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Wladimir Balentien and Adam Jones

October 24, 2007

In early August, at a USSMariner/Lookout Landing co-sponsored event at Cheney Stadium, Bill Bavasi specifically stated that he had no intention of starting two rookies in the 2008 Mariners outfield.

Flash forward two and a half months later, and Jason Churchill’s recent report that Bavasi may have changed his mind seems unsurprising. Jose Guillen will likely file for free agency shortly after the Red Sox crush the hopes and dreams of Colorado, while it is simply inconceivable that any rational baseball mind still believes that Raul Ibanez is fit to patrol the outfield. At this point, why not decide to start two hotshot rookies in ’08?

Here’s why. In Tacoma during the 2007 season, 25% of Jones’ at bats resulted in strike outs. Wlad did not perform much better in this category, with 22% of his at bats ending in a K. During his stint in Seattle this year, Jones had 65 ABs, 21 of which ended in a strike out (fun fact – Jones received those 65 ABs over the course of 71 games. In 2006, Jones spent 32 games in the big leagues, and had 74 ABs. Don’t you love John McLaren?).

Like it or not, the Mariners are going to do their best to contend in 2008. The Athletics are still rebuilding and the Rangers are still the Rangers, and means that the Angels are the only team standing in the M’s way for a division title. Toss in the whole “Bavasi and McLaren are on the hot seat” angle, and you’ll see even more reason as to why the team is going to continue in its “win now” mode. And if they’re in that mode, it’s asinine to start two K-prone rookies in the same lineup that features Jose Lopez and the streaky Kenji Johjima and Raul Ibanez.

Much more likely, if neither player is traded this winter, we’ll see Jones starting for Seattle in April, while Wlad will join Jeff Clement in being 2008’s version of Jones/Felix/Lopez – the kid in Tacoma who, over the course of the season, begins to produce more than his veteran Seattle counterpart, but who doesn’t receive a promotion until the second half of the year.

Wlad’s time will come, even if it is in 2009. In the meantime, let’s try to enjoy whatever replacement-level 34-year old veteran Bavasi signs to man the outfield until then.

-katal

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