Let us be very clear about two things: Austin Jackson should not suck. He has prospect pedigree. He has been a very productive player in the major leagues. He slugged .479 in 2012 at 25 years old. He is 28 and in his last year before free agency. He has every incentive professionally and personally to excel and secure himself a financial windfall that could last his family generations.
Secondly, Austin Jackson has sucked as a Mariner. SO much. You can argue, not totally irrationally, that his performance after his acquisition was THE reason the team missed the playoffs by 1 game. As a Mariner in 2014, Austin Jackson had a wRC+ of 55. He reduced his career WAR by 2.5%. His defense fell off. He failed to hit a single triple or home run. He looked sad. Maybe he was sad. I certainly was.
Whatever the reasons behind his failure it all boiled over for me with Austin Jackson this month. During that time he triple slashed .171/.217/.171. Now other hitters have struggled at the start of the season but none of them were as bad down the stretch last year and none of them LOOKED as pathetic as Jackson has this April. His best case outcome was a bleeding ground ball through the infield.
Given the total dearth of any viable alternative in center field and Lloyd's obvious preference for him as a leadoff hitter Austin Jackson has as much potential to submarine this season as perhaps any player on the roster. Watching it all happen overwhelmed me and I started blowing off steam on Twitter after every Jackson at bat:
Austin Jackson gently tapping a croquet ball the last 4 inches through a wicket with a live Toucan.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) April 18, 2015
Austin Jackson slapping an already broken piñata with a carp on roller skates.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) April 18, 2015
Austin Jackson is using a broken tulip stem to swing at tadpoles at the bottom of a small pond. (Am I doing this right, @NathanHBishop?)— Colin O'Keefe (@colinokeefe) April 16, 2015
Austin Jackson slapping empty plastic Easter eggs with a velvet glove in a wind tunnel.— Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop) April 15, 2015
It went on and on. I am forever grateful to baseball analytics for hammering the concept of small sample size into my head but sometimes my eyes convince my brain to be stupid and I let myself lose the 20,000 foot view this sport demands.
Austin Jackson has reached base 7 times the last 2 games. He hit is first home run yesterday, tying him with Felix Hernandez on the franchise's all-time home run list. He was instrumental in the team's most ridiculous victory since Luis Rodriguez.
Austin Jackson's season wRC+ going into today: 101 For his career: 103. This year, so far, Austin Jackson has been the player the Mariners traded for. The slate is clean and the scales balanced, Austin. Just be yourself, it's all we have ever wanted.