Baseball is a “What have you done for me lately?” sort of affair. The most notable and most discussed exploits tend to be those which differ most greatly from the status quo. A player who produces an unexpectedly excellent season is likely to receive more attention than one who’s quietly great. We don’t notice the everyday effectiveness of a player unless that effectiveness occurs in incredible volume, as in the case of someone like Mike Trout. Trout makes the historic an everyday, mundane occurrence, and it’s because of that stupefying feat that he’s finished either first or second in the MVP voting every full season he’s spent in the big leagues.
Kyle Seager has never finished first or second in MVP voting. He received one MVP vote in 2014. He came in 12th this year. He’s not an historic talent like Trout, and he may not even be the best player on his team, given the fact that he shares an infield with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Robinson Cano. He may not even be the best player in his own family. Perhaps you’ve heard of his brother, Corey. He just won the Rookie of the Year award in the National League and finished third in MVP voting. He hasn’t had the slow buildup in production that Kyle has. Corey appeared, looked around, planted his feat, and started mashing. Because of that, it’s easy to forget that there have only been six more valuable position players in the AL than Kyle Seager since 2012.
The first six names are a who’s-who of MVP candidates and possible future figurative residents of Cooperstown, New York. The next three names on the list are also almost uniformly lauded: Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Evan Longoria. It’s probably fair to say that Seager isn’t customarily evoked among these other players, yet there he is.
Over the course of that period of time, Seager only gotten better, too. A down year in 2015 was sandwiched between two five-plus-win seasons, and Seager reached a career high 133 wRC+ this year. He also routinely receives positive grades both from DRS and UZR. He’s a top-flight two-way threat of a player.
Normally, fans take notice of this sort of production. Those in Seattle certainly have, if places like Lookout Landing are any indication. It doesn’t feel like Seager gets that level of national press, however. Maybe it’s because Seattle, unfairly, isn’t viewed as a baseball town. Maybe it’s because Cano and Nelson Cruz have more appeal to the media.
Or maybe it’s because Seager was good, but not great, when he got in his first full season of baseball and hasn’t produced a signature “breakout” season en route to this level of play. He’s simply gotten progressively better, and defined breakouts make for better stories than “Hey, this guy isn’t bad” — especially when the player in question does his work in a city that’s much better known for the professional sports team and 12th man that live across the street from Safeco Field.
Seager’s slipped through the cracks. It’s time to pluck him back out. It’s time to think of him on a national level as one of the best players in baseball — and one with the potential to finish his career with a rather impressive résumé. He will be playing his age-29 season next year, with a Mariners club that’s built to compete for the postseason. The actions taken this winter by Jerry Dipoto will go a long way in aiding Seager’s legacy.
It’s the playoffs that often go a long way in establishing a player in the media. The world knows who Salvador Perez is because of the Royals’ joy rides to two straight World Series, even though Kansas City hadn’t been relevant since the days of George Brett and Bo knowing everything there is to know. Francisco Lindor was at long last introduced to the world this fall, even though Cleveland is unquestionably a basketball town.
That’s not all to say that we as fans should think of baseball in direct competition with other sports when it comes to player notability. That’s a matter for the business side of the game, for men and women in suits with marketing degrees. And it’s admittedly hard to market a player who isn’t a superstar when he plays in a town that isn’t by and large a baseball town.
We know who Kyle Seager is. I write about baseball, and you’re a FanGraphs reader. You know what’s up. We know how good he is. But it’s still a little odd to me that we don’t hear more about Seager, even if I know exactly why we don’t.
What matters is that Seager is good. He’s great, even. He’s one of the most important cogs in one of the most interesting teams in the sport, and could be playing in the playoffs for that team in very short order. Maybe he’ll get some of the press his brother gets then. It’s fine, though. He’s a patient man.
He’ll wait for you to throw the bleeping pitch, so he can hit it over the fence. That’s fine.