For a lot of Seattle Mariner fans, Chone Figgins represents an easy scapegoat for a team that in recent years has been one of the worst in all of MLB. Much of the criticism lobbed Figgins' way has been fair, although to cast him as the reason why the Mariners have been so bad is a bit off base.
Most sensible fans don't do that, but take to Twitter and it is quite easy to see that Figgins doesn't have too many supporters left in this town. Before today's game against the Twins, as ESPN reports, his biggest fan - the one putting him in the lineup everyday - has also lost faith.
A baseball player not being in the lineup doesn't really qualify as news too often, but Figgins' case is a bit different than the average baseball player's. Remember, Figgins is owed another $18 million over the next two years, and after starting out hot in the leadoff position (or hot by Figgins' standards at .260 through April 18th), Figgins regressed to the standard Chone Figgins that Mariners fans have grown to hate and hate more.
In the last 12 games, Figgins went 5-45 with three of those hits coming in one game against the Detroit Tigers. He is hitless in his last 19 at-bats. The Mariners have also lost six straight.
It is good to see Eric Wedge and the rest of the staff trying to get something out of Figgins by reinserting him back into the leadoff spot. No team likes having $18 million of damaged goods sitting on the bench, and it is getting a bit tiring for the Mariners to have to cut players still owed millions just so they can go and play on a softball league for their hometown bar, circa Eric Byrnes and the Dutch Goose in 2010. The Mariners cut Milton Bradley last year, and although he didn't go on to play rec-ball, he was stilled owed a healthy chunk of change when he was unceremoniously canned. The Mariners couldn't just cut Figgins again and watch close to $50 million in the past three years be sent down the drain by players not even playing on the team anymore.
With the injuries to Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez, Figgins probably had a slightly longer leash than he normally would have if the Mariners were fielding a fully, healthy squad. The emergence of Kyle Seager into what appears to be a dependable hitter (albeit with a small sample size to choose from) and Alex Liddi taking full advantage of his playing time, it was only a matter of time before Figgins got squeezed out of the lineup. Luckily, that came with Carp returning from the DL.
So where does it go from here? Wedge has said that Figgins will be used in a utility role, and he does have fantastic speed for pinch running opportunities as well as the defensive knowhow for late game substitutions - but $9 million is a lot to pay a utility player that doesn't even have the hometown loving of Willie Bloomquist.
The Mariners don't exactly have anyone tearing it up in the minor leagues at the moment, and the most common threat to random uncalled for promotions is Carlos Peguero who is riding the pine on the disabled list currently. So as much as a lot of fans would love to see Figgins' jerseys sitting in the clearance rack at Safeco Field, there is no sense just flat out cutting him or doing anything right now except for trying to salvage what little value there is left from the failed experiment. Figgins is gone, but he isn't quite there yet, and will probably remain in this state of non-visible uselessness - barring a serious injury or sudden drop-off from the likes of Kyle Seager.
The only good thing that has come out of all of this? At least this year it didn't take Wedge so long to show Figgins his way to the bench.