So Long Willie Bloomquist, You Will Be Missed

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The Seattle Mariners made it official on Thursday morning, designating Willie Bloomquist for assignment. While the move does not necessarily spell the end of Bloomquist’s career, it appears the veteran super utility man’s days as a Mariner are over.

Willie had an unlikely career. Despite not possessing standout tools, Bloomquist has spent the last 14 years in a big league clubhouse. Originally a 3rd round pick in 1999 by the Seattle Mariners out of Arizona State University, Bloomquist debuted for the M’s during the tail end of the 2002 season. He would spent the next 6 seasons in Seattle before signing with the Kansas City Royals in the winter of 2009. After a brief pit stop in Cincinnati, Willie signed on to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He shined in the desert, but returned home to Seattle in 2014 to finish his career.

The 37-year-old played over a thousand games in the Major Leagues, and played every defensive position apart from pitcher and catcher. Bloomquist is a career .269 hitter with 18 home runs, 225 RBI’s and 133 stolen bases. He has posted an on base percentage of .316 and a slugging percentage of .342 across 3136 career plate appearances. Willie has tallied just 1.3 WAR during his career, but every team he ever played for valued him far more than that.

Bloomquist had many solid seasons in the Emerald City, but 2005 may have been his best in a Mariners’ uniform. Willie hit .257 with 22 RBI’s and 14 stolen bases across 82 games. Bloomquist posted a .289 on base percentage and slugged .333. The super utility man received his first true chance to play when he signed with the D-Backs, and he took full advantage of it. Bloomquist thrived in 2012, hitting .302 with 23 RBI’s and 7 stolen bases for Arizona. He made his lone postseason appearance in 2011 as a member of the Diamondbacks. Willie was clutch in the playoffs, hitting .318 with 1 RBI and 3 stolen bases across 22 at bats in 2011.

Willie signed a 2-year deal with the Mariners in December of 2013. He did a great job last season, hitting .278 with 1 home run and 14 RBI’s across 47 games. Unfortunately, the fan favorite went down with an injury in late July, and was forced to miss the rest of the season. He was only a spectator when the Mariners’ were playing for their postseason lives in game 162.

2015 has not been kind to Bloomquist. Fully recovered from last season’s injury, he was expected to function as the M’s super utility player once again. Willie has only played sparingly, and his .159/.196/.174 slash line is worthy of being DFA’d. The deciding factor was likely his struggles defensively. Bloomquist has never been a great hitter, but his versatility on defense has allowed him to have a long and fruitful career. However, it is obvious he cannot play shortstop anymore. The M’s need a backup shortstop, and Willie cannot be that anymore.

There are many reasons to love Willie Bloomquist. He is a local boy, as he was born in Bremerton and went to high school in Port Orchard, WA. He rocks out to Guns N’ Roses as his walkup music. He always appears humble, and never takes his spot for granted. Willie has always been generous with his time, and treats the fans with respect. However, the reason I coughed up $25 dollars to buy his jersey shirt as a youngster was because of the style in which he played the game.

Apr 8, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners manager

Lloyd McClendon

(23, left) talks with shortstop Willie Bloomquist (8) during batting practice before a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Finding athletes to admire is not an easy task these days. Willie was always a man worth looking up to, on and off the field. I was at the game on July 23rd last season when he hurt his leg trying to beat out a grounder, and sadly, that is the final time I saw him live. However, the hustle he showed in that moment was quintessential Willie. No one worked harder, and even in his declining years, he always gave 100%. Bloomquist played the game the right way. That may not make him a household name, but true fans can appreciate his contributions.

As a 14-year-old, I was lucky enough to attend Mariners’ Spring Training in 2005. I went down to the field and stood on the third base line hoping for autographs. A huge crowd had gathered around Ichiro Suzuki, and I got in line. He took my ball, signed it, and handed it back to me without ever looking at me. I can remember Ichiro talking to what appeared to be his agent about where he wanted to go for dinner for the entire time he was signing. Next I found Willie. The crowd was less abrasive, which was fitting, because the player was too. Bloomquist took the time to look me in the eye, and chat for a moment before handing me the ball back. The Ichiro autograph and the Bloomquist autograph share the same ball. All my friends say the ball would have more value with just Ichiro, I have always felt differently. Willie cared about us, and in turn, we care about him.

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If this is the end, I wish Willie well. He gave Mariners’ fans plenty to cheer about during his career, and this season will not tarnish the memories stored up in our hearts. I’m proud to say I am a Willie Bloomquist fan. Not many would have predicted a 14 year career for him, but he consistently proved his doubters wrong. The 37-year-old was spotted numerous times this season standing next to the coaching staff in the M’s dugout, and I have a feeling that is where the rest of his career will be spent. I see him turning into an infield instructor or base coach in the next few years.

The time had come for the Mariners to move in a new direction, but I will sorely miss watching Willie Bloomquist play for Seattle. I hope he is able to catch on elsewhere this season, and maybe even make one last run at a World Series ring.

Next: Mariners Analysis: Our Own Field of Dreams

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