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July 8, 2011 at 11:05 AM

More to the fan frustration level with Carlos Peguero than meets the eye

Carlos Peguero has become a hot-button topic of conversation lately in the blogosphere and on radio and amongst even casual fans. Many people can’t understand why the Mariners keep running a .190 hitter out there night after night in left field.
It frustrates me, too. And I don’t even have a stake in this.
But I understand it. Through everything, I understand why the team keeps putting Peguero in left field at the expense of just about anyone with a pulse who could put up better production — be it Mike Carp, Greg Halman or somebody from outside the organization.
Peguero is indeed frustrating because he seems to strike out every time up. But on those few occasions when he actually makes contact, look out. Those foul balls of his are menacing — and I’m not saying that as a wisecrack. Talk to any scout who watches those foul ball line drives to right field and their eyes light up. Those aren’t the foul balls of just any scrub prospect being run out there to save the team a few bucks (which, let’s face it, is indeed a byproduct of running Peguero out there).
No, they are the foul balls of a potential 30-homer guy.
All the team has to do is find a way for Peguero to consistently put his bat on the ball and hit something into fair territory. Again, it sounds like I’m joking but I’m not. If you’re sitting there wondering why the team is bothering with Peguero, that’s the reason.
Somebody upstairs and probably a few folks down at field level truly believes Peguero is not too far away from hitting more fair balls than he currently does. And that, if the switch is flipped this year, he could be a starting left fielder come 2012.
And believe me, I get it. I understand it completely. Because you don’t want to throw away another potential David Ortiz at the plate if you can avoid it.
But here’s where the disconnect with even patient Mariners fans comes in. The stuff the Mariners are doing with Peguero is what teams like the 2010 squad would normally do. You know, squads that are out of the race by May 15 and on their way to losing 101 games.
Not teams that are in a playoff race more than halfway through the season. Which the M’s still are, at least until the end of this weekend.
The Mariners have chosen to use this critical time period to audition a .190 hitter who virtually skipped Class AAA ball and strikes out a third of the time he’s up. At the same point when they already have a number of other black holes in the lineup and smaller holes growing bigger all the time.
This is not standard operating procedure. It’s almost as if the Mariners are pretending that they really aren’t in a division race and just proceeding as if this season had unfolded like they probably suspected it would back in March. A season in which they’d play hard, but be far enough back by June that it would be full speed ahead on the development and trading-of-veterans plans mapped out as far back as last October.
Then, that irksome little race thing popped up. The Texas Rangers just wouldn’t play along with the plan and kept finding ways not to run away with a division that everybody knew they were going to blow apart back in March.
So now, instead of M’s fans gradually accepting that having Peguero out in left field every night is part of the necessary lumps taken by a developing team, some fans — not all, but some — are already developing a hate-on for the guy.
And I suspect that some of those fans are even the types that would be fully prepared to sacrifice the 2011 season in the name of keeping any prospect above C-level and leaving the major league roster intact. I almost feel that part of the dislike towards Peguero is subliminal — borne out of fans being unfamillar with the concept of a contending team simply ignoring the standings and continuing to operate as if this season was already a lost cause.
Because the development of Peguero and Dustin Ackley and — heck — even Kyle Seager is something this team said it would spend this year doing since Day 1. What’s changed since?
You tell me.
Photo Credit: AP

Because if you truly believe the M’s should write this season off and move on to 2012, then there’s no reason for you to be worried about what Peguero does results-wise on a nightly basis. Sure, a handful of fans out there might be so well-versed in the farm system and various stats-indicators that they can make a case for playing a different prospect over Peguero.
But honestly, most Mariners fans aren’t that into the farm system. They’ve heard of a few guys but couldn’t tell you a thing about what any of them did last night for their respective affiliates.
So again, why all the hate-on for Peguero?
Unless you really care about the nightly results for this team in something that actually matters — like a division race. Then, I could really understand the frustration. And I think there are more fans out there that truly want to believe in this year’s team than are willing to step up and admit it.
Otherwise, this loathing for Peguero makes little sense.
If the season is done, it’s done. Who cares whether Peguero strikes out and the Mariners lose? It won’t matter in the long run anyway. Many of you have argued that since most of us thought this was a 90-to-100-loss team, we should just gladly accept whatever the Mariners do this year and move on to 2012 and 2013 and beyond.
And besides, I don’t know about you, but I’ve actually seen an improvement in Peguero’s approach.
He isn’t going up there and striking out on three pitches hacked away at.
Twice last night, I saw him work the count full — including during a key seventh-inning at bat with two on, two out and the score still 3-1. And Jered Weaver made the mistake of sending a hittable fastball Peguero’s way which was fouled almost straight back. That was Peguero’s pitch right there. That’s the one he has to send into fair territory to give his team a stunning lead. And he didn’t miss it by much.
Of course, he then struck out on a pitch down that would have been Ball Four. In the earlier at-bat, he struck out on a pitch near his ankles with the count full. It’s almost as if Peguero, on the payoff pitch, sometimes forgets everything he did to get that deep in an at-bat. And pitchers know this, which is why they keep giving him Ball Four to hit in those situations. Which is why, after Peguero fouled off the fastball, I turned to colleague Greg Johns in the pressbox and said: “I can’t believe Weaver would do something that stupid.”
Doubt he will again. Unless Peguero adjusts and learns to take a walk.
But throw him a fastball down the pipe at 3-2? Um, nah. I wouldn’t advise it.
Because one of these days, that switch might be flipped. And when that day comes, the Mariners will win a game like last night’s out of nowhere. Because with a 4-3 lead on Peguero’s three-run homer, you bring Aaron Laffey, David Pauley and Brandon League into the game instead of Chris Ray. Then maybe the Angels don’t go on to score two add-ons in the eighth. Maybe the M’s ride the three-run homer to victory.
That day probably won’t come this season for Peguero. Which is why the Mariners are running him out there now, in the middle of a division race, adding to the team’s nightly offensive woes in the name of building for the future. They are auditioning him to see whether the switch can be flipped for 2012.
They’re just doing it while there’s still a shot at something bigger for the team in 2011.
And despite what anyone says, I truly believe that’s what keeps fueling the anti-Peguero sentiment.
Because if you’re all about development and not results, there is development to be seen with this guy. And using up a lost season to see if it’s really there should be no big deal.
If indeed this season is actually lost.
If you want to believe the season isn’t done, then I fully understand pulling your hair out over Peguero.
But what you can’t do is have it both ways. You can’t argue that the Mariners should stand-pat and fall out of the race in the name of development, but continue to despise Peguero as a sign of everything wrong with this team.
Peguero is not the problem. He’s a developing player with tremendous raw power upside learning the game on-the-fly at the major league level. It’s what a rebuilding process is all about.
But, as they say, timing is everything. And for those fans who still care about results in 2011 — whether they want to admit it out loud or in print, or even to themselves — the timing of this one development project truly stinks.



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