The Seattle Mariners Unsung Hero Award Goes To…
By Josh Maduell
And the 2018 winner of the Mariners Unsung Hero Award goes to outfielder Denard Span. When I think of that title referring to sports, it’s the player who wouldn’t be your first thought of team MVP. It’s the player who consistently performs well and going under-the-radar doing so.
Who better than Denard Span? He defines under-the-radar. First, the man wasn’t even a Mariners through the season’s first 50 games. Similar to Mitch Haniger, he over-achieved as the “throw-in” to his trade. When Dipoto made the trade last Memorial Day weekend, a summary would be, “Alex Colome was picked up to bolster the bullpen! Oh, and Denard Span is coming too.”
Except that Colome was too streaky while Denard was consistent the whole way through. And just for the record, he’s resurrected his season as a Mariner. He came to Seattle hitting just .238 but while here, he has hit almost .280! Denard’s average in less than a full season with the club is higher than both Dee and Nellie. No big deal, the only Mariners he’s hitting less than (not counting Negron) are two Mariner All-Stars plus our 10-year, $240M man.
It’s old news that “clutch” is a foreign Mariners term this year but a couple of Denard’s hits turned a game’s momentum around. First up was his game-winning double against the eventual 100+ win Red Sox in June. Next up was his extra-inning blast in the desert to keep our wild card hopes alive.
When he first became a Mariner, I felt doubt. Not because Denard is a bad player but because he bounced around for several years up to this point. The Mariners were his fourth stop in three seasons. But you need to look at when success follows a player. Denard has smelled the playoffs with almost all his clubs at one point.
The piece de resistance of Denard’s award is his patience at the plate. Fellow utility outfielders Heredia and Maybin could learn a thing or two after their down seasons. Nevermore had I seen a 2018 Mariner, except Nellie and Robbie, make the pitcher work every time and not look like he’s improvising up there.
If more Mariners can be that clutch and patient in years to come, this team could be headed for success. So congrats on your honorary award, Denard. It’s well deserved. You are truly “unsung” in that you’ve never been the star a team builds it’s lineup around but you’re a solid supporting link. Your Mariner success went under-the-radar.
You’re the Chewbacca to Luke and Leah’s mission. You’re the Samwise Gamgee to Frodo’s quest. You are the unsung hero.