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40 in 40: AJ Pollock, and rolling the dice on faith

Blibdoolpoolp bless you.

Cleveland Guardians v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In the official lore of Dungeons & Dragons, the wildly-popular-but-recently-maligned by greed table top RPG, there is a species of creature known as the kuo-toa. The kuo-toa are, for lack of a better word, fishmen. In stark contrast to any Ariel-esque merpeople you might be imagining, the kuo-toa look like this.

Forgotten Realms Wiki via Wizards of the Coast

These bulging-eyed creepazoids typically inhabit the underworlds of coastal cities, or even deeper below ground, engaging in generally debaucherous behavior and smelling quite unpleasant. Based on the part-man, part-piscine creations of H.P. Lovecraft in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the kuo-toa are ostensibly a scary creature in that I would not enjoy encountering one on a dark night, however they are almost cartoonish in lieu of cosmically horrifying in the way Lovecraft manifested his Dagon-worshipping Deep Ones and their spawn.

But where Lovecraft spun a tale of a true monstrosity, aided by lesser ones, the kuo-toa are more ramshackle and must make do with their own imaginations. Their most curious trait is the capacity to, with the power of unified belief, confer divinity onto whatever they believe to be divine. They manifest what is, in a world of several pantheons of deities, true power by their belief, which can make them an unpredictable and treacherous foe.

Is this an exceedingly cruel and extended AJ Pollock fish joke, you might ask? Yes and no.

Zach Mason already wrote in some depth on Pollock’s profile, specifically highlighting how his splits - he will be the portion of a platoon facing lefty pitchers in concert with either Jarred Kelenic or Taylor Trammell to start 2023 - do not necessarily have all the clarity we might anticipate. At the time of his signing, I suggested Pollock, as one player Mitch Haniger looked to early in his career to improve his swing, could be a quality veteran influence on both young Seattle Mariners outfielders. If asked to merely man the corner outfield spots and mostly face opposite-handed pitching, even in his somewhat murkier splits, Pollock has every indication of a Seth Smith-type season as a possibility, albeit on the other side of a platoon.

But the trouble is what Seattle believes Pollock is. As the roster is constructed, it’s hard to tell who the club thinks will be their primary bat off the bench, and relatedly who might be their designated hitter most days. Though Seattle has stated a goal of rotating players through the location, in 2022 and 2021 that role was easily defaulted to Haniger or Carlos Santana, sluggers with solid bats who ensured the lineup was better by their presence, even if not always dominating in the role. But in 2023, Pollock would be pressed mightily in such service, and it’s hard to say who would take his space many nights. So we are asked to question: does A.J. Pollock have another round of rejuvenation in his bones, or is he a false idol cast in a role unsuited to his station? Time will tell.