When the news first hit that the Seattle Mariners penned big time free agent Chone Figgins to a 4 year contract the air around Seattle seemed a bit sweeter than normal. Figgins had long since plagued the M’s during his time with the Divsion rivals, the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim.
2010 was to be the year that the M’s would reclaim the glory that was theirs nine years before.
The prices were set and Figgins hitting behind Ichiro would provide a one-two punch that would irritate pitchers aroun the league.
Unfortunately things didn’t happen exactly like that. The fact was that nothing really happened at all.
Figgins started falling down in the batting order and things were not looking good with his defensive efforts at second base.
This culminated in a fist fight with then manager Don Wakamatsu after a particularly weak effort on Figgins’ part. But by the end of the season things were looking like they were turning around.
The Mariners believed in him so much that they turned away a trade offer from the Oakland Atheletics and made the announcement that Chone would become their every day third baseman which was his primary position in the past.
Things looked hopeful as 2011 spring training got underway as Figgins seemed to really be on top of his game again. Then the hopes seemed confirmed when Figgins sent a ball yard in the opening night effort against Oakland.
Yet again Figgins numbers started declining, and it wasn’t long before he dropped in the order and started making errors at the hot corner.
These facts lead to Figgins becoming one of the most hated players ever to wear the uniform. Luckily fans had something to cheer about as Figgins went on the disabled list. He ended up only playing 81 games in 2011.
Figgins had lots of excuses about why he was struggling so much, the main one being that he was out of the lead off hitter spot.
So in a somewhat surprising move, the Mariners accommodated this role change for Ichiro and put Figgins up to lead the charge each night.
Things looked like they could be cured in the first week of the season of 2012, but before the end of the first month, Figgins had dropped his average to .189 which is right where he was at the end of the previous season.
With these facts in place, Manager Eric Wedge finally decided to move Figgins over to a bench role. This is difficult for the M’s as the combination of Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez and Chone Figgins make up for 58% of the Mariners payroll.
For now, the M’s are determined to get some value from Figgins as a utility player using him as the 4th outfielder and pinch runner.
It helps that he can play both second, third and short, but not much. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the M’s drop him completely and swallow the remaining 18 Million he is owed.
For now Dustin Ackley will take the lead off role for the Mariners.
The management is obviously hoping he will get on base more and put the game in motion, the real problem the M’s have is not getting the guys on base, it is getting them off.
After the series against Tampa Bay the team average with runners in scoring position was just .216. Something obviously needs to change and fast, or the fans may end up turning on the M’s forever.