Why Josh Hamilton is the right guy for the Mariners - and Seattle
Sam Thomsen is a 15-year-old freshman at Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop whose passions are baseball, the Mariners and writing. He has been following the Mariners since he could walk.
His hands loosely grip the handle as his bat sways back and forth. He has a slight uppercut, lightning-quick bat speed, and a sweet, one-handed follow through.
Josh Hamilton’s swing is sweeter than nectar. The free-agent outfielder truly makes professional baseball look easy.
And does Hamilton remind you of anyone? How about Seattle’s favorite baseball son, Ken Griffey Jr.?
Mariners fans haven’t seen a dynamic, home run-hitting, sweet-swinging centerfielder since Griffey smashed 56 homers, hit .304, and drove in 147 runs in 1997. In fact, since Griffey's heyday, who has been a reliable, power-hitting force in the middle of the Mariners' lineup? Mike Cameron? Adrian Beltre? Or, dare I say, Richie Sexson?
Just like Junior, Hamilton is a natural. He’s gifted. He lights up the ballpark with stunning home runs and run-saving, thrilling, diving catches. And, above all, Hamilton is a run-producing star, a guy who can change the game with one sweet swing, and a guy who instills fear in opposing pitchers.
That makes Hamilton the perfect fit for Seattle, a team desperate for a big bat.
The question is, do the Mariners have the guts to sign a multi-million-dollar free agent?
In past years, the Mariners toyed with the idea of reeling in big stars like Prince Fielder, but backed away and signed lackluster players like Kevin Millwood, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust.
Hamilton will demand loads of money, but at this point in the team’s development the Mariners can’t afford to sign subpar players. The Mariners have shopping money. Besides Felix Hernandez, who makes up 40 percent of the payroll, the club’s highest-paid, best position player is Kyle Seager, who made $484,300 last year, a pittance in Major League Baseball.
It’s time the Mariners consider a big-name free agent and abandon no-name signings. It’s time the Mariners acquire a Griffey-esque player who excites on a nightly basis.
Hamilton is that guy. Last year, he electrified crowds, hammering 43 home runs and driving in 128 runs. He’s a .304 career hitter capable of greatness: Hamilton was named league MVP in 2010, when he hit .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBI. You might say Hamilton’s initials, J.H., stand for Just Homered.
Another reason for the Mariners to go after Hamilton: the team’s appalling and continuing offensive woes. In 2012, Seattle ranked 27th out of 30 teams in offense, and worst in the American league. The team batting average was a dismal .234.
The Mariners need Hamilton’s heft in the middle of the order. They simply can’t wait for Dustin Ackley to become Robinson Cano, Justin Smoak to become Mark Teixeira, or Jesus Montero to become Buster Posey. They need a star with a proven record of success. They need a veteran producer like Hamilton to take the pressure off the talented young guys like Seager, Ackley, Smoak, Eric Thames, and Montero. They need Hamilton to draw fans to the ballpark. Though Hamilton alone won’t bring fans, he’ll bring winning – something that’s sure to put butts in seats.
Last season, the M’s moved forward – accomplishing 75 wins, with a second-half winning record. This proves the young Mariners players have talent and promise. But prospects alone aren’t enough. General Manager Jack Zduriencik promised to rebuild the Mariners, and he has taken baby steps. Now it’s time for the Mariners to take a giant leap.
It’s time to put authority back in the middle of the order. It’s time to bring in an exciting superstar who’ll help fill the gaping holes in the Mariners lineup. It’s time to sign Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton is exactly what the Mariners and the city of Seattle need.
Hamilton will remind Seattle’s baseball faithful of its beloved star, Junior, every time he nails a home run, with that sweet, upper-cut swing and one-handed follow through.