Brandon League and the Graveyard of Lost All-Stars

Brandon League is an All-Star.

Let that sink in for a minute while I bandage the cuts on my wrists that are still healing from all the blowups League had last year.

Can you believe this? We’re living in a bizarro universe right now. I feel like Marty McFly in Back To The Future II, just now coming to the realization that Biff Tannen is both my step-dad and the richest man in Hill Valley. I gotta get my hands on Gray’s Sports Almanac so we can get the hell out of here.

Now don’t get me wrong. League certainly deserves the honor. He has 23 saves, which leads the American League. In addition, he’s posted a 3.44 ERA, which isn’t stellar, but is mitigated by a 1.09 WHIP. There’s no denying the man’s worthiness.

But still. It’s Brandon League. Last year, he was Brandon “Minor” League. He was as shaky as they come. Dude flirted with The Ayala Zone. He was universally disliked for weeks at a time.

Even this year, Vintage League made a cameo appearance. There was that stretch of one week in May when League notched four losses and went all Sienna West on the world, blowing everything in his path. We all thought the wheels might be coming off the League bandwagon. Thankfully, we were wrong.

Since that bump in the road two months ago, the hard-throwing right-hander has been near-flawless. He has earned his way to baseball’s midsummer classic by mowing down batters in the latter innings of ballgames.

With all that said, I got to thinking about past Mariner All-Stars who were, for lack of a better word, weird. You know, guys you wouldn’t typically associate with all-stardom. And while League still has time to turn himself into a future Hall of Famer down the road, for now we’ll name this graveyard of lost All-Stars after the team’s closer. Why not, right? He’s earned the honor, after all.

Bruce Bochte, 1B, 1979

Over the course of his 12-year career, Bochte was selected to the All-Star Game on only this one occasion. Perhaps most notably, Bochte was the lone Mariner to represent the team the year the midsummer classic was played in Seattle.

While he didn’t start the game, Bochte did make an appearance in the later innings, even recording a base hit on what might very well be the ugliest single in the history of baseball: a chopper that bounced so high off the Kingdome’s cement-like AstroTurf that it seemingly defied the laws of physics.

Bochte batted .316, belted 16 dingers, and drove in 100 runs in ’79, certainly warranting the cosmic distinction that came with his title.

But in case there’s any doubt that Bochte wasn’t your typical All-Star, consider that the not-so-fleet-footed first baseman led the major leagues this very same year by grounding into 27 double plays. So good he turned one out into two.

Rick Honeycutt, SP, 1980

Before he was a standout reliever on the Oakland A’s championship squads in the late-1980s, Honeycutt was a bourgeoning young ace for your Seattle Mariners.

Nothing about Honeycutt’s 1980 season was particularly impressive. He notched a 10-17 win-loss record. His ERA was a shoulder-shrug-inducing 3.94. He struck out 79 batters, walked 60. His WHIP was a shade under 1.40. Eh.

But then again, someone from the Mariners had to go to the big show. Might as well be this guy, right?

Three years later, the southpaw would earn his second and final All-Star nod as a member of the Texas Rangers. He wouldn’t call it a career until 1997, 21 seasons after he made his MLB debut and 17 years after his first trip to baseball’s premier exhibition game.

Matt Young, SP, 1983

A 24-year-old rookie in 1983, Matt Young was as close to a phenom as the M’s had on their roster in those days. Consider him the Michael Pineda of the Eighties, if you will.

Young would finish the ’83 campaign with a record of 11-15, an ERA of 3.27, and a fairly decent 1.26 WHIP. More impressively, the burly left-hander struck out 130 batters and worked his way through two complete game shutouts. Not bad for a noob.

Unfortunately, Young would never again replicate the success he had as a freshman.

Two years later, he would lead the majors in losses with 19. And over a decade-long span, Young would never see his ERA or WHIP get as low as it was during his initial foray into big league baseball.

