Almost as much as baseball, I love Star Wars. That’s right, I said it. Now, to be clear, I love the movies and everything that’s spun off as a result of the magnificent original trilogy, but I’m not a snob. Yes, I loved “The Force Awakens,” despite its flaws. I thought “The Last Jedi” was even better. In fact, “Rogue One” is my favorite of the entire series. Yes, I saw the ending coming with about 30 minutes left. I had the realization that (**SPOILER ALERT**) everybody was going to die. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was the final line of the movie.
For those who haven’t seen this cinematic masterpiece, let me give a brief recap of the last few minutes. A rebel shipped is boarded by Darth Vader (who’s pissed) after the plans to the Death Star have been stolen. He goes on a tear and destroys everything and everyone in his path using his lightsaber and the force. The rebels are frantically passing what looks like an 8-inch floppy disk along a crowded hallway filled with frantic rebels and pressure-locked doors before Vader can get to it. Finally, the luckiest member of the crew escapes the carnage and reaches a digitally recreated version of a young Carry Fisher’s Princess Leia. He hands her the disk and asks, “What is it they’ve sent us.” She responds with a single word. “Hope.” Cue John Williams!
Back to baseball. I’m a documented Seattle Mariners fan and have experienced a generation of losing that’s going on nearly 20 years without a playoff appearance and just six seasons with a winning record since Lou Piniella left the Pacific Northwest after the 2002 season. Since then, the franchise has been decimated with bad managers and general managers that include the likes of Jack Zduriencik, who was described as “learning on the job” when he was fired in 2015.
Yes, there have been times where what felt like a potential winning roster was assembled during this run. With the additions of pitcher Cliff Lee and leadoff hitting infielder Chone Figgins, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg even picked the M’s to make the World Series in 2010. That team completely melted down by June under manager Don Wakamatsu and finished 61-101, by the way.
After Zdurencik’s firing, the Mariners brought GM Jerry Dipoto aboard to start the 2016. His first pick with the 11th pick in the MLB June Amateur Draft was an outfielder from Mercer University by the name of Kyle Lewis.
Thirty games into his first minor league campaign, Lewis blew out his knee in an injury that left him with a torn ACL and kept him out for the remainder of that season and about half of 2017. However, he returned from the injury for the second half of the 2017 and played very well for Seattle’s Arizona Rookie League affiliate and the Class Advanced A Modesto Nuts with a .740 OPS and seven homers in 49 total games. He put together similar campaigns for the 2018 and 2019 season with the Nuts and Arkansas Travelers.
Touted as the future of Seattle’s outfield and the bat to anchor the batting order, Mariners fans were continually fed Lewis’ stats on social media displaying his ability at the plate. However, fans weren’t entirely sure when Lewis would make his appearance in Seattle. I mean, he seemed ready by all accounts.
On Sept. 10, 2019, Lew made his MLB debut by going 1 for 3 with a strikeout and a solo home run. The next day he hit a 3-run home run. The day after that he hit another solo home run. In his first 10 games as a big leaguer, Lewis hit six home runs and drove in 12 runs. Yes, it was against inferior pitching. The M’s faced the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles during his first 12 games. Yes, he managed just three hits over his final six games. However, he finished with an OPS of .885 and a 0.3 WAR. Lewis’ call-up energized a floundering Mariners team to a .440 September winning percentage. It was the team’s best month since a .500 April.
After he blew up the roster and traded away nearly every veteran from the 2018 season, Dipoto said he was “reimagining” how the team would be assembled and started stockpiling prospects in Double A Arkansas. Lewis was part of the first wave of young talent to be sent up to the big club in 2019 by Dipoto. What is it he sent us? Hope.