Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Tatonka List: 1994

It is not too late, dear reader, to click on virtually any other blog or internet site to read rather than subject yourself to this entry. You can avoid the pain and suffering of reopening old wounds. For a happier experience, let me recommend, or perhaps the ultra-exciting

If you continue reading, I can promise only misery.

Alright...your loss.

The close of the 1993 season saw the seventeenth straight example of the Mariners status as a low-budget, small market team without any clue how to succeed in that environment. Only three things were certain about the M's. First, the payroll would remain limited, threatening the team's ability to keep any valuable players developed via the farm system. Second, the current players were not adequate to compete seriously for an AL pennant. Third, and this reflected an era only true from 1989 onward, the M's had some serious home-grown young talent. The upcoming 1994 season would be Griffey's age-24 season, while Randy Johnson was still in his prime, only turning 30. We also had the beautiful curveball of Erik Hanson, soon to be 29, and a decent bullpen built around the Sherriff, Norm Charlton. Finally, there was that once-in-a-generation high-school shortstop that the team had just drafted first overall in the summer of 1993, Alex Rodriguez.

Consequently, there was growing hope amongst the fans that Seattle should be able to parlay this nucleus into at least a winning team, if not a contender.

Bumbling idiot Woody Woodward tried to parlay, but all he could get out was parsley. Actually, he may have parlayed too often in the winter between 1993-94. The major errors:

2 November 1993: Traded Erik Hanson to Cincinnati for Dan Wilson and Bobby Ayala.
20 December 1993: Traded Omar Vizquel to Cleveland for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson, and cash

The one good move that the team made in the offseason was to let good guy but horrible major leaguer (and even worse announcer) Dave Valle depart as a free agent.

Looking back, I have to wonder whether Woodward should be ranked up there with Isiah Thomas, Kenny Williams, and Allard Baird as worst GMs ever. In any case, at the time Seattle fans had no idea who either Wilson or Ayala were, but trusted Lou Piniella's judgment of them as potentially useful players (based on his knowledge of the Cincinnati system, his previous job before managing the Mariners). Little O was a player whom the fans had seen blossom from a no-hit, great-fielding shortstop into a decent little player, and trading him to get something (anything) before his free agent year didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time, given the expectations that A-Rod would rise rapidly through the farm system and join number-one-overall pick Ken Griffey, Jr. Of course, given the choice between Vizquel's contract year and a year of Fermin and Jefferson...I'll take don't trade him for $500, Alex.

So once again, we have slim pickings from which to construct a Tatonka.

By the way, it doesn't take no rocket surgeon to figure out that the Hanson deal worked out in the long run; I'm not one of Dan Wilson's biggest fans ever, but he was a league-average catcher and fan favorite for years for the Mariners, so it's hard in hindsight to fault Woody for the deal.

So everything Woodward touched turned to lead, prospects Dave Fleming and Roger Salkeld flamed out due to injury, Dan Wilson "hit" .216, and Reggie Jefferson put up the second-best OPS on the team in limited playing time. After Randy Johnson and Chris Bosio, no Mariner starter had an ERA below VI (I just can't write it in Arabic, which is to say Indian, numerals). Well, that's not strictly true, since Tim Davis started a single game in 1994 and ended the season with a 4.01 ERA, while John Cummings also started 8 games and turned in a spectacular 5.62 mark. You get the picture.

As if that wasn't bad enough, 1994 was the year of THE strike, so not only did the Mariners suck, but so did Major League Baseball.

If you missed the Tatonka in that rant...well, it's true. Not a lot of hope came from any of the offseason moves. We the fans weren't so sure about Ayala, Wilson, Fermin, Jefferson, Eric Anthony (acquired via trade for Mike Felder), Luis Sojo, etc., etc.

Nope, the most buzz regarding a newly-acquired Mariner was already about Alex Rodriguez. That made fans look the other way on the Omar trade. Three times now in Seattle Mariner history, a farmhand has caught the attention of the fans even before he arrived in the majors. A-Rod was, due to the recent success of Griffey and the illusory hope of team success that might come with him, the most eagerly anticipated of the three. Who wouldn't start drooling over the mere idea of Griffey, A-Rod, Randy Johnson, EdGRR, and Bone on the same team?

Thus, contrarian that I am, I name Alex Rodriguez as the 1994 Tatonka. And it just seems to fit.

By your command...

Tatonka List
2006 Kenji Johjima
2005 Adrian Beltre
2004 Eddie Guardado
2003 Randy Winn
2002 Jeff Cirillo
2001 Ichiro!
2000 John Olerud
1999 Jose Mesa
1998 Glenallen Hill
1997 Jeff Fassero
1996 Cerberus, er, Sterling Hitchock+Russ Davis+Paul Sorrento
1995 none
1994 Alex Rodriguez
1993 up next


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