Friday, July 16, 2004

Time to Go, Johnny O

Well, John Olerud is gone now, perhaps the victim of his own unwillingness to accept a trade (now he can be claimed on waivers by anybody, and if he wants to keep playing, he'll have to go), and certainly the victim of team-wide offensive ineptitude -- even though he was far from the worst offender.
Although I am sad to see him go this way, this is an understandable move.  Even though Olerud hasn't been the M's biggest offensive disappointment, he plays a position where his under-production was pretty glaring, and despite his reputation as a stellar defensive first baseman, he had slipped there too in recent years.  Scott Spiezio has been worse, but while Olerud comes off the books after this year, Spiezio is signed for three years -- the Mariners aren't going to eat that contract -- and while Spiezio has virtually no trade value, once designated for assignment (a move signalling to all teams that the M's are willing to eat a significant part of his contract in hopes of getting a trade for little-to-nothing in return), Olerud may have some value.
Although Bucky Jacobsen is the grateful recipient of Olerud's spot on both the 40-man and 25-man rosters, it is unlikely he will play a whole lot at first base, where (in part thanks to a bum knee he's been nursing) he has only played 5 games this year for the Rainiers.  Scott Spiezio will play the lion's share of first base (with Dave Hansen also getting time there, unless he is traded, and possibly also Jolbert Cabrera), and Justin Leone getting a real look at third.  If Bucky plays much, it appears it will be at the expense of Edgar Martinez at DH or in a pinch-hitting role.  As much as I hate to see anything detract from as graceful an exit for Edgar as is possible in such a horrific year, this is probably all for the best.  This is (and has been for probably a month longer than anybody has cared to admit) a lost season, and the Mariners have to see what they have in late-20s guys like Leone and Jacobsen.  These moves will probably make the team worse in the short-run (though maybe more entertaining), but better in the long-run.
I wish the best for John Olerud.  He's a class act, and probably deserved a classier ending than this.  As we say goodbye, I also want people to remember want a great player John Olerud was through the decade of the 1990s.  Among all players in MLB with at least 3000 plate appearances from the 1990-1999 seasons, Olerud was among the top thirty players in batting average (#26, .301), hits (#24, 1431),  doubles (#9, 322), extra-base hits (#28, 505), walks (#8, 820), on-base percentage (#8, .406), OPS (#20, .888), runs created (#14, 954), runs created per game played (#18, 7.28), runs created above average (#15, 299), total average (#18, .912), and total bases (#30, 2291).   He was a batting champ (and a runner-up in the batting race another year), once finished in the top three in MVP voting, a two-time all-star, and a three-time gold glove winner.  That's a hellluva career, and I hope that is not lost in the ignominy of his release.


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