Who is the real Chone Figgins? You're looking at him
Chone Figgins said he might not have played well all the time in 2010, but "you got to see the real me every day last season."
Seattle Times staff columnist
PEORIA, Ariz. — Chone Figgins is not a quitter. That's all he really wants you to know about him. Actually, he expects you to know this already, even though his first Mariners season was an embarrassing introduction akin to someone's pants falling down in public.
Figgins didn't regularly show the skills that enticed the Mariners to give him $36 million, but he doesn't think he made a poor impression. Because the struggles should've revealed his defining characteristic. He is not a quitter. He mentions this so many times that it should be considered the verbal equivalent of a schoolboy scribbling a phrase on a chalkboard over and over during detention.
To hear him tell it, his woes revealed his essence.
"It just shows what type of person I am," he says. "I didn't give up."
And a minute later, he says, "I'm not giving up."
And two minutes later: "Regardless of whether it's going bad or good, I'm still going to go out there and compete. Every. Single. Game."
And three minutes later: "I will never quit."
Then he went to lift weights.
If Figgins owned a parrot, he would teach it to recite the late basketball coach Jim Valvano's "Don't Ever Give Up" speech.
Ask him if his early-season struggles took away some of his joy, and he refers to another pet phrase, "Never. Never." Ask him if he was unhappy playing for a new team, and he repeats, "Never. Never." Ask him if the dueling adjustments of switching from leadoff hitter to No. 2 and switching from third base to second base affected his performance, and he completes the dismissive Triple Crown.
Grab an autotune device, mix together his two favorite comments, and you'll have the hook for Figgins' theme song.
Give up? Never, never/Give up? Never, never/Give up? Never, never/Never give up/Never
Get Figgy with that, Chone.
"I didn't play well all the time, but you got to see the real me every day last season," says Figgins, who is back at third base this season. "I come to play every day. That's one thing that will never change. So, you did get to know the real me."
He offers a wicked laugh. Pity the fool who implies he wasn't focused or committed to the Mariners in 2010.
Figgins makes a little more sense now. Maybe he is that simple. He defied convention and made it to the big leagues as a 5-foot-8 singles hitter whose best position is third base. He's had to work to prove that he is an impact player, because upon first glance, his size and skill set suggest he's merely a utility player.
Figgins became a star during the Los Angeles Angels' dominant American League West run. The Mariners signed him to a four-year deal before last season, but his transition was rough. Figgins hit only .211 over the first 50 games of the season, well below his career .287 batting average.
He improved gradually over the final two-thirds of the season and wound up hitting .259 with a .340 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases. It was the worst of his seven years as a starter. Figgins criticizes himself for not "attacking the game" early in the season.
Of course, he nearly attacked the manager last July after former Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu pulled him from the game for failing to back up a throw. Figgins responded by having a heated dugout exchange with Wakamatsu that grew so intense that players had to separate the two.
Figgins doesn't like talking about that incident. It was uncharacteristically foolish, the lack of hustle and the meltdown. Then again, when you think about Figgins' disdain for giving up, his reaction isn't surprising anymore.
He missed only one game last season. He played his best baseball at the end of a 101-loss campaign, a time when players of less character would be preoccupied with marking the final days off the calendar.
In the season's final 30 games, Figgins hit .322 with a .376 on-base percentage. During that span, he and Ichiro (.338 average, .358 on-base percentage) played well together for the first time. It was a glimpse of the havoc that those two could provide at the top of the order. But even though they did their thing, the Mariners still struggled to generate offense.
Figgins and Ichiro scored a combined 27 runs in those 30 games, which is way too few for how much they were getting on base. It's Exhibit No. 2,307 on the depth of the Mariners' offensive woes.
But Figgins says he's happy playing for the rebuilding Mariners. He's been the subject of trade rumors, but he reiterates that he wants to stay in Seattle and help the Mariners become a winner.
"It's great here," Figgins says. "We can win here. We have professionals who know how to compete. So let's do it.
"I'm trying to win every single day. I won't give up. I think my drive and work ethic is probably too much sometimes. But you know what? It gets me through 162 games. This is who I am. Watch. You'll see."
There's that wicked laugh again.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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