By Jim Moore
It’s not like it’s going to make or break the season, but who do you hope starts at shortstop for the Mariners when they open the season March 31 at Anaheim?
Nick Franklin or Brad Miller?
I like them both. Whatever their flaws, they seem like gamers to me, guys who play hard and aren’t afraid to get their jerseys dirty.
In terms of similarity, they’re both from Florida and have pop in their bats – Franklin hit 12 home runs in 102 games, and Miller had eight in 76 last year.
Over the weekend, manager Lloyd McClendon called the shortstop battle an “equal” competition. At spring training thus far, Miller’s batting .283 and Franklin’s batting .267.
I threw out the Franklin or Miller question on Twitter and got a mixed response.
Nick Franklin was moved from second base to shortstop after the Mariners signed Robison Cano, and he’s been giving Brad Miller a run for the starting job in spring training. (AP)
Franklin backers note that he’s a switch-hitter, which would at least give the lefty-heavy Mariners’ lineup a right-handed bat when they’re facing a southpaw starter.
Miller backers note that Franklin’s not a good right-handed hitter, pointing out below-average numbers in the minor leagues and a .210 average in the major leagues.
Miller backers will also point out that Franklin struck out far too often last year – 113 times.
Miller is also said to be a bit better than Franklin defensively and, according to the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish, is working on tempo at spring training, hoping it will consistently help him make the routine plays.
In a department that really doesn’t matter, I like that Franklin wears a helmet that makes him look like The Great Gazoo in the Flintstones, but you can also make a case for Miller’s cool appearance too – he wears his socks high and goes without batting gloves.
Miller has a better nickname – “Crazy Legs” was fun to watch when he had those limbs of his in motion on his six triples last year.
It’s the only position battle of note with the Mariners, unless you count the outfield, where players can win starting jobs by default. Oh, I guess there’s a mini-competition going on in center field where it appears that the Mariners want Abraham Almonte to win the job but will give it to Michael Saunders if he doesn’t.
I hope Franklin tears it up in the next three weeks in Arizona for two reasons:
1) He will separate himself from Miller and win the starting job.
2) He will at least increase his value on the market if the Mariners opt to trade him. As it stands, the Mariners will no doubt be low-balled with offers for Franklin, other teams knowing that he’s expendable.
I don’t really want to see Franklin in a Tacoma Rainiers’ uniform. I’m betting that he’ll go from longshot two weeks ago to starting shortstop on Opening Night.