When Dave Cameron tweeted and later wrote a post about Dustin Ackley possibly being called up today or in the coming days, I wasn't surprised at the premise. Not at all, I'm sure the Mariners have had discussions about bringing Ackley up in the coming days. In fact, we know they have.
And so even though, manager Eric Wedge downplayed it saying ...
"I just don't react like that," Wedge said. "You start reacting in this game, you chase your tail. You have to do things for the right reasons at the right time, for the organization, for the big league team, for the player. And not necessarily in that order. We have a day-to-day thought process here and a big picture in mind right on top of it."
And sources in the Mariners said it wasn't happening before June, it wasn't wrong to think that might happen. I'm sure Dave's source was credible, or he wouldn't have wrote it.
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The question of when Ackley will be called up is something I get asked at least once a day if not more. I don't have the right answer. I don't have any answers. But I do have thoughts.
Here's four disjointed rambling thoughts ...
1. I have not seen every Tacoma Rainiers game. I am not a scout. I don't try and act like one. But I have seen more Rainiers games than a lot of people. And I do know a little bit about baseball. Dustin Ackley's defense is not bad. It's average. And at times looks better than average. Does he look like Robby Alomar at second base? No.
But I'm tired of listening to all this talk about when his defense is ready he'll be ready for the Mariners. This is a team that started Jose Lopez at second base for 141 games in 2009 and 139 games in 2008. And during that time, I watched some of the most awful defensive play I've ever seen at that position. Lopez had limited to no range. Ackley gets to ground balls to the left that Lopez would have not been within three steps of. Ackley is an athlete. Lopez might have once been an athlete.
Last year, the Mariners started Chone Figgins at second base - 19 errors, -12.3 UZR - enough said.
So to sit here and say that Ackley's defense is what is keeping him from the big leagues, after what we've seen in the past three seasons at second base seems pretty ridiculous.
This talk about teams trying to take him out on double plays to intimidate him. I watched him get hammered at second base on several occasions. Just because it is Triple A doesn't mean they don't take players out hard at second on double plays. The game is still played the same way.
That said, he makes mistakes. He's a little mechanical on his double play turns. There are times he looks awkward on some balls he has to backhand. More glaring was that on two occasions I saw him not cover second on a ground ball to short with a runner on first and two outs - meaning the shortstop Sean Kazmar had to throw to first on the play. That is not good on any level, but really not good with Kazmar's struggles at times this season.
Is Ackley's defense good? No. But has the Mariners defense at second base before this season been that much better? No.
2. Jack Wilson's presence makes a difference. Why? Well, they would like to get something for him. It's one of the reasons he was moved to second base. A couple of coaches said that the thought was it might bolster his trade value and because Brendan Ryan is a better shortstop.
Now you can debate on whether taking a once elite defensive shortstop and moving him to second base actually helps his trade value or lessens it. The Mariners understand that Jack Wilson isn't part of their future. But they also don't want to just give him the Milton Bradley treatment. Because unlike Bradley, someone would pick up Jack Wilson. In fact several teams would want to pick him up. He may not be much of a bat, but he can play in the field. He can play shortstop at a high level and he's looking better at second base (did you see him stand in there on that double play last night?).
Ideally, if they are going to call Ackley up, they'd like to have already moved or be in the process of moving Wilson to another team. You aren't going to get much back in return. But it's better than nothing and paying the rest of his contract.
3. This Super 2 arbitration stuff makes me want to take one of Jack Cust's many broken bats and jam it into my eye. It's confusing, annoying and irritating.
From the MLB.com website ...
A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a "Super Two" and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.
If Ackley was called up too soon, like in the next few days, he would rank in the top 17 percent and qualify for arbitration a year earlier. It could cost the Mariners plenty of money in the future if that happens. But let's be fair, this guy's agent is Scott Boras, it's going to cost Seattle plenty eventually. And if he is as good as people hope, Boras wouldn't let Ackley ever sign an early contract extension to bypass those arbitration rights ...See Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
This Super Two stuff could easily be taken out when the next collective bargaining agreement is signed. Or it may not. But in a way, if you are holding Ackley back simply because of that, and you would have to hold him out till mid June or July, then it's really wrong.
4. I want to see Dustin Ackley at the big league level, sooner rather than later, as Zduriencik said. Let's be honest, going through the Mariners lineup, how many at-bats do you find interesting or look forward to watching? Maybe two. Justin Smoak and Carlos Peguero. Because their at-bats not only matter to the game and the results but their overall development. I'm sorry but seeing Chone Figgins gork a single into right or Jack Cust double off the fence occasionally or Miguel Olivo rip a fly ball to the warning track in left just doesn't do much for me These guys aren't part of the team's future. Smoak, Peguero, Gutierrez and to a lesser extent Michael Saunders have me interested.
When Dustin Ackley puts on a uniform, every one of his at-bats will have meaning. Every ball hit to him in the field will be something to watch and study. And for him, every at-bat and every ground ball are part of his development. There is a purpose far beyond that game's results.
Like I said, I'm not a scout, I haven't seen every Rainiers games. But I was in a similar position when Saunders was called up and Ackley is far more advanced at the plate and in terms of approach and being mentally ready. He has major league approach at the plate and a maturity and poise on the field and off.
I knew Ackley wasn't being called up today. I know he isn't being called up tomorrow. But a big part of me wishes it would happen.