Friday, March 03, 2006

The Tatonka List: 2000

"...Todd Walker with a two-out double...and it's five to one, Chicago."

That's what I get for firing up the radio feed just now. Sure, Spring scores are meaningless, but there's a certain morbid depression that comes from hearing the team being squashed on the field.

To be sure, there's some sense that the depression came from what was obscured by the ellipsis in that quote of Rick Rizzs. It included Matt Lawton and Willie Bloomquist BOTH being involved in the defensive play. Yikes.

Ouch. Julio Mateo is apparently not in mid-season form today. 6-1 Cubs on a five-run third inning, and they're still batting...ahh, finally, out number three.

Back to the Tatonka List. Last time, we saw the anti-Tatonka, who ushered in the high point of Mariner success even as Pay-Rod rode off into the losing world of the Texas Rangers, fist firmly clenched around his golden contract. Turning the clock back one more year, we find another Seattle superstar packing his bags. 10 February 2000, the Mariners dealt Ken Griffey, Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds for Mike Cameron and several bags full of nothing, the point being accommodating the Kid's demand to be closer to his home. Cincinnati, as we all know, is very close to Griffey's Florida residence, so that end of the trade made sense. At the very least, the deal wasn't about money, since the deal only got done because the M's allowed the Reds to discuss a contract extension for the impending free agent superstar, and he eventually agreed to the 9-year, $116.5 million contract that he's currently not quite proving to be worth in Cincinnati. (This after earlier turning down an 8-year, $148 million contract extension offer from Seattle.) As honorable as it may have been to ONLY sign the richest contract in the history of major league baseball (to that point), it's an understatement to note that Griffey's departure stirred a great deal of negative feelings in Seattle.

With all of the acrimony over the Griffey deal, it is not clear that there WAS a Tatonka in the 1999-2000 offseason. Sure, some important players were added to the team (not only Cameron, but also Kaz Sasaki, John Olerud, and to a lesser extent, Arthur Rhodes), but it wasn't clear that any of these guys could make up for the loss of Griffey, nor that they would be the salvation of a team that had gone 79-83 and 76-85 in the preceding two seasons.

But since I'm making a list, let's nominate hometown boy John Olerud. He promised to fill the gaping wound that for years was first base for the M's. He was extraordinarily likable. He had World Series rings. He played stellar defense. What's not to like? As much as anyone else added that offseason, Olerud brought hope. Sasaki also inspired a certain amount of hope. Both men were signed to contracts between 15-18 December 1999, when the Griffey soap opera was still far from its conclusion.

Olerud more or less delivered as promised (as did Sasaki, and then some). Moreover, Cameron more than adequately replaced Griffey. Like Ichiro! the following season, the moves in this offseason set up the run that was the glorious 2000-03 seasons. Of course, they also created the same team that aged right off the map in 2004. And that's the heart of our analysis of Pat Gillick as a Mariners GM. Either he was brilliant from 2000-01 and then got REAL stupid (hmmm...maybe Stand Pat's brain was on the juice), or else he just quit paying attention, caring, or doing his job after Pay-Rod got away (much more likely). There is a third interpretation, actually...given his performance with Philadelphia so far this offseason, it could be argued that Gillick went insane at some point, but that nobody noticed. Ryan Franklin? Yeesh.

So reluctantly, I dub John Olerud the Tatonka representative for 2000. The list so far:

Tatonka List
2006 Kenji Johjima
2005 Adrian Beltre
2004 Eddie Guardado
2003 Randy Winn
2002 Jeff Cirillo
2001 Ichiro!
2000 John Olerud
1999 up next


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