Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Tatonka List: 2002

Game on. The Doug Eddings approved World Champion Chicago Luck Sox opened the Cactus League schedule in today's only official Spring Training action, losing 6-1 to the Colorado Rockies. Meanwhile, five other major league teams warmed up for Spring by beating the snot out of various community college and university teams, or in one case a Korean national team.

In the process, the Baby Marlins proved that they could outlast one of the better college teams around, the University of Jimmy Dean Sausage Boot Heads. Barely. They came back to score 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to slip past Miami 9-8.

While there was no official Mariners game today, we can press on with the Tatonka series anyway. Think back to the offseason before 2002. America was still reeling from 9/11, and baseball promised to restore at least a little normalcy (Warren G. Harding's's funny that he's remembered for that, and not the massive scandals of his presidency...anyway) to life.

For Mariners fans, that meant a repeat of the glorious 2001 campaign that saw our boys win 116 (one hundred and sixteen, or CXVI, if you're more a Roman numerals type) games. We didn't really need to improve upon such a great team, right?

But we had somehow won 116 games with David Bell playing the bulk of the time at third base. If only we could figure out a way to get better at the hot corner, perhaps we could even win some playoff games!

So while still negotiating to resign Bret Boone and some of his 2001 muscles, Stand Pat made a deal that was classic Tatonka. We gave up little of consequence to bring in a National League star to fill that third-base need. The newest Mariner was at his peak, and hadn't hit below .312 in any season since 1997. He was an All-Star, and he wasn't too shabby with the leather, either. Now, he didn't have the traditional power of a corner infielder, but he more than made up for his sub-.500 SLG with on-base percentages hovering around .400. (That's CD, for you Latin fans. This, by the way, is why Romans never played baseball. "Now batting, Number XXIV, Scipio Griffianus. He's hitting .CCLXIV/.CCCXLI/.CDXXXIII on the season...").

Back to the Tatonka. Sure, he might decline a bit in his upcoming seasons as he aged, and he was anchored to an albatross of a contract, but Jeff Cirillo seemed to Mariners fans to be the final piece in the puzzle.

Apparently, what we needed to be thinking was not "piece" and "puzzle" but instead the more macabre "nail" and "coffin." While we shouldn't complain about a 93-win season, it was rather a big letdown after the 116 wins the year before--particularly because the giant sucking sound at third base named Cirillo "led" the Mariners only to a third-place finish in the four-team AL West. The man achieved a career-worst .249 batting average, along with a full 100-point drop in on-base percentage. My crack research team tells me that they have no idea whether that has happened before, but the plight of the M's looked all the worse because over 3.5 million fans came out to the ballpark to watch Bride of Tatonka. Ugh.

You might respond with a cheery, "well, the moves can't all be good, right?" Oh Lord. You must not have been a Mariners fan very long.

See you tomorrow.

Tatonka List
2006 Kenji Johjima
2005 Adrian Beltre
2004 Eddie Guardado
2003 Randy Winn
2002 Jeff Cirillo
2001 next up


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