SECTION 331

Like a Million Baseball Fans Cried Out, and Were Suddenly Silenced


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A Few Thoughts On Kendrys Morales, Safeco’s Happy Hour Prices

So before I clocked out for lunch, I was listening to Michael Gray talk about a recent very insufficient decision regarding the Ray Rice case, wherein Rice was fined money in five digits and suspended for two games for domestic violence, and then had his wife apologize for her “role” in the beating (you do not want to get me started on this). I left the radio for a bit to attend to another part of my job and when I sat back down to clock out and check Twitter, the Mariners had suddenly acquired Kendrys Morales. Again. So that’s interesting.

I never was madly in love with Morales, but I didn’t hate him either. I knew going into last season he wasn’t going to be here for long, and my automatic reaction to something like that is to not get too attached. If the player turns out to do well, I want the  team to resign them; if not, I’d prefer they be let go or traded elsewhere, but that’s really the extent of any stress I have over so-called one-and-done contracts. He was exchanged for Stephen Pryor with the Minnesota Twins. Pryor has floated between here and Tacoma a little too much for me to get attached to him as a Mariner either, but I do wish him sincere success with the Twins. Many are guessing that the move that is planned for tomorrow’s Morales return in an Ms uniform will involve shuffling Corey Hart away from Seattle, in whatever capacity that needs to be done. Morales is currently sporting a line of .234/.259/.325 with a .584 OPS in 39 games. Corey Hart is sporting a .212/.295/.332 line with an OPS of .626 in 51 games. Right now, this looks like a lateral move with those numbers.  Before I can read something else from someone with more statistics knowledge, I feel like I don’t have the full story; but it also feels like another shoe needs to drop, and soon. We have seven more days before the July 31st trade deadline, and I don’t know that this deal really pushes us any farther ahead. Plus, we’ve lost a bullpen arm from a group currently being touted as the best in baseball (if I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard that phrase, relating to anything, I’d have a lot of quarters). I now feel like the fanbase is maybe holding its breath for the next move, because whatever the Ms do next will either prove to us that they are looking to make a run this year, or…it won’t. Time will tell.

As for me, I was doing some thinking about my relationship with game attendance, and how certain aspects of my health have been doing recently…

I spent the month of June doing an elimination diet, just out of curiosity, to see if it made me feel any better or changed anything for me. I’m not really big on going to the doctor unless I’m hemorrhaging out of my eyes, so I’ve never seen a dietician or anything; but cutting out wheat products, refined sugar and white carbs for one month did actually make me feel better. This is going somewhere, give me a second…

My game routine (and I do have one) generally involves getting to the stadium a while prior to gates open, either to get parking or because I get out of work daily around 3.30, so I just walk down to the stadium. I go to one of the pubs around and grab a pint or two, wait for anyone coming down to the field with me, chill out after work, that sort of thing. Then we hit up The Pen for their $5 happy hour beers, get some food, take some pictures, hang out around the drunks for a bit, etc. before going to get our seats.

In the past now 7 years that I have been going to Safeco Field regularly, they have always had excellent food choices. After partnering with the Center Plate company to kick up their food options and increasing the selection of alcoholic drinks available to fans (I believe the beer count alone is at some 75+ kinds of bottled and draft beer at various areas around the field), Safeco is a veritable party of choices, and I think it makes people want to come to the park. Even my Sounders-loving friend Cynthia loves coming to Safeco because they have far better options than most of Century Link, and the food is almost all higher quality than that field as well. All great, right?

Well, I have a proposal I’d like to make to the Mariners; happy hour in The Pen needs to include more than just beer. There are fewer things more delightful to me on a hot day than a nice pint of Mac and Jack’s or Manny’s, but it would be nice if there was also a cider option down there. I have to think that people would enjoy a $5 draft Crispin or Fox Barrel when the temperatures climb into the 80s. I also think that perhaps happy hour could include some drink specials with the places that serve hard liquor as well. My favorite mixed drink is the humble margarita. Edgar’s charges $12 for this drink. The hard liquor bar nearer to the open area of The Pen charges anywhere from $8 to $12 depending on the bar tender, the time of day, the weather, how cute you are, etc. Honestly, I went there three times in one night and got three different prices for my drink; when I asked them what their happy hour price was, I was told they didn’t do happy hour. I realize that this one is a Center Plate area, so maybe the Ms as an organization don’t have a lot of control over that, but it would be nice to have some discounted prices on things other than just beer. Not all of us can afford to take a mortgage out on our rental house every time we want to unwind on a Friday, and it doesn’t seem like prices for alcohol at the stadium have improved at all over the past 7 years. In fact, they seem to have gotten worse.

