Why is Chone Figgins still on the Mariners’ roster?
By Mike Salk
The voice of the fan rose with one clear message today.
“Cut Chone Figgins!” it said. Loudly.
Listen carefully and you can hear it everywhere — from the pages of The Seattle Times, where columnist Steve Kelley declared it time to move on, to the poll which revealed 90 percent of respondents agreed with him, from radio shows to the TV sportscasts.
Heck, even manager Eric Wedge sounded like it was what he wanted.
“Right now, that’s not even an option for us,” he said before Thursday’s game. “With Chone … we wanted to give him every opportunity to get back on track. We feel like we did that. Leading him off, switching his role a little bit, and it didn’t work out. So now he’s a utility player and a super utility player at that. He gives us protection. We’ll play him when we need him. We’ll use him how we see fit to help us win ballgames and go from there.
Chone Figgins has been mainly a spectator lately, appearing in just four games since being benched on May 4. (AP)
“That was the next option if it didn’t work out. And that’s where we are right now.”
It sure doesn’t sound like Wedge is interested in keeping Figgins in his lineup. So why is he still here?
Honestly, I don’t know.
I would have let him go the moment Miguel Olivo was able to return from the disabled list. Heck, I’m not sure I would have even broken camp with him this year.
But that is the difference between the fans, media, manager and management: we all have different levels of patience.
Fans have no patience, nor should they. Fans pay their hard-earned money to attend games and spend their precious time at home to watch or listen.
The media may have more access than the fans, but at the core, we are nearly as restless. We often represent the fans and we want a winner!
The manager has to win, and win right away. He can see the 162-game picture, but he generally oversees no more than the 25 players on the active roster and he tries to get the most out of them every night. He knows baseball is a long season with ups and downs – he has to know when to make a change and when to back a player for a few days or weeks while he cleans up his act.
But the general manager has a different view. He has to see the entire board. He can see the game not just at-bat by at-bat or inning by inning. He sees beyond just the 162-game season and might even consider 300 or 400 games down the line. He oversees the entire organization, insuring that the minor leagues are feeding the majors at just the right time.
So it’s easy for those of us in the stands or the press box to demand immediate action. We are understandably sick and tired of watching a player that has underperformed and done so without demonstrating much desire to improve. The manager can certainly hint that he needs the right players to win games right now – even more so when he gave that player a long rope to hang himself at the start of the season.
To the general manager, however, a few weeks of a rebuilding season is not a long time. It’s a drop in his long-range bucket.
All of this is a long way of trying to determine why Jack Zduriencik didn’t do what so many of us hoped he would on Thursday. Maybe he sees longer-term value in Casper Wells and wants the young player to get everyday at-bats before he brings him back to the majors. If his plan is to shed Figgins soon, maybe he wants to get Wells as ready as possible, knowing that he isn’t seeing the field too often right now.
Maybe Zduriencik bought himself a few weeks of Wells getting regular playing time in the hopes that an injury on another team will create an albeit thin market for his utility player.
At the end of the day, we the fans and media have what we want. We aren’t watching Figgins play regularly. That’s going to have to be good enough for now.