Mariners' outfield: There's no there there
I am eager to be the first to congratulate 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, which was never a Carp strength.
We know this will happen because yesterday he was given the Mariners Bump — a trade of an outfielder on the verge, who then flourishes elsewhere.
Some may know this baseball phenomenon better as the Morse Force. Mike Morse, an infielder/outfielder with promise, was traded by Seattle in 2009 at 26 — the same age as Carp. In 2011, he went on to finish ninth in the National League in batting average (.303) and home runs (31). Now the Mariners have re-acquired him, at the cost of competent back-up catcher (and leading hitter in 2012) John Jaso.
There are other cases of this pupa-to-butterfly saga: the (Adam) Jones Jump, the (Scott) Podsednik Pop, the Raul Ibanez Escape and the (Shin-soo) Choo-Choo. Jones, Podsednik and Ibanez became All-Stars after leaving Seattle. Choo, in 2010, had an OBP (on-base plus slugging average) of .885, ninth in the American League.
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 revive himself at age 38.
Yes, I know. Every club has at some point let go of talent that flourishes elsewhere. Part of the game. Woulda-shoulda-coulda. Nobody's perfect. Yadda. Yadda.
It's just as true, though, that only two teams have never made the World Series. One of them, the Washington Nationals (Morse's old team) is a favorite to rep the National League in this year’s Series. The other, the Seattle Mariners, is definitely not a favorite to rep the American League.
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. The spots feature 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 began last Friday, Mariners fans caught their first glimpse at the outfield candidates. Many of them likely wondered, 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 — both at the plate and in the field. The one problem: 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.
Somewhere among Morse, Ibanez, Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Jason Bay and Julio Morban — the nine outfielders on the Mariners’ 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.