Sometimes the unexpected happens. This afternoon I wrote and proofed a full article on Jon Garland being a part of the Mariners rotation. All I needed to do was hit approve. It seemed inevitable, with reports circulating that his inclusion was a foregone conclusion, Garland was in, and one of the youngsters was out. It made too much sense. After all, Garland was solid last night, we hadn't heard anything to indicate the team was wavering on him, and Erasmo Ramirez was knocked around a bit out of the bullpen. Nail in the coffin.
Most of us scoff at spring training performances and their poor correlation to regular season success, but we still react to the performances as if the front office values them like gold. They carry more weight, as if they are somehow uninterested in the evidence to suggest a strong spring does not guarantee a strong season, or even hint at it. Surely, with Jason Bay tromping around in center field, getting experimented with in the leadoff position, he is going to make this team and Casper Wells will be out, much to the chagrin of many of us. Surely Jon Garland and his gritty veteran experience will fill out the rotation, giving invaluable advice about his years in the league and his World Series experience to all the growing young talent, ready to soak up the wisdom like a sponge. It fits the narrative. It fits the quotes. It fits the history of the Seattle Mariners. It just makes too much sense.
Then, we are surprised.
Jon Garland met with Jack Zduriencik today and was informed he would not be part of the roster this year. He then promptly exercised his opt-out clause, threw a toaster, kicked over a file cabinet, trashed the clubhouse, and peeled out in his rental PT Cruiser. Only the first thing happened, but maybe the rest did too.
Z's statement was predictably vague, stating that there was still a battle for the remaining rotation spots and that they couldn't commit to Garland at this point in time. Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, and Brandon Maurer squiggle with glee, as the odds of them making the team just shot up. Somewhere, Jeremy Bonderman silently pumps a fist in a dark hotel room with the curtains shut. One step closer, he tells himself, and repeats a mantra to himself. Only the first thing happened (probably), but maybe the rest did too.
As Mariner fans, we are conditioned to expect the worst. Our expectations are set to believe the team will be safe, to believe they will take the path of least resistance, to follow the straight and narrow. As Patrick suggested this week, it's time for the team to start taking some chances. This is the first of those chances. Perhaps we are too quick to assume that Jason Bay has made this team over Casper Wells, given the similar evidence that just sent Jon Garland packing his bags.
There are many things that could still go wrong, of course. Jeremy Bonderman could win a rotation spot. Beavan could knock out Ramirez or Maurer. But this is a small victory for not taking the expected path. Not settling for a pitcher who is guaranteed to be mediocre. There is excitement, there is real upside in the possibilities for this year's Mariners rotation. Watching Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer take the mound every two of five days is a lot more exciting than Blake Beavan and Jeremy Bonderman. When Maurer hits his inning limits, others will step in to fill the void.
I wrote this afternoon that it was unlikely that Jon Garland was going to be around any longer than June, simply because of the amount of talent behind him. That date has been accelerated to today, and while there are still many major decisions to be made, this is a victory.
Update (3/24/13) Garland appears to be signing with the Colorado Rockies.