If He’d Only Walked (Away): The Miguel Olivo Story

Wipe that grin off your face, you bastard.

Wipe that grin off your face, you bastard.

The problem – as if there’s only one – of being a Seattle Mariners fan is the transactions. I’m sure fans of other teams who have missed the playoffs EVERY SEASON SINCE 2001 complain when their teams’ transactions don’t work out, but it feels different as Mariners fans, or at least that’s how I’ve learned from my parents. There is a sense that a player will come to Seattle, not play well, and then be a quality performer at his next stop, or vice versa and a quality player will come to Seattle and not be a quality contributor. Because of this, there’s something special about following former Mariners in their careers after Seattle and, frankly, rooting against them. If a guy comes here and doesn’t do well, I don’t want to see him do well elsewhere because then, well, where was that when you played your home games at Safeco Field? That’s part of the thought process at least. One of these players the last few years has been Miguel Olivo, who joined the Seattle Mariners on June 27, 2004 in a deadline deal, along with Mike Morse and Jeremy Reed, as Seattle sent Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis to Chicago. But let’s take a step back, as I always love to do.

Miguel Olivo was born July 15, 1978 in Villa Vasquez in the Dominican Republic and would sign with the Oakland A’s as an undrafted free agent in 1996 at the age of 18. In their 2000 ranking of the A’s Top Prospects, here’s what Casey Tefertiller provided us on their No. 7 prospect in the A’s organization, Miguel Olivo, who at the time was listed at 6’0″ 180 lbs.:

Strengths: One A’s scout said Olivo has the best catching arm in baseball. Olivo’s arm, an 8 on a scout’s 2-to-8 scale, compares only to that of Ivan Rodriguez, and Olivo has made major improvements as a receiver. He hits consistently for average and should hit for power as he matures. Olivo, a devotee of the weight room, is already exceedingly strong.

Weaknesses: Partly because he has yet to master English, Olivo has had difficulty working with pitchers. He needs to deal with adversity more maturely and avoid emotional slumps.

Another example of the raving of Olivo’s arm comes to us from a Peter Gammons column from July 10 of 2000 in which Gammons says Olivo has recently had his arm clocked at 95 mph on a throw down to second.

Olivo would not play for the home team in Oakland however, as he was the PTBNL in a trade for Chad Bradford in December of 2000. Olivo would then work his way up the White Sox farm system – enduring a bat-corking incident and suspension along the way – before being a September call-up in 2002.

Olivo would start the 2003 season as the Chicago White Sox every day catcher and would post a .237/.287/.360 line with six homers, six steals and 27 RBI in 114 games, good for a ~0.8 WAR. 2004 would see Miguel depart Comiskey/US Cellular for the Emerald City. That season, Olivo would post a .233/.286/.439 line – as you can tell, only difference from the season prior is really the slugging percentage – with 13 HR and 40 RBI in 96 games. Olivo’s struggles with the Mariners would be a sign of things to come though, as his average was 70 points higher in Chicago, his OBP 54 points higher and his SLG 108 points higher in 2004 in Chicago rather than Seattle.

Mine, and every Mariners fans reaction - whenever we saw that Olivo was in the starting lineup. Or that he was on deck. Or walking to the plate...you get the idea.

Mine, and every Mariners fans reaction – whenever we saw that Olivo was in the starting lineup. Or that he was on deck. Or walking to the plate…you get the idea.

What do I mean by sign of things to come? Well, Olivo would start the 2005 season as the Mariners starting catcher…and would post a .151/.172/.276 line with five HR and 18 RBI in 54 games. Prior to the 2003 season, a piece on the Chicago White Sox official website described Olivo as having “the toughest job” having to be the everyday catcher with only six games’ experience, but that the Sox loved his skills both at the plate and behind the plate. “The key will be not having one suffer in spite of the other,” this 2003 White Sox preview stated. Olivo’s career would never really feature a season with both offensive and defensive quality on display. His time in Seattle necessitated a trade and he was sent south to the archrival San Diego Padres in a blockbuster deal for Miguel Ojeda and some other random Hispanic guy (not offensive, there are a ton of random Hispanics in baseball. Just like there are a ton of random Eastern Europeans in the NHL, etc.) Olivo would play for three more teams – the Marlins, Royals and Rockies – from 2006-10 before…well…

Here's a fun aside for all my Mets fans out there: Back in September of 2007 (I'm sure you all wanted to be reminded of that so much), Olivo charged Jose Reyes in the middle of the game. The two are friends from the Dominican Republic, but still. Olivo swung at Reyes...and missed. Because of course he did.

Here’s a fun aside for all my Mets fans out there: Back in September of 2007 (I’m sure you all wanted to be reminded of that so much), Olivo charged Jose Reyes in the middle of the game. The two are friends from the Dominican Republic, but still. Olivo swung at Reyes…and missed. Because of course he did.

