It's an off day after a long (though surprisingly successful) road trip, with a team that's going nowhere, in the middle of the "dog days" of summer. It is hard to get all that excited over any accomplishment the Mariners make on the field until next April.
Recently, to pass time during M's games, I've taken to playing chess on my laptop. A high schooler I tutor challenged me several times over lunch, and I thought it would be good for me to practice some in my down time. It is a pretty fun game anyway.
Somewhere in the middle of the M's horrific stretch in July, I put these two random strands of my life together. If the 2010 Mariners were a chess set, who would be which pieces? If I were to craft the set, it would look something like this:
Pawns are the least valuable pieces on the chess board, but in the right situation, they can deliver. In baseball terms, these are the guys on the roster playing, but not good enough to really be threatening (or good for that matter). The 2010 Mariners are filled with options for pawns. The choices were tough, but in the end my eight choices were:
Josh Wilson - he even looks like a pawn on the field
Adam Moore - one of the catchers had to be on the board
Jose Lopez - the limited movement of a pawn fits Lopey's footspeed well
Chone Figgins - hasn't been a game changer this year, just a pest at times, like a pawn
Casey Kotchman - plays enough that he needs a spot somewhere
Brandon League - much like Kotchman, had to be somewhere on the board
Michael Saunders - nagging injuries keep him from being a bigger piece, but he has contributed too much this year to be left off the board
Ryan Langerhans - with a good manager that puts him in the right role for his skillset, he's an asset, much like a pawn in the right spot on the board with a good chess player
Jason Vargas - I never thought that Vargas would be a power piece, but that speaks volumes to his season, and the M's 2010 season too. Bishops, with their diagonal movements, can only go on half the squares on a chess board, meaning there are good an bad situations for them. Vargas seems similarly limited, but at the end of the day, is one of the better players on the roster.
Doug Fister - I think it is nice to have the two surprising starters as the bishops, especially with how similar their approaches to pitching are. Both are primarily control artists that rely on fly balls dropping gloves instead of seats and gaps. Plus, Fister is tall and skinny, which is the general shape for the bishop in a typical chess set.
Ichiro - Something about Ichiro's game spoke knight to me. The knight is the only piece that can't be blocked, and the paths it takes are unlike any other chess piece. The properties of the piece are tailored nicely to Ichiro's unorthodox approach.
Franklin Gutierrez - This choice was largely a process of elimination. Guti, especially on this team, deserves to be one of the back row pieces. Ichiro and Guti are the backbone of a very strong outfield defense, so I think there is some nice symmetry going with both of them as knights.
Russell Branyan - Jack Zduriencik did a big favor to this chess set a couple months back, when he brought Branyan back. The rooks are stalwarts at the edges of the board, pillars of strength that take time to get out in the open in a usual chess match, but often deal out mortal wounds once they come out to play. For me, Branyan embodies everything that a rook is - tons of intimidating power, but just as a rook can't move diagonal, Branyan's power can be neutralized by pitching to holes in his swing.
David Aardsma - The other rook was a little harder to figure out, but I ultimately feel good with David Aardsma. His game is all about power too, and he doesn't come out to play until late in the game, where he often finishes off a game for good.
Felix Hernandez - There is a strong case that it doesn't make sense for King Felix to be a queen. However, I think Felix has a faint diva complex that shows through from time to time in interviews, and with his emotions on the mound. More importantly, the queen is the most potent piece on the chess board, and there is little doubt that Felix is the best player on the 2010 M's roster.
I originally thought I would go with Jack Zduriencik here, because I thought the visual of all the other pieces carrying out a gameplan around the king worked nicely for the GM/player relationship. However, once Don Wakamatsu got canned, a new idea merged.
The king in my 2010 M's chess set is none other than Ken Griffey Jr. It makes perfect sense. Much like the king, Griffey has little power to kill opponents, and can't move anywhere quickly. However, everyone else still rallied around him, and protected him at all costs. The 2010 season ended up revolving around him, and on some deeper level, having a retired guy as the one piece you can't go without might be the best metaphor for the 2010 M's season.
There it is, the 2010 Mariners as a chess set. I guess if I wanted to truly make it realistic, I'd add some more pawns in place of the a knight and rook, or something like that. Who would ever buy that chess set though? I suppose someone could ask the same question of this set I came up with too.