So I submit to the Mariners that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a beer-only happy hour. I get the impression that they are attempting to create a kind of sports bar atmosphere in that area, so it would be nice to have a sports-bar price listing. But don’t touch the food; the food is 100% fine, and $9 for those three tacos, or $5 for a giant slice of (good) pizza or Caesar salad is just perfect. Don’t change a thing there. But cut us some slack on the booze maybe? Paying the same amount of money for one drink that it would cost for me to buy a bottle of the booze on its own is a bit obscene. Not asking for a miracle, just a few bucks off maybe. Throw us a bone!

That said, I’ll be headed to the stadium after work today to go see my Mariners play my Orioles. I’ve got my O’s t-shirt on just like when I was in Baltimore, and will toss my Mariners jersey on over it before leaving work and heading down to Safeco. I have been waiting for this weekend for years, and I am so ready to overdose on Mariners/Orioles baseball! Really hoping to see a good Wild Card battle this weekend rather than a slaughter. Play ball!


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Rodney, Paxton, And a Bit of Baltimore

We are now a few days removed from the Fernando Rodney blown save that a lot of media folks have labeled “Arrowgate”. I slept through most of Sunday’s game, but turned the TV on in the 8th inning, when Rodney was just coming in. I was too groggy to really focus on the game until it was too late, so I didn’t see the “arrow” fired at the Angel’s dugout, and didn’t even know what happened until about maybe an hour later. A lot of people seem to be upset about it, but I am not one of them. I like the arrow, and I like the fact that Rodney was cocky enough to fire it at the dugout. It was only Rodney’s 3rd blown save on the year, so I can cut him some slack. Baseball is also about the characters in the game, and we have a character in Fernando Rodney. The Angels starter Tyler Skaggs was a little bent about it, referring to it as “ridiculous”, but Skaggs maybe should spend some more time in the majors before he starts telling veterans what is ridiculous or not. I love the fact that Albert Pujols and Mike Trout fired back their own arrows after the Angels won the game, proof positive that the only true enemies in the game of baseball are really the fans. Pujols said he’d been waiting 15 years to finally be able to do it. Clearly, these guys respect each other and are friends; there is no reason at all to be upset over the action, but we should be upset over the loss, if only for the fact that we need all the Ws we can get right now. My only problem with the entire thing is that Rodney’s performance wasn’t quite good enough to back up his actions. I find it funny that people are still talking about it, but the main furor has died down.

Seattle has been playing the Mets the last few days, and while last night’s game with starter Erasmo Ramirez was a bit of a wash (in spite of his not-too-shabby pitching), Monday night’s game was pretty impressive. Starter Roenis Elias left the game in the middle of the 6th inning with some arm or hand cramps, and was replaced by Dominic Leone, who gave up an almost-homer to Travis d’Arnaud. Dustin Ackley shocked and amazed everyone by tracking the ball to the back wall in left field, and jumping up against the pads, his arm stretched as far as he could stretch it, and catching that hit in the netting of his glove right in front of the watchful eyes of the Mets bullpen. I was thankful that I was at home; had I been at the game, I would likely have been sitting over left field and would not have been able to see what happened. But since I was on the couch at home, it all unfolded in front of me. A brilliant play. I don’t have access to the .gif someone made at the moment, but if you’re willing to sit through an annoying commercial, Adam Jude has video at the Times here.

