Seriously. I couldn’t tell you why this move arouses me. But it does.
Russell Branyan is not the world’s greatest baseball player, far from it in fact. He can hit home runs, though. And the Mariners are a team desperately in need of just that.
Currently last in the American League in dingers, the M’s lineup will take to the return of Branyan like Lisa Gangel to Patrick Kerney. Likewise, Branyan should embrace his reunion with Safeco Field’s short right field porch. Let’s face it. Branyan and the M’s were made for each other. Like Spencer and Heidi.Like Reggie and Kim. Like Khloe and Lamar (Khlamar).
All of this, of course, begs one simple question: Why did the M’s ever let Branyan out of their grasp in the first place?
The team could have signed their 2009 home run leader for pennies in the offseason, but instead allowed him to leave for Cleveland on a one-year deal. They’ve now been forced to relinquish two prospects (AAA outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, and A-ball shortstop Juan Diaz) to reacquire their one-time property. Does anyone else have a flashback to that scene in Father of the Bride II when Steve Martin’s character repurchases his home at a considerably higher cost than he sold it for from Eugene Levy? Anyone? No? Just me? Okay, just me.
The Mariners are prepared to become sellers in the final days before the July 31 trade deadline and we can’t pretend we didn’t see this coming.
Although, in truth, most of us expected the M’s to be selling by May or June, not lasting until the eleventh hour.
And that’s what we need to remember about the 2009 season. Not the rebuilding, not the inevitable moves that will be made in the coming days, and not even what will likely become Ken Griffey, Jr.’s swan song.
We need to remember the wins. The ride this team took us on. The unexpected success following one of the worst seasons in this franchise’s history.
One year ago, David Aardsma was a middle reliever for the Boston Red Sox who was most notable for being the first name in the alphabetical listing of Major League Baseball players.
A 6’4″, hard-throwing righthander, Aardsma had never recorded a save, nor been asked to assume the role of late-inning relief specialist.
A year later, Aardsma has become one of baseball’s better closers as a Seattle Mariner, posting 13 saves in 14 opportunities while maintaining a 1.74 ERA in the process. In 32.1 IP, the 27-year-old has struck out 39 batters, relying heavily on a mid-90’s fastball to overpower opposing batters.
Ten years ago, Russell Branyan was one of the top prospects in all of professional baseball.
Blessed with prodigious power from the left-hand side, Branyan was a Bunyanesque slugger with annual 40-homer potential who was destined to become a fixture in the middle of some lucky team’s batting order for years to come.
He made his major league debut on September 26, 1998. Only 22 years of age at the time, Branyan went 0-4 with two strikeouts in his brief taste of the big leagues. Over the course of the next two seasons, Branyan would strike out 95 more times while playing in only 78 major league games.
They’re winning when nobody thought they would. Not the analysts, not the numbers guys, not the fans, not even the most optimistic of Kool-Aid drinkers. The Mariners are defying the odds by winning ballgame after ballgame, and in the process maintaining an iron-clad grip on first place in the American League West.
If they’re going to make a run at the playoffs and keep on winning throughout the summer, they’re going to need to tweak a few things along the way. We’ve come up with three big areas of concern that need to be addressed by the Seattle brass if this team intends to continue the ride all season long.
1. Consistent starting pitching, one-through-five. Right now, the Mariners have three consistent starting pitchers in the forms of Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Jarrod Washburn. They also have two very inconsistent slots in that five-man rotation in the forms of Carlos Silva, and the fifth-starter tandem of Chris Jakubauskas and the currently injured Ryan Rowland-Smith.