Look, this is difficult to write. It would probably be best for me to just come out and say it: I really didn't like you on the Seattle Mariners. Part, ok maybe a lot of that, isn't really your fault. Expectations are the burden of those who have them. You were the cement in my shoes, Austin, dragging me down into unfathomable blackness, but that wasn't your fault. Not entirely.
Ok granted in 2014, a year when the Mariners were one lousy win from their first playoff appearance in two of my son's lifetimes you spent 223 at-bats slugging .260, the 6th lowest slugging of any Mariner in history over a season with more than 200 at-bats. Yes, I remember that prior to the Mariners acquiring you that year you had slugged .398 in Detroit. Yes that is one hundred and thirty-eight points higher than you slugged with the Mariners. I know, you are correct, that is a lot. Yes, you really slugged less than Franklin Gutierrez when he was riddled with a seemingly impossible to diagnose disease that completely sapped him of his strength.
BUT, Austin, that is all past us. For we mortals time moves but forward, and the world is filled with far too many chasms, and tragically few bridges. Let us put to bed our anguish, our enmity. It is true that exactly six months ago today I wrote an article that said it was time for the Mariners to be done with you, and to look to future possibilities.
I wanted change, Austin, but I didn't know how much I was really in store for. I wanted the Mariners to give Brad Miller a real chance at being a center fielder. I didn't anticipate Jerry Dipoto and his hair trigger would turnover almost half the 40 man roster. The Mariners needed outfielders and Jerry got us those in bulk, although not bulky. Brad Miller is gone. Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, and Boog Powell are all here. Now, with the roster largely set the team hilariously finds itself with room for only a right-handed hitter capable of playing center field.
You are 29, Austin. You should be in the prime of your career. But you know that instead you have found yourself at this crossroads. The truth is Austin, barring a bounce back to your mid-20's ability to drive a baseball and draw a walk you're not an everyday player on a playoff team. Your ceiling is 2 WAR, and that's a ceiling I'm not sure you're likely to bump against this year.
So here we are, you and I. I, a fan of a team that wants to maximize whatever window its aging core still possesses. One with a roster that has an every day center fielder who posted a downright 2014 Austin Jackson-ian 50 wRC+ last year. The backup options are a man who treats outfield defense as something akin to abstract art, and a participant in the controversial new "Caffeine Only" diet.
The stadium, uniform, a few teammates, and a couple other things may bring back some tough memories for you but I promise almost everything else around here has changed. Jerry Dipoto has dropped a canister of smiling gas in the Safeco air supply, positivity and new beginnings are the soup du jour.
You're still a perfectly competent defensive center fielder, Austin. That part of your game has never really left you, even though you aren't the elite defender you maybe once were. The Mariners, so shortly after needing to lose you for their greater good and my sanity, now find themselves in need of almost exactly your skillset. There was a quote on True Detective about this state of being, although it slips my mind at present.
The ability to move forward, to accept people whole, despite or perhaps because of their flaws, is a key component in aging gracefully. You were bad as a Mariner, Austin, but you didn't deserve the amount of scorn I heaped upon you. We could try this again, you and I, and see where it goes. Maybe it all falls apart again. But maybe, just maybe, you make a huge catch on September 27th in Houston, racing up Tal's Hill to rob George Springer of extra bases. Maybe we make a gif out of that (NOT THAT WE WOULD THAT IS ILLEGAL AND WRONG), and write an homage to you. Maybe you get some clutch hits and make yourself a real part of the end of "Same ol' Mariners" and this city's reawakening as a baseball town.
There's all the possibility in the world for us, Austin. We can make another go of it, and let ourselves risk pain to maybe find some happiness in this crazy world. I'm willing to start over. What do you say? After all, it wasn't all bad the first time around.