Currently, James Paxton is working on rehabbing enough to, I’m assuming, be able to come up in September, if not sooner. He had a start in Everett last week (I wanted to go but money and weekend plans conspired against me) wherein he pitched 42 balls, 26 for strikes, and left in the 3rd; sadly, the Aquasox lost that game, but that doesn’t seem to be out of the norm this year, as the Sox appear to be having a lot of issues winning games. Paxton made another start for the Tacoma Rainiers last night (again,  I wanted to go but could not) that could have been both better and worse, and it looks like he will make another start there on Sunday. I can’t make that one, either. I have an appointment with the Baltimore Orioles that afternoon.

Speaking of which, after today’s afternoon game that starts in here in a bit, the Mariners of course start a four-game series with the Orioles. Taijuan Walker is starting for the Ms against the Mets today so that Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez could be pushed back to tomorrow and Friday, respectively. There was some degree of fuss being made over this, wondering why Lloyd McClendon would do this a second time on the year, but frankly if I’m managing the third in the AL West and the team is widely regarded to make a possible go at the Wild Card this year, I want my best guys up against the best in the AL East, and one of the current best teams in the game for 2014. For my part, I am finally making my years-long dream of attending a full Orioles series come true and will be attending all four games. I love series like this, because both of these teams I love, they are both doing well, and regardless of who loses, I win. I don’t have to tear any hair out, especially while the Orioles are doing so well against Anaheim and are still being trailed significantly by the New York Yankees.

And it looks like the game is actually streaming on 710 ESPN (I don’t know that this has been the case before) today, so I have to clock back in from lunch, listen to some baseball, and get back to work. Take the series out of the subway, boys!

 


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What Do The Mariners Do Now?

I have been listening to the new-and-improved (I think, anyway), Brock and Salk show in the mornings, followed up by The Michael Gray show. This makes my mornings at work go a ton faster, and it has made Seattle sports radio a lot more fun than it was. After Mike Salk departed for Boston a few years ago, ESPN sort of lost its luster for me; not because of Salk specifically, but because his leaving basically “broke up the band”, destroying a radio show that I just adored a few years ago. When working in the engineering department for Todd Shipyards, and then going to school, that show kept me sane. After they took the show off the air, I stopped listening to ESPN on any sort of regular basis, and started to feel very disconnected from the world of sports, particularly baseball. Brock and Salk  talk about the Mariners with both a seriousness and lighthearted humor that you really only find in a fanbase itself, and made baesball fun to think about, regardless of how the team was doing at the time. So I was elated to find out that duo were coming back to the airwaves starting Monday of this week, and have been listening every day. I have enjoyed Gray as well, but am not as familiar with him just yet. So far so good, though! Makes the first five hours of work really breezy.

The most recent talk lighting everyone up, of course, are the rumors of the Mariners possibly obtaining both David Price and Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays. The baseball fan in me sort of winces; Price and Zobrist have always been Rays, and it seems wrong to take them away from Tampa for 1) sooooo much money, and 2) possibly short-term (I am talking like a year or two, though admittedly I am not sure what either player’s contract situation is, currently). But the Mariners fan in me is all about throwing as much cash and as many prospects at this problem as possible. I realize that is a very knee-jerk reaction to the rumor, and that there are many things to be considered here outside of  the desire to winwinwin, but man do I really want to winwinwin right now.

So clearly for such a large deal, we need to consider what the trade would entail on our end. The names that have been brought up include Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, DJ Peterson, and I have even heard James Paxton’s, Justin Smoak’s, and Dustin Ackley’s names being tossed into the mix from various sources (fans, mainly), along with Brad Miller’s (on a personal note, nooooooooooo!!!)  The Rays aren’t stupid, though, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a team that would take a look at either Ackley or Smoak and hand over two major pieces like that, without a lot of other chips being thrown on the pile as well; and then at that point, you’re just giving guys away for free, really, and there is no point in adding Ackley or Smoak to the deal, and we’re still stuck with them and vice versa. Then again, this is just my impression from a Mariners standpoint; there are a lot of our ex-players who have found new life on other teams because those teams saw something we didn’t or got lucky. You never know. Hear that, Tampa?! You never know!

In any event, a lot of feathers are being ruffled in a positive way, seeing the possibilities that might come with a Price/Felix/Iwakuma rotation (or a Felix/Price/Kuma rotation, or whatever combination you want to throw them into the mix in), and I have to admit it’s ridiculously tempting to just give up prospects for this….

