3. Mariners select Jeff Clement over Troy Tulowitzki
The 2004 season was an abject disaster for the Seattle Mariners. The greatest run in franchise history was over and the team had to start a rebuild immediately. Of course, the old ownership group would never allow that, so it would be up to the GM’s like Bill Bavasi and Jack Zduriencik to be amongst the best GM’s in baseball. Long story short… they weren’t.
This started way back in the 2005 MLB Draft, a legendary class that would see 8 of the Top 20 and 6 of the Top 7 picks make at least one All-Star team. Names like Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, and Cameron Maybin would go on to have long careers. And in the massive swell of talent, the Mariners came away with Jeff Clement.
Yeah, Jeff “Freaking” Clement. What makes matter worse is that every publication and their mothers believed that Seattle would take Troy Tulowitzki. Baseball America described him as the safest pick in the draft and was a sure bet to return their investment. And even on draft day, Tulowitzki himself was convinced he would be a Mariner:
"“A couple of minutes before the draft,” (Tulowitzki) says, “they’d called me and said, ‘You’re our guy.’ “"
So what happened? A titanic sized mistake occurred. Bill Bavasi, believing the team was set at shortstop with Adam Jones (yes, that Adam Jones) and Matt Tuiasosopo, decided the franchise would need a catcher and selected the left-handed-hitting Jeff Clement instead. This move, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulates the failure of the post-2003 Mariners: short-term logic with no ability to develop or project.
Sure, there is no guarantee that Tulowitzki would have become the borderline Hall of Famer he did if he was in Seattle. But the process is one of the worst in baseball history and Clement did absolutely nothing to show he was a worthy 10th round pick, let alone the third pick in the draft.
The difference between this selection and the Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino, and Danny Hultzen picks were that there were multiple correct answers sitting in front of Bavasi and he still whiffed harder than any of the picks mentioned above. Ackley and Zunino were major league contributors and Hultzen got hurt. Clement was just a flat out stupid pick.