The fourth in an alphabetical and irregularly updated series of seasons-in-review for each of the players we predicted last winter. (All entries are linked in the right-hand sidebar, below the LL Exclusives.)
LL Community: .258/.315/.427 (n=17)
Bill James Handbook: .264/.336/.448
Behold the moment when everything went wrong.
The Carl Everett idea was met with hostility and disappointment from the beginning. A "veteran bat" who was brought in to provide "left-handed sock" and a "winning attitude," Everett was an old, injury-prone assbag without a position or the even platoon splits to match his switch-hitting approach. We knew this in December. His upside was that of a league-average hitter and his collapse potential was enormous, with the only - only - point in his favor being that he might be able to exploit Safeco's right field porch. Arguments were made that his aggressive personality could rub off on the other players and give them the kind of killer instinct they allegedly lacked, but said posits didn't take into account the sheer ridiculousness of devoting your everyday starting DH slot to a guy who was supposed to have a bigger impact in the clubhouse than on the field. They also ignored the lack of actual evidence that Everett's leadership could guide a team to a better record, but I suppose this is what people can be reduced to when the tangible productivity outlook appears so bleak.
Anyway, the season began, and while Everett did as well as anyone could have imagined for the first few weeks, supplying walks, homers, and a Rally Dino, age caught up with him in a hurry, and the tailspin began in earnest. After Everett saw his average peak at .265 on May 24th, he hit just .183 over his next 142 at bats before finally getting the axe. Not only were the hits gone, but so were the patience and the power, as Everett seemingly made a habit of swinging at everything, popping out on one pitch or whiffing on three. His eye was bad, his discipline was awful, his bat was slow; what we saw in Carl Everett this summer truly was the death of a ballplayer. That wasn't just a bad slump from which he could recover with enough hard work. That was the end of a career. (Getting four AB's a day.)
As you can see from the projections, while nobody thought that Everett would light the world on fire (the Bill James Handbook line is okay, but not adjusted for Safeco since he hadn't signed at the time), no one thought he'd crater as bad as he did, either. Only one LL member predicted a lower OPS than the one he wound up with, as Everett finished the year somewhere between his 10% and 25% PECOTA forecasts. By any metric he was absolutely terrible, costing his team wins at a time when the division was still well within reach. For two months the worst hitter in the Mariner lineup was its DH. You can never blame a disappointing season entirely on one person, but Everett's as good a place as any to start. Watching him collect more than 300 at bats in Seattle was nothing short of humiliating.
There was a lot that came out of the whole Everett fiasco, and it's become trendy to pin most of it on Mike Hargrove, since Everett was his personal choice for 2006 designated hitter from a list of players supplied to him by the front office. However, while Hargrove very clearly made a bad decision, the same can be said of Bavasi and his assistants who entrusted their borderline incompetent field manager with the responsibility of choosing an everyday bat. Obviously the manager and the front office need to have some sort of working relationship in order for the organization to function properly, but after Hargrove picked Everett it wouldn't have been that hard for Bavasi to say "no, that's stupid, pick someone else." It was blatantly obvious at the time that Carl wasn't going to give the offense much of a lift, and there's something unsettling about a player getting selected for his attitude and ability to motivate when that's supposed to be one of the primary roles of the manager. In picking Carl Everett, Hargrove was basically telling the front office "hey, I can't do my job," which I think is reason enough to ignore his advice when it comes to building the roster.
No matter who you want to blame for Everett's acquisition, though, what it comes down to is that the move would've only looked dumb, instead of terrifyingly stupid, had Everett actually been able to perform up to his 2005 level. While you can't tell a guy to stave off the aging process and expect him to cooperate, you also can't let him get away with the kind of massive decline we saw from Everett this past summer. Because of his collapse, the Mariners were forced to trade away both Shin-soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera in an effort to patch over a hole that shouldn't have existed to begin with. They also ditched Roberto Petagine - an interesting bat and suitable short-term DH in his own right - because he was blocked by a vastly inferior and vastly more experienced player who wasn't going to get benched as long as Hargrove had something to say about it. Carl Everett didn't just hurt the 2006 Mariners by sucking - he hurt future Mariner teams as well by forcing out a few players who could've contributed down the road or served as trade chips to bring back something more useful. Those are some reasonably significant consequences stemming from what many already considered to be an ill-advised contract at the time. It wasn't just a waste of money.
I don't know if we can say quite yet whether or not this story has a happy ending (save for the whole "Everett's gone" part, although I don't think that counts). We'll have to see how the offseason plays out before we have an answer. Hopefully the front office learned its lesson about (A) chasing old players on the decline to fill critical positions, and (B) listening to Mike Hargrove, but all I can do right now is cross my fingers and hope for the best. And I encourage you to do the same, because together we have to do as much as we can to ensure that something like this never happens again as long as we live. I couldn't take the embarrassment.