BY Art Thiel 06:20PM 02/21/2013

Thiel: Mariners need to find outfielder to like

The Mariners have nine outfielders in spring training, and one needs to be better than Mike Carp, who is destined to be an All-Star in Boston after getting the “Mariners Bump.”

In the great Mariners tradition, Mike Carp will gain All-Star form in Boston. / Getty Images

I am eager to be the first to congratulate ex-Mariner 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, never a Carp strength.

We know this will happen because he has been given the Mariners Bump — a trade of an outfielder on the verge, who then flourishes elsewhere. Perhaps you know this baseball phenomenon better as the Morse Force.

You may recall that Mike Morse, an infielder/outfielder with promise, was traded by Seattle in 2009 at 26, same age as Carp, and went on to finish ninth in National League in 2011 in batting average (.303) and home runs (31). Now the Mariners have re-acquired him, at the cost of competent backup catcher (and leading hitter in 2012) John Jaso.

Or you may know this pupa-to-butterfly saga as the (Adam) Jones Jump, or the (Scott) Podsednik Pop, the Raul Ibanez Escape or the  (Shin-soo) Choo-Choo.  Jones, Podsednik and Ibanez became All-Stars after leaving Seattle, and Choo in in 2010 had an OPS of .885, ninth in AL.

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 revivify at 38.

Yes, I know. Every club has done the same thing — letting go talent that flourishes elsewhere. Part of the game. Woulda-shoulda-coulda. Nobody’s perfect. Yadda. Yadda.

It’s just as true that only two teams have never made the World Series, and one of them, the Washington Nationals, Morse’s old team, is one of the favorites to rep the NL in the Series. The other one, the Seattle Mariners, is not a favorite to be the AL rep in Series.

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 and featuring 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 commence Friday, Mariners fans glimpse at the outfield candidates and wonder, 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 at the plate and in the field. But 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.

The Mariners last season used four players in center, who combined to hit .244 with an OPS of .714, 20 home runs and 67 RBI. Woeful as are those numbers, it was their most productive outfield position.

Right field used six guys, who hit a combined .245 with .659 OPS, 12 homers and 53 RBI. The totals killed the deployment in left: Eight guys combined to hit .207 with a .647 OPS with 22 homers and 71 RBI.

Getting .207 out of left field is as demoralizing as watching the kid gunfighter in “Unforgiven” admit late in the fight he can’t see very well. What the hell are you doing out here?

Somewhere among Morse, Ibanez, Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Jason Bay and Julio Morban — the nine outfielders on the 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.


  • just passing thru

    Art, have you been posting on Baker’s blog? seems like a lot of brothers in arms for you there on this subject. ;-p

    • Svensun

      or maybe what they are saying is patently obvious . The numbers, the record, the ages, the history, even the odds — hard to miss, really.

      • art thiel

        Just like a Hector Noesi fastball — hard to miss.

        • just passing thru

          yeah, even Mike Carp would hit that! and, I like(d) Mike.

    • art thiel

      No, my daily tasks keep me busy here. No need to soil someone else’s sheets.

  • Tian Biao

    and so Art Thiel becomes officially the first writer ever to connect Guti to chelyabinsk – excellent. and yes, outfielders, we have a whole bunch of them who are similarly sort-of-good, with similar middling potential to maybe be slightly productive. except the ones we trade, as art points out: they’ll be just fine. but . . . why is that exactly? either the Ms can’t assess talent, or safeco somehow gets in their heads, or the lack of lineup protection does them in. i really don’t want to conclude that Z can’t assess talent, not yet, because it’s still springtime, and i want to hold out some hope. but yes indeed, what a middling bunch of outfielders. maybe I’ll put Carp on my fantasy team as a reserve.

    • art thiel

      Tian, stay optimistic. Makes one feel better. Plenty of time for crusty curmudgeonness later.

  • clayton puglisi

    As I look at the outfield Morse is going to be in left, Guti in center and Saunders in right. and then Ibanez and bay or Wells backing them up. You do have to admit that this is a better a outfield the mariners have then in years past. The key will be if Guti can stay healthy for a 120 to 140 games because we know he is good when healthy. Saunders shows more improvement. Morse does his thing. then yes this outfield has a chance to be really good

    • Effzee

      Aaaw, I always find spring training Mariners optimism to be so cute. Completely unfounded, yet cute. ;-)

      • art thiel

        I can feel you pinching Clayton’s cheek from here.

    • art thiel

      The group is not without upside, Clayton. It doesn’t take a hard squint to see a major-league average group. But so much has to go well, and the Mariners had that in 2001, and burned up their cosmic karma for the century in its first year.