While the law of diminishing returns may have had an affect on the native Southern Californian’s career, Young still holds the all-important distinction of an All-Star. Can’t take that away from him.

Jim Presley, 3B, 1986

If you were a kid growing up in the late-1980s, you know just how cool Jim Presley was. Before Junior and Edgar and Bone and Randy, the Mariners were a collection of ragtag feel-good stories, the likes of which were embodied in the forms of Alvin Davis, Mark Langston, Harold Reynolds, and of course, Presley.

Though he only played eight years in the bigs, Presley absolutely shined in 1986. It was his third season as a major leaguer, and yet he was just 24 years of age at the time.

Presley would finish up his ’86 campaign with an average of .265, 27 home runs, and 107 RBI.

The denizen of the Mariners’ hot corner, Presley had another good power year in ’87, with 24 homers and 88 RBI.

His numbers would drop dramatically in the following seasons, however, and by 1991, at just 29 years of age, the man with Elvis’s surname would play in his final big league ballgame.

These days, Presley is better known as the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles.

Jeffrey Leonard, DH, 1989

An outfielder by trade, Jeffrey Leonard was primarily a designated hitter by the time he reached Seattle in the twilight of his career.

A 14-year big league veteran who would culminate his playing days as a Mariner in 1990, The HacMan was a cut above the rest in 1989.

Getting the nod over a rookie sensation by the name of Ken Griffey Jr., Leonard represented the M’s in Anaheim at the midsummer classic. It would mark the second and final time Leonard would earn such an honor (he had previously been bestowed supernova status in 1987, while with the San Francisco Giants).

A character in every facet of his demeanor (armed with a thick mustache and sleepy eyes, Leonard would trot around the bases with one arm motionless at his side after hitting a home run…plus, he wore jersey number 00), Leonard would go on to blast 24 longballs and drive in 93 runs during that ’89 season.

Joey Cora, 2B, 1997

More famous for his tears than his on-field conquests, Joey Cora enjoyed a power-filled 1997 season…by his standards, at least.

The light-hitting infielder batted an even .300 and knocked a career-high 11 baseballs over the fence that year, driving in 54 runs in the process. On top of all that, his OPS was an eye-opening .800 (this figure would currently rank third on the 2011 edition of your Seattle Mariners…behind Dustin Ackley and Doug Fister…so basically, Cora would be our three-hole hitter).

Though the 32-year-old second baseman would play just one more season in the bigs, his ’97 campaign should (hopefully) convince fans that Cora was more than just a sobbing cult figure in the days of Mariners’ lore. Tears or no tears, Joey Cora wasn’t half bad that season.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa, RP, 2003

One of only a handful of middle relievers to ever make an All-Star team, Shiggy spent 2003 moonlighting as the team’s closer when fellow countryman and bullpen mate Kazuhiro Sasaki was stricken by injury.

The ’03 rendition of Shigetoshi Hasegawa was as Shiggy as it could possibly get. In 73 innings pitched, the crafty right-hander would finish the year with a 1.48 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 16 saves.

Hasegawa would go on to play two more years in the majors, leaving big league baseball behind in 2005.

Jose Lopez, 2B, 2006

A 22-year-old second baseman in 2006, Jose Lopez had arguably the brightest future of any of his Mariner teammates just five short years ago.

On the day he played in the ’06 All-Star Game, Lopez had tallied nine home runs, 58 RBI, and held a .771 OPS through the first 86 games of the year. He would finish the year with just 10 home runs, 79 RBI, and an OPS of .723.

While Lopez would rebound in ensuing seasons, his numbers dropped off completely in 2010, and as of right now, the one-time All-Star is out of the big leagues and looking for his fourth MLB home in the past year. Yikes.

One thought on “Brandon League and the Graveyard of Lost All-Stars”

  1. now you have to remember joses decline began in 2007 after his brother died. then in 2009 his sister died. people have said that those things have had a big effect on him.

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