I love Little Big League. It's the best child-oriented baseball movie of the 90s, mostly because it involves actual baseball strategy and dynamics that exist in a real clubhouse. This isn't my first time referencing it in a piece, and it probably won't be the last. Today, as Marlins GM Dan Jennings inserts himself into the dugout in Miami, I've been thinking about child-owner Billy Heywood doing the same in Little Big League, and all of the water park birthday parties/conflicts that will shortly arise within the Marlins organization. Especially with Raging Waters basically existing over the center field fence.
I'm thinking about Little Big League again because there's a moment in the movie in which the Twins are watching the Mariners play their last game of the season. If the Mariners lose, they'll face the Twins in a one-game playoff. Dave Magadan heads to the plate in for a critical at-bat, and Jonathan Silverman laments: "Magadan, I'm sure you're a decent human being, but die like a dog." Magadan then grounds out, pops out, or otherwise retires himself in a familiar way to what I'm about to suggest.
Willie Bloomquist is also a decent human being, which is why I keep replaying this scene over and over again, and at the risk of self-plagiarizing, I'll referencing it in a piece for at least the second time. People love Willie. This city, for one reason or another, is obsessed with him. He's a local boy and charter member of the Play The Game The Right Way® movement. He's made a career of playing all over the field with marginal talent, and he's managed to stick around in this league for 14 years when other players who were capable of similar careers were kicked to the curb well before their initial pre-free agency service time expired. For parents who had kids that aren't very good at baseball, they could always point to Bloomquist and demonstrate that hard work could triumph over raw talent. I get it. His efforts have likely inspired many. I don't want to dump on that. But it's time for him to resume his career in a new city.
I never really got too worked up about the Bloomquist deal to begin with. At the time, the team needed anybody who could hit left-handed pitching, and that's one thing Bloomquist could do, at least for average. He didn't provide that benefit in 2014, and then Chris Taylor happened. When Bloomquist hit the DL late in the year, he was a clear afterthought on the infield depth chart, sitting behind both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor at shortstop, and too weak a hitter to play any of the premium offensive positions where there might be room.
It isn't the first time we've written this. Back at the start of spring training, Michael laid out the case for why his time should be up, and the Chris Taylor injury saved an awkward situation, or maybe even Brad Miller opening in AAA. Now with both Taylor and Miller on the roster, there's just no room for Bloomquist anymore.
Bloomquist's value to an organization is the fact that he can play shortstop, which the majority of organizations usually have a difficult time filling. That's somehow the opposite for Seattle, who not only employ two young shortstops capable of starting for many teams, but also a reasonably enticing prospect tearing up AAA in Ketel Marte. There are organizations that have maybe one viable major league shortstop, and the Mariners might have three. Yet they're the ones who employ Bloomquist, who also adds some small (really small) value for his ability to play second and third base, the positions in which the Mariners field arguably the best combination in baseball.
It's hard to think of how the Mariners, as currently constructed, could be a worse fit for Bloomquist. All of this could be excused if Bloomquist could hit a little bit, but at age 37, there's no secrets as to what Bloomquist can offer -- zero pop, mild contact, and plenty of dirty uniforms that may or may not be the result of questionable baserunning decisions. Parting ways with Bloomquist won't be a death knell to his career, as there will always be plenty of teams hunting for versatility and a veteran presence. The Mariners are fortunate to have plenty of both.
It's only a matter of time, most likely. Austin Jackson is already on a rehab assignment down in Tacoma, and even though Chris Taylor has been bad through his first 31 AB, he's already shown he doesn't have much left to prove in Tacoma. Who else is reasonably going to exit when Jackson returns? Arguments could be made for Rickie Weeks or Dustin Ackley, though given Weeks' role as a lefty-masher and Ackley's ability to play center field (plus some unfortunate luck paired with quickly fading potential despite his miserable 49 wRC+) makes it seem like Bloomquist has to be the guy.
If the Mariners choose to jettison somebody other than Bloomquist, or roll with a six-man bullpen (another bad idea), then a) it's a mistake and b) it's only a matter of time. The financial commitment to Bloomquist is too small to flinch on pulling the trigger, and the small fit that existed in the winter of 2013 has entirely evaporated by now.
I like Willie Bloomquist as a person and everything he personifies to those that are inspired by his long career. But the Mariners need help from the 25th man on their bench, and Bloomquist offers none. They're too far into the season to keep employing that kind of talent, or lack thereof. It's time to separate the man from the production. Runaround Sue on repeat, a montage of Willie Bloomquist coming up just a step short of a variety of infield singles. A difficult conversation in the clubhouse. Another city to latch onto the eternal underdog.