The other day, someone mentioned/joked in the press box that Jack Cust is playing his way into a Brad Wilkerson fate.
You remember Wilkerson don't you? He was the free agent outfielder that Bill Bavasi signed to a 1-year, $3 million contract before the 2008 season.
Wilkerson showed up to spring training out of shape, and played so poorly that manager John McLaren didn't even want to keep him and decided he would try and platoon Wilkerson in right with a guy that had never played outfield before - Mike Morse.
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By my recollection, Wilkerson - a notoriously slow starter - had an awful start. He wasn't hitting the ball much, and when he did it had nothing behind it. Then on April 29, we were in Cleveland and I went down in the locker room to find that Wilkerson's locker was empty and he was gone, having been designated for assignment.
Still, when people mentioned Cust suffering the same fate as Wilkerson, I kind of shook my head. Surely, Cust couldn't have been playing as poorly as Wilkerson was at the time. Because back then, it seemed as though Wilkerson was absolutely terrible. And later, he was one of the prime examples of Bavasi's poor decision making and McLaren's lack of power to make changes to the roster.
And then I pulled the numbers and realized, this was right about the time that season where Wilkerson was sent packing.
Will it happen to Cust in the coming days?
No. Probably not.
You have to remember in 2008, the Mariners believed they had a real shot at contending and the two men running the show - Bavasi and McLaren - were desperate to not fall too far behind in the AL West. Seattle also had Jeff Clement and Wlad Balentien - both considered good prospects back then - raking the ball at Tacoma and waiting to take their place.
We know that GM Jack Zduriencik isn't nearly as impulsive as Bavasi. Zduriencik doesn't seem like the type to give up on a player so quickly. And obviously the Mariners aren't worried about falling too far behind in the AL West race. It's a race they knew they couldn't win at the start of the season. Most important of all, the Mariners have no one at Triple A that they would feel is a better option as a DH. Mike Carp? Matt Tuiasosopo?
So Cust may be safe for the moment. But when Franklin Gutierrez finally gets strong enough to return, he needs to be hitting much better than he is at the moment. Because then it would seem viable to put Milton Bradley, who is hitting, at DH and move Michael Saunders to left.
Right now, manager Eric Wedge believes that Cust will start hitting again.
Maybe Jack Cust won't suffer the same fate as Brad Wilkerson did on April 29, 2008, but come April 29, 2011, it's a good bet that Cust will have worse numbers.