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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 30, 2009 at 11:01 PM

Leave It To Weaver

weaver.jpg

In recent years, there have been three players who looked so pathetic in Seattle, I would have bet good money that their careers were all but over.

One was Rich Aurilia, who was brought in to be the regular shortstop in 2004 (after the Mariners traded Carlos Guillen to Detroit, failed to sign Miguel Tejada, and pulled out of a trade for Omar Vizquel). Aurilia made it through 73 games and was hitting a weak .241 while playing a rangeless shortstop when the M’s designated him for assignment in July. One member of their staff told me privately they had never seen a more lethargic-looking player.

Two was Scott Spiezio, another member of Bill Bavasi’s brilliant free agent class of 2004. Mariner fans probably are still trying to forget his dismal showing in one-plus season. Brought in to be the regular third baseman and bring some of that “winning attitude” from the Angels, Spiezio hit .215 in ’04, lost his job, sulked, and was hitting .064 (3-for-47) when the Mariners dumped him in August of ’05.

Third was Jeff Weaver, who was a World Series hero when the Mariners signed him to help revamp their rotation in 2007. Weaver actually made somewhat of a revival from his disastrous early showing (0-6, 14.36 ERA after six starts), but when the season ended, it was clear that he was a borderline big-league caliber pitcher (7-13, 6.70, 190 hits in 146 innings pitched).

Turned out I was dead wrong on the first two, and may yet be proven wrong on Weaver. Aurilia landed with the Padres in ’04, then surfaced the following year with the Reds, where he put up two solid seasons as a utility man (including a .300, 23-homer year in 2006). That was followed by two years in a similar role back in San Francisco. Now 37, Aurilia is in Giants’ camp as a non-roster player, but he has reached “beloved elder statesman” status and is believed to have an excellent chance of making the team.

Spiezio was the biggest shocker. All of you who saw him here know what I mean when I say he looked like he had nothing, and I mean nothing, left when he departed Seattle. But lo and behold, the Cardinals gave Spiezio a shot in 2006, and not only was he a useful reserve (putting up a 120 OPS-plus), but he won another World Series ring! Eventually, Spiezio’s personal demons got the better of him, and he truly is out of baseball now, but he had one more incarnation than I would have imagined.

That brings us to Weaver, who seemed to validate my opinion last year when he flailed away in the minors in the Cleveland and Milwaukee organizations, racking up an ERA over six for both of them — and getting cut by both.

Amazingly, however, that wasn’t the end of the line for Weaver — which brings me to the article that spawned this post in the first place. It seems that Weaver, who signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers in a last-ditch effort to revive his career, has all but guaranteed himself a spot on L.A.’s roster as a reliever. He, too, will have a chance to write a new final chapter to his career.

The lesson, I suppose, is never under-estimate the rejuvenating power of leaving the Seattle Mariners.

(Associated Press photo)

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