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September 28, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Heralding the unheralded Mariners of 2009

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Someone brought this to my attention the other day. But this year, unlike previous seasons, could be one of the most difficult in which to pick a Mariners player who could earn the title of “Unsung Hero”.
I mean, take a look up and down the list of guys who have played this season. There are a plethora of “no name” types — at least, when looked at from elsewhere outside of this Seattle market — who can be argued to have contributed greatly to this year’s squad.
Do you go with catcher Rob Johnson, a guy whose hitting numbers hardly jump off the charts but who has been cited time and time again by pitchers as a difference-maker in their seasons?
Or, a relief pitcher like Sean White, whose absence from the bullpen this final month has created headaches for manager Don Wakamatsu as he attempts to finish off games with a corps of arms well past their career highs in workload?
Was Jack Hannahan the biggest difference maker among the unsung, his defense at third base and at first helping the Mariners stay in contention through Adrian Beltre’s injury, then keep above .500 after Russell Branyan went down?

Could you consider Franklin Gutierrez to be an “unsung” player, given how defense tends to be underrated? After all, when you combine his defense, offense and salary, there’s an argument to be made that Gutierrez might deliver the most value of any player in baseball. But how “unsung” is he, if some have been singing his glove’s praises all season?
Let’s not forget about Chris Jakubauskas, the guy who has taken over many a botched start and carried things through to victory for his team. Rarely does he get much credit. But this team would likely not be above .500 without him.
Lately, we’ve seen Doug Fister step up and deliver both innings and results for a Mariners team that needed them badly in the second half. But if we’re going to give kudos to Fister, what about Ryan Rowland-Smith? He’s been doing his thing longer and with better results. Something the Mariners needed after the Jarrod Washburn trade.
Could Mike Sweeney be considered “unsung” after 15 seasons? Well, maybe. After all, Sweeney gets much credit for helping contribute to the team’s improved clubhouse harmony and on-field togetherness. He’s also been swinging quite the mean bat since late July, posting a second-half OPS of .892. How many of you knew about that latter stat? So, is Sweeney the most unsung?
In case you think this is just a way to fill a meaningless blog post, it’s not. The local Baseball Writers Association of America chapter gives out an Unsung Hero award every year. The award gets voted on by Mariners coaches and I can tell you, the results are already in and will be announced Saturday.
It was not an easy call this year.
Last season, Roy Corcoran got the award. The year prior, it was Sean Green. So, no, winning it is no guarantee of longevity with a team.
But it is something to be proud of.
So, I’m curious to know what many of you think. It should be an interesting read. Especially when, come this Saturday, you can find out who the coaches throught was the most unheralded player in a team filled with them.



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