Time Traveling with the Mariners: A Chance At Do-Overs

Josh Fields

People need to understand that there is not now, nor will there ever be, the existence of time travel. Think about it. If time travel existed, we’d already know. Someone from the future would have come to inform us. I’m sure of it.

Now I know we all cite Back to the Future as a guide of sorts for navigating the space-time continuum, but that’s a movie. It’s fiction. Sure, Doc Brown says you don’t go back in time and screw everything up by talking to your past self or blowing the secrets of time travel, but come on. Look at Marty McFly. The dude nearly had an aneurysm trying to play by the rules in 1955. And I consider him a unique human being. You really think your average time traveler would be able to go back and forth without effing everything up? No. No freakin’ way.

Personally, I’ve already made a pact with myself that if time travel does exist at any point in my lifetime, I’ll come back from the future at precisely fifteen seconds from now and let myself know. You’re probably wondering if I’m kidding. I am not. And guess what, I didn’t show up. So time travel doesn’t exist. At least not in my lifetime. Because if it did, I’d be talking to Future Me right now. Unless I die young. Like Tupac. In which case, I better start writing future-dated articles to be released posthumously. I want that weird, cryptic, he’s-still-alive-somewhere-I-just-know-it legacy. We should all want that. It freaks people out. And what better feeling is there than the one you get punking people from heaven? I imagine there’s nothing greater.

What does all this have to do with anything, you ask? Good question. I don’t really know. I’m still trying to tie that run-on intro into a piece about the Mariners. I really just wanted to talk about time travel for a minute, because I think we don’t talk about it enough. I feel like entire sitcoms could be based around the premise of time travel, instead of just one or two episodes (they always have one or two time-travel episodes) in the series. And don’t tell me Quantum Leap was really about time travel. The premise of Quantum Leap involved time travel, yes, but really it just served as a vehicle for Scott Bakula’s shitty acting career, which arguably peaked when he landed the role of Gus Cantrell in Major League: Back to the Minors, aka the Major League that no one watched. I suppose if the producers could go back and do it again, they might not have cast Cantrell in that role after all. Given the fragile state of Charlie Sheen’s psyche circa 1998 (I’m assuming it was fragile, since we’re dealing with Charlie Sheen, after all), when Back to the Minors was unleashed upon the world, they probably could have netted themselves Rick Vaughn if they had the wherewithal to press a little harder. Then again, they half-assed the entire production of the third Major League. For Christ’s sake, Taka Tanaka had his Metrodome scenes green-screened. How do you green-screen someone into a movie and think no one watching will notice? That takes moxie. Stupid, stupid moxie.

Wait, I’ve got it. If the Mariners could go back in time, I bet they’d change quite a bit with their current roster. You think they’d still offer Chone Figgins a four-year, $36 million deal in the 2009-2010 offseason? Not when they could have re-signed Adrian Beltre for one year at $9 million. And what about the Cliff Lee deal? You figure they still pawn him off on the Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, and Josh Lueke? Smoak has struggled since arriving and Lueke is already out of town, having been dealt to the Rays for the rainbow-colored unicorn that is John Jaso this past offseason. Beavan is quickly becoming a reliable starter, but Lee is still in the upper echelon of pitchers in Major League Baseball. Not as promising a deal as was once imagined.

I’m not gonna say hindsight is 20/20. I think that phrase is ridiculously cliche. Of course hindsight is 20/20. No one from the future came and gave us 20/20 foresight, those dicks, so yeah, we can certainly see clearly looking back at the past. Stupid. Anyway, here’s a look at three more less-heralded recent do-overs the Mariners might want to consider. If they were able to piece together their flux capacitor, that is:

1. The drafting of Josh Fields

Blame the Bill Bavasi regime for this one. That dumbass Vincent Price look-alike was crazy enough to choose a closer with his 2008 first-round selection. Who the hell does that? There have been picks we’ve all questioned after some time has passed — the No. 3 overall selection of Jeff Clement in ’05, for instance — but never has one pick been so openly scrutinized right from the get-go as the Fields pick was four years ago. Consider that players taken with the next 20 picks after Fields include the likes of Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Mike Montgomery, and Houston Astros starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, among others.

Whatever happened to Fields, anyway? Great question.

Now 26 years of age, the right-handed reliever is currently pitching for Boston’s Double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine. As part of the trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox a season ago, Fields helped land the M’s current minor league outfielders Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang, a transaction the team may very well not regret going forward.

