Since the Mariners’ history with their top prospects has been spotty at best, reflexive skepticism is warranted. But if the Mariners have gotten it wrong with OF Jarred Kelenic, then it’s time move the franchise off whatever cursed ground T-ball Park is built upon, and send the club to Oklahoma City.
But for the moment, Mariners fans are free to strap on party hats and do funny dancing — Kelenic will be in uniform Thursday, making his major league debut against Cleveland.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the news Monday evening, about the time Kelenic was to take the field for the Class AAA Rainiers game in Tacoma against El Paso, likely to be his last minor league game for a long time. The Mariners were off Monday before games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles Tuesday and Wednesday, so Kelenic will meet them in Seattle for the first of a seven-game homestand.
Apparently Kelenic demonstrated sufficient competence in 22 at-bats against AAA pitching to quell general manager Jerry Dipoto’s fears. Kelenic in Tacoma was 9-for-22 with two home runs, five RBIs, six runs scored and two stolen bases.
On a Zoom call with reporters after the Rainiers won 3-2 and he went 1-for-4, Kelenic claimed he had heard nothing about his pending call-up.
“I’m in tomorrow,” he said. “So I’m just honestly going to be going home tonight, going to bed and getting ready for tomorrow’s game.
“All I can really control is living where my feet are at. It’s really exciting playing here, having fans back in the stands and playing against a different team. You just can’t beat it. So I’m excited to get back out here tomorrow and do it all over again.”
That’s probably as politically correct a statement as Kelenic, from Waukesha, WI., has made in his pro career. He was the sixth pick overall in the 2018 draft by the New York Mets, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 3 prospect in baseball and, in the words of ex-team president Kevin Mather, is “a 21-year-old player who is quite confident.”
Among the many slights that Mather offered in his infamous Feb. 5 talk to the Bellevue Rotary Club that got him fired, he didn’t call Kelenic cocky. But he could have, and wouldn’t have been wrong.
“He’s a very good player, and quite frankly we think he’s going to be a superstar,” Mather said. “We would like him to get a few more at-bats in the minor leagues, probably Triple-A Tacoma for a month. Then he will likely be in left field at T-Mobile Park for the next six or seven years, and then he’ll be a free agent. He won’t commit beyond his free-agent years.”
Mather confirmed that Kelenic rejected a Mariners contract offer that would have bought out his early free agent years. Mather seemed slightly indignant at the rejection. He made it sound as if a potential call-up in the covid-withered 60-game season of 2020 was denied out of retaliation, not talent.
“There was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park,” he said, also referring to pitcher Logan Gilbert. “We weren’t going to put them on the 40-man roster. We weren’t going to start the service-time clock . . . The risk paid off.”
No. Not when you tell the world.
Service-time manipulation has been an open secret in MLB, but it’s never been proven — until Mather confirmed it publicly. The players union jumped all over it, and has it readied for launch when talks begin with owners for a new collective bargaining agreement after the Dec. 1 expiration of the current deal. Informed speculation suggests there will a work stoppage next spring.
Mather and Kelenic will forever be tied together as a footnote in the mostly gruesome history of baseball’s labor problems. One of Kelenic’s agents told USA Today it was “crystal clear” that the decision to not call him up to the majors in 2020 was based on service time.
Fortunately, Kelenic gets the chance to overshadow his inadvertent, awkward intro to Seattle by doing what he does best — play baseball well.
The Mariners certainly can’t say the big-league club doesn’t need him — one of the worst offensive clubs in MLB, Seattle’s collective batting average this season by left fielders, his destination, is .193.
In February after the Mather blow-up, Dipoto said it was purely a matter of development, not service time, that will have delayed Kelenic’s arrival until 38 games into the 2021 season.
“While Jarred is a wildly talented player, we do want to make sure that he has checked off the boxes in development,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us, not just for the good of the Mariners but for the benefit of Jarred Kelenic, to make sure he has been fully developed.”
Boxes checked. Need defined. “Quite confident” player ready.
Mets fans have already started drinking. (To be fair, they’ve been drinking for a while now because, well, “Mets fans.”)
Good point, Alan! Actually the term ‘Met’ and the word ‘drink’ were conjoined in the Mets first season of 1962 when they lost 120 games, a modern record. Their sad sack first baseman was Marvelous Marv Throneberry. One day, Marv tripled but was called out when Ernie Banks stepped on second. Said Banks, “he didn’t step on the bag”. Manager Casey Stengel came out to argue and the ump told him “don’t bother, Casey, he missed first base too!”. After a pause, Casey said “well, I know he made third because he’s standing on the bag!!”. Later Throneberry became famous for the Miller Lite commercials of the 70’s and 80’s. He is now in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Curiously, my uncle Pat Abbott is in the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame. But there’s no known connection between Pat and Marv. Thank God.
Marv hit .244 that year with 16 home runs—- Ruthian by M’s standards.
,Hard to compare eras, yes? But we can’t help ourselves, can we?
Since we’ve veered into obtuse Mets’ connections, my first non-toy baseball glove was an Ed Kranepool model. It caught well more than half of the balls aimed in its direction.
Mets fans have slit their wrists over Lindor.
Do the slits heal well? Asking you for previous sports-fan experiences.
I’ll trade JP Crawford for Lindor straight up.
How about the M’s fleecing a team in a trade? Doesn’t fit the four-decade narrative, but I’m willing to work with it.
Let’s not get too excited. Griffey hit .264 as a rookie. Oh, well….that would lead the team this year….so, yeah, woo-hoo!
Neither Ruth nor Griffey had to hit against nearly every pitcher trained to throw little but high heat 96+, and against today’s shifts.
I remember a few (or a bit more) short years ago when a local newspaper (I still miss it and the rest simply pale by comparison) when a young man was called up to cover sports and the sporting world – well the Puget Sound area – was never the same thereafter. Thanks Art, your articles are always concise and are seldom blue and always Thiel. Mets fans! Being a long suffering Mariners fan I can almost relate. Hope our fortunes are turning for us!
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You’re always welcome here, Kevin, when you’re packing undeserved flattery.
It is fortunate for the M’s that there are outfits to plunder that are worse off and
eager to give away young talent.
It’s in the merciful hands of the baseball gods now. We will soon find out if the wayward Mariners have been dismissed from an endless purgatory imposed for who knows what litany of minor sins. Is it the Second Coming of Griffey or A-Rod? Or will it be another round of rookie savior disappointment? Another Charlie Brown whiff and pratfall.
If this kid has any kind of flair for the dramatic, he will surely seize the opportunity. The missing link has been located; the pieces will slip smoothly into place. He will lift the team onto his broad shoulders and carry them forward out of the dismal wilderness into Bobblehead Heaven. These are crazy times. And what could be crazier than the humble Mariners rising confidently and emphatically from the cold ashes of futility? The Nats did it. Is it finally our turn now?
Look at you, Mr. Loquacious. Baseball-futility-induced delirium is one of the few entitlements of the longtime Mariners fan.
If the Mariners lose the pennant I’m going to demand a recount.
See if the folks who are doing a recount now in Maricopa County have the time to do another.
Wow. Boldly and beautifully said. But, to answer your final question, ummm….no.
For the M’s sake, I hope this rush job doesn’t backfire like Mike Zunino. He would’ve been a better hitter with another year of the minors under his belt.
My guess is he’s closer to the A-Rod end of the precociousness scale than the Mike Z end.
Are ARod and his partners in Minnesota like Michael Corleone in Havana….not quite ready to hand over the suitcase full of money?
How is his last name pronounced? Is it KELL-LEN-ICK? Or KELL-NICK?