So, the Mariners lost today (4-1 to the Rays if you missed it), and that’s not really anything worth noting. The Rays are a playoff-hunting team, the Mariners are in no place to contend and won’t, and the Mariners these past few years have done their fair share of losing. What caught my eye today was the man at the hot corner—everyone’s favorite nemesis, Chone Figgins.
Figgins has played in 3 of the last 4 games, and 6 of the last 10. In the 6 he’s played, he’s racked up 4 hits, 1 run, 1 RBI, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 1 stolen base. This brings his overall stat line to .186/.259/.282 over 59 games of play. His feeble defense will lay that he has a better OBP now than Justin Smoak, Miguel Olivo (who I’ve discussed before), Eric Thames (only if you consider his 10 games as a Mariner), and the strike-out champion known as Carlos Peguero. And, of course, he can defensively play every position on the field. Outside of that, he still owns only a 7% walk rate on the season, an awful 24% strikeout rate for his skill-set, and has been good for a -1 WAR for this season.
Of course, most of us M’s fans (who are probably now intently looking forward to the upcoming football season) didn’t need the exact stats to know that Figgins is one of the worst players on the 25-man roster. Even Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times is got in on the action (in MAY!)—everyone seems to be in agreement that Figgins is a waste of a perfectly good roster spot that could be filled by a younger player. Everyone, of course, except for seemingly the Mariners’ front office employees.
We all know the scenario by now—Jack Zduriencik signed Figgins with little to no opposition, and the hope was that he and Ichiro (sigh) could be a formidable one-two punch to set the table for whoever it was that would hit third, which wound up being a litany of players (one of which was Jose Lopez……*shudders*). He hit pretty well in the 2nd half of the first season on his contract, and a lot of people thought he would rebound in his second season and start to live up to some of his expectations. He flamed out drastically, and wound up riding more pine than he probably anticipated. The calls started for Figgins to be cut; then something strange happened.
Wedge got this idea that Figgins should be given one last shot to start after the injury to Mike Carp. The M’s still had Ichiro in right, and decided to go with Michael Saunders in center. So, the collective grumble from Mariner Nation was “if we have to, I guess” (I never got why we didn’t just go with Casper Wells from the outset, but the M’s don’t listen to me so whatever).
Figgins once again played his way out of the lineup, and people started to return from injury (Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, ect). Players also started to get warrant call-ups from AAA, which presented the M’s with a golden out from Figgins. Instead, Z, Wedge and Company have done everything but send Figgins packing. Now, I have to ask, what the Mariners are honestly doing here.
What benefit to the Mariners have, present or future, by trotting out Figgins to play a role on the 2012 team? He hits, fields, runs, and does everything poorly; he hasn’t shown himself to be anything close to a competent bench presence, and is a bad clubhouse presence (he is one of the main reasons that Don Wakamatsu was pushed out as manager, something that I still don’t agree with).
What benefit does this have to Figgins? It certainly can’t be easy to be the subject of as much scorn as he is in Seattle, and his play reflects a total lack of confidence. He cannot be happy in a Seattle uniform night in and night out, especially seeing that he’s only played in half of this season’s total games after being a starter for a beginning chunk of the season. The team hardly uses him anymore, and it must be totally discouraging.
What benefit does this have to the message the Mariners are sending to their fans? After sending away a fallen but still beloved icon in Ichiro packing to New York, the message at the time was that the Mariners are committed to a youth movement, a full rebuild to see what we have in-house and what we need. But keeping around a toxic veteran like Figgins only confuses people, especially when it seems that we have other players who could fill his role;
If we need a utility player, Luis Rodriguez is younger and has played well at some level this year at least. If we only want an infielder, Nick Franklin could get a shot or Alex Liddi could return. If we (for some reason) only want an outfielder, which is highly unlikely, Darren Ford’s good AAA performance should earn him at least a shot in the majors. Younger players (ie the throw-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach) is what we’ve done at near every position. When you have fans attendance dwindling like the Mariners’ is, its not a good idea to keep a player the fans out-and-out do not want to see on the field.
Why is Figgins still blocking knowledge of major-league performance ability out of a player, and robbing that same knowledge out of a curious fanbase? Is it simply pride, that Z can’t let go of whatever fleeting hope he has that this signing might look better? Is it something with Wedge, where he doesn’t want to coach a team full of only young players and wants to have some sort of gritty veteran presence, or whatever you call the reason for Olivo and Figgins to still be on the roster (I harp on Olivo a lot, I know, and no I couldn’t stop myself from doing it once in an article not about him). Whatever it is, the front office and whoever is responsible needs to simply get over it.
The team currently sees no benefit from Figgins playing; the team in the future sees no benefit from it, and it helps neither Z, Wedge, or Figgins to hold on to this pipe dream that he has any value left for the Mariners. Figgins is a player in desperate need of a reclamation project, and that can only happen somewhere else. Why continue to stall the inevitable? It wasn’t a bad idea, it just didn’t work out—that’s baseball. So, from a confounded fanbase to its management—just suck it up already, and let this struggling fish go.