For now, though, the one truth we hold to be self-evident is this: the drafting of Josh Fields was an epic, epic failure. Into our DeLorean and onto the next…

2. The trade of Brandon Morrow

Okay, I’ll admit, this one’s a little tougher to justify. In exchange for Morrow, who was seemingly stuck in mediocrity here in Seattle, the Mariners netted closer Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez. It’s too early to tell what may become of Chavez, but obviously we know all about League. The hard-throwing righty has become the anchor in the team’s bullpen. Whether as a setup man his first year, or a closer last season, League has been fairly reliable for an otherwise underwhelming ballclub.

But here’s the thing. A closer on a losing squad is like a bow on a second-hand gift. What good is it, anyway?

League might be an All-Star, but it matters little for how seldom he’s called upon to slam the door on opposing lineups. So my question to you is this: Would you rather have a solid closer who will likely be dealt at some point in the future, or a hard-throwing starting pitcher who could be considered a part of your future? On a potential cellar dweller like the Mariners, the answer should be the latter. Which is why dealing Morrow would have to at least be reconsidered if we were to do it all over again.

The problems Morrow had with the Mariners can be blamed, once again, on the Bavasi regime. The organization mishandled their 2006 first-round pick, grooming him as a starter, fast-tracking him to the big leagues as a reliever, then juggling him between ‘pen, rotation, and farm system for the ensuing three seasons. Was it worth it? Hell no it wasn’t. Had the team allowed the now-27-year-old to mature in the minors over time, he could be among the game’s elite right this very minute. Instead? Well, now he’s a middle-of-the-rotation guy for the Toronto Blue Jays. Which, many would contest, is still more desirable than either of the goods the M’s received in exchange for their former prized possession.

3. The non-trade of Franklin Gutierrez

In 2009, Franklin Gutierrez’s first season with the Mariners, the center fielder batted .283/.339/.764, with 18 home runs and 70 RBI. Just one season later, in 2010, Gutierrez’s averaged dipped nearly 40 points, to a much-less-impressive .245, while his OPS plummeted nearly a Benjamin, down to .666 (foreboding, I know).

Guti’s 2011 campaign was injury-riddled and much, much worse than anyone could have expected. A .224/.261/.534 line, with a lone dinger and just 19 RBI, barely made the 29-year-old worthy of a job. Only a few months removed from that disaster, the man once dubbed Death To Flying Things sits idly on the Disabled List as he works his way back from the latest in his string of physical maladies.

While Gutierrez was obtained for pennies on the dollar in what shall forever be known as “the J.J. Putz deal,” his value, like that of a once-proud stock, has been severely mitigated over time. In the fall of 2009, the Mariners’ could have received a kings’ ransom for the then-26-year-old. Instead, they opted to dedicate the future to their investment. Rather than reward them for their faith, Guti failed to validate the team’s trust in him, as his offensive statistics have slid remarkably ever since.

Yes, he’s a popular, marketable figure for the organization. But that alone shouldn’t cloud anyone’s vision of what Gutierrez has become. With a litany of talented young outfielders fermenting in the minor leagues, the time has come to bid adieu to the defensive stalwart that Franklin Gutierrez truly is. Unfortunately, Guti’s seemingly-imminent departure will come just a few seasons too late to be anything but negative.

The Venezuela native is signed through next season, and barring a resurgence of remarkable proportions, 2013 will mark Gutierrez’s last stand in a Mariners uniform. He will likely hit the free agent market after that and become some other team’s fourth outfielder for the remainder of his career. It sounds bleak, yes, but fair or unfair, it’s the reality of the current situation.

Face it, the team should have flipped their center fielder some time ago. They didn’t, and now they’re paying the price.

As for me, what would I do if given the luxury of a time machine and the chance at a do-over? Easy. I’d enact vengeance upon those who had wronged me over the years. Not anything real bad. Just little spiteful paybacks. Like the kid who bullied me in preschool. Would an adult from the future hesitate to push a four-year-old off the big toy? Not for one single second.

2 responses

  1. I think the Eddie Perez trade is more worth undoing then the lack of trading Franklin Gutierrez. For Perez we gave up Asdrubal Cabrera. Perez played 43 games, batted .195 and retired. Cabrera was an All-Star SS last season.

  2. Totally missed the Adam Jones deal….All star center fielder (probably going to be in 2012 again) for Bedard….yeah the time machine would be good for that one too…

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