(Y2010M! stands for Your 2010 Mariners! and is a series of posts aiming to touch on every player possibly important to the Mariners’ season.)
Geoff Baker is claiming today that, barring some unexpected pitching moves to deal with the Lee injury (13 man staff?), Mike Sweeney has made the opening day roster. This will likely come at the expense of Ryan Garko and has commentors throughout the blogosphere gnashing their teeth and proclaiming that this clearly shows the team has no intention of winning this season. Count me as one who really doesn’t get it. Get the gnashing of teeth, that is. Sweeney on the team makes total sense from my viewpoint. Sure, Sweeney and Griffey at DH again is not what anyone wants, but barring a trade for someone clearly better, Sweeney sure seems like the best option we have. This team is not going to hit that much. I think they’ll hit better than some are expecting, but they still need every bat they can get.
So, a few things to consider:
- A ranking, mostly subjective from my head, of the most successful offensive careers for current Mariners (over their career, not projecting this season):
My point? Sweeney was a talented and productive hitter in his prime up until his back injuries a few years ago. He’s never been a huge home run guy, but he’s OPS’ed in the .900s multiple times. Last season with over 100 games played (122) was 2005, where he put up a line of .300/.347/.517. This isn’t hoping for a breakthough. This is hoping for a return to form.
- He had an .872 OPS in the second half last year, compared to .678 in the first half. It doesn’t seem at all crazy to think he was still getting healthy and into shape the first half and that we might see something closer to those second half numbers this year. Not sure I’d bet on it, but it wouldn’t surprise me either.
- The other option, Ryan Garko, holds more potential against lefties, less against righties, hasn’t impressed this spring, and has an option left, meaning they can send him to Tacoma to start the year.
- Sweeney has been the team’s best hitter all spring by a wide margin. Spring stats frequently lose all value once the season starts and he’s going to be lucky to have about half of the batting average he’s run most of the spring. Still, he’s hitting like crazy, and occasionally that means something.
So, add all that up, and we have a former all-star hitter who was still effective in the second half after several years of injuries, who has hit this spring like he did in his prime. We also don’t have any appreciably better options, and the one that’s closest can be sent down to start the year, while Sweeney can’t. He’s not the ideal bench player for the Mariner’s in their current construction, but neither is Garko, who’s only a possibly better fit due to his slightly better ability to hit lefties. So how again is keeping him a sign that this team doesn’t want to win?
The problem is that Mike Sweeney might be the nicest person on the face of the earth. He babysits for teammates! Many fans see bringing him back as a move more for team chemistry than for offense, and so they assume management is just trying to field a happy team and make their own jobs easier. I won’t get into a chemistry discussion now, and if the Mariner’s can trade for Adrian Gonzalez or similar tomorrow and cut Sweeney, I’m all for it, but right now, I think this is the best move for the offense and the chemistry stuff is just a nice bonus. If he proves me wrong, he is either cut or goes on the DL and you’re back to Garko. Seems worth the shot.