|Cracking "The Safe": The Seattle Mariners|
|~ Everything to do with the Seattle Mariners ~|
Saturday, January 17, 2004
The Mariners have released their official 2004 Spring Training Invitee Roster.
One glance at this list confirms what many in the blogosphere and, slowly but surely, the Seattle media, have been surmising for awhile. This roster is unremarkable to say the least.
But one name did catch my eye. A name that I remember hearing from a few years back. 1B Bucky Jacobsen. Heck, anyone with the name Bucky (think Dent) has got to be an interesting character. So I fired up the Google search and was a bit surprised by what I got back. The man has his own Fan Club.
Drafted in the 7th round of the 1997 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, the right-handed hitting firstbaseman Jacobsen had a dynamite campaign at Short-Season Ogden of the Pioneer League. He hit .328 with 8 HRs and 52 RBI in 67 games. Perhaps more impressive where his .427 OBP and his .517 SLG (an OPS of .944). His next stop was Class A Beloit of the Midwest League. There he hit .293, ripped 27 HRs, 31 doubles, and had 100 RBI. His OBP was .399 and his SLG was .521. He struck out 133 times in 499 ABs, but for a 23 year old player with good power numbers this isn't too alarming, not to mention that he drew 88 free passes, showing decent plate awareness.
Unfortunately, Jacobsen's 1999 campaign began with him hitting a disastrous .193 at AA Huntsville through 47 games. Jacobsen had never dealt with that kind of slump and his numbers did not recover. He also suffered a freak accident that left him with a bruised nerve in his leg. He lost most feeling in his leg and was demoted to Stockton of the California League. His confidence was shaken and his rising star status was gone in the blink of an eye. Healthy once more, Jacobsen started the 2000 at Huntsville, but not as a full time player. He saw only part time status but still managed to hit .276, and hit 18 HRs and drive in 50 in only 268 ABs. His once impressive .932 average OPS from his first two seasons (which had shrunk to .674 in 1999), was back up to .924. Injuries and a pooor start had robbed him of a season of development, but Jacobsen was ready to break out in 2001.
And he did just that. In the first 27 games of the 2001 season, Bucky, once again a starter, went on an absolute rampage. All he did was hit .441 with 10 HRs, 28 RBI, and post a freakish 1.378 OPS. That translates to a .518 OBP and an .860 SLG. Milwaukee justly promoted Jacobsen, now 26, to AAA Indianapolis of the International League. His adjustment period to the IL, 300 ABs, produced a .247 AVG, 12 HRs, and 53 RBI. His strikeout ratio was up again, causing some to worry that he wasn't ready for AAA. And while his OPS dropped to a mortal .745, his power numbers indicated that he was just going through a natural learning curve. He had little to prove at AA Huntsville so it looked like 2002 would see him at AAA again right? Wrong.
The Brewers demoted Jacobsen back to AA Huntsville. He hit only .253 in 61 games but the power numbers (11 HRs, .485 SLG) stayed decent. But the Brewers lost hope and he landed over in the St. Louis organization midway through 2002, a 27 year old in AA, nno longer a prospect. Still Jacobsen ripped up AA New Haven to the tune of a .294 AVG, and a .880 OPS. For his trouble, St. Louis parked him at AA again in 2003. He responded with a career year.
Bucky's 2003 Line: .298 AVG - 24 Doubles - 31 HRs - 84 RBI - 91 K - .388 OBP - .564 SLG
He posted a career high OPS of .952, cut down on his strikeouts, drew fewer walks, raised his HR total to a career high 31. St. Louis cut him loose however, and he signed with the M's in November 2003. Let's hope that their loss is our gain.
Skeptics will say that Jacobsen was a 27 year old who hit well against pitchers who are on average 4-5 years younger than he is. His prospect status vanished with his injury. Quite simply, Jacobsen was the victim of mismanagement at the hands of a Brewer front office not known for winning. Before we in Mariner Nation forget, lets remember that the former Seattle Pilots are a sorry franchise that hasn't won anything for years. The winning tradition there is as forgotten as it is in Detroit.
He will be in our camp this spring, perhaps with little chance of making the big club. But I for one will be intrigued to see how he responds to the opportunity. Some have questioned what the M's would do if John Olerud went down with an injury. I will stop short of touting Bucky as the answer to that question but the kid deserves a shot to play. He has never even had a full season to prove himself at AAA.
You heard it here first, the Bucky Backers Fan Club may be getting a lot bigger.
The Mariner Optimist has mentioned that perhaps we are the only two blogs in the Mariner Blogosphere who share optimism about the Mariner's chances in 2004.
I guess where I differ from some other blog writers is that I would rather focus on a scenario other than doom and gloom. I don't want to look at every possible way that Quinton McCracken or Raul Ibanez will cost us games. They may well cost us games, but I certainly don't watch games expecting my team to make errors or strikeout with runners in scoring position.
Baseball is a sport of optimism. You play to win. Try telling any Devil Rays fan that there team should never beat the Yankees. On paper, they really shouldn't. But just so often they rise up and emerge victorious.
I'd rather spend my time looking for ways that we might win. That's just me....
Oh and by the way, I think Bavasi is an idiot. But it could be much worse...
Should we conceed the AL West to Anaheim now that they are
on the verge of landing Vlad?
If Vlad's back is healthy, this is a HUGE signing for them. In tandem with Jose Guillen, Bartolo Colon, and Kelvim Escobar, 2004 Angels team is a lot more stacked than their 2003 version. Arturo Moreno has taken a page out of Angelos' book in Baltimore and opened up his pocketbook in fine Steinbrenner fashion in attempts to buy a title.
The way I see it, the Angels hopes for the postseason aren't nearly as dependent on their new acquisitions as they are on Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad, and Troy Glaus.
At 35 years old, Salmon is starting to decline. He bounced back in 2002 after a sorry 2001 campaign but his 2003 numbers indicate the beginning this decline. Erstad saw most of his season disappear due to injury as did Glaus.
After his breakout season of 2000 when he hit 47 HRs, Glaus' power numbers have gone down (47,41,30, and 16 in a shortened 2003 campaign). Will we see the healthy Glaus of 2000-2002? There is no reason to suggest that he CAN'T do it. But he bears watching. Erstad who will be replacing Spiezio/Fullmer at 1B was also injured in 2003. His 2001, 2002 numbers were not impressive however and a close look at his OPS numbers show a significant downhill trend.
Bob Finnigan actually made a good point (imagine that) when he said today that Seattle could have had Vlad and as a result had Deivi Cruz, Justin Leone, and Jose Cruz Jr. manning SS, 3B, and LF. Vlad is a tremendous player, as is Tejada, but the status of the budget already committed when Bavasi took over made it clear that the M's weren't going to be a player for anyone at Vlad's price. Next offseason, with a good chunk of salary off the books, the M's will be in the market to get younger.
The Angels still have to prove that they can win it all. I won't hand them the division yet.