  • Effzee

    “There is no one reason for the Mariners’ consistent ability to outmaneuver success…” – I would argue that if there were one guy overseeing a steaming pile for 28 of 36 years, he might be the main reason for the relentless steaming of said pile.

    • Svensun

      ya think? Guess his job description has absolutely nothing to do with winning baseball games. I would argue, based on what he actually does, that it used to be for keeping the till running; now it’s to groom for selling. He doesn’t care about the steaming pile he created…

      • art thiel

        Believe it or not, Sven, he cares. Doing something about it is another thing.

    • art thiel

      C’mon, Effzee, everyone in baseball is entitled to work his way out of a slump.

  • maqman

    The good news is that Figgins will not be an option this year.

    • art thiel

      Remember, Morse has been called back to Seatle once and Ibanez twice.

  • RadioGuy

    Well, that’s it. They may as well pack up the gear in Peoria and send everyone home because we let go of a pair of future All-Stars like Mike Carp and John Jaso. How will we ever replace Carp? Bringing in shlubs like Mike Morse, Kendry Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay won’t do it. I mean, what have those guys ever done in MLB? And can’t Zduriencik see that the future of the team at catcher was Jaso and not some wannabe like Mike Zunino?

    I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion.

    • Effzee

      You can’t believe we would have this discussion? Exactly how far back does your knowledge of Mariners history go? 6 weeks? Maybe 7?

      • art thiel

        What he said, Radio.

        • RadioGuy

          I know when I’ve been checkmated. Okay, guys, I concede: The Seattle Mariners will never win without John Jaso or Mike Carp in the lineup.

          • effzee

            Once a shill, always a shill.

    • Svensun

      What silly sarcasm. Point is, they’re mediocre, they’re old, they were cheap, and their recent histories have all the markings of players on the downside, not the upside. Nobody suggested Jaso instead of Zunino– that doesn’t even rise to the low level of a sarcasm target.

      I hear there are those who will, for some consideration, post rah rah stuff on the M’s behalf. We know how averse they are to any hint of FO criticism.

      • art thiel

        The Mariners have a lamentable history of attempting to squeeze out last years from once-good careers. Worked with Vince Coleman, not so much with Rickey Henderson, Griffey, Bradley, etc. Unfortunately, they can’t get prime-timers to show up. Maybe Morales will be the exception to the rule.

    • art thiel

      Of course we’re having this discussion, Radio, because of the team’s history. Remember years ago when Griffey was in center and played with more left fielders than Rommel had soldiers in North Africa in 1941?

      I’m not saying that Morse can’t be an upgrade. But I can say that a lot of good hitters have come to Seattle and watched their batting averages die. Sure, the fences are coming in. Pardon me if I wait a year before I declare progress was made.

  • Trygvesture

    Spot on, and a delight to read. No matter the ‘who’ of it, the record remains the same–They do just run around on the same wheel. It may be in spite of their best efforts or it may be because the culture — dictated by the FO– hasn’t got winning on its priority list. The fact is the M’s, like the Dude, remain.

    But, it still looks like it devolved to a ‘groom for sale’ profile of a business.

  • JimC

    god that first line was hilarious. I laughed like i was kicked in the stomach. i almost didnt read the rest.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for hangin’ Jim. How’d your stomach do with the .207 cume for the LFs?

  • one174

    Sorry, Art, I subscribe to the Curse of Safeco Theory. It wouldn’t matter whether they got rid of Carp last year, next year, or whenever. His last year here would hover around 200 and his first somewhere else would approach .300. Chuck and Howie generate some magical force through their stupidity and ineptness that feeds the Curse. Under their influence Z is going from an adept to a dip.

    • art thiel

      Adept to dip? I like the sound of that, but I don’t think Z is getting dumber. But he’s annually asked to win the pot with a pair of treys. .207 in LF?

      • one174

        I don’t think Z is dumb or getting dumber, but his performance, like that of everyone else is clouded by the Curse. Z is just another guy who will flourish when he leaves. The only ones who will not flourish upon leaving are the Two Trolls At The Top from whom emanates this Curse. Let’s include Owner-San and make it Three Trolls.

    • RepsDemsSameParty

      I think Z is doing the best he can with tools he’s got. He tried signing bigger names, it’s just that those players don’t want to come to team with a bad track record for the past 12 years or come to a park that is said to kill batting stats. After a couple of years with winning records and an improved offense (since the fences have been moved in), perhaps we’ll be able to sign these types of players. Though I prefer seeing them come from within our own farm system.