I woke up on Tuesday morning, May 11th, to a million push notifications. Funny, I thought. I thought the Mariners had an off night last night? I swiped them aside and toddled downstairs ready to watch my usual breakfast baseball. Boy am I glad that I found the “Hide spoilers” button on MLB.tv!
However, we did have an off night. Once I’d figured that out and opened up a famous sports app, I was greeted with some genuine news. It turns out that the Mariners’ spare day was being used for something far more important than losing to the Astros again. Jarred Kelenic, the 21-year-old consensus top five prospect, is (finally?) being called up by the Mariners. If Jeff Passan tweets it, you know it’s true.
The refrain from many and most (not least Kelenic himself, who is alarmingly confident in his own abilities) is that it’s about time, and that this could – and maybe should – have happened a year ago, and that MAAAAAN do the Mariners need some offensive production, and pretty bloody quickly.
The Seattle Mariners started the season playing chaosball, pushing in late runs to win close games, turning double-plays to get out of innings that should have been fatal to their chances.
They took two of three from Houston and the Angels, split series with Boston and Los Angeles, and put Baltimore to the sword over four seven inning shootouts. It was fun.
Then all of a sudden they got no-hit by John Means, lost two of three to the Rangers (largely thanks to “El error mental del dia” from catcher Luis Torrens, as you’ll see on the video below) and it’s all doom and gloom.
The offence is the joint worst in baseball (alongside last week’s other no-hit victims, Cleveland), errors are creeping in, and the bullpen has blown its first couple of games of the year. Chaosball is still happening, only people seem to think it’s less fun when we’re the victims.
The problem with chaosball is that eventually it all evens out. Those last-inning wins, the against-the-odds doubles, the extraordinary fielding; they aren’t sustainable. Even Midas doesn’t have a glove gold enough to make zero errors, or even to stop everything that comes his way. And chaosball is particularly unsustainable when only four of your starting nine are hitting over .200, and none over .300.
Yes, league-wide batting averages are down, and we’ve had a very difficult schedule. But, and I’ll say it again, Seattle has the worst cumulative offence in the league, collectively hitting .210.
Fairly obviously, you don’t call up a prospect like Kelenic, one you think will be a key part of your team for the next few years, as a short-term emergency stop-gap measure. It’s a big decision. Especially when you’ve famously delayed calling him up to manipulate this service time.
I won’t rake over those comments from now-former GM Kevin Mather, as they’ve been gone over in very fine detail by a lot of very fine people, to the extent that they cost him his job. The casual racism and off-hand semi-insults about the current playing staff were the main headline grabbers, but his comments about the fact they were deliberately keeping Kelenic in the minors – despite tearing it up down there and being a lifetime .294 minor league hitter – were what ultimately cost him his job. The insinuation from Mather was that Kelenic had turned down a contract offer and that was being held against him somewhat.
“Quite frankly, we think he’s gonna be a superstar,” said Mather said of Kelenic.
“We control his major league career for six years. And after six years, he’ll be a free agent. We would like him to get a few more at-bats in the minors and then he will likely be in left field at T-Mobile Park for the next six or seven years.”
Kelenic rejected a six-year contract offer and, said Mather, was “going to bet on himself.”
So Kelenic has the confidence that he’s going to be a superstar and get paid accordingly at a later date, and he has the numbers to back it up.
And I think it’s this combination that, while this week’s call-up looks knee-jerk given how the rest of the line-up is hitting, he will use it to absolutely fly. Based on other comments from Kelenic, he will absolutely thrive on being the person brought in to save this ailing situation, even if it’s more an accident of timing that he’s arriving with the big club now than a short-term fix. He’s the type of player who will look at those batting figures, see those wild uncontrollable swings from players he’ll be replacing – we’ll probably miss you, Jose Marmalejos – and think “Yep, my stage is set. Let’s nail this.”
“If anything, I’m more motivated to bring a World Series championship to Seattle,” he said after Mather’s comments were made public.
Remember, despite all this, the 2021 Seattle Mariners are one game above .500 right now. Chaosball and brilliant bullpenning have started to get the team somewhere near where they should be.
Kelenic is the next piece of the puzzle to help add wins into the left-hand column.
Let’s do it.
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