When we first added Russell Branyan to our roster early last year, he was another Brewers name in a seemingly lengthier-all-the-time list of people that Jack Zduriencik was bringing over from Milwaukee. There was some confusion and uncertainty over his placement as the every day first baseman, since he had never really been given that chance before. For my own part, he was National League, so I didn’t know that much about him, and what I read from our good local analyst folk made me (and maybe others) approach him cautiously.
But Branyan took his newfound responsibilities and ran with them. He absolutely forced us to love him (some of the game chats on Lookout Landing are a testament to that). People can talk about his strike-out rates, and his injury issues, but Branyan gave the Mariners fanbase something to really look forward to; when he was off, he was off, but when he was on, the ball was going out of the park, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. He was humble, he was soft-spoken, he was a “nice guy”, but most of all, he was dramatic. That was the best part about Russell Branyan – and even better than being dramatic was that you never quite knew when the drama was going to come! Along with Jose Lopez, he was responsible for a lot of our home runs last year, and one gorgeous grand slam the day after last summer’s USS Mariner/Lookout Landing event during the last series vs the Tampa Bay Rays. Going from being somewhat of a bench-y/utility player in his previous life, Branyan was our first baseman until he threw out his back last August, and ended up on the DL for the rest of the season; just one piece of the feel-good puzzle that was the 2009 Seattle Mariners.
This offseason, our front office made an offer for the future that Branyan felt was a bit of a lowball, and that was the last time that there was any discussion of retaining him in that position. With the acquisition of Casey Kotchman, Branyan obviously felt that there was writing on the wall, and bade goodbye to our fair city and team. I will likely warm up to Kotchman because he’ll be a Mariner (and depending on how his arbitration goes this upcoming winter, I might not have a choice), but “one and done” seems to be such a dismissive phrase for what Branyan was a part of in 2009, and I for one will miss seeing him on the field.*
*No, the concept that this could be a tasteless joke did not escape me.