When Is “Early” No Longer Early In A Baseball Season?

When you’re rampaging through a particularly scathing online criticism of a certain player’s overall ineptitude (it’s Olivo, I’m talking about Miguel Olivo), the last thing you want to do is take a step back, put on your Rational Judgment hat, and introduce the caveat, “I know it’s early, but …”

On the flipside, when you see someone like Kyle Seager make the positive impact he’s made thus far to date, you don’t necessarily want to throw water on the flames of fandom by making that same introductory statement.

Yeah, it’s early!  Yeah, they’ve only played 11 games!  Yeah, a lot can happen between Game 11 and Game 162!  Where’s the fun in qualifying your outlandish statements with boring ol’ sensibility?

And furthermore, when can I stop?

Because, at some point, it’s not going to be “early” anymore.  At some point, I can utter the phrase, “Miguel Olivo sucks dick,” and it will inherit a sense of credence it didn’t quite achieve after Game 11.  At some point, these players who are terrible will have to account for their actions; while, at the same time, players off to a “fast start” will officially be in the midst of a “great season”.

Obviously, this point is subjective and different for everyone.  I tend to fly off the handle with the smallest provocation when it comes to certain things.  Players I dislike, for instance, get a shorter leash than players I generally root for to succeed*.

* there is a distinction between my general rooting interest in the Mariners as a whole to succeed and certain players who I ESPECIALLY want to succeed; I will root for Olivo if he’s in our lineup, but overall my rooting interest lies moreso in my desire for him to NOT be on this team entirely.

But, I fully acknowledge that there are peaks and valleys in every Major League season for every Major League player.  11 games, while still a nasty trend of things to come for players like Miguel Olivo, is but a small percentage of the overall season.  It’s still, sigh, early.

I think if you polled enough fans of the game, you’d come back overwhelmingly with the answer I’m about to provide.  A season is no longer “early” after we finish the month of April.  One month.  After a month has gone by, you can generally make an opinion on what kind of a season someone is going to have and you’ll generally be respected for that opinion based on the information gathered to date.  If Miguel Olivo is batting .111 after 11 games, you can say it’s still early.  If Miguel Olivo is batting .111 after nearly 30 games, you can officially say Miguel Olivo is having a terrible season and he should be benched accordingly.

Unfortunately, this appears to be the case with most baseball managers as well.  Even if every fan is bellowing for the benching of Miguel Olivo, guys like Eric Wedge are still going to give him his regular playing time at LEAST through the first month of the season.  To see if he can hit his way out of his funk.  If Olivo is still struggling after the calendar flips, then we’re more likely to see the increased presence of John Jaso.  In fact, here’s a quote from the horse’s mouth:

Wedge was asked if he would like to get No. 3 catcher John Jaso a start behind the plate soon.  Jesus Montero made his second start at catcher Saturday.  “I would like to, but we’re going to have to get into the season a little more,” Wedge said.

Doesn’t get much more clear than that.  Except if he actually came out and said, “Let’s hold off until May 1st before we discuss giving Jaso regular playing time.”

What sucks about that is twofold.

1) More likely than not, Miguel Olivo is going to continue to suck shit over the next 13 games, being a complete and utter black hole in his spot in the lineup.

and

2) That means Jaso is essentially not going to play for an entire month.  And that’s after spotty-at-best playing time in Spring Training.  In other words, by the time Eric Wedge will have made up his mind, Jaso will be at a HUGE disadvantage in trying to catch-up to the rest of the league as far as reps are concerned.

While this sucks, it’s something we’ve seen time and time again.  Ken Griffey Jr’s last season.  Jose Vidro’s last season.  Brad Wilkerson’s last season.  Jack Cust, last season.  Chone Figgins in every season of his contract with the Mariners.  Scott Spiezio, Jeff Cirillo, Rich Aurilia, Richie Sexson … the list goes on and on.  Major League veterans, CLEARLY at the end of their days, continually getting the benefit of the doubt based on their histories (and not on the current state of their talent level).  It’s annoying to say the least, but at least we have a timetable.

The Mariners habitually plead with fans to wait a little while, for things to get better.  Well, M’s fans, wait a little while.  Because, in a couple weeks, we won’t have to put up with Miguel Olivo’s sucking much more!

Get after it!

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