It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Americaworld, a day to pause, reflect, and listen to people complain about the football game everyone else is enjoying. Here in Seattle, being thankful is a particularly simple task, considering that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencek gave the city the gift of Figginslessness this year. Yesterday, the sun even broke through the clouds for the first time in weeks, proving that nature herself can be a little heavy-handed at times.
It would be all to easy to heap additional scorn onto our diminutive disappointment. Instead, I’m going to do the opposite. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to thank Chone Figgins.
I want to thank his bleary, myopic, failure-soaked eyes, eyes that looked past us and saw only the visualization of future success.
I want to thank his crumbling, bloodstained contract. He earned and will continue to earn nine million dollars per year, the equivalent of two or two and a half wins. He fell somewhat short of these benchmarks, to put it charitably. His ineptitude became the symbol for a franchise that seemed to do almost everything right and have it come out wrong.
The Mariners have not been three wins a season from contending. The issues have been manifold: Ichiro’s inevitable decline, the bloated corpse of Ken Griffey, Jr., Franklin Gutierrez’s extended episode of House. It was a bleakness that was different than the usual Mariners bleakness, because there was never any real target for blame: it wasn’t a spendthrift owner or a helplessly unqualified general manager to point fingers at. The moves looked good on paper. But we always had Chone Figgins.
I want to thank his ineptitude. Losing teams need villains. Bill James once wrote, although I can’t remember where, that “bad teams tend to take out their frustrations on their best players.” Historically, the Mariners have exemplified this. From Danny Tartabull and Dave Henderson to Ichiro himself, the franchise has always concentrated on why their great players couldn’t be greater, rather than worrying about the scrubs around them. Fans are guilty of this, too. It’s human nature.
Without Chone Figgins to kick around, all that negative energy would have had to go somewhere. The lion’s share would have likely found its way to players like Michael Saunders, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak, players developing slowly enough as it was. By being a clubhouse cancer, by sucking up all that negativity into himself, he prevented it from spreading. It’s the work of a class act.
And now the Mariners sail into uncharted waters, Figgins torn from the masthead. If the Baseball Fates prove unkind yet again this year, it’ll be someone else thrown overboard, someone less deserving, to appease the crew.
But for now: thank you, Chone Figgins. Thank you for being ballast.