At Safeco Field Sunday (July 31) we were watching baseball but many of us were thinking football. This was extremely odd given that the last day of July is one of the critical junctures during the Major League Baseball season, the final day of unrestricted trading as haves and have-nots swap talent for high gear of the pennant drive.
It also was kind of a big day for Number 51, and not the “51” (“Ichiro” something) who plays right field for the Mariners. The other 51 is — was, anyway — Lofa Tatupu, released by the Seahawks before the Sabbath was half over.
Tatupu, the under-sized, over-performing, intermittently injured middle linebacker since 2005, had salary issues with Hawks management and thus was considered expendable. The departure of the three-time pro-bowler and fan fave (in Portland the day before, a Seahawks partisan of my acquaintance was sporting his “51” Hawks jersey) was merely the latest in what has been a virtual season’s worth of Hawk and Mariner roster changes compressed to less than a week’s time. It’s been like the weather in Denver: You don’t like Seattle baseball/football personnel? Then wait half an hour and it’s bound to change.
While those at Safeco with hand-held devices still were trying to figure the significance of the loss of Lofa, the M’s were letting it be known that the Sunday left fielder would be Casper Wells. Who he? Wells is part of the deal that sent pitchers Doug Fister and David Pauley to Detroit the day before. Wells’ (brief) career numbers are unspectacular, meaning on paper he may be the best of what seems to have been a veritable roster of left-fielders this season (but what’s new given that Ken Griffey Jr. played next to 37 left-fielders from 1989 to ’99?).
The biggest name as far as local-sports departures/acquisitions remains Matt Hasselbeck, who left July 27 to join Jake Locker in the Tennessee Titans quarterback pool. Hawk management bought a half-page “thank-you” ad in the sports section of Sunday’s Seattle Times. It shows two shots of Hasselbeck in action, curiously not identifying the departed starter but naming his wife and three kids.
Fister, of course, got something much better than a back pat from Seattle management. The rangy right-hander got a shot at post-season play that yet again has eluded the last-place M’s. Those who winced at Fister’s predicament in Seattle no doubt are mollified by the prospect of him getting from the Tiger offense the run support the paper-tiger Mariners couldn’t deliver.
The finale of the five-day flurry of local baseball- and football-player activity was reserved for Erik Bedard, the suddenly dependable lefty who was 15-14 during three seasons in Seattle. The announcement of his swap to Boston in a three-team deal involving the Dodgers came while the National Anthem was still being warbled at Safeco, seconds prior to the 1 p.m. (Pacific time) trade deadline. A few minutes later M’s general manager Jack Zduriencik spun the Bedard deal for media types, meaning some of the latter busy hearing about the acquisition of a couple of little-league, er, minor-league prospects missed a pair of Seattle errors to open the game.
Game? Oh, yeah, there actually was a game played. Tampa Bay prevailed 8-1. Casper Wells didn’t even get his first at-bat until the third inning, which has been typical for the guy batting seventh for the M’s. He tapped out to shortstop, finishing with a hit in four at-bats as Seattle dropped to 45-62, which projects to a 64-98 season.
Meanwhile, I thought, passing the souvenir stands after the game, certain fans so motivated at least can anticipate an array of new player-name wearables. That Seahawks follower in Portland told me he’d be laying to rest the beloved (albeit, beat-up) Tatupu jersey and would soon buy and wear the number 29, assigned to Hawk safety Earl Thomas.
My advice: All prospective Hawks/M’s merchandise-buyers might try waiting another month or so because players here today very well — or “Wells,” as in Casper — could be gone tomorrow. You disagree? Then consider what the Mariners got for Bedard: two minor-league prospects who, of course, play outfield, presumably left.