JOE FANN

Fann: Mariners will sorely miss Sam Haggerty in wild card round

Oct 4, 2022, 1:10 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm
Mariners Sam Haggerty...
Sam Haggerty of the Mariners is helped off the field in the ninth inning on October 3, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Sam Haggerty’s groin injury suffered in the ninth inning of Monday’s Mariners loss to the Tigers was far more significant than the loss itself.

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There’s no sugar-coating it: Seattle will sorely miss Haggerty for as long as he’s out of the lineup, a hiatus that will include at least the entire wild card round as he was put on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday. According to Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports, Haggerty was on crutches in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday’s doubleheader against Detroit.

Haggerty has been sensational for the Mariners this season. That’s especially true when you consider that nobody, probably not even the Mariners front office, anticipated the 28-year-old utilityman being an invaluable member of this year’s playoff drought-ending club.

He’s got the seventh-highest WAR on the team at 2.1 despite only starting in 49 games. Haggerty has a higher WAR than Robbie Ray (2.0 in 32 starts), Adam Frazier (0.7 in 138 starts) and Jesse Winker (minus-0.1 in 128 starts). His Gold Glove-caliber defense has been coupled with respectable offensive numbers as he’s hit .256 on the season with five homers, 29 runs scored, 23 RBI and 13 stolen bases.

Haggerty’s signature moments this season include a pair of home runs against the Yankees, one a pinch-hit homer in New York and the other breaking up Nestor Cortes’ no-hit bid at T-Mobile Park.

His production helped Seattle weather the storm during a series of suspensions that stemmed from the brawl in Anaheim as well as a number of notable injuries over the course of the summer. Haggerty’s stellar play regularly personified the “chaos ball” Seattle has become known for while growing into an unsung hero and fan favorite, so much so that the Mariners marketing team launched a “Swaggerty” headband giveaway.

Even without being an everyday starter, Haggerty would have held a prominent role in the postseason. He’s the type of winning player that is required on every playoff roster as a late-inning pinch runner and defensive replacement. Seattle’s regular offensive woes and reliance on stellar pitching means the Mariners operate with slim margins to begin with, further accentuating the impact of Haggerty’s absence.

From a personal standpoint, it’s impossible not to feel crushed for Haggerty. As a 24th-round pick back in the 2015 MLB Draft by Cleveland, he’s been a journeyman looking to find a permanent home in the big leagues. Injuries have thwarted a number of opportunities, including in 2021 when he made Seattle’s opening day roster.

The politics of professional sports commonly outweigh the desired meritocracy each team would claim to embody. And yet, Haggerty’s performance this season cemented his status on the roster ahead of guys like Jarred Kelenic and Abraham Toro, both players whom Seattle is more heavily invested in from a trade standpoint.

His injury is a comprehensive bummer. Ideally, the worst-case scenario is that Haggerty avoided a significant groin injury, allowing him a full offseason and a healthy arrival to spring training next year. The best-case scenario is that the Mariners make a run into the ALDS (or beyond) where Haggerty can return as Seattle’s late-game specialist. That will all depend on what Tuesday’s MRI reveals.

With three games left in the regular season, let’s hope Haggerty is the final injury Seattle has to deal with before heading into Friday’s wild card round opener.

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