Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wee Willie Outquist

It's a bit refreshing to see the romanticist within all of us peering toward the burgeoning sunlight that is Mariners baseball of late, necks craning skyward, pasty-white faces bathing in something we don't see much of here in Seattle: sports optimism.

Stop the presses! The M's are hot!

Admittedly, I have elements of front-runner within me. I don't enjoy confessing that, but it's true. Yes, I listen/watch games nightly, win, lose or draw. I go to games every year. In fact, the two years I went the most frequently were '05 and '06, coinciding neatly with the nadir of the franchise since the previous bottoming-out in the early 90's. Perhaps God is ordering me to stay away from the ballpark - or else. But the state of the franchise in recent years has gotten me down, and although I'm still cynical, I feel the pangs of optimism stirring within me once again. Despite all the illogical dumpster-diving Bill Bavasi has done during his tenure, maybe this team is finally clicking. Those feelings have brought me back to this blog and have me following the team even more closely. Hope springs eternal.

Given the fairly benign state of affairs at present, then, why am I making a derogatory reference about our jack-of-all-trades utility player? Well, it's like this. You know that old saying, "the only sure things in life are death and taxes"? There's one more sure thing: Willie Bloomquist produces outs. In spades. All the time. Amen.

Actually, it's preordained. The suffix qvist means twig in Finnish. How can poor Willie be expected to hit well when he's metaphorically swinging a twig at the plate? Life imitates art, as they say, and he sure hits as if his bat has all the sock of a twig.

Now, I know what you're going to say. Willie's not that bad, you heartless non-Bloomquistphile. Why don't you do a little research, you anti-Bloomite? Check out his batting average coming into the game today - .254. His career average is .257. No, he won't win a Silver Slugger award, but I wouldn't kick him out of the dugout for eating crackers.

I would. Willie has one overriding ability that makes any other talent he has pale by comparison, and that is his ability to create outs at the plate. Case in point: today's game. With Beltre still suffering from an injury, Bloomquist started once again and played third base. Ordinarily, he'd bat 9th and be the A.L. equivalent of the pitcher's spot in the National League. However, Hargrove decided to bench Jojima and the game was at Wrigley Field, thus leading to a dilemma - who bats 9th? In the end, Grover must have figured Bloomquist's loyalty overcame statistical logic, so he let both Burke and Weaver bat behind him. Given his relatively high position in the lineup, he had a decent chance to generate some runs. Instead, this was his stat line:

0-4, with three K's.

He put the ball in play once. I didn't see the game, but dollars-to-donuts it was a popup or a meek grounder. The other day, I watched him get a hit where it looped past the out-of-position second baseman, hit the dirt on the edge of the outfield grass and squirted into right. Bloomquist epitomizes the saying, "they all look like line drives in the box score."

His average now stands at .239.

Oh, by the way, his slugging percentage now sits at .269. Last year, in 251 AB's, his slugging percentage was .299. He had six doubles, two triples and one miracle home run where he must have caught a 25-mph tailwind and popped it into the first row down the left field line.

Willie has speed. Willie can serve as an adequate defensive replacement late in the game, or pinch run. Maybe he's really adept at washing cars, I don't know. But when it comes to swinging the bat, he's one of the best in the American League at making outs. Period.

Hence the nickname Willie Outquist. It fits like a batting glove - which Willie has no use for anyway.


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