I know guys have been injury-prone in the past, but I would venture to say that Franklin Gutierrez is the unluckiest guy in the history of Major League Baseball.
Guti doesn’t make me sad the way the rest of the Mariners make me sad. For instance, guys like Smoak, Ackley, Montero, and Saunders make me sad because they’re young and they’re supposed to be good, but they’re not. Raul Ibanez makes me sad because he’s in his fucking 40’s and he’s leading the team in home runs and RBI! Kendrys Morales makes me sad because he’s the best hitter on this team and he’s likely to be gone after this season. Joe Saunders, Harang, and Bonderman make me sad because they’re old and boring and suck more often than not (yet they comprise 60% of our starting rotation). Brendan Ryan makes me sad because if he just managed to hit .250, he would rank among the best players in all of baseball thanks to his defense. The bullpen makes me sad because they have all the potential in the world, but right now they’re getting destroyed on a nightly basis. Felix makes me sad because he deserves so much more than this.
My sadness for Guti, on the other hand, is different because it in no way manifests itself in anger. For the rest of those clowns in the previous paragraph, I get angry (except for Felix, where instead I just get angry at the other 24 guys whenever he’s stuck with a loss or no decision). I get angry because it’s a fucking disgrace. Because it’s been too damn long since the Mariners have contended, and I’m tired of watching the same bullshit over and over. Because – guess what! – get ready for another long rebuild once the organization cleans house again.
With Guti, I’m just plain sad. He bums me out, man! Unlike most of the Mariners, Guti has real, tangible talent! He’s a Gold Glove defender in center field, he’s got a good eye at the plate with some serious pop. He’s a game-changer. He’s a guy you can build an offense around! He’s got all the tools you could ever want in a position that’s one of the most important on the team (behind only short stop and catcher). Except, I forgot to add one thing:
WHEN HE’S HEALTHY
When he’s healthy: Guti has real, tangible talent. When he’s healthy: he’s a Gold Glove defender in center field … and so on.
Now, like I said at the top: I know that there are tons of guys throughout baseball history who have been injury prone. There are countless sad-sack cases who would’ve been Hall of Famers except for injury problems keeping them off the field. The main difference, I would argue, is that generally when you’re talking about a guy who has had a bunch of different stints on the DL, you’re talking about a guy who keeps re-injuring the same body part. Erik Bedard had that bum shoulder, zapped him of his talent and durability. Kerry Wood had a shitload of injuries, but mostly to his pitching arm.
But, come on, how many baseball players have had the kind of run on freak injuries that Guti has endured? This year, it’s hamstring injuries, but it’s also a genetic disorder leading to inflammation in his joints. There’s the infamous IBS that reduced him to a bag of bones with warning track power. Last year, he was hit in the head with a baseball on a pickoff move at first, resulting in a concussion. There have been throwing arm issues, pectoral muscle issues, and probably a bunch of others I’m forgetting. The point is: they’re varied, they’re constant, and each one on their own is debilitating, but one right after another has got to be the God damned worst thing ever.
This is the last year on Guti’s deal. There is a club option for next season, but we’re sitting right now at a 100% chance of that option NOT being picked up. I don’t know if that means we can try to bring him back at a minimum salary, but I doubt it. At this point, I’m not even concerned with trying to salvage some value from his contract, or generating any trade interest, or even trying to save this season. At this point, I just want to watch the guy play baseball. Extended. Pain free. Because watching Guti play baseball is like watching some prima ballerina performing Swan Lake. It’s like watching Picasso paint a masterpiece. It’s like getting to see Slash tear through the closing solo on November Rain.
Sometimes, you just want to watch the best people do the things they do best, while they still can. It’s pointless to get angry at the guy who has suffered so much for so long. Just give it up, let it go, and hope to see him again before he takes off that Mariners uniform for the last time.