(Photo by Associated Press)
Quite appropriately, most of the focus after Greg Halman’s shocking death in November was on the devastating personal loss for Halman’s family and friends, and the tragic end of a vibrant life at age 24.
Obviously, everything else pales in comparison. You still hurt for those who were closest to Halman while struggling to comprehend how it happened. It was a surreal feeling to be in Mariners camp, see Mike Carp’s T-shirts honoring his close buddy, and have it hit home once again that he is gone.
But it also struck me yesterday that the Mariners are feeling Halman’s loss in a baseball sense, too. It’s not in the ballpark with the loss of a son, brother, and friend, but the fact of the matter is, Halman was a tremendous prospect who could have been one of the key elements of the Mariners’ rebuild project. Carp and others strongly believe that Halman was a star waiting to happen, and that he was on the verge of his breakout. While there are no guarantees he would have blossomed, Halman probably had as much natural ability as anyone in the organization. And he was starting to harness that ability.
This is a guy, don’t forget, who was rated the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect in 2009 by Baseball America, when they noted, “Halman is a physical specimen with the potential for five average or better tools…Though his speed is just a tick above-average, Halman covers swaths of center field with long, graceful strides.”
In light of Franklin Gutierrez’s injury, I have little doubt that Halman would have been right in the middle of the competition to fill in for him. Of the 558 games Halman played in the minor leagues, 425 were in center field. He’d gotten a taste of major-league CF during his callups in 2010 and 2011. Even as he struggled to refine his offense, he was graceful and fluid in center.
Greg Halman’s death left a profound void in so many different areas. One of those — not foremost, certainly — was on the baseball field, as we’re being reminded one more time this week.