The Seattle Mariners entered the season with a confusing mishmash of players, as the team was fresh off a roster overhaul that exiled most of their proven contributors to other cities. In their place was a collection of castoffs, journeymen, and guys who they had to hose off because they still reeked of the Mets.
One of those men, 32-year-old Jay Bruce, was essentially a throw-in by New York as they graciously took on Robinson Canó’s dormant volcano of a contract. Sure, Bruce’s profile didn’t necessarily fit the Mariners’ plan. He’s on the wrong side of 30, with two years remaining on a $39 million deal, and plays the same positions as Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana, and Daniel Vogelbach, who figure to be much larger parts of Seattle’s future than Bruce could ever hope to be. The subsequent acquisition of Edwin Encarnación, a fellow power-hitting galoot, only mucked up the lineup even more. The writing on the wall was bold-faced and underlined. Someone, and maybe multiple someones, would have to leave. Everybody in and around the organization, including Bruce from the day he got here, understood that.
That’s essentially the mindset of Bruce, another three-time All-Star who has been traded three times since August of 2016.
“If that’s the case, that’s the case,’’ he said of another possible trade out of Seattle. “I don’t control any of that. After the first trade, it kind of loses its luster. It doesn’t really bother me. Wherever I play, whatever uniform I’m wearing, I want to help that team win games and be an impact player.
“I’m capable of that. I’ve done that throughout my career in multiple uniforms. It doesn’t really bother me too much. I’m happy to be a Mariner, but you don’t really control your destiny in that sense. … I’m operating under the assumption I’m going to be a Seattle Mariner until I’m not.”
Well, the day of “until I’m not” has arrived for Bruce, as the Mariners strapped a barrel of cash to his back and freed him to Philadelphia. While nobody is surprised about this move — which clears up an intriguing amount of at-bats on the 2019 team — it does rid the Mariners of some important qualities. Bruce had 14 home runs and a 115 wRC+ in 184 plate appearances for the M’s. He, at the very least, was one of the players Seattle could count on for a quality at-bat, given the Texas native’s extensive service time. But aside from his potent bat and latent glove, Bruce also provided one of the most useful skills a baseball player can possess.
Jay Bruce was, unquestionably, the 2019 Team Dad.
With the fatherly figure out the door, the Mariners must scramble to find guidance as the family begins to fray. Luckily, the 25-man group still has some potential candidates to fill this important role.
Honorable mentions: Edwin Encarnación, Tom Murphy
Like Bruce, whose Wikipedia lists him as a father of two, Edwin is an actual parent as well. He also looks extremely comfortable behind the wheel of a dune buggy, perhaps the most dad of all vehicles.
On the field, Encarnación has massive “Fuck it, I’ll do it myself” energy, which is deeply rooted in every dad I’ve ever met. Each of his home runs while the Mariners are getting steamrolled feels like him subtly flexing that he does indeed still got it, and no he will not stay upstairs while you have friends over, he would like to play too.
He has also done a masterful job of keeping his pet parrot alive through multiple moves, demonstrating unmatched responsibility and leadership. On top of everything else, EE has a proven track record of drinking at birthday parties and having a loyalty to Michael Jordan, checking two more vital boxes on the Team Dad application.
He will also win any game of “My dad can beat up your dad”.
Tom Murphy, while owning the dadliest facial hair on the team, feels a little too much like the uncle who comes to stay with you while your dad takes a weekend trip to Vegas.
Dad adjacent, to be sure, but not quite there.
Bronze Medal: Mike Leake
If there was ever a dad to run out for cigarettes and never come back, it’s Mike Leake.
Listen, I didn’t say the team dad had to be a good dad.
Silver Medal: Kyle Seager
Kyle Seager, on the other hand, shows every indication of being an excellent dad.
Incredibly consistent for years and years, only to be worn down by washedness and lingering injuries? Check.
Several adorable children? Check check check.
A brother who is probably cooler, better looking, and likely to be more successful?
* sigh * Check.
Gold Medal: Wade LeBlanc
American culture has a strange way of fetishizing dads who do the absolute least.
Cooked exactly one (1) dinner? Here’s a ribbon.
Talked to your children about something other than cars, sports, or beer? I’ll start mapping the parade route.
Watched the kids for multiple hours at a time, resulting in no major lacerations? Go off, king.
Wade LeBlanc, meanwhile, strikes me as the kind of dad who goes the extra mile and then some. Perhaps it’s his comforting southern drawl, or non-threatening pitching style, but I would risk it all to move to the bayou and start a family with Wade. Our days would be filled with Spiderman costumes, surprising the kids at school, and teaching them the lost art of the mid-range jump shot.
When we’re old and gray, and the kids have combined our skills to become left-handed, well-traveled comedy bloggers with impeccable social media pages, we’ll go to the guest house where Marco Gonzales lives. As Marco puts down his arts and craft materials to greet us, an incoming hologram message from the kids interrupts.
They’re beaming from ear to ear, equal parts accomplished in their pasts and poised for great things in their futures. Their jump shots are pure. Their craft game is on point. They are the kinds of people who you meet and instantly know were raised right.
We did good, Wade.