It took everything I had not to title this "Chonefidence Tracker". Everything I had. I'm not sure I made the right decision. I shouldn't have put everything I had into such uncertainty. No going back now.
At the end of the season, Chone Figgins made waves when he said he couldn't take two more years of this, where by "this" he meant being with the Mariners. It was a surprising remark, because Figgins basically asked out. It was also a surprising remark because Figgins figured he had another two years, instead of one year and a vesting option that would never ever vest. Now, in fairness, Figgins might've simply forgotten what year it is. I wouldn't blame him if it felt like his contract was never-ending. But another interpretation would be that Figgins sincerely figured the option would vest, because Figgins has never been lacking in confidence. Even when the numbers said a different thing, Figgins said the same thing.
I thought I'd take you on a little journey back through Figgins' Mariners career. Every single professional baseball player needs to believe in himself. He needs to have an ego, because that's part of what drives you to the top. The big leagues select for players who think they're awesome. After all, they've been awesome everywhere else. Ken Griffey Jr. probably thought he was still awesome at baseball the day he retired. Chone Figgins thinks he's still awesome at baseball, too. That's great for Chone, and I hope for his sake he is. That doesn't mean this doesn't all look funny. Off we go.
"I was just personally thinking that Ichiro is obviously one of the best leadoff hitters in the game,'' he said. "He's able to do what he's doing in the one-spot, so I figure with me plugged into the two-spot, being a little more patient at the plate, it makes an even more dangerous tandem at the one-two spot.''
"I wasn't attacking the game in the first half; I was trying to be too patient," Figgins said. "In the second half, I started attacking the game, and my numbers have gone up. I had such a rough start, it will be tough to get back to the numbers I'm normally at. So the fact that I'm above .240 right now is actually a positive."
"Last year I tried to do a little too much," Figgins said in looking back. "I didn't attack the game. What that means exactly is hard to explain, but it's about the way you play defense, run the bases and hit.
"I laid off too many pitches, pitches I should have hit. I got over that and the second half was a lot better. And this year I'll be back at third base, which will be good."
Figgins, who has been streaky at the plate over the years, said he feels a lot better than he did while struggling at the beginning of 2010. He attributed his early slumping to poor pitch selection and a small case of hard-hit balls occasionally finding fielders' gloves.
"Some balls are falling in more," Figgins said. "But at first, I was taking too many swings. I was a little erratic with putting balls in play, where I could have waited until the next pitch. Now, I'm not swinging at every pitch, and I'm just not putting every ball in play."
"I'm going to be great again," he said in an uncommon boast. "The best part is I'm not worried about it. I'm keeping my head up."
"My main goal was to get my hip fixed," said Figgins, who hit .188 last season and .259 in 2010. "I know, if my hip is fixed, I'm going to perform."
"I can hit," Figgins said after his 2-for-2 day raised his average to .188. "It's that simple. I know I can hit. I know I can play."
"I can’t take two more years of this," he said, alluding not just to next year but to his option for the 2014 season. "I need to be somewhere else. I know I can still play, but it’s not going to happen here."
Some of those are kind of reaches. I had only the most recent ones in mind, and had to dig for earlier examples. Used to be that Figgins would convey the confidence that he had in himself. Later on he just started declaring it. Figgins had to tell people that he could still play, because for the first time in his life, there were a lot of people believing he couldn't. For good reason -- the last two years, Figgins was among the very worst players in major-league baseball. But while Figgins knows about his numbers, he needs to believe he's still himself, because if not he should just retire, and he doesn't yet want to retire. Chone Figgins figures he's still got a long way to go.
What's odd, and what I didn't realize, is that I kinda sorta believe him. I don't think 2009 Chone Figgins is ever coming back, because 2009 is one way in time and we go the other way and things that happened before often don't happen again. In sports, anyway. Just because history repeats doesn't mean Brady Anderson is going to mash 50 dingers in 2026. But there probably was some psychological stuff going on with Figgins in Seattle. I watched him earlier this season, and while he batted just .181, I remember a flurry of line drives. There was a time that Figgins was legitimately driving the ball and legitimately getting unlucky, and it's not like he got an extended chance. He was benched at the beginning of May. There probably is something in there, still. Something better than a .533 OPS and a negative WAR. It won't be unjustifiable when another team gives Figgins his next opportunity.
But Figgins most certainly wasn't going to get it going here. You can only get it going if you play, and Figgins wasn't going to play. Whatever psychological burdens there were weren't going to be relieved; Seattle would still be Figgins' place of failure, and Safeco would still be the stadium that hated him. Figgins, I think, needed out more than the Mariners needed Figgins out, if that makes sense. Figgins could do the Mariners only so much harm from the end of the bench, but Figgins couldn't do anything for his career.
And Figgins might just be toast. He's been terrible since 2011. In 2012, he added strikeouts to his assortment of skills, which was a treat for everyone. Talk to any player who's finished but not yet retired, and the player will express a belief that he still has something to contribute. Sometimes they don't. They always feel like they do because they've never before had reason to feel otherwise and change is weird and unsettling and scary.
Chone Figgins was a disaster as a Mariner, and it weighed on us and it weighed on him. Chone Figgins thinks he can still be a hell of a player somewhere else. Come 2013, we might learn something new about Chone Figgins. Or, come 2013, Chone Figgins might learn something new about himself. At last, it's all over for us, here. It's not yet all over for Chone Figgins, even if it actually is.