The Mariners, having recently crushed the Yankees in their own stadium for the third time in a row, have crawled back above .500, continuing the trend where they diddle with mediocrity while various players experience cavernous lows and inexplicable highs—often in such a way as to balance out the latter with the former, producing the same sort of mediocrity you see now except typically worse because, you know, Jason Bay.
The Mariners story this year was supposed to be one of change- like Barack Obama in the 2004 Presidential election, these bleeding-heart liberal fuckers just don’t know when to quit! Yet, similar but also not at all similar to Obama’s reign as supreme high sultan of the White House, the Mariners are not changed insofar as they are relying on new faces, they are changed instead by the increased production of old ones.
Utterly worthless analogies aside, much was made regarding Robinson Cano’s arrival with the Mariners this past offseason—and reasonably so. Cano came with an enormous price tag. The money Cano received to be the Mariners’ second baseman for the next 10 years was more than “go buy yourself a new car” sort of money; it more closely approximated “Sylvio Burlesconi sodomizing 15 Italian prostitutes in a pile of cocaine” sort of money.
Cano has been very good yet simultaneously disappointing since his arrival. He is without question the steadiest source of offense on the squad and far less prone to the precipitous ups and downs that plague even the more talented and productive of the Mariners’ other offensive contributors. That being said, the power numbers have yet to show up. Admittedly, this has hindered his production, as his slugging percentage is presently sitting well below his career average. Though really, anyone who thinks this is a long-term issue is a buffoon. Cano did not forget how to hit dingers out of the blue. In fact, Cano is not even a guy whose offensive game is predicated around trying to hit the ball out of the park all of the time anyway. Cano likes to spray the ball around the field. In doing so, he achieves a level of consistency that most Mariners (who commonly feature all-or-nothing approaches spurred by either the ignorance of youth or the ignorance of their coaching staff) lack.
If this sounds familiar, then you are one of about 20 people to have read my prior post from about a month ago pertaining to Kyle Seager. In this post I discussed Seager’s approach at the plate as well as his batted ball profile. Seager is a fly ball hitter who tends to pull the ball to right field—that is his greatest asset but it is also one of the reasons that his production tends to fluctuate between the frigid, Regina George-esque slump with which he entered the season and the zesty, Michelle Rodriguez-style hot streak that he has been riding ever since.
Guys who pull the ball and guys who hit the ball in the air suffer when the ball doesn’t leave the yard. These same guys tend to post below average BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) as well. Both of these trends make sense as most fly balls that do not go for dingers tend to be caught by the oft very good and in the worst case probably adequate fielders who are literally paid millions of dollars to ensure these balls do not touch the ground. Further, by pulling the ball all the time those few ground balls that these types of hitters DO hit are far more likely to be gobbled up by the shift—something that has become increasingly en-vogue in Major League Baseball since managers have apparently realized finally that you do not need to look like David Ortiz in order to pull the ball all of the goddamn time.
As I discussed earlier, Kyle Seager will get his. That has been proven over the course of two years and I am of the mind that the numbers Seager has had in the past will likely resemble the numbers he puts up in the near future, until age and injury eventually catch up to him, though those two events may exist in a place relatively far in the future.
All that being said, I think I (and other like-minded Mariners’ fans) may have been unfair to Seager in making this assumption. The Mariners have been so consistently terrible over the past few years that our appreciation for Seager has probably been greater than say, a fan of the Red Sox rooting for a similar player over a similar period of time. We have not been accustomed to good players, so when we have actually had one, we cherish him and do not demand any more than the 3.6 WAR that Seager seems readily capable of. In adopting that sort of mindset, however, we lose some of the space for hope in terms of progressing towards something even better than what we have now.
It is possible that Seager, as of right now, is simply in the midst of one of his many hot streak to which we have become accustomed. He will ride this wave of productivity like Patrick Swayze in Point Break until the wave crashes and he dies and comes back to haunt his wife like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I can live with that progression, as the hot and cold streaks have thus far happily balanced out to an effective aggregate product. But I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t more to see here.
Seager is only 26 years old. He came out the same year Ackley did and while Ackley is commonly pegged as somebody to whom the “Breakout Candidate” tag can be fairly attached; Seager is represented as a guy who has reached his potential and will coast until decline inevitably seizes him by the balls and renders him old, wealthy and chubby with a flaccid power stroke and a struggling libido.
But why not discard this notion and instead believe that this is Seager’s breakout year. In doing so we are taking a leap of faith only insofar as Seager’s stature indicates a player whose ceiling could not possibly be that high. But hey, is that really a fair judgment to make, seeing as that same player with that same stature has been crushing dingers like these to right fields all over the league for 2 years and doing so with only about 2 years of major league experience under his belt?
I’m hardly guaranteeing that this is the case. In fact, I really doubt that it is. That being said though, why not wish for something better? It has been a long time since we have had a homegrown position player who has panned out as someone who contributes. It has been even longer since we have had a homegrown talent who has become a star. Seager is 26 years old and should only now be entering the prime of his career. He has been tearing the cover off the ball.
Who says he can’t keep it up?