Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Tatonka List: 1999

Back to live action. Entering the 1999 season, Mariners fans had some recovering to do from the painful loss of Randy Johnson. The Big Unit had lived up to his nickname in personality during the '98 campaign, and although the Mariners managed to get young talent back from Houston in their rental of Biggus Dickus, it was unclear just how well twenty-three year old Carlos Guillen and twenty-four year old Freddy Garcia could replace the lost production.

To be sure, anything would be better than the intentional tanking of the early season that constituted RJ's trade-me tantrum. By the way, it's not that the three big stars left the Mariners that was so painful. For each and every one of them, it was their behavior leading up to their departure that angered the fans in Seattle. I have the least rancor toward Pay-Rod, because at least he didn't lie or intentionally play badly, nor did he sabotage any value the Mariners might have gotten from him in trade through his actions. The same cannot be said for either Griffey or RJ.

In any case, M's brass certainly wanted to capitalize on the solid core of the team--EdGRR was still in his prime, and both the good Griffey and the young Alex Rodriguez formed a solid nucleus of hitting talent, while sprightly young Jamie Moyer, barely 36 years old, along with pre-collapse Jeff Fassero seemed like the beginnings of a decent pitching staff.

The big, sucking chest wound on the team seemed to be in the pitching staff, and particularly in the bullpen. (That would still be the case when the season played out, as the Mariners gave the ball to no fewer than XXVIII different pitchers during the '99 season.) Consequently, the only move that could conceivably qualify as a hope-inspiring, Tatonka-like addition to the club came on 13 November 1998, when Joe Table came to town. Mesa had not yet been accused of anything worse than date rape while closing games for the not-exactly-but-in-the-same-neighborhood-as-magnificent Cleveland Indians franchise, so he mostly inspired revulsion on the part of Mariners fans. But there was some hope that he could keep his hands to himself whilst ON the field, and that the power of his goatee would make his age 33-34 seasons, ahhh, good enough to improve the Seattle 'pen.

Interestingly, his salary looks entirely like a bargain now; this tells us just how much the MLB marketplace for Proven Closers has changed. Seattle paid Senor Table less than $7 million total for two years of work.

For half of those years, Mesa didn't even suck. Too much. He saved 33 of the 79 Seattle victories in 1999, and managed to keep his ERA below Jeff Fassero's. Of course, since Fassero completely forgot how to pitch that season, I guess that's not much of a comparison. Did I mention that 1999 pretty much sucked? Except that Freddy Garcia won 17 games with an ERA around 4.00, there was little that inspired positive fan reactions on the pitching staff. Biggus Dickus, by the way, won 17 for the Arizona Diamondbacks to lead them to 100 wins so they could lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Since Mesa, we've tried to slake our thirst for bad boys in Seattle with non-USC attending bigamists (Hi, my name's Al Martin...can I have two of those, please?) and now with alleged child abusers (although in Carl Everett's defense, there's no way he would EVER inflict the greatest atrocity on his own children, since he doesn't even BELIEVE in Barney's existence...). But no one can replace Mesa in our hearts. Oh, sure, Jim Bouton was a bad boy in his own way, but the Pilots don't really count since Bud Selig stole them.

Happily, even a potted plant could outperform Mesa on the mound, so this Tatonka made little impact on the Mariners. Moreover, I don't know of a single person he groped while pitching for us, so that's a double victory.

MCMXCIX, a bad year for the M's, and one of the weakest Tatonkas ever.

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 up next


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