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The "Mike Cameron" Moment

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Back when Ken Griffey Jr. left the Mariners, there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Seattle as we knew it was sure to cease to exist–not just the team, but the city itself. 

Starbucks would fold, Sub Pop would complete a merger with Muzak, and the Pike Place Market would be bought by Wal-Mart. It was going to be horrible. Especially when it became clear that center field in Safeco would be manned by…Mike Cameron?

Who? Who would dare to step into the shoes of the legendary Junior?

Then, one day in 2000, Mike Cameron stole a home run from Derek Jeter at Safeco.  Climbed up the fence, snagged the ball, Jeter cries like a girl, and the crowd goes wild (I may have exaggerated part of that description). It’s at about the 22 second mark of this clip

From that day on, Cammy was one of us–he didn’t make people forget about Griffey, but he made people aware of who Mike Cameron was. From that moment on, he was a favorite–and remains so, at least for me, to this day. I was sad when he left, and I’m glad he’s still playing. He’s a fantastic fielder, and always fun to watch.

In the words of Bill Cosby, "I told you that story to tell you this one." 

The 2009 Mariners are full of faces and names that the casual fan doesn’t recognize–guys that don’t make SportsCenter every night, guys that don’t hit 60 HR and drive in 150 runs. Not flashy, and certainly not offensive powerhouses. 

The thing is, though, the M’s have a defensive unit that’s second to none. As long as Griffey’s not in the outfield, the M’s field the best defensive outfield in baseball.

And if you don’t think that defense is important, consider that the M’s are currently three games above .500 despite scoring the third-fewest total number of runs IN ALL OF BASEBALL this year (and scoring 21 fewer than they’ve allowed, as well). The ONLY reason for that is defense.

So, it’s fair to say that the M’s are not known for their offensive prowess. But then, last night in the 8th inning of a Felix gem that came without the benefit of run support, with two men on base up steps Franklin Gutierrez, and out goes the ball. The crowd goes wild, as does Felix. 

That, ladies and gents, might just be Franklin Gutierrez’ Mike Cameron moment. You may not have known who he was this time last week (which means you need to pay more attention!), but you do now, and if the M’s allow the rest of the AL West to regress back to mediocrity and manage to sneak off with the division title, you’ll know that this was one of those catalytic moments where the possibility of success was crystallized into reality. 

He won’t hit a lot of HR’s, but his glove is the reason he’s here–watch him throughout the season, and you’ll see what “playing good defense” actually means. Welcome to Seattle, Franklin. Hopefully we’ll have you around longer than we kept Cammy.

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