The “It” Factor and the Seattle Mariners
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 23, 2006
At one point or another, I think most baseball fans have heard an analyst or two attach the phrase “he’s got the it factor” to a player in the crosshairs.
The “It Factor” refers to an intangible talent that very few athletes possess. Not all players have it. Not even all of the great ones.
The “It Factor” isn’t exactly the same thing for each player that is blessed with it.
Kirby Puckett had it. Ken Griffey had it in the 90s. Barry Bonds has it, as long as “it” hasn’t been pushed too far by a banned substance. But heck, he had it before 1998, which is the timeframe in which most reports suggest he began juicing.
Puckett had a flair for the dramatic and an aura about him in the clubhouse that shined on all of his teammates.
Griffey’s presence in the field and at the plate scared the daylights out of opposing managers. The city of Seattle of couldn’t get enough of the most exciting player in baseball.
Bonds had a quiet aura surrounding his game, at least until 2002.
Some non-superstars have the it factor, too.
Jack Morris had it. He was huge in the postseason, always raising his level of play when it counted the most. If the playoffs counted for double, Morris would be a hall-of-famer, for sure.
Derek Jeter has it. No, he’s not a superstar talent. But he’s got the it factor. The extra ability to make a play in the most critical of situations is Jeter’s specialty. He also has a leadership skill that no other player in the game has. Not Paul Konerko, not Darin Erstad, not even Jason Varitek.
Bernie Williams certainly has the “It Factor”. As the all-time postseason leader in homers and RBI, Williams was THE clutch player for the Yankees in their run over the past 10 years. While he put up good numbers from April through September, Bernie’s legacy was made in October.
Are there any Seattle Mariners that possess the “It Factor?”
Yeah, I think there may be three, possibly four. Three of them have yet to establish themselves as major leaguers, however.
Ultimately, Ichiro has it deep down. Maybe we’ll start seeing that in 2006.
Johjima may be another, but that long shot remains to be seen.
In his short time with the organization, Jeff Clement has displayed a lot of the little things that develop into the “it factor.” He has leadership skills unmatched in the M’s farm system, though fellow catcher prospect Rob Johnson is certainly not lacking in this area. Clement also has the necessary on-field talent to command the respect that leaders require to stay effective. He’s capable of channeling his intensity in big-game situations and coming through in the clutch.
Only time will tell with Clement.
Eddie Guardado has the “It Factor.” Eddie’s understanding of team play, work ethic and the desire to win are rare enough. When you filter in his fire for the game and leadership abilities, it’s a shame he’s a reliever that spends eight innings out in the bullpen. His presence in the dugout would certainly be a positive.
One player that certainly has the “It Factor” is Chris Snelling.
He’s the smartest hitter in the entire organization. He’s got talent that will allow him to hit .300 with a high OBP in the big leagues. He plays as hard as anyone in the game and his work ethic and dedication are far and away the only reason why he’s still on the club’s radar after the injury history he has endured since 2000.
Snelling has it all. Flair for the dramatic, clutch play, effort level, leadership skills, and an intangible way of working to be better than he’s ever been before.
If every player in the M’s organization had Snelling’s drive, determination and work ethic, there would be 30 members of the M’s farm system among baseball’s top 100 prospects and the big club would have eight all-stars every single season.
Players have the “It Factor.” Probably dozens of players around the league have it. It’s fun to analyze players beyond their physical talents and looking past their statistics.
But in the end, it’s the teams with the “It Factor” that matter the most.
The 2002 Anaheim Angels. The 2004 Boston Red Sox. Heck, most of the world champions have it.
The Seattle Mariners may only have a few players on the club that possess the “It Factor” but the 25-man roster may encompass the moniker and make everyone forget that the hometown nine doesn’t have but a few special players.
The 2006 version has the makings of a much-improved ball club, starting with the addition of right-hander Felix Hernandez in the starting rotation.
There are a few winners on the team this season that replaced, well, losers from a year ago. Jarrod Washburn takes the starts that Ryan Franklin made in 2005.
Carl Everett essentially takes the ABs that Randy Winn was getting last season. Winn isn’t a loser in the same sense that Franklin may be, but he’s never won anything at any level.
Everett has that under his belt after spending 2005 as a regular for the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox.
The M’s enter this season with a solid balance of experienced, veteran players spread out through each unit, from the bench to the bullpen to the starting rotation and even in the everyday lineup.
The average age of the club has plummeted the past two years, dipping under 28 for the first time since 1996. There’s enough talent on this club to win 80+ games. There’s enough moxie to make that 85.
Is there enough of the “It Factor” to get to 90 or more?
Probably not in 2006, but we’ll see about 2007 and beyond.