Maybe Mariners’ bad mojo intertwined with ill-fated promos

April 23, 2014 

The Seattle Mariners have scheduled May 10 as Kyle Seager Bat Night at Safeco Field, where all kids 14 and under will be given a replica of that thing Seager holds in his hands on those occasions he tries to make contact with a baseball.

Seager began Tuesday night hitting .164, with no homers and two RBIs — or half the number of errors he has committed at third base. Kyle Seager Bat Night is not looking like a great idea, but it’s probably a better idea than Kyle Seager Glove Night.

If Seager doesn’t show signs of busting out of his slump by May 10, the Mariners’ promotions folks won’t panic. They’re used to giving away bats stamped with the names of players who have been giving away at-bats.

Last April 27, for instance, they designated the struggling Dustin Ackley as a Bat Night honoree. Ackley was hitting .205 when he got sent to Tacoma, a month later, for swing-improvement therapy.

Seager and Ackley aren’t the only Mariners who’ve been associated with well-meant but ill-fated promotional giveaways. On May 5, 2012, Safeco Field fans took home miniature train cars called “Smoakamotives.” Smoak ended up hitting .217, lowest batting average of a Mariners career that has been producing low batting averages for parts of five seasons.

Franklin Gutierrez was the source of a cool souvenir — the Guti Fly Swatter, a reference to his “Death to Flying Things” nickname — handed out on May 19, 2011. Gutierrez was unable to play that day. He had just finished a six-week rehab assignment in

Tacoma after he was diagnosed with the stomach issues that still plague him.

Do you get the sense there’s some kind of jinx at work, or is a jinx too absurd a notion?

I mean, just because Ken Griffey Jr. was depicted on three different bobbleheads given away in 2010 — the same season the Mariners also planned a Junior’s Return T-shirt Night and Junior’s Backward Cap Night — has no relevance with the fact he cleared out his locker on June 2 and never appeared in another big-league game.

And the Mariners’ conclusion that reliever J.J. Putz was as marketable as anybody else in 2008 likely has nothing to do with his steep and sudden fall from grace in Seattle. An All-Star reliever in 2007, Putz was scheduled as the subject of a bobblehead, a train-car collectible and the immortal “J.J. Putz Soul-Patch Night.”

Putz blew a save in the second game of 2008, and was promptly put on the disabled list with a rib injury. Upon his return, he looked nothing like the lights-out closer who’d saved 40 games, with a 6-1 record and 1.38 ERA, in 2007.

In the first (and maybe the best) trade general manager Jack Zduriencik has made, Putz was sent to the Mets in a three-team deal after finishing with 15 saves during a 2008 season rife with internal unrest in both the clubhouse and front office.

Remember that Eddie Guardado T-shirt promotion? OK, unfairly difficult question. Let’s try again: Remember Eddie Guardado?

Known as “Everyday Eddie,” Guardado had become a reliable lefty reliever after the Mariners acquired him for the 2004 season. A T-shirt giveaway seemed appropriate on April 23, 2006.

On July 6, 2006, after having saved five games while compiling an ERA of 5.48, the Mariners traded Guardado to the Reds for reliever Travis Chick. (Despite a name that screamed “Incredible Promotional Opportunity!” Chick made all of three appearances in a Seattle uniform.)

And then there were the T-shirt giveaways that celebrated Bret Boone and Jamie Moyer on consecutive April nights in 2004. Boone had a substantial drop off in every offensive category that season — he hit .251 after finishing among the top 10 in MVP voting in 2003 — but Moyer’s struggles were even more severe: An All-Star in 2003 who won 21 games, he went 7-13 in ’04, his only losing record during the decade he pitched in Seattle.

Not everybody, I should point out, has been cursed by his unfortunate destiny as the subject of a Mariners’ souvenir giveaway. Ichiro Suzuki will be inducted into the Hall of Fame someday, and Felix Hernandez could make a case to join him. Between the two of them, they’ve kept the bobblehead doll industry afloat.

But a Kyle Seager Bat Night, a year after a Dustin Ackley Bat Night, and two years after the Smoakamotive, and three years after the Guti Fly Swatter, and four years after Ken Griffey Jr. quit midway through a season he’d been earmarked as the turnstile gift who kept on giving, suggests the intervention of a nefarious supernatural force.

Which could be bad news for Robinson Cano. The second baseman, whose $240 million contract revealed the Mariners’ front office as big-time players over the winter, will have a T-shirt Day on April 27, a Bobblehead Night on May 31, and a Poster Day on June 29.

My thoughts and prayers are with him.


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