In Edgar Allen Poe’s famous story, the Cask of Amontillado an older nobleman, Montresor leads his younger friend, Fortunato who he is angered by and jealous of from a carnival masquerade into a wine cellar to be buried alive. Tricked by Montresor into intoxication, Fortunato is chained to a wall in a cellar niche and helplessly watches as his friend bricks him in. As the shadow of death encroaches on Fortunato he pleads, “For the love of God, Montresor,” in which Montresor answers, “Yes, for the love of God!”
Today, the Mariners have optioned Guillermo Heredia to AAA to keep Ichiro Suzuki on the roster in a defenseless move which defies the age-old idea that objectivity and fairness are expressed through rewarding hard work and results. This idea is the brick and mortar of professional baseball. It appears that the Mariners brass has used this brick and mortar to bury Heredia.
So far this season Ichiro Suzuki has had a troubled start. In 33 plate appearances, he has produced a .212 AVG, no RBIs, a 0% BB rate, and a measly wRC+ 17 and a WAR -0.3. These numbers are bad; yes a small sample size, but regardless, indicative of a player struggling to produce.
On the flip side, or rather, in the cellar niche now, Heredia has posted a .310 AVG in 37 plate appearances with two homers, four runs, and four RBI. His on-base percentage of .417 nearly doubles Suzuki’s (.212). His wRC+170 speaks for itself, and his WAR 0.4 is for starters not in the negative.
On the morning after Heredia ignited the Mariners’ come from behind victory against the Texas Rangers the move appears to most as senseless and motivated by reasons beyond productivity. Mariners Manager, Scott Servais said in his pregame press conference that the decision was based on the fact that the team needed to call up Ramirez and were originally going to send down a reliever, but with how many pitches were thrown last night by the staff, it became most prudent to instead option a field player. In the short term, they decided that they’d stick with Suzuki’s left-handed bat to ride out their right-hand pitcher heavy schedule. Heredia is currently averaging .333 against righthand pitching.
Short-term or not this decision hasn’t boded well with fans and journalists alike. Seattle Times beat reporter, Ryan Divish had this to say, via Twitter:
“Guillermo Heredia has a definable role and value provided from that role. To send him down and keep a 44-year-old outfielder that’s limited in every aspect is beyond illogical.”
This remark is absolutely spot on.
Being aware of the discrepancy in productivity between the two outfielders makes the move appear nearly personal. Of course it’s not, but the lack of convincing strategical evidence to back the decision makes it a hard pill to swallow.
In the end, Heredia doesn’t deserve to be sent down. He’s earned a spot on the roster and has shown that he’s currently the Mariners’ third-best outfielder. To send him down sets a poor precedent for other players who expect to be rewarded for their efforts. And, saying that, “that’s just baseball sometimes,” is a copout and certainly not a sufficient explanation to justify the quieting of a productive bat, right or left.
The Mariners need to come to a decision about what to do with Ichiro; avoiding the hard choice is only going to wall-in other players that deserve a chance. Their indecisiveness has now drawn blood.
“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—” “Enough,” he said; “the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.” “True—true.” -Montresor