Sorry, not doing this again with Jarred Kelenic

I made it four paragraphs into the latest what-if-he-turns-the-corner story about the Mariners outfielder before deciding I'm not wasting my spring doing that again.

I tried. I really did. I made it all the way to the fourth paragraph of Tom Verducci’s hopefully penned story on SI.com about the possibility a swing change will unlock Jarred Kelenic’s potential.

I read about how he was the second-worst hitter in the history of baseball with at least 550 plate appearances, only John Vukovich having endured a less productive to start his career.

I read about the encouraging measurements of Kelenic’s swing, and then I got to the fourth paragraph where Verducci explained Kelenic’s potential importance:

“The AL West is a deep, fascinating division. Only Oakland is not a legit playoff contender. How it plays out may come down to one difference maker who realizes a huge upside … it could be Kelenic, a career .168 hitter, who could become a star, or at least a key contributor.”

Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

Sorry, I’m not doing this again. I’m out. Not on Kelenic’s future, but on the rose-tinted projections that maybe — just maybe — this will be his year. I don’t care how hard he hits the ball in spring training. I don’t care what Scott Servais or Jerry Dipoto or the ghost of Ted Williams say about how good he looks. I’m determined not to spend another minute this spring in this conversation about what it would mean to the Mariners were Kelenic to finally unlock that potential that had him rated as the fourth-best prospect in baseball — ahead of Julio Rodriguez — just a few years ago.

I’ll talk about it when he does it in the regular season. If he does it.

It’s not just because we did this last year with Kelenic, quoting different people making similarly optimistic observations. It’s because we always do this in the spring, and by this, I mean take a young prospect who hasn’t quite lived up to some fairly lofty billing and then wonder if this is the year he puts it all together. I remember doing it with Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller and (God help us) Justin Smoak.

It’s not just baseball, either. I remember in 2005 when I started covering the Seattle Seahawks, an editor suggested a training-camp story on the possibility that this would be a breakout year for Jerramy Stevens and realizing that this exact same story had been written the two previous years. I wrote it again, and 2005 did in fact turn out to be a breakout year for Stevens. At least it was until he dropped a couple of passes in the Super Bowl.

Was this the year for L.J. Collier as he entered the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Seahawks drafted him in the first round? No. It most decidedly was not.

Look, I’m not discounting the possibility that Kelenic could have a breakout year, and if he does, I’ll be as happy as anyone. What I’m saying is that I’m not going through this whole exercise in projection that always boils down to a question of faith more than the significance of the actual adjustments that have been made.

So Kelenic’s swing looks great. Awesome. Does it mean he’ll stop chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone? Does it mean he’ll start capitalizing when he’s ahead in the count, not just looking for a pitch but punishing that pitch he’s looking for when he gets it? I don’t know and anyone who tells you they do is selling you something.

You can take all the fancy quotes and swing studies you want, and it still adds up to a whole bunch of time and effort spent to communicate three essential facts:

  • This player was supposed to be very good;

  • This player hasn’t been very good;

  • Perhaps this is the year he will become good.

Perhaps. But I’ve decided that I will wait until that starts to happen in games that matter before I start to consider what it would mean for the Mariners. Then I’ll read the rest of Verducci’s story.

TV troubles: Don’t look now, but MLB teams might have an issue with the money they’re accustomed to getting for having their games televised in the local market. A hopeful person would say this might not hurt the Mariners so much because they have the majority interest in ROOT Sports, the network that televises their games locally. A more cynical person than myself might wonder if the issues with the television money could explain why the Mariners weren’t as active in free agency as some fans hoped they’d be. Here’s the full story if you want to read me talk about TV.

Unreal Tweet: Darren Rovell is a sports business reporter who also has a habit of producing content that does not bear any resemblance to what actually occurred such as his Tweet about Michael Jordan’s recruitment on the occasion of that fellow’s 60th birthday. No, a charitable reading is that Rovell is simply ignorant of the facts and read the wrong article. A more cynical person than myself might wonder if Rovell ignored reality so his Tweet would fit an underdog storyline that he knew would perform well on Twitter. Here’s the fully story if you want to hear me complain about a media member.

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