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The above paragraphs were written on my earlier break. I have now had the opportunity to finish listening to the Michael Gray show before lunch, and he had Scott Weber from Lookout Landing on to talk a little bit about the rumors floating around. Weber’s on-air assessment featured something I had been mentally tossing around earlier today, but due to the nature of how I am having to write this while on breaks at work didn’t get around to actually saying; that a Price/Zobrist deal now could actually mean being all in for 2015. I harbor no illusions that this Mariners team is going to the World Series. I believe they will come out above .500, and might even make a go at the division title, depending on what moves the front office makes in the next few weeks, but I just don’t think that we make it past Oakland at this point in the year, and the Angels are reportedly heating up lately, with Mike Trout going nuts all over the place, so it would be a very difficult thing for us to do in 2014. But next year? A Price/Zobrist deal could definitely tip our hand.

Look, I’m as tired as anyone of the next year, next year mantra, but we are finally in a place where it might actually be true. Not Cliff Lee true, but for really real true. And while some others don’t have a lot of faith in Jack Zduriencik, I think we might actually finally be seeing returns on what he promised us when he came onto the scene in 2009. The main problem might be the fact that Price is largely thought to have an anti-Mariners trade clause, but perhaps if we show him that we are absolutely serious about this move, he might change his mind? Seattle’s really not a terrible place, Mr Price, and we’ll love you like one of our own!

We shall see what has to happen. I am hoping it happens sooner rather than later, so that the fans know that Zduriencik is serious (and the team knows it too), and my fingers are crossed – as always – for the best possible outcome. Better writers than I have claimed that we now have something we haven’t had for a long long time; hope. I think I’m feeling it a little bit, too, finally. Now let’s play ball!


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ASG, And Going Back Into The Season

I wish I was better at headlines…

I watched most of the All Star Game with some friends at a nearby pub the other day. The game itself didn’t turn out to be as big a deal as some of the events contained within or around it, and while I would love to be able to write about some of those events as vehemently as others, the wind has by now gone out of my sails; the Mariners have bigger fish to fry. I do have a few words on it, though, just like everyone else who watched…

Starting pitcher that night for the National League (and pitcher for the Cardinals) Adam Wainwright apparently made some comment about soft-tossing one to Derek Jeter (a pitch some analysts believe turned into a double for the Yankee during the early stages of the game). I didn’t personally hear the remark or see it or understand how it was transmitted to become public knowledge, but the FOX broadcast sent Erin Andrews down to the dugout to Gallahad for Jeter, because suddenly she was down there with a microphone in Wainwright’s face, demanding Wainwright explain himself. This was clearly FOX making a much larger deal of something than they should have, and the spectacle of Andrews practically shaking with barely contained fury was a much larger distraction than Wainwright’s joke. But FOX wanted to make the evening all about Jeter, and they (very annoyingly) succeeded. That’s fine, whatever, it’s over.*

The other furor over the game seems to be regarding the attention given to a not-yet-retired Jeter, vs the lack of attention given to Tony Gwynn, who passed away earlier this year, and then someone also pointed out later that evening that nary a word was said about Don Zimmer as well. I know that there are a lot of accusations from fans that there is media favoritism given to the New York Yankees, and there are just as many denials that it happens; but when something like this occurs, can you really blame people for thinking that? I don’t want to get nasty here, but by the way they were behaving, you would think the FOX broadcasters were all in line for Jeter baskets at the end of the game. And lest anyone get crabby at anything I have said here, look; I’m an outsider to all things Yankee. I know how well Derek Jeter is revered, I know he’ll go into the Hall of Fame, I know he’s been with the team all his career, and that is fine. But with what I don’t have any sort of inside scoop on, I have to call as I see; and my comments here are nothing compared to some of the things I was seeing on Twitter during the game. Fans, bloggers, and even some reporters were not happy about the way FOX handled this game. You can take that or leave it, but it’s true.

