I quickly fell in love with baseball as a child becoming fully enamored with the game and in many ways, acting like a geek about it. It was my first love and a huge passion of mine. It was also the thing that I hated most in the world. There were games where I struggled and doubted everything about my life, there were games where I felt worthless. Slumps could be near impossible to pull out of. Don't get me wrong, I was a good ball player, but sometimes i got so deep into my own head that I became lost in the labyrinth trying to get out. My baseball career just ended last year as I graduated from high school and was unable to play in college due to shoulder injuries. I understand the psychological side of the game because I was immersed in it. Because I believe that my knowledge for the game allowed it to impact me more than those around me.
Over the past few years, I have been a loyal Mariners fan but only watched them on and off. That is, until a young spark plug of a ball player came along and threw the jersey number 20 over his head. Nick Franklin was someone I had been watching through the minor leagues as he was compared to a young A-Rod in the way his power suddenly developed. Beyond tangible skills, the young kid, drafted in the first round out of high school, showed raw passion for the game in the same way many of the Seahawks do for football. He turned the team around until a freak injury to his knee took him out of a game. (Article Here)
I expected the Mariners to be careful with their young investment and sit him out until he was fully healthy again. I'm not sure what conversation was had on the matter; whether he insisted on playing or whether the organization mutually agreed he needed to be out there, I am not sure. What I do know is that he had the toughness to come back out the next day and play again.
I clearly remember him swinging off of one foot with his back foot hardly able to drive forward and lifting off the ground as I imagine he was in pain. From that day on, the season went downhill. Franklin's body healed, but I don't think that his mind did.
I have been in this situation many times over the years as I dealt with injuries that impacted my playing ability. Even though I knew that the injury was the reason that I was playing poorly, I blamed it on myself and mentally punished myself for it. I expected more out of myself than I was producing. Honestly, I think that the same thing happened to Nick Franklin. The young star who had hardly ever encountered major struggles did not know how to handle such a setback and blamed it on himself because he was so used to performing better. It is a natural feeling, but when you get into it, a slump surely follows and it is near impossible to bounce back.
I have heard the arguments as to why he struggled. They ranged from pitchers figuring him out leading to an increased number of off speed pitches all the way to him just not being good enough to compete at the highest level.
I think that the increase in off speed pitches definitely did have an impact, but much less so than many people believe. I think that Nick Franklin will retool and come back strong next season. But where?
With the huge offseason acquisition of Robinson Cano(!), the mariners are set at second base for the next decade. So where do you stick a player like Franklin (Who I believe is going to become an perennial all star) when the infield is full of solid starters? The answer is either left or right field. I support the idea of Dustin Ackley in center with his speed and if he can figure out how to sustain success at the plate, he will be a good player for a long time as he is a tremendous athlete. But his arm does lack for an outfielder. Franklin though? He has a cannon of an arm, good speed, and great baseball instincts. I truly believe that he is going to be a great player and a leader of this ball club for years to come if we keep him around. He has all of the tools to play in the outfield and I believe he should be out by Edgar's Cantina come Opening Day.
Thank you for reading and comments are definitely appreciated.