“Now this is what it’s like when worlds collide”
That’s a fitting line from a mediocre band that I don’t like enough to be quoting them. I actually don’t like them at all, but I remembered hearing that line in a song growing up, and googled it, and here we are with that for the introduction to an article.
I spent last night drinking at a house where seemingly everyone was in a death metal band but me. And that’s not even the reference for which the lyric was included.
One tough thing about being a baseball fan is that when you tie one on tight at night time, you are always susceptible to missing the occasional early afternoon game. This one, however, was the first early afternoon game on a Saturday in the history of the Ballpark at Arlington.
I got home, coffee in hand, sat down to the computer around and had basically these exact words come out of my mount, alone but audible.
“SHIT! It’s Felix Day.”
And somehow, today, I’m the most qualified to write this. Kramer started a new job, and Runquist, who is a WSU Cougar by the way (we won’t hold that against him), is having Mom’s weekend.
If it is any indication of how late I showed up, I turned on the TV when Ken Griffey Jr. was batting in the top of the ninth. So I checked the box score to see for whom he was pinch hitting, found out it was Chone Figgins, and was immediately upset with Don Wakamatsu.
I love Griffey as much as the next guy, but he just isn’t the hitter Figgins is at this point in their careers, and Figgins is a switch hitter, so handedness can only work in his favor compared to Griffey.
And then Griffey hit the game tying single.
Formerly-great hitter and fielder Ken Griffey Jr. is still a relevant baseball player. And then Franklin Gutierrez stepped to the plate.
The proverbial torch was passed, Griffey left the bases, and after a failed squeeze play, and Gutierrez drove in the go-ahead, and eventually game-winning run.
Then, as if the ghost of young-and-healthy Griffey had actually entered Gutierrez body, he made a play in center field, robbing a potential home run from Elvis Andrus, that may have saved the game.
And in my hungover haze, I almost could have sworn that Guti was left-handed and wearing No. 24 on his back.
Because we’ve had the fortune of being able to witness three of the greatest defensive center fielders in the past 20 years in Seattle, apart from the period of time that saw combinations of Jeremy Reed, Willie Bloomquist, Ichiro, and certainly some less notable players attempt to navigate the position.
Mike Cameron was unfairly run out of town, and there is a lot of things he does well both with the bat and the glove. But from a non-statistical perspective, Gutierrez is much more like Griffey than Cameron.
Because you see, Cameron always seemed like he was trying too hard. Part of the byproduct of his is amazing defensive plays, but the other part has broken his body down, and led to this ugly collision.
Cammy was a joy to watch, and an asset to the organization, but he wasn’t an artist.
Because when you watch Cameron, and I remember thinking the same thing about Andruw Jones before he got all supersized, you’ll see a ball hit in the gap, and think “There’s no way he gets to that ball.”
The best play I’ve ever seen in center field was Andrew Jones running down a ball in the gap on the turf at Olympic Stadium after taking an unfathomably risky angle to the ball. From the time the ball left the bat I was cursing Jones for being an idiot that just hand delivered an inside-the-park homer to whoever hit the ball.
And then I got fooled into doing the same thing on ESPN highlight that night. Twice.
But the play wasn’t pretty, and I don’t even think it made the top defensive baseball play that night.
Maybe it is the long, loping strides, or the perfect angles to balls, or maybe just a thinly-veiled man crush, but I could literally sit and watch Gutierrez practice in the outfield for an entire day. He makes plays in the outfield at an alarmingly high rate, and often times, we don’t appreciate them to their fullest, because even when he lays out for a ball or climbs a wall, he makes it look easy.
Gutierrez will never be the hitter that a young, healthy Griffey was, but at the very least, we know that on any given day you may see the greatest play you’ve ever seen in center field, until of course, Guti goes and tops it.
Even if you show up eight innings late and hungover.
And now for some less “man crushy” notes
-The Mariners have had a combined four runs when Felix Hernandez has left his two starts. He’s not pitching his best, but most pitchers will win more games than they lose pitching at that level.
-I don’t understand what the Mariners are doing with Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez and Matt Tuiasosopo. Obviously Tui probably gets sent down when Jack Hannahan is healthy, but even then, everything just stinks of a Lopez trade to me. No complaints, I’m just getting anxious for it to happen.
– Rob Johnson and Casey Kotchman combine for almost half (four of nine) of the Mariners extra base hits.