Why we are annoyed

like a punch to the gut - Norm Hall

Yes, it really is that bad.

Willie Bloomquist is Seattle's latest prodigal son, returning to Seattle on a guaranteed two-year deal. The news was met on Twitter with a predictable level of scorn: scorn for the Mariners for overpaying a replacement-level player; scorn for Bloomquist for allowing, through his continued existence, such a transaction to take place; and self-scorn for caring about a two-year deal for a utility infielder. It was a very emotional thirty minutes or so.

The last of these is what I want to tackle. I want you to know: it's okay to care. Yes, everything taken in its proper perspective, the Willie Bloomquist signing isn't particularly momentous. The team needed 25 players for its roster, the money isn't particularly oppressive, and it doesn't affect the dwindling bee population. Baseball fandom is pointless and if you're going to be a strict utilitarian, you should be spending these moments learning Italian or sweeping your deck. But if you are a fan of a team, even if it's based on the flimsiest pretense of geographic proximity, you may as well accept the fact that it's okay to care about Willie Bloomquist. Because you probably do. My heart certainly suffered a light sprain upon hearing the news.

So why? Why do we care about this particular move, this particular player?

Dave announced his own mild irritation over at USSM, using numbers and comrade-in-grit Nick Punto. The takeaway: Nick Punto is far better than Willie Bloomquist. My first instinct was to compare our new backup shortstop to another source of Internet Rage: second baseman Chris Getz. Getz was released by the Royals today, after a long and successful career of blocking teammate Johnny Giovatella. Getz is a pretty bad baseball player. Let's compare him to Willie:

Name

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

BsR

Bloomquist

2925

6%

15%

0.074

0.319

0.271

0.320

0.346

0.297

79

13.6

Getz

1546

7.1%

10%

0.058

0.283

0.251

0.310

0.309

0.279

67

11.1

Bloomquist is a slightly better hitter than Getz, mostly due to the difference in power. (This was a real, factual sentence.) But that's not what won the Mariners' hearts, of course. Here's a breakdown of their defensive contributions, with the meaningless of defensive statistics already inferred:

Willie Bloomquist

Chris Getz

Position

Innings

UZR/150

Position

Innings

UZR/150

1B

128.1

-15.0

1B

0

-

2B

889.2

-1.6

2B

3373.0

2.1

SS

2067.1

-4.3

SS

26.0

-

3B

913.2

-4.7

3B

9.0

-

LF

559.0

-13.4

LF

0

-

CF

860.0

-10.1

CF

0

-

RF

637.0

-5.7

RF

0

-

While Punto and Bloomquist will be making the same amount of money this year, Getz will probably receive a minor-league deal in 2014. The Mariners never would have signed Getz anyway; he's a second baseman, and the team has tons. They needed a utility infielder. Could Chris Getz play first base? We don't know. We know that Bloomquist really can't. But he has, and that makes him more valuable to the M's. It's the same logic that sends the team out to find veteran leadership, instead of developing it within the nucleus.

But this isn't really about Chris Getz, who you should probably never think about again. It's about the Mariners' priorities, and their timing.

For those of you who deign to enjoy the football, we're fortunate to have a forward-thinking organization nearby in the Seattle Seahawks. One of the primary reasons why they've been so successful is their ability to see latent potential in players. They made Red Bryant, a run-stuffing nose tackle, into a defensive end. They turned Bruce Irvin, a one-technique pass-rushing end, into a linebacker. They saw past Russell Wilson's height and Richard Sherman's forty, and imagined the sort of players they could be, rather than what they were.

The Mariners do not do this. When they looked for a utility infielder, they wanted someone with experience, someone who had proven themselves. They wanted a known quantity. And this brought them to Willie Bloomquist, whose skills (and limitations) are extremely familiar to just about everyone at this point. That might be fine for a playoff-caliber team looking to patch a few holes, such as, say, Oakland. For the Mariners, especially in December, it's disappointing.

It's partially disappointing because it's a bad move, in terms of the math. But it's also disappointing because it's so self-limiting. By restricting themselves to moves and players that are certainties, the team has given the fans no room for dreaming. Even with trillions of unspent dollars, the die has been cast; one can fill in the faceless, expensive, low-upside veterans to supplement the collection of rookies playing out their youths. The Seahawks create talent; the Mariners buy it off the wall at the independent coffee shop.

It's hard to get upset at Willie Bloomquist, if thinking of baseball players as actual human beings is your thing. But unfortunately for him, that's not who you probably thought of when you heard the news. You thought of WFB, the persona greater than the man himself now. It's a symbol that serves as the emblem for an entire organizational philosophy, one that was overthrown and somehow reverted to. It's not a connection anyone enjoys, but it's one we can't avoid making.

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