History repeats itself. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But why Jack Zduriencik thought bringing Miguel Olivo back to serve as the Mariners’ starting catcher in 2011 and 2012, I will never understand. He had “good” seasons in 2009 & 2010, I guess. His ’09 really is not worth mentioning other than he did have a 99 wRC+ which was a career high. 2010? Fangraphs tells us that both his Batting and Fielding ratings were negative…oh wait, I jumped the gun, that was his season with the Mariners in 2011. I’ll stop boring you with stats because as boring as they are for you, they’re torturing me.

In 2012, Miguel Olivo played 87 games for the Seattle Mariners and had 323 plate appearances. For players with a minimum of 300 PAs, Olivo’s 2.2% walk rate was the lowest in Major League Baseball. Remember that 2005 season I mentioned in which the Mariners dealt Olivo to San Diego? For batters with at least 250 PAs, Olivo’s 2.8% walk rate was 4th-lowest in baseball. In between those years was the 2007 season in which Miguel played for the Marlins and had 469 plate appearances, a career high at the time. His 3.0% walk rate that season was 7th worst in baseball. Miguel has never been able to walk…

…but if he was able, he would have just walked away on Tuesday. Miguel is now in the Los Angeles Dodgers system and had been sent down to Albuquerque his eight game cup of coffee in LA while A.J. Ellis was on the DL.

A.J. Ellis is nowhere near the best "A.J." currently in Los Angeles by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, I was searching for a reason to use a photo of A.J. Cook. I'm resorting to my old writing style which was laden with photos of NFL Cheerleaders. I hope you don't mind.

A.J. Ellis is nowhere near the best “A.J.” currently in Los Angeles by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, I was searching for a reason to use a photo of A.J. Cook. I’m resorting to my old writing style which was laden with photos of NFL Cheerleaders. I hope you don’t mind.

Okay where were we. Right, Olivo has been sent down to Albuquerque, the Dodgers AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League and the current team of Dodgers 28-year old prospect Cuban signee, middle infielder Alex Guerrero. I could write 1000 words on why Alex Guerrero should be playing in the majors right now but let’s leave it at this: PCL offensive statistic ridiculousness aside, Guerrero has posted a .376/.417/.735 line with 10 HR and 29 RBI in just 33 games. On Tuesday, the Isotopes took part in an afternoon contest against the Salt Lake Bees, AAA affiliate of the Angels. The Isotopes were on the road and trailed the Bees 7-2 as the game entered the bottom of the 7th inning. In the 7th, Bees DH J.B. Shuck walked for the third time in the game and promptly stole second base. Olivo, having thrown down to second, was allegedly upset because Guerrero failed to properly apply the tag to Shuck. Olivo made these frustrations known by attacking Guerrero in the ‘Topes dugout at the end of the inning. During this attack, Miguel Olivo bit off part of Alex Guerrero’s ear. I really didn’t know how else to write that, but it happened. Guerrero needed plastic surgery and has declined to file a complaint with the police. But yes, for those who have decided to read this far, there is a kicker.

To quote Ian Darke, “You could not write a script like this.”

A very valid point made by Ms. Berry here, but the best goes to @afishman

Though Don Mattingly refused to answer questions Wednesday afternoon about Olivo, he has now been placed on the suspended list in Albuquerque – possibly marking the end of his career – and replaced on the roster by…Alex Liddi.

Yup, former Seattle Mariners Third Baseman Alex Liddi. THAT Alex Liddi.

Yup, former Seattle Mariners Third Baseman Alex Liddi. THAT Alex Liddi.

I give up. (Don’t worry guys, I’m not actually giving up).

UPDATE, 11:14 AM PST: The Dodgers have now released Miguel Olivo. Teams are always looking for veteran presence catchers with experience and America loves giving second chances, so we may not have seen the last of him. But for now, Miguel Olivo is no longer playing professional baseball.

UPDATE, 1:10 PM PST: The Dodgers have posted the official press release in regards to Olivo, if you’re interested. It’s literally the shortest press release I’ve ever seen.

– Dylan

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About Dylan Jenkins

I'm a proud Seattlite currently living in Queens, NY. Outside of sports, I enjoy crime dramas - specifically police procedurals - as well as a wide range of music, everything from Top 40 to Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan & Rogue Wave. I am a cat person, which is to say I'm a human who enjoys felines. I have a tremendous sweet tooth that isn't very discerning, and I refuse to observe a number of unwritten social rules.
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One Response to If He’d Only Walked (Away): The Miguel Olivo Story

  1. Pingback: Miguel Olivo’s 37th birthday | Baseball Birthday Boys

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