Left field for the Seattle Mariners is a cursed position. It began in 1977, when the team’s first left fielder, Steve Braun, refused to allow a bedraggled, haggish woman into his home one stormy night, and she turned out to be a powerful enchantress. She swore that day that the Mariners would never have a stable, productive left field, and that curse has held, nigh on these many years.
Still, at least until the MBAs free us from the tyranny of traditional positional labels and all baseball players become Efficient, and can play all positions, the Mariners are stuck needing a left fielder. The start of the 2018 season has played out similarly to all the rest. Ben Gamel, who had the temerity to fashion a blade out of BABIP in the first half of 2017 and challenged the curse, was quickly punished, both with a horrendous second half last year, and a strained oblique in the Spring. Ichiro, aged old conqueror of other lands, has gainfully and bravely attempted to lift the curse, but his magic is near out, and at his years he appears simply overwhelmed.
The Mariners best chance at producing a hero worthy of left field in 2018 may just be Guillermo Heredia. Heredia, like Gamel, suffered from a poor second half in 2017, particularly in September. However, unlike Gamel, the fall off is easily attributable to injury, as it was revealed after the season that the 27-year old Cuban needed shoulder surgery to repair “numerous partial dislocations.” I have partially dislocated my shoulder. Eating cereal was a challenge. I presume playing major league baseball would be harder.
Now healthy, Heredia is off to a fast start this year. He’s showing the mild pop in his bat he did when healthy at the beginning of last year and, with Dee Gordon still learning center field on the fly, may have an argument as the team’s best overall defensive outfielder. His bat leaves him very little room for error, and the odds of his wRC+ ever finishing above league average are fairly slim, but he does enough other things well enough he deserves, at minimum, equal consideration whenever Gamel returns from injury.
The Mariners are, at least for a little while, going to carry five outfielders. Three of them are being thrown into the maw of the Saarlac Pit that is the Seattle Mariners Left Field position. Jerry Dipoto is on record saying that Gamel will get most of the playing time, despite a track record and projection that does little to differentiate him from Guillermo Heredia.
So, wait, is that a curse then, or just questionable allocation of resources from a franchise with a long history of same? Ah, well.