First, a caveat. Twitter is perhaps not the best barometer of mood and sentiment. That said, Mariners Twitter has been clinically schizophrenic over the course of the first ten games of the season. Pronouncements about the utter futility of the franchise abounded after splitting a four-game series in Minnesota against the Twins and dropping two out of three in Detroit to the Tigers. “The team can’t hit.” “Jerry Dipoto is a moron who needs to be fired.” “This team is cursed, etc., etc.”
Fast forward twenty-four hours to the home opener on Friday against the Houston Astros, where rookie prospect Julio Rodriguez was greeted as the second coming of Ken Griffey, Jr., the Mariners defeated the hated Astros 11-1, and all the Mariners woes from the road were erased. “This team is awesome.” “The plan is working.” “We’re finally going to make it back to the playoffs, etc., etc.”
The pendulum continued to swing wildly over the course of the weekend. Enter one Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros on Saturday. Verlander threw eight innings of 3 hit, shutout baseball, with 8 Ks for a 4-0 Astros victory, and the sky was falling on the Mariners again. The Easter Sunday game was bizarre, with Matt Brash alternately walking batters, hitting batters, and then inducing double plays. It was good enough for 5.1 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs, and a 7-2 Mariners victory. The series win meant that “the Mariners were great, this was the year, etc., etc.,” at least on Twitter. But one disturbing refrain endured throughout: Jarred Kelenic is a bust.
There were several accounts of Mariners fans on Saturday night heckling Kelenic when he came out to play right field. The myth of Pacific Northwest fans is that they aren’t like their brethren on the East Coast. While New York fans will roundly boo their own, and whereas Philadelphia fans are not above pelting Santa Claus with snowballs or opposing players with batteries, the Pacific Northwest fans are civil and polite, at least to their own. But not so much in the right-field bleachers on Saturday and not so much on Mariners’ Twitter. “He can’t hit.” “He’s getting worse.” “He’s a bum.” “Another terrible trade by Jerry Dipoto, etc., etc.”
After Saturday’s game, Kelenic was hitting .120/.207/.240. Obviously not great, but it came after 29 plate appearances. TWENTY-NINE. Perhaps those who heckle, and tweet couldn’t be bothered to notice that Kelenic had a grand total of 235 PA above A ball before being called up to the majors in 2021. After the first 10 games of 2022, he has 410 PA in the big leagues. That’s 645 PA above A ball (roughly one season) and the kid is just 22. And by the way, after going 2-4 and scoring 2 runs on Sunday, Kelenic is now batting .172/.242/.310. He literally raised hit BA .052, his OBP .035, and his SLG .070 in ONE game. It’s early, folks.
The irony of the Kelenic hate is the Rodriguez love. Rodriguez is actually hitting worse than Kelenic to the tune of .125/.200/.156, even after going 1-4 with an RBI on Sunday. And guess what? It’s OK. Rodriguez only has 206 PA appearances in the minor leagues above A ball and just 35 PA thus far in his major league debut. And he’s just 21.
Both Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are going to be very good and roam the outfield at T-Mobile for years to come. Both will see meaningful AB in the post-season. In the meantime, keep heaping the love on Rodriguez but maybe calm down and give Kelenic some love too.