False Hope: Franklin Gutierrez and the ’09 Mariners


Franklin Gutierrez. He hasn’t been much of a contributor to the Mariners, in any significant way, since 2010, which was the last time he played over 100 games. He played 92 in 2011, and around 40 in 2012 and 2013. Didn’t play at all last year.

Why bring this up?

Well, if you’ve been a regular M’s watcher in the last 5-7 years then perhaps you recall Gutierrez as “Guti,” or “Death to Flying Things” as the late, great, Dave Niehas coined him.

He was a cog in the 2009 Mariners, a team that doesn’t necessarily bring up memories of greatness. But the ’09 Mariners were quite similar to the ’14 Mariners.

The Mariners last year improved sixteen wins over the 2013 M’s. You might have heard that thrown around. Well the 2009 Mariners improved twenty four wins over the 2008 M’s. There was a buzz of excitement. I remember.

Cliff Lee was added to the roster, and with Felix and Cliff at the top of the rotation the 2010 Mariners were thought, by some, to be serious A.L. West contenders.

Of course the 2010 Mariners posted the exact same record as the 2008 Mariners, 61-101, and Lee was traded away by mid season. The biggest prize from that trade was Justin Smoak. Who was such a continual disappointment that the Mariners just let him walk away to Blue Jays a few months ago.

So perhaps you’re beginning to see why I bring this up?

Well, the Mariners have been entertaining the idea of bringing Gutierrez back, probably as something like an invite to spring training, minor league contract, etc. The Mariners likely don’t have high hopes. Perhaps they’re shooting for something in the Endy Chavez mold.

A solid bat coming off the bench, and a great defender to boot. Didn’t get that “Death to Flying Things” nickname for nothing.

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Not a bad plan. “Never can have enough depth” sort of logic.

We saw how this played out last year. As I recall, I don’t even think Guti got to spring training before re-injured himself.

His ’09 numbers aren’t great, but combined with his defense, made him one of the best M’s outfielders in recent memory. 18 home runs, 70 RBI’s, .283 batting average.

In 2010 his RBI production stayed about the same at 64 RBI’s, but his homer output dropped by 6, and batting average dropped nearly forty points, to .245. After that he’s been marred by injuries, appearing in only 92 games in 2011, 40 in 2012, and 41 in 2013.

So why keep inviting him back? It’s the same old tantalizing thing.

The thing that made Justin Smoak the starting first basement for the most of four years.


Gutierrez in reality represents 2009 Gutierrez. We cast aside 2010-2014 Gutierrez, and hope for that flash of above average from 6 years ago. But what if it’s just false hope?

Franklin Gutierrez

I mean, if you look at Gutierrez’s 2008 numbers, with the Indians, he puts up 8 HR’s, 41 RBI’s, and a .248 batting average in 134 games. Remember that .245 batting average in 2010? Looks remarkably in line.

But then again, if you look back in ’07 he puts up 13 HR’s, and 36 RBI’s in only 100 games, with a .266 batting average. That sounds more like ’09 Guti. The Gutierrez worthy of a Dave Niehas nickname.

So is he just an average player, with one outlier season? Or a talented guy, who was marred by injuries just as he was about to break out?

It’s likely we’ll never know. He seems more likely destined for an early, unremarkable, retirement, like so many other forgotten players.

In the back of our head, (definitely mine) there is still that hope. If he just stays healthy. But… sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Griffey couldn’t stay healthy until the last couple years of his career, when he was past his prime. He could have been the one to break Hank Aaron’s all time home run record, if he could have stayed healthy.

Gutierrez not only represents 2009 Gutierrez but he represents 2009 Mariners. Those Mariners with a win total improved by 24, those Mariners finally putting together a team to make a postseason run again.

It sounds so much like right now, its a little unsettling.

Wouldn’t Gutierrez making a comeback, and helping the M’s to their first postseason in fourteen years be an amazing story?

Time will tell if it is indeed, merely false hope.