As for Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney? They were just fine. Cano and Seager both went 0-2, and while you’d like to see your boys get a hit at least in the ASG, I have no objections to the fact that they didn’t. Felix did a good job in the only inning he pitched, and Rodney let the arrow fly not once off the mound in the 8th inning, but also during his introduction, too. Kyle Seager was very pleased with his outing, just to be there for his first time. I think the next time this happens, I’m just going to host a viewing party at the house. The bar we were at somehow didn’t think we needed sound, even though the people who showed up at 5 were clearly there to watch the game. It would have been more fun at home, though I can say that The Bridge in West Seattle has some pretty good food, and is a nice place to chill at.

And that is all I really have to say on the matter. Like I said, we here in Seattle have other things to worry about. The second half of the season is coming up, and we have a lot of work to do over the next two and a half months. I’m not expecting anything huge, but I do have my .500 tattoo drawn up now (like I actually took pains to complete the design, rather than just have it in my head), so they have to at least maintain that edge, right?

Jeff Sullivan at USS Mariner has a post up grading the players on the first half of their season. At first glance, I didn’t agree with the grades, but after reading them again, I think I find them pretty dead on. I might raise James Jones to a straight C or C+, but I think that is all based on how likeable he is, and maybe not as much on performance. In any event, with the A’s evening out the D’s, we are just about average. The last time we were average was in 2009, and if I remember correctly, the Mariners were mentioned – at least once – in conjunction with the words “wild card” back then. Well, these are the wild card standings right now. Pretty neat, huh?

One more day off tonight, during which I am going to attempt to get some fishing done if the weather holds (I have heard reports of rain in the upcoming days), and then we get back into it tomorrow in Anaheim, battling our wild card foes at the top of the pile. There is still a lot of baseball to be played, and I am looking forward to all of it.

 

*Except that it isn’t, really. Wow. I thought she appeared far more upset than she should be, for a professional reporter doing a job, but name calling is unacceptable. Incredible, WEEI.


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The Home Run Derby Happened

I slept right through the rain delay that enabled me to “watch” the Home Run Derby last night. I use quotes because I was only sort of paying attention. For about ten minutes or so, I didn’t realize that they had just started hitting due to a rain delay in Minneapolis, so I thought it was almost over, and wasn’t really focused. Not that it would have mattered; this one is all fun and games, right?

In general, I think of the Home Run Derby as a mid-season mess. I will freely admit that what I know about the event’s history could fit on a Post-It. OK, maybe half a Post-It. I won’t lie, I was a little surprised to see old black and white footage on ESPN last night of players (again, not really paying attention, Mantle? Marris?) hitting in an empty stadium, where they talked to and looked directly at the camera. Turns out, the event actually started in the 1980s, if this Wikipedia article has any truth to it. Yep, I’m being lazy and using Wikipedia as a source; it’s 4.30AM; that’s the kind of quality writing you get at that hour. Since its start, it has turned into an event that is more massive, hours-long commercial than anything remotely focused on baseball. The announcers for the event don’t even seem to truly understand baseball as it actually is today (really, guys? You’ve been working in this field for most of your lives and choose to remain vocally and willfully ignorant of the science of the game??), and there are ads for maybe five things that the viewer is constantly accosted by, which is truly the best way to get me to avoid your product altogether. It should be a way to get me to avoid watching your event altogether, but I am a sucker, and Adam Jones was hitting, so what am I gonna do?

Other than those complaints? Eh, it was alright. Even though Yoenis Cespedes won both a really pretty silver batting trophy, and for some reason a WWE championship belt (I know it has something to do with Adam Jones, but it’s almost more interesting if I have no clue what’s going on), Giancarlo Stanton was the true beauty of the evening, hitting what was projected to be a 510-foot dinger almost out of the upper decks of the stadium. The reaction of the players around him was priceless. Andrew McCutchen was focused on, perhaps because he had the most animated reaction, but the one I really want to see on a loop is Felix’s giggling like a little kid at the hit. I used to be able to get stuff like that from Lookout Landing. You disappoint me a bit, boys. Instead, I found McCutchen’s disbelief captured in a loop for all eternity. I think that about sums it up.

