Well, that title doesn 't have the whole quote, Gutierrez actually said:
"If we are doing all the things right, we can win the division."
Gutierrez was quite happy with all of the offseason moves that the Mariners made, obviously one of them being signing him to a contract extension. But he feels like all the changes have the Mariners ready to contend.
"We have great additions this year, new players and great players, on paper you can see we have a great chance to win the division," he said.
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Sorry for the lateness of the post press conference blog. I had some issues with getting my Verizon air card to connect. I think it might have been more lap top related. But who knows. I also took time to have a very enjoyable lunch at Jimmy's on First with Dave Cameron of USS Mariner, Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN and the last but not least, the venerable voice of the Rainiers, Mike Curto.
There was good food and plenty of good and funny conversation about baseball. And all it did was make we want spring training to get here a little sooner.
Anyway, today's press conference with Gutierrez to announce the signing of his 4-year, $20.5 million extension was pretty low key, it was put together on some level of haste as Gutierrez had to catch a flight back to Miami. And I also forgot my camera so no video or pics.
But you can see some video here.
But don't let the low-key nature of it fool you, this deal was extremely important to any future success of the Mariners. Giving him this extension means the Ms won't have to worry about a centerfielder for the next four seasons, and potentially a fifth since the team has a club option for that season.
"This will keep him in a Seattle Mariners uniform for quite sometime," GM Jack Zduriencik said. "When you reach and do something of this nature, you do it because you respect the player for his ability and you what he means to your ball club, but also when you make this type of commitment, you respect the player for what he is as a person. And anybody that has bumped into Franklin this year or spent some time with him already knows the quality of individual we have here."
What the Mariners have is the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball. And Zduriencik admitted it was one of his most pressing needs when he first took over the job.
"If you think back to when we were in Milwaukee, we were a little short in center field," Zduriencik said. "And we went out and got Mike Cameron, and what a difference it make in our club defensively."
When Zduriencik got to Seattle, he looked at a team that started either Jeremy Reed (52), Wladimir Balentien (25) or Willie Bloomquist (16) in center field for the final 93 games of the 2008 season.
"Looking at the ball club two years ago with really the lack of a pure center fielder and in this ball park how much it would mean to this ball club," Zduriencik said.
And last year, Gutierrez meant so much defensively, turning a position that truly was a weakness in 2008, to a strength in 2009. He posted a 29.1 UZR rating last season.
Zduriencik was asked about his favorite moments from Gutierrez this past season. Zduriencik had two, the first was Gutierrez's full-extension diving catch against the Minnesota Twins in the Mariners second game of the season, and then there was the scary failed catch when he plowed into the fence/scoreboard in Comerica Park, "where he almost killed himself," Zduriencik said.
"It said two things to me, the play he made in Minnesota was sensational and the almost play he made in Detroit talks about how relentless he is, fearless," Zduriencik said.
Basically, it got to the point for most people who watched Gutierrez play ever day that you are spoiled with how good he is and what he can do.
"Through the course of the year, there were so many balls that would leave the bat and you'd go, "Oh, he'll get this one." You get used to it, because he's so graceful and doesn't take bad steps. His reads are great. His instincts to break and see the ball off the bat and not take any false steps are pretty incredible. You watch him throughout the year and he just does it. It's a gift."
While Gutierrez has deservedly received high praise for his defensive ability, he also showed great promise offensively.
He hit .283 with 18 homers and 70 RBI. He posted an OBP of .347 and a slugging of .454. I really believe he is capable of hitting 25 homers in a season. He hit two home runs at Petco Park that were two of the longest I saw hit by a Mariner player last season, including one to opposite field. His ability to drive the ball to right and right center with power is a big positive. More importantly, his understanding of the strike zone and his willingness to work counts improved as the season went on.
He credits that success with a simple change to his batting stance from Alan Cockrell that made him feel far more comfortable at the plate.
"It was a little thing," he said. "I used to stand with all my weight on the back leg. Now I just put it right in the middle and it was a huge difference for me. I was seeing pitches better. I was recognizing pitches better. I was having better at-bats and it gave me more confidence. The confidence I had every time I went to the plate was huge."Something that simple?
"Something simple can make you do big things," he said. "That's what happened last year for me. This year I'm going to try and do the same and try to get better and improve."Zduriencik was asked how good Gutierrez can be offensively.
"A center fielder that can hit 20 home runs is pretty special and play the kind of defense he plays," Zduriencik said.Could he hit more than 20? Well it isn't out of the realm of possibility. Zduriencik pointed to the physical maturation of Gutierrez and the continued adding of strength and understanding of pitchers around the league.
One concern about Gutierrez was some knee issues that bothered him for most of last season. Gutierrez said the knees are feeling much better.
"It feels great now," he said. "This year was a little different than other years just because I didn't play Venezuelan winter ball. It was good that I took some rest. It was very important for me because I played 152 games last year. It was the first time I played so many games. I feel that I rested a lot, and I feel like I'm going to be better at spring training."Gutierrez got a far away look on his face when asked about what it means to him.
"There's a lot of feelings right now," he said. "I see where I'm standing right now and I look back when I was a little kid and I can say it was a lot of work to get here and lot of people involved to get me here."