If Dae-ho Lee isn’t your new favorite Mariner, you probably don’t have a soul. You probably go around to various mall Santas, pulling beards off in front of aghast children. Just admit it! You dab the grease from your pizza with a napkin and proceed to eat it with a knife and fork! I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but I will judge the shit out of anyone who can’t find a way to enjoy the whimsy in life.
I don’t know, it’s like Dae-ho Lee has this inate ability to instinctively know when we need him the most. He’s obviously not playing every day – locked into a platoon at first base with an Adam Lind who is growing increasingly more irrelevant – and when he does play, he doesn’t ALWAYS open up a can of whoop-ass (it’s been long enough, right? I think we can start working that phrase back into our vernacular). But, when he DOES open up that can, it’s usually at a point where the Mariners are at their most desperate for an offensive spark.
His first homer came in his third game, at home against the A’s. The Mariners were trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning when he led off with a solo bomb to get things going. The M’s would go on to tie the game in that inning, forcing the starter out of the game in the process, but it wouldn’t be enough as we’d go on to lose 3-2 (with Lind pinch hitting for Lee in the bottom of the ninth to seal our fate).
A few days later, in the closing game of a lost homestand, the Mariners were sitting at 2-6, thanks to a 5-game home losing streak. Things were grim. Fans were hurling themselves off of the bandwagon into the open arms of giant spikes, gladly impaling our bodies rather than watch one more minute of this infuriating franchise. The Mariners blew a 2-1 lead to send the game into extra innings; we managed to get it to the bottom of the 10th with the score still tied, when a magical Korean pixie by the name of Dae-ho Lee floated into the batter’s box in place of Lind. With a runner at first base and two outs, Lee clubbed a ball out to left for the game-winning 2-run home run, to salvage SOME semblance of respectability for the team, and kickstart this run that we’ve been on (18-7 over our last 25 games).
Lee would only make 6 appearances after that game, over the next three weeks. He had an opportunity to start against the A’s on May 4th, and again made the most of it. The game looked like it would be open-and-shut, but King Felix was off his game, and had let the A’s take an 8-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. That’s when our spritely savior, one Dae-ho Lee, decided to take the game over. He hadn’t really done much of anything up to that point, but like I said earlier, it’s like he just KNOWS when this team needs him. Down four runs, with your team’s ace pulled from the game, Lee started picking up the slack by hitting a solo homer in the top of the sixth, to edge the game a little closer. That set off a shockwave of rallying by the rest of the Mariners, who managed to pull the game to within one run, at 8-7, in the top of the seventh. A great man like Dae-ho Lee could be forgiven if he thought that he’d done enough for the team that day, but not so fast! With a runner on, he hit his second homer of the day to give the Mariners a 1-run advantage, that they would go on to hold down over the rest of the game.
Fast forward to last night. His fourth start in four games, an unprecedented streak of games for Lee, who for all intents and purposes has been a reserve player to this point in the season. Part of it is a run on left-handed pitching, part of it has been to get some other guys some days off, but regardless here we were, in the second game of a 3-game series with the Rays. The Mariners jumped all over the Rays in the first to go up 3-0, but that lead was chipped down to 3-2 entering the bottom of the fourth. Sensing the Mariners would need more offensive production to maintain the lead, Lee stepped to home plate with two runners on and crushed a ball to right field for a 3-run homer. The Mariners would go on to give up a couple more runs along the way, but Lee’s wizardry proved to be the margin of victory once again.
At this point, I think it’s a fair question to ask: when do the Mariners start featuring Lee against more right-handed pitching? When do we start seeing more of a 50/50 split between Lee and Lind, as opposed to the split that we’ve been seeing to this point, which is around 2/3 for Lind, and 1/3 for Lee? Hell, at what point do we just hand the everyday starting job to Lee and send Lind’s goldbricking ass packing?
Jerry Dipoto should be praised for a lot of the moves he made in the offseason; so many of them have worked out like gangbusters! Bringing in Lee on a minor league deal, bringing in Aoki, Martin, Iannetta, and Clevenger to bring more of a veteran presence to the team, while improving our defense and on-base abilities. The trades for Miley and Karns so far have been pretty good, and his influence over our bullpen – Cishek, Peralta, Vincent, and Benoit (when healthy) – has been a boon for this team. And, while getting Iwakuma back on a team-friendly deal was a stroke of luck more than anything, he was still open to bringing him back when we all sort of thought the Mariners were done adding to the starting rotation.
But, even the best GM’s aren’t going to be right 100% of the time. I don’t know if Dipoto is the best, but he’s having an Executive of the Year-type season, and with all of that having been said, he swung and missed on injured guys like Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner (who still could help this team, but not until the second half, most likely), and Adam Lind has been a pretty huge disaster.
This is an excellent post from Lookout Landing, if you’re looking for something of a reality check during these times of unmitigated prosperity as a Mariners fan. Look at the section, “First base is a mess” to get an idea of just how bad Adam Lind has been. I mean, shit, the whole idea with bringing in Lind in the first place was that – even if he struggled with his power numbers in the spacious Safeco Field – he was AT THE VERY LEAST supposed to get on base via the walk. And he’s not even doing THAT, with all of 3 walks on the season.
First base has been a black hole for so long, it might be pretty easy to overlook what Lind is doing to this team. But, we’ve actually got a solid lineup now. Leonys Martin is a bit of a dud at the plate, but for a #9 hitter, with the defense he brings to the table, you’ll gladly take it. The point is, keeping a second black hole in our lineup with Lind could be too much to overcome, particularly when you figure the bullpen is eventually going to come back down to Earth, if not the entire pitching side of this team.
Anyway, something to think about. Lee could be a possible option, but he could also prove the organization was correct originally in holding him to a steady diet of lefty pitchers only. If not Lee, then the team should probably look into a reasonable option via trade. But, I might be getting ahead of myself.