I had to go to the airport briefly, and by the time I got back, the thing was just wrapping up and Cespedes was being announced the winner. I don’t feel like I missed much by not paying attention. I love the All Star break because after 80-whatever games we kind of need a breather; but the last series against the A’s has me really craving more baseball that counts, so I am looking forward to getting back into things with the Angels on Friday.

The Mariners are 8 games in back of first place. That seems like a lot. Not as many as some, but I am not at all convinced that we can succeed without making some moves before July 31st. You can’t field Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley and expect to keep moving in an upwards fashion. Really hoping Michael Saunders heals up quickly and comes back to us as soon as possible. I can only watch Logan Morrison being angry at himself, his bat, the pitcher, and the air for so much longer.

I check the standings maybe every week or two, specifically to check the Mariners against the A’s. I see the Rangers now, like actually see them. What happened? Yes, that is rhetorical; I know they have been suffering from injury; I have just never seen a Rangers team that was 21 games behind. I mean, I see the information, I just don’t know what to do with it. We live in some confusing times right now. I like Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre, so this might be one of the most depressing articles ever, but I was just there for like the last 7 years or so, so I am going to enjoy what is happening here in Seattle and not feel too terribly sorry for the Rangers. Baseball is fickle and cruel and wonderful, and I have no intention of gloating at failure this year.

I am still riding pretty high on the A’s series, and the fact that we took two away from them. Tonight I plan to catch the appropriate bus after work, and head to a local pub for watching the All Star Game because I say every year that I’m not going to watch it and I get caught up in watching it, and that is my life. Let’s take in some silly exhibition baseball, have a few days off, and then get back to business. Oh! And see if the Mariners are buyers. I have some opinions on that, but it’s time to go to work.


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Random Lunchtime Thoughts on Mariners Stuff

So much has been going on this week, it’s difficult to pin just one thing down to talk about, so I’m just going to hit on a few things, air my Big Dumb Opinions and move on with my work day…

Late last week, Larry Stone and several others reported that Vinnie Catricala had decided to quit playing baseball and become a police officer. Apparently he did this a while ago, and is working his way up to having a partner and a uniform and the whole deal. I vaguely remember some areas of the blogosphere and media saying some positive things about Catricala, but in general I never got the impression that he was really going anywhere. His peak year in triple A was clearly back in 2011; his final line after 507 plate appearances in 2012 was .229/.292/.348, and it doesn’t look like he even made it through a full season in 2013 at a double A level. It’s always sort of sad to me when a guy never makes it all the way up, even for a little while, especially after being held in such high regard in 2011. But I also think it’s classy for someone to know their limits, and Catricala clearly had a backup plan, so good for him. Policing is, generally speaking, an honorable profession, and I wish him nothing but the best in his newly chosen career. And a lot of safety.

Of course, as everyone knows by now, Kyle Seager got a call to be in the All Star Game next week. The Twitterverse was all abuzz for about two days with this news. We haven’t had a position player come up through the ranks in the Mariners organization and be given an ASG space since 2006 with Jose Lopez (yes, I consulted on this one, it is not something I would have known). Before that, if memory serves amid multiple Tweets, it was Alex Rodriguez in 2000 (2001? It’s almost like there is no Mariners history before 2007 sometimes for me). Of course, we have Felix, but I have the tendency to mentally divide pitchers and position players into two very separate parties. And then there was Michael Pineda, but I almost don’t want to think about that. It’s so depressing, what has happened to him and what could have been.

Rose Marie Powell, a long-time Washington resident and member of the All American Girls baseball league, has passed away at the age of 88. Like many other people -baseball fans or not – I have seen A League of Their Own, and am familiar with the fact that there was a point in time in this country’s history where women played baseball and not softball. The room for women’s baseball in the Baseball Museum and HoF is smaller than it maybe should be, but it is crammed full of memorabilia and information and photos and wonderful bits of history (including this ridiculous wool dress uniform worn by players in the late 1800s that looks like you could easily drop about 20lbs just by going outside in it), and I stood in awe of these women who bucked tradition, and opened the door for even the idea that women might someday play the game in a major league context. If you ever make it to Cooperstown, I highly recommend spending as much time in the room as possible. I read everything.

