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January 11, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Sean White signing deal with Colorado marks end of an era for Mariners

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This one sailed over my head yesterday as I was tweeting that Sean White had signed with the Colorado Rockies. It’s the typical minor league deal with a spring training invite that befits a player who spent parts of three seasons with the Mariners but was no longer on the 40-man roster.
Anyhow, it wasn’t until 3:30 a.m. today — Amy had a business trip flight to catch — that I was lying awake in bed and it dawned on me that White leaving was the end of the Bill Bavasi era where relief pitchers are concerned. That’s right, there are now no longer any relief pitchers left in the Seattle organization who were bullpen regulars when Bavasi was still the Mariners general manager.
At least, no bullpen members who ever began a season with the team. Cesar Jimenez, who will come to camp on the roster this year, did get called up in September of 2006 and then again midway through 2008. But Jimenez never broke camp with the squad when Bavasi was still around. He was only added to the 2008 team on June 30 after Bavasi was fired and once everything else had pretty much fallen apart with that team. But he was never on a normal 25-man roster when Bavasi was still there.
So, White, who began the 2007 season with Seattle after being taken in the Rule 5 draft, was the last Bavasi reliever who was ever on a 25-man squad (non expanded rosters) when the latter was still GM. Some of you might not care and I don’t really know what you should think about it. As always, I’ll leave it up to you.
To me, it’s just another striking sign of how quickly things can change in professional sports. Many of us who don’t play major league ball, I think, look at these athletes and figure that if they have a good season, they’ll have bought themselves at least a couple of years of security with a team.
But that’s not the case. And the list of names of relievers young and old, good and bad, who are no longer around from 2007 and the first part of 2008 spells this out.

Think about it for a second, because I know I have. In 2007, the Mariners had a host of bullpen arms who could all open eyes with their velocity and movement.
J.J. Putz, George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow, Sean Green, Mark Lowe, Eric O’Flaherty, White. Sherrill and Putz were the old men of the group, but they could bring it as good as anybody and were in their prime. That year, Ryan Rowland-Smith was added to the mix as well.
I remember sitting in a hotel lounge in Baltimore in April of 2008 waiting to go out to dinner. Soon, a flock of relievers came into the lounge and sat next to me, all waiting to go out to dinner as well. White was back in Class AAA at this point, but it was Lowe, O’Flaherty, Rowland-Smith, Morrow and Green who were hanging out together. It struck me how young they all acted and seemed when they weren’t in uniform, primarily becasue they were all young. Not misbehaving, just young, in their early-to-mid 20s, dressed up and getting ready to head out. I thought it was pretty cool that the Mariners had assembled such a young bullpen corps that were all buddies and could be doing this for years to come.
Baseball is a funny game. A fleeting one. This month’s phenom is yesterday’s news a month later. It’s a results-based game and even then, the results don’t always guarantee lasting success or job security.
Some guys get traded to try to make a bad team better. Others get released, or traded, because they were what helped make a team bad in the first place. Some just quietly sneak off in the night, popping up someplace new before you ever really realized they were gone.
White had a pretty good 2009 season when he harnessed his sinker and recorded some key outs for the team. It was something to build off, but he never really did. He couldn’t harness the sinker as well after a shoulder problem at the end of 2009, nor could he notch enough strikeouts to offset the walks he’d issue.
No doubt, the Rockies are intrigued by his low rate of home runs given up. But White will have to up his game from where it was last season if he’s to have a chance at Coor’s Field and of sticking beyond spring training.
White was never really as bad, I thought, as some people made him out to be. He’s your typical base-rate, journeyman reliever, who, in time, will be able to tell his grandkids he pitched in the majors and not have to stretch the truth. The flaws of the Mariners from 2007-2010 weren’t his fault, even though he was villified a bit more than the average reliever by some fans. A lightning rod for frustration, perhaps, given his struggles. Just a rallying point for fan frustration over a team that hasn’t gotten it right in too many a season.
Whatever. Here’s to hoping White finds what he’s been missing. And here’s to the end of an era in Mariners baseball. The end of the last remaining relief pitcher to ever break camp with Bill Bavasi in charge.
And a reminder to all young bullpen arms currently with the Mariners — hotshot or under the radar: you’re only as secure as your last pitch thrown.



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