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April 6, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Jack Wilson story at second base worth monitoring as Mariners go forward

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Less than a week into the season and questions are already being raised about the decision by the Mariners to move Jack Wilson to second base. Things had worked out real well the first five games, with Wilson turning in what will go down as one of the defensive plays of the year in MLB the other night on that double-play.
But today, in the second inning of Game 6, two double plays Wilson failed to turn wound up costing Seattle three runs and the ballgame. Yeah, the Mariners came back and tied it in the sixth. But if Wilson ends the inning on the first double-play attempt, maybe Felix Hernandez goes eight innings instead of seven and the Mariners win easy. Who knows? Anyhow, Wilson was pulled from the game by Mariners manager Eric Wedge after the second inning was done and replaced by Luis Rodriguez.
It was a move Wilson said he was totally in agreement with.
“It was one of those things where I wasn’t really getting it done out there,” Wilson said. “So, they got Luis (Rodriguez) out there. It was probably the best situation at that point.”
He furthered the point by saying: “They asked me how I was feeling and obviously, I wasn’t feeling too particularly good at that point. To give up three runs the way he (Hernandez) was pitching, they’d rather have somebody out there who had a little more time and experience (at second base). That’s why it was unacceptable to have happen. Especially in a game we needed to win. In a game where he was pitching.”
Wilson has been a trouper about accepting the position switch so late in spring training, after a camp in which he appeared to be at least equal to – if not better than – Brendan Ryan at his customary shortstop position. Usually, the tie goes to the veteran. Not in this case, though. Not with Wilson’s contract up after this season and Ryan signed for two years at a cheaper rate per annum.
And so, you have Wilson taking one for an organization that – judging by its winter moves, or lack of — is not going all-out to try to win this year. And for a team that does not currently have all of its top players at their best positions, either at second base, in center field, or the bullpen. We saw a glimpse of that today in the field with Wilson.
Now, the question is, will it be allowed to continue at second base? And that, in truth, will be up to Wilson.

It’s possible this was just a one-day aberration. After all, we’re not even seven games into the season yet. This is one week out of 26. Wilson didn’t just go from Web Gem to stone hands overnight.
But that’s one game out of six this position switch has already cost the team.
And it can’t continue that way. You can’t have the team losing one or two games per week because the Mariners want to minimize infield disruption when Dustin Ackley is ready for the big leagues.
Wilson should be playing shortstop. He’s doing the Mariners a favor by switching positions. But minimizing infield disruption in June becomes a moot point if the disruption is merely moved up to April.
The Mariners already have tens of thousands of tickets unsold for their opening weekend. They can’t afford to throw away games when Felix Hernandez is starting. They can’t afford to lose any more games than they’re already going to lose this year just on talent level alone.
Take away Opening Night, when a five-error game (that should have been a six-error game) by Oakland helped the M’s score six runs and this offense has gone at a 3.5-runs-per-game clip since. This team just doesn’t have the raw power in an offense driven by singles, walks and the occasional double, to be giving runs away defensively.
So, the next move is to closely monitor Wilson at second and perhaps re-evaluate just how big the learning curve is going to be. Just as teams can’t afford to have prospects learning positions at the big league level, they can’t really have veterans doing it for too long either.
If Wilson continues to make progress at second and the glitches are few and far between, then you continue. But if this becomes more than a one-day ordeal, you put a stop to it by admitting that a well-intentioned idea was a mistake.
Wilson deserves as much. Hernandez deserves as much. And the fans who’ve stuck with this team deserve as much as well.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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