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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.

November 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Robert Andino greatest acclaim is as Red Sox-killer (plus winter league update and a Chone Figgins thought)

(Here is this week’s Mariners winter league update).

In both Boston and Baltimore, Robert Andino — the newest Mariner after his acquisition today — will always be remembered for the moment above, which sealed the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox. It also established Andino, along with Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, as an all-time Red Sox nemesis. In fact, the phrase “The Curse of the Andino” became so popular in Baltimore after that game that it appears on T-shirts.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox in five out of seven games down the stretch as the Rays charged past them for the AL wild-card berth that once seemed a lock for Boston. Andino had the game-winning hit in three of those games. That included a three-run double off Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth inning of one game when the Red Sox were winning 5-4; a three-run, inside-the-park homer off Josh Beckett to extend a 3-2 Baltimore lead in another; and then the whopper in the final game of the season, which you see above.

You might recall that moments after pinch-runner Kyle Hudson scored from second on Andino’s hit to give Baltimore the win, Evan Longoria homered to lift Tampa Bay to a victory at Tropicana Field that pushed them past the Red Sox for the playoff berth.

Here was Andino’s quote in the Boston Herald after the game:

“End of season like this, to make Boston go home sad, crying, I’ll take it all day,” Andino said. “To walk off, everybody wants to walk off. It’s priceless, man. You don’t have any words for it.”

Those words didn’t sit well with the Red Sox, and some believe they were sending a response last September when Boston pitcher Mark Melancon beaned Andino with a 94-mph fastball. There was some fear of a concussion, but Andino came back to play several games before the year was out, then went 5-for-12 in six playoff games for the Orioles against Texas and New York. Mariners fans might recall his game-winning homer in the ninth inning off Charlie Furbush on July 3 at Safeco Field, breking a 4-4 tie. In that game, Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen flirted with a perfect game into the seventh inning.

Andino grew up in Miami and was a second-round draft pick of his hometown team, the Marlins, in 2002. He was the No. 52 overall pick, ahead of Jon Lester (No. 57), Jonathan Broxton (60) and Brian McCann (64). At one point, the Marlins were grooming Andino to be their shortstop of the future, but that changed when they acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Red Sox.

The Orioles traded for Andino just five days before Opening Day in in 2009, raising eyebrows when they gave up RHP Hayden Penn, at the time one of their top pitching prospects. But Penn flamed out and was eventually designated for assignment by the Marlins. He’s now pitching in Japan. Andino, meanwhile, proved valuable in 2009 when Baltimore’s starting shortstop, Cesar Izturis, was sidelined with appendicitis. Andino started 55 games at shortstop that year. Last year, he started 90 at second base.

Andino. 28, will likely be a utility man for the Mariners. In his career, he’s played 134 games at shortstop, 233 at second, 46 at third and even eight in the outfield. He’s out of options, and arbitration eligible after making $1.3 million last year. In the projections by MLB Trade Rumors of arbitration-eligible players, which are usually remarkably accurate, Andino is predicted to make $1.8 million in 2013. His acquisition for Trayvon Robinson leaves the Mariners in the same place with their 40-man roster, which must be set tonight by 9 p.m. They are at 37, with Andino sliding in for Robinson, but as I mentioned yesterday, and Geoff expanded on today, this could be the day they clear Chone Figgins off the roster. Which would probably be just fine with Figgins, who told John Hickey of Sports Press Northwest on the last day of the season, “I can’t take two more years of this.”

That quote astounded me, though not for the reasons you might think. I understand Figgins’ frustration over the decline of his career, and I thought he actually did an admirable job this season of working hard, playing hard in his rare appearances, helping teammates and keeping his mouth shut during a trying season. He could have raised a much bigger stink than one honest comment after the season was over but wisely just stayed quietly in the background.

No, what struck me instantly was the reference to two years, which shows an amazing, if not a bit delusional, self-confidence by Figgins. The four-year, $36-million contract Figgins signed is set to end after the 2013 season. The only way it extends to 2014 is if Figgins has 600 plate appearances in 2013, in which case his 2014 contract vests for $9 million. Now, even if by some unfathomable reason — stubborness or foolishness being the top two that come to mind — the Mariners kept Figgins around in 2013, I can’t possibly envision any conceivable way he would get 600 plate appearances. This is a guy who had 507 plate appearances the last two years combined. And just 194 last year, when Figgins was virtually a forgotten man in the second half of the season. And yet when Figgins envisions what a future in Seattle would be like if he stays, he sees two more years, meaning he expects to have 600 plate appearances in 2013. As I said, amazing.

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