When the Seattle Mariners made the decision to call up three Rainiers after Tacoma's final game of the season on Monday, many had a pretty good idea who the three would be. Jeremy Reed, Greg Dobbs, and A.J. Zapp were the most logical choices and most deserving players on the Tacoma roster.
Everyone seems to have gotten that memo except for the Mariners themselves. Reed and Dobbs got the call. Zapp didn't.
Instead, the M's sent for 10-year minor league veteran Mickey Lopez, who is a fantastic leader and a solid second baseman in his own right.
But there is more to this than the fact that Lopez plays second base, a position more vacant in the system, and has been in the minors for a decade.
It seems that the M's just do not like A.J. Zapp. Let me rephrase that to fit the situation a little bit better. The M's clearly do not appreciate A.J. Zapp.
After a season where he led the Rainiers in home runs (29), RBI (101), and even batting average (.291) for players who started the season with the team in April, Zapp's season went virtually unappreciated, as did his hard work and solid defensive play at first base.
"I am who I am," said Zapp in a somber voice after the last game of his 2004 season, and likely his last in the organization. "The numbers I put up I guess weren't enough. I'm a free agent and hopefully somebody out there will appreciate me more than the Mariners. What else could I have done?"
It's hard not to call the Mariners out on this one. What were they thinking? There simply are no other A.J. Zapps lying around in the team's minor league system. Jon Nelson is the closest thing, but he moved from first base to the outfield this year and is still only just completing High-A ball. Again, what were the M's thinking?
If they were thinking that Zapp doesn't have a future with the club, then please explain, Mr. Bavasi, how Mickey Lopez does.
If you were thinking that Zapp's talents, left-handed power hitting among them, don't fit SAFECO very well, then explain, Bavasi, how Greg Dobbs and Justin Leone's skills fit better. Or even Bucky Jacobsen's for that matter.
Don't try to argue that Zapp strikes out too much, either. We know that isn't the reason. Zapp was clearly unhappy with the decision and seemed to be a bit clueless on why the move turned out that way.
"They said it wasn't the strikeouts," said Zapp. "They said they just couldn't find enough at-bats up there."
Not enough at-bats, Bill? That's the reason? Not enough at-bats for a left-handed power-hitting first baseman at SAFECO? Does that make much sense to you Mariners fans?
It is puzzling to Zapp, too, a guy that always played hard night in and night out while maintaining an approach that kept the team as his top priority.
One must believe that a player might take this to heart, and this type of decision would greatly effect his desire to remain with the Mariners.
"Definitely," said Zapp in response to the free agency question. "I'll look around now."
This is clearly the end for Zapp in the Mariners system barring an unforeseen callup by Seattle in the final month, and sadly it will end on a very sour note. The former first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves will put his name on the open market and wait for a team to come calling.
"Opportunity," said Zapp. "Gotta go where the opportunity is."
The M's ought to be ashamed of themselves. Ashamed that they continue to hand playing time to players like Willie Bloomquist, who clearly should not be on the team and has proven over and over again that he can't hit at the big league level. Keeping Willie instead of giving someone like Zapp 40 or 50 at-bats sounds like something the 1984 Mariners would do.
Here's to hoping Zapp catches on to an American League team and comes back to haunt the Mariners for years and years to come. The Mariners deserve to be haunted for this.
As someone who covered the Rainiers all year, I want to thank the club for a fun season filled with memorable moments, none more memorable than A.J. Zapp's 505-foot blast over the center field wall. Or the walk-off grand slam by Zapp to win a game in late August in the heat of a pennant race. Or the 29 home runs and 101 RBI that Zapp put up this year. Or the .291 batting average that Zapp ended the season with. Or the… Ok, well you get the point.
Most of all, thank you Andrew Joseph Zapp for being a professional all season long, including the day you found out the M's were making yet another mistake in 2004, by leaving you off the major league roster for the final month of the season.
As much as I believe in the long term result that Bavasi will bring this club, I have to say, oh Billy boy, you blew it on this one.
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