Today is a very sad day for me, because it now marks the day that Dustin Ackley was traded to the Yankees in exchange for two minor league prospects. I’m not sure how exactly I’m supposed to feel, I only know how I feel, and how I feel is very bittersweet. On one hand, I’m thinking, “Holy crap, the Mariners managed to get living, breathing players out of the Yankees even given his current value?” On the other hand I’m thinking, “ Welp, this is the end of an era. My beloved man crush has now departed. What prospect do I root for now?” This move is definitely met with some relief, but also heartbreak. I feel as if though I just put my family dog down. Dustin Ackley was, and I suppose is, my favorite player. Felix, of course, doesn’t count. He’s everyone’s favorite.
I remember when the Mariners drafted Dustin Ackley. I was hyped. He wasn’t Stephen Strasburg, but he was a great consolation. He was regarded as the best pure hitter in the draft, and was projected by some to possibly be a plus center fielder. In a quote that is now very infamously known, Ackley was said to be able to “fall out of bed and hit .300.” There was no doubt in my mind that Ack was going to be a stud, it was only a matter of how fast he could acclimatize to a wood bat, major league pitching, and a new position. It was hard not to fall in love with Ackley as a player. He had a picture perfect beard, he was always looking fresh in his uniform, he was a good looking dude, and he was gonna be good.
Ackley made his way through the minor leagues, making it past every level with few hiccups. In his second season, he continued his stint in AAA and made it up after his Super-2 Status was passed. (What that essentially means is the Mariners waited an extra two months so they would gain an extra year of service time from Ackley, which is extremely valuable.) Ackley started at second base and was awesome. He complied a triple slash of .273/.348/.417 with a .337 wOBA and 117 wRC+. Solid numbers for a rookie.
After his rookie season, Ackley struggled and never really regained his footing. He would show glimpses of what we saw out of him as a rookie, but for the most part he looked lost. He was moved off of second base into left field and became an afterthought. This season, he was relegated to a platoon role and managed a meager .215/.270/.366 line.
Through it all, I stuck with Ackley, and I even bought his authentic jersey in 2012 in the midst of his struggles. I had faith in him. But in the past two years, even during his hot streaks, it never felt as though it would last. I usually found a way to get myself to buy back into his hype but deep down I think I knew what was going to happen in the end.
This post has not at all turned into what I had intended on it turning into, as it reads more like an obituary rather than an article about a trade. But that’s what happens when you follow a guy for five or six years and he’s shipped off to New York for a couple guys who are (like Ackley) afterthoughts for the Yankees.
At the age of 27, the odds are against Ackley that he’ll suddenly figure it out and turn into the All-Star player many had forecasted, and even I doubt that happens. But I do really believe he has a shot to turn his career into a relevant one. The Yankees are in the midst of a playoff run, and I would find it hard to believe that they could mess him up any more than the Mariners have developmentally. This leads into my disparagement of the M’s front office, but first I should talk about the prospects we received in the trade.
At 5’10, 190 pounds, Flores isn’t a big guy. Likely because of this, Flores also lacks legitimate power. Along with his lack of punch, he’s not a speed demon either. This has led many to call him a “tweener” because of his inability to play a decent center field, and lack of power to hit in the corners.
At this point, I suppose we should be happy to have received anything in exchange for Ackley, so I can’t nitpick too much. He’s said to be major league ready and he is only 23 years old, so he has room to grow. We saw a glimpse of him earlier this year when he gunned down, wouldn’t you guess, Dustin Ackley at the plate to save a run. His plate discipline and eye will probably help him get on base, and his power could develop. He could be a nice role player down the line.
Like Flores, Ramirez has seen a little bit of major league action. At 6’3, Ramirez boasts a fastball that reachs 97-98 mph, a low 80s slider (or “slutter”), and an upper 80s changeup. He’s had problems with injuries, and he’s a former starter that was moved to the bullpen. He has great stuff, but very very poor command. He’ll probably continue to have control issues due to his recoil and herky-jerky delivery. The Mariners have been scouting him for the past week and they’re said to have liked what they saw out of him, so he’s probably no good!
Back to the Mariners. This is yet another failed prospect that was supposed to be as safe as can be, and it’s no coincidence. The Mariners are bad at building teams, but they’re worse at developing players. Jack Zduriencik has repeatedly rushed players to the major leagues before they were ready and Ackley is no exception. In fact, he was the very first player Jack Z rushed. After him were Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker, Jesus Montero, and Kyle Seager. James Paxton, too if you count him. I’m almost certainly forgetting players, but there is certainly a clear trend. Jack Zduriencik’s selfishness in trying to save his job has presumably hurt the development of several players and it has dug us into a hole as an organization. Blame Safeco Field, sure, but we just recently moved in the fences. Blame the hitting coaches, but we’ve had six in Jack Z’s tenure. Blame anyone you want, but it’s the organization that has failed to develop these players.
I wish Ackley well, because I don’t think he should have been bad. The Mariners ruined him and they’ll probably continue to ruin other players. There are success stories like Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager, but for every Kyle Seager there is a Dustin Ackley. (That hurt my soul to type.) There was always a glimmer of hope. Advanced statistics thought he was a plus second baseman, and solid in left field. He was a good baserunner. He could hit, sometimes! Just never enough. So am I sad? Yes. Probably more sad than when Ichiro left, and he actually accomplished things for us. In fact, I take that back, I am definitely more sad to see Ackley go. Maybe it’s that so much time has passed. Anyhow, now I have to figure out what to do with my Ackley jersey that has just become out-of-date.
I’ll forever remember him for his time as a Mariner for good reasons and bad reasons, and I hope to see him move on with success. Not that it matters what I think, but I feel nothing but positivity towards Ack. I feel weird, and I feel sad. I think most people who are close to me (or even are unfortunate enough to follow me on social media) know about my irrational infatuation with Ackley. The feeling is mostly like graduating from high school and going to a different school than your friend. You’ll still see your friend, but it’s not the same when they’re not at your school. Ackley is getting a better opportunity, with a better team. That being said, goodbye friend. Good luck with the Yankees. You’ll love the short porch in right field.