A little more than a year ago, my mother went on a business trip to Seattle. Knowing I was a Mariners fan but unfamiliar with the Mariners themselves, she called me up from the team store at Safeco Field to ask which player's shirsey I wanted.
"Ackley," I said, after a moment's hesitation. "I already have an Ichiro shirt, and Felix is great but pitchers can be fragile. Ackley is young, and good, and he'll be around forever. Plus he wears my favorite number." (I think she tuned out after the first five words, but I love her anyways, and I'm definitely not only saying that because I know she's reading this.)
So she bought me a teal Ackley shirt - which I am wearing as I type this - and Ackley promptly faceplanted. There's a subtle lesson in there somewhere about counting chickens before they hatch, but when the universe tries to teach me subtle lessons by inflicting spontaneous suckage on my favorite baseball players I usually tell the universe to go eat cactus.
I tell this tale not because I'm in the mood to write about the only piece of Mariners apparel I own or because I want to make fun of Dustin Ackley, but because rumor has it he's going to AAA and Nick Franklin is coming to the Seattle as his replacement. Well, perhaps more accurately: rumor has it Nick Franklin is coming to the major leagues and logic has it Dustin Ackley is going to Tacoma as his replacement.
Last night this was tweeted.
Congrats to Nick Franklin on getting called up to the big leagues!— Jordan Strittmatter (@jstritt10) May 27, 2013
Strittmatter, for what it's worth, is a teammate of Franklin's from Lake Brantley High School in Florida.
Very shortly afterwards, this was tweeted.
Lane, too, is a Lake Brantley alum.
Now, it's entirely possible that Strittmatter is attempting to play off his past relationship with Franklin and get a little extra attention by breaking fake news. Worthless trade rumors show up on Twitter every day. And it's entirely possible that Lane, who follows Strittmatter, saw his teammate's statement and parroted it. But I think the rumors are supported by a statement made by our good friend Jason Churchill from Prospect Insider, replying to another user who had repeated the Franklin "news":
@bbjronstadt Not supposed to get out... but I guess the day off gives it away some.— Jason A. Churchill (@ProspectInsider) May 27, 2013
And then, Mike Curto:
[...] Rainiers roster mayhem coming in the AM.— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) May 27, 2013
At this point I think we can probably accept that Nick Franklin is coming. It makes too much sense, both from a Twitter Rumor perspective and from a Mariners Logic perspective. Remember when a large chunk of the fanbase was calling for the team to bring up the then-white-hot Zunino, and Jack Z dismissed the calls with "he hasn't struggled yet"? The argument was that, if Zunino had never experienced and overcome difficulty in AAA, he'd never be able to do it in the majors.
Behold Nick Franklin's May.
I'm not one to try to build a story out of six games' worth of performance in AAA, and I don't think that player evaluation decisions should be made based on narratives like that, but if I were looking for evidence of a player struggling and then overcoming his struggles... that's what I'd be looking for.
And there, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Dustin Ackley. Dustin Ackley, who is in the middle of an 0-for-23 slump. Dustin Ackley, who twice in yesterday's game stared at obvious strikes one and two before weakly grounding out. Not long ago Eric Wedge hinted that the team wanted to keep Ackley in the major leagues, saying:
(Ackley is) still not where he needs to be, but he still raised his average quite a bit the last two or three weeks. You just can't keep changing. They did that here for a lot of years -- didn't work. You gotta stick with the program.
But I think the days of sticking with the program are over. For one thing, there's really no one else to demote. Is the team going to kick Carlos Triunfel down to the minors two games after bringing him up? No. Are they going to trade Brendan Ryan, both the hottest hitter and the best glove on the team? Almost certainly yes, at some point this year, but it's awfully early to do that now. Are they going to option Kyle Seager, the best position player on the team? Don't make me laugh.
And, irrespective of the rest of the roster, I think that the Mariners have seen enough from Ackley. Wedge complained in that same interview about his passive plate approach, and that's certainly not something he's been improving of late. I know I've certainly seen enough from Ackley to declare that he needs AAA time. Dave Cameron, Ackley's biggest fan in the blogosphere, suggested a couple of days ago that it was time for Ackley to head to Tacoma and rediscover his skills. There seems to be unanimous agreement that Ackley shouldn't be in the majors any longer. To back up this unanimity, Churchill has hinted that Ackley will be going down to AAA tomorrow.
I don't want to sit here and analyze how this move will affect the team. I'm sure that my fellow writers, and the authors of other blogs, and even you readers will be discussing that plenty. Heck, I talked about it a month ago. Besides, I'd feel pretty stupid if I wrote much more about this move, and then it didn't actually happen.
But I would like to invite you to stop and think a little bit about where our culture has gone. Baseball, I think you will agree, is a pretty frivolous hobby. And yet we live in a world where a young man in Reno can receive an internal promotion from his Seattle-based company and tell his friend from Florida about it, at which point that friend can announce it in a place where writers from New York, San Francisco, and Hawaii will see the news and write hundreds of words on the subject - the night before it happens. And the same world still has poverty, and famine, and crime.
Baseball transaction rumors are a hell of a thing.