I don't mean to keep picking on Chone Figgins. Chone Figgins is far from being the ' only problem - I dream of a reality in which Chone Figgins is the Mariners' only problem - and I have nothing against him, personally. It would be pretty weird if I had something against him personally, and I like how often he's seen smiling on the field or in the dugout. I think Chone Figgins is probably a funny dude, and I think he probably gets along pretty well with his teammates.
But Chone Figgins is a problem, and unlike, say, Justin Smoak, he's a problem that isn't important to get sorted out. The Mariners' future doesn't depend on whether or not Chone Figgins bounces back. The Mariners' future depends in part on younger players who, because of Figgins, are getting less playing time. The Mariners moved Chone Figgins to leadoff this season in an effort to get him going, and he hasn't gotten going. Yesterday, he said something that sounded positive, but that really isn't positive when you examine it. Via Larry Stone:
"[...]But like I said, I just feel good. I can't get anything going, but honestly it's the best I've felt in a while.
"When I'm hitting, squaring some balls up, I'm driving some balls, which is good. Then there's times when I'm a little too aggressive, so I've got to go back to finding that middle ground."
Chone Figgins feels good. Chone Figgins feels great! He feels the best he's felt in a while! That hip problem's way behind him. His numbers are bad. He seems to suggest he's still having issues with his approach, but then, the Mariners started batting him first to help his approach. It hasn't worked.
In Chone Figgins, the Mariners have a guy who feels terrific and still isn't producing. He's out of excuses. He has a .555 OPS, which is much better than last year's OPS, and much worse than the previous year's OPS. Before signing with the Mariners, Figgins had a 99 career OPS+. Since signing with the Mariners, he's posted a 69 OPS+. He's batted leadoff. He's batted not leadoff. He's been healthy. He's been hurt. He's 34 years old.
Figgins has well more than a thousand plate appearances in a Mariners uniform, and in relatively few of those plate appearances has he looked like the guy the Mariners thought they were signing. At this point, what's left? Why bother trying anything else, or sticking this out? Figgins has batted leadoff. He hasn't collected a huge sample of at-bats, but over his limited sample, he's been bad. He's looked fine at times, but not at enough times. And now he's striking out for some reason. Pitchers are throwing Figgins more strikes than they ever have before, presumably because they find him non-threatening, and now Figgins is striking out. His contact rate is down on balls and strikes. His strikeout rate is nearly ten percentage points higher than it's ever been. In 2009, Figgins had 101 walks and 114 strikeouts. In 2012, he has eight walks and 28 strikeouts.
Chone Figgins feels great. He's better, but he's bad. He's getting up there in years. Even though he doesn't swing at too many balls, he doesn't get enough balls because pitchers don't have a compelling reason to bother throwing him balls. For what reason should Chone Figgins remain with this team? At least Miguel Olivo - before he got hurt - was teaching Jesus Montero, and handling the pitching staff. What purpose does Chone Figgins serve? What does he do better than the alternatives?
There are so many issues with the current Mariners team. Some of them could be solved pretty easily. Of course the Mariners wouldn't be wild about eating the remainder of Chone Figgins' salary. But another way of looking at that would be that the Mariners could pay the remainder of Chone Figgins' salary so as to not have to play Chone Figgins anymore. They're essentially stuck paying that money anyway. What they're not stuck with is his performance.