Mariners third baseman Chone Figgins swings and misses on a pitch against… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)
He was one of the most popular players in franchise history, and he was coming off an All-Star season, one in which he led the American League in walks, was second in runs and third in stolen bases.
But after the Angels let Chone Figgins leave as a free agent following the 2009 season, his numbers plummeted. By the time he went on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury last month, Figgins had lost his starting job and had a .188 batting average and .241 on-base percentage.
So what happened?
"It's hard to say," said Figgins, 33, as he slumped in front of his locker at Seattle's Safeco Field. "You feel good sometimes, and then sometimes you don't feel good. I remember talking to older guys. They said great players always have one rough year in their career. And this is mine."
Actually, this would be two rough years. He batted a career-low .259 in 2010, when he also feuded with former Mariners Manager Don Wakamatsu.
The Angels and General Manager Tony Reagins were criticized for letting Figgins get away, failing to come close to matching the four-year $36-million deal Seattle offered. And though the Angels have struggled to the replace the production he gave them in the leadoff role, Figgins' rapid decline has proved Reagins right.
But, Figgins promises, this story isn't over.
"I'm going to be great again," he said in an uncommon boast. "The best part is I'm not worried about it. I'm keeping my head up."
Weathering a storm
The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees are going to the playoffs. But their paths to the postseason just got a lot more difficult because of Hurricane Irene.
The Baltimore Orioles refused the Yankees' suggestion to play a Friday doubleheader in anticipation of last month's storm, and a day later the teams were rained out, leaving New York to play 31 games in the season's final 31 days.
That's a light schedule compared to what the Phillies face. Because of storm-caused rainouts, Philadelphia is slated to play 33 games in 31 days.
The Phillies and Yankees figure to use minor league call-ups to absorb much of the additional workload, but it will have an impact nonetheless. The Yankees are locked in a tight battle with Boston for home-field advantage in the postseason. Philadelphia is trying to hold off Milwaukee for the same advantage in the National League.
Statwatch(Believe it or not edition)
•The Florida Marlins drew a "crowd" of 347 for the first game of a midweek doubleheader in Miami last month. The team did not release a turnstile count, but fan Justin Cohen did a head count of his own, then tweeted his findings, which the club did not publicly contest.
•Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki entered the weekend needing 44 hits to reach 200 for the 11th consecutive season. And yes, that's within reach for Ichiro, who has collected 50 or more hits in a month four times in his career.
•One reason why Tampa Bay's James Shields leads the majors with 10 complete games is he's economical, averaging a baseball-low 14.3 pitches an inning. In four of his complete games, he needed less than 107 pitches.
— Kevin Baxter