Making a Big Rookie Mistake
Just when it looked as if Randy Johnson's contract squabble was the only controversial issue in the Mariners' camp, the Young Unit upstaged the Big Unit. Ryan Anderson, a.k.a. Young Unit, is a 6'10", 18-year-old lefthander whom Seattle selected in the first round of the 1997 draft. In Anderson's first batting practice appearance against major league hitters on Feb. 20, he threw to Mariners Alex Rodriguez, David Segui, Dan Wilson and Joey Cora and impressed them with a 99-mph fastball and a nasty slurve that he had picked up from watching Johnson, his idol. After hitting just one fair ball in a dozen hacks against Anderson, Rodriguez said, "You have no chance when you're more concerned about seeing the ball than hitting it."
In an Arizona Republic story on March 2, Anderson reflected on that appearance and said, "I dominated them. I don't want to say it, but I did."
A copy of the article promptly appeared on the bulletin board in the Seattle clubhouse with Anderson's quotes highlighted. In an example of highly sophisticated baseball retribution, someone took a Beanie Baby that Anderson kept in his locker, tied a shoelace around its neck and hung it from the top of his stall. Some players also left a box of baseballs in front of Anderson's locker with a typewritten note:
To: Ryan Anderson
From: All the players
Will you please sign this case of baseballs from, "The Greatest Player of All Time." We would be honored and cherish it forever.
Said outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., "That kid has got to learn you don't go saying things. He hasn't even seen a minor league field yet."
Anderson was sent to minor league camp two days later.