I think Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge made the right move by benching Chone Figgins. The decision came Friday (May 4), likely after Wedge finally realized that Figgins is in a slump that he won't emerge from as a member of the Mariners.
If anyone needed that he had made the right call, it came over the weekend when the Mariners won two of three games from the Minnesota Twins.
In games on Saturday (May 5) and Sunday (May 6), Dustin Ackley did pretty well as the new permanent leadoff hitter. He went a combined 2-for-5 with 4 runs scored and 4 walks. It was no coincidence that the Mariners won both games, helping break an ugly losing streak that had dropped the team into third place in the American League West.
Those fans that had called for a Figgins removal finally got their wish granted and now there is no looking back. After hitting just .188 in the 2011 season, Figgins was given every opportunity to prove that he could still give value to the Mariners batting order. I liked it when Wedge moved Ichiro Suzuki to third in the lineup, clearing a spot for Figgins to work as the leadoff hitter. In 25 games, though, he hit just .189 with 28 strikeouts and showed that it was time to move in a different direction.
Wedge also made the controversial decision to bat shortstop Brendan Ryan second in the order, despite his own early struggles. This is another player that needs to get things turned around, but the reality is that he may just keep that spot warm for Franklin Gutierrez. With the way that the current Mariners roster looks, I think that Gutierrez seems like the perfect hitter to tuck between Ackley and Ichiro when he finally gets healthy.
I don't have a prediction for what Wedge is going to do when Gutierrez gets recalled from his rehab stint in Tacoma, but it definitely means that an everyday player will have to get optioned or designated for assignment. It certainly seems like the obvious candidate is Mr. Figgins at this time, especially since the team has exhausted every idea of finding use for him.
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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!