder, but the Mariners will have others for that. Dipoto gets a gold star for patience.
“The left-handed offense that Dan Vogelbach brings at some point in 2016 and then for the years beyond was really too appealing to pass up,” Dipoto said after the trade. “There’s no specific ETA for his arrival here. But we just feel like the long-term value he brings us, he’s ready to play in the big leagues today. Whether he fits on our roster today is a different matter. But what he brings us long term is too good to walk away from.”
Meanwhile, Montgomery is still a reliever with the Cubs, having given up 16 earned runs in 23.2 innings this season with a 1.9 WHIP. Chicago GM Theo Epstein was asked during the Cubs’ visit to Seattle in May if he had tried the Vogey Hoagy, the new sandwich at T-ball Park.
“No,” Epstein said. “I’ve got the Monty World Series ring.”
The thunderdunk on Dipoto resonated around baseball. Dipto still has to wear it, but the final words are yet to be uttered.
Like a lot of others, I was down on Vogelbach, especially for what we gave up in Montgomery. But Vogelbach certainly has showed his hitting ability this year, now that he has been given a full opportunity. I hope he gets into the All Star game and blasts one about 500 feet.
Home run derby field is decided Wednesday. Stay tuned.
Vogey is definitely one of the highlights of the season, not that there is much competition. what a great attitude: ‘I just try to stay positive and continue to perform at whatever level I’m at.’
If he could just bend at the waist and knees . . .
So said Miller Huggins.
You are right. Before the season started I envisioned Vogey dropping a much needed 20-30 pounds and becoming the full time major league all around player I thought he could be. Looks like he is doing just fine the way he is, however, he could be even better if he lost some weight.
Congratulations Daniel Vogelbach!
Gloria Gaynor performed I Will Survive though I would have loved to have heard the esteemed Ms. Summers perform it.
Vogelbomb has taken advantage of the opportunity given him and excelled. Just like he should. Edgar had a late start as well and did okay. Hopefully the team will follow in a few years.
Magic eight ball says “doubtful.”
8 has been a Mariners skeptic forever. Put it down and step away.
Vogelbach needed the MLB ABs, and Dipoto got rid of enough players ahead of him to make it so.
Yes, Art – Gloria Gaynor, of the oft-heard quip, “Remember Gloria Gaynor, that woman who sang ‘I Will Survive’? Whatever happened to her?”…
Apologies to the Gaynor fans.
Cool story. Don’t get too attached though. The M’s will trade him for some prospects in a couple of years when they still aren’t winning.
Some traditions are irresistible.
Edgar Martinez had been hitting well at AAA Calgary for awhile. He was only blocked by George Argyros and his infatuation for Jim Pressley.
Dan is going to have a nice career, and the sooner people stop talking about his conditioning the better, because that’s dumb, he is merely a giant scale human being. Big men like that are the one’s who don’t need steroids to crush the ball, and they can be very durable. Seems to be one of those folks that regardless if everything around him sucks, he just knows what his job is. Anyone who thinks Vogelbeast is slow should get in the position a catcher is in when he sees the big buy barreling down on him, I would expect it’s somewhat disconcerting. Also he’s totally figured out how to get under the ball and loft it , which the new more balanced baseballs they use seem to encourage (assuming baseballs are sentient). Great swing mechanics, great bat speed. Pitchers making minor mistakes to him can pay. Which team do you think he will be traded to in the next few week? JUST KIDDING
Seriously the guy is huge. Here is a short list of other too fat players:
Greg Luzinski – 307 HR, Career OPS .840
David Wells – 239 Wins
Cecil and Prince Fielder
A whole list of awesome big gut pitchers.
Dan’s not likely to be HOF caliber, but there are a ton of tubbies in the HOF.
So if anything, Dan needs to put on weight. HA!
Hi Art….I realize that this post has now aged….but, I was drilling around the internet tonight (spotrac and baseball-reference.com) and saw a few shocking things…Maybe I am reading it wrong, and I may not be accurate…BUT…the Mariners will be paying Jay Bruce $12,250,000 in 2020?….The Mariners will pay Carlos Santana, who was on the M’s roster for 10 days, $4 million in 2020 and $17.5 million in 2021 (can that possibly be true)?….And, the M’s are paying Robinson Cano $3.75 million a year from 2019 through 2023. Am I in the ballpark?