John Buck was DFA’d the other day, on his birthday no less, and replaced by catcher Jesus Sucre. I understand why they made that move, but I really did like Buck. It has to be difficult for veterans as the years wear on. A lot of moving and rejection. I hope Buck can find an organization and do well with them. I feel, however, that perhaps the Mariners front office might like to do a little examination of how they release people – maybe not on their birthdays? I know the business end of this game is awful, but this just reminds me of the fact that we also let Don Wakamatsu go on Japanese Heritage Day. A little tact is maybe all I’d ask for; I know I won’t get it, but it’d be nice.

My lunch time is over, so I have to bail and get back to it. Really looking forward to seeing Tom Wilhelmsen start tonight for the Ms, though it seems like a really odd decision (I have not yet seen or read anything regarding why the decision was made, but I know they sent Taijuan Walker back to Tacoma and replaced him with Stephen Pryor, and that other roster shuffling has taken place lately (and that, if I read correctly, Walker will be back shortly). I’ve been trying, but not quite able to keep up with everything. Tomorrow, I’m going to head up to Sequim for the weekend, and plan to park myself in a sports bar somewhere and watch Felix go up against Jeff Samardzija (boy did I have to look that one up) in what is apparently going to be some massive battle royale for the season. The King’s Court has been sold out already, but apparently they’re opening up a “high court” upstairs for stragglers. This should be a good one, I don’t want to miss it!

 

EDIT: The reason for Wilhelmsen’s start tonight revealed! I had toyed with the idea that the reason was actually indeed to make an incredible matchup tomorrow night and try and stick it to Oakland. But I thought surely baseball doesn’t behave like that. Well, ladies and gents, it most certainly does. That’s kind of awesome. Thanks, Lloyd!


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Sunday’s Worthy Effort in Chicago

Yesterday afternoon, Felix Hernandez pitched 8 solid innings of 3-hit, 2-run baseball, and Fernando Rodney came in for his 25th save on the year. The game was 14 innings long, and won in a pinch by a Michael Saunders single and steal, and a Brad Miller GR double to left field. Rodney closed things up with 15 pitches, and if things keep going the way they have been, is on pace to rival his 48-save 2012 year with the Tampa Bay Rays. It is weird to think that I may have a reason to care about the post-season this year. The Orioles and Tigers are both doing pretty well as of the time I am starting this post. The Diamondbacks and Phillies are flailing, but all I need is one team in the race to really enjoy post-season baseball. I haven’t had that in a few years – even back when the Phillies were in the World Series, I still spent my time rooting for the Rays because of the way they handled their 2008 season. Those were my formative years, and how I came out of that not a Rays fan, I’ll never know. Such is the game, I guess.

Today’s rubber match featured Taijuan Walker taking his second shot against the White Sox and former Mariner Hector Noesi. I was thinking at the beginning of the game that it could go either way, but it seemed to be pretty obvious by the bottom of the second inning which way it was actually going to go; Walker’s pitch count was in the upper 40s, and Noesi threw his 20th pitch in the top of the 3rd to Dustin Ackley, who took a single out to right-ish. No further gains would be made by the Ms that inning.

Walker had thrown 71 pitches by the end of the 3rd inning, and while White Sox hitters were being kept at bay, well, I don’t have to tell anyone reading this that 71 over three is not really the best news. I’m not even panicking, and I’m certainly not going to jump to wanting to send Walker back down; not yet. As the year progresses, though, and if the Mariners remain steady, I would like to see them take a harder look at Walker and move him back down sooner rather than later if this keeps up. Two games is not, of course, much of a basis to judge, but if there is any hope for the team this year of making it to any level of the playoffs, I just don’t want to be biting my nails to the quick every time Walker is up. I don’t need that much stress in my life. I believe he will eventually be good; I just don’t know if that time is now. It’s a bit of a shame, as I had thought maybe we were done with bringing guys up before they were really and truly ready. I am hoping that maybe Walker just needs to find his stride, shake off a little dust, and that with his next start, we’ll see some more mature pitching. Fingers crossed. We have been waiting for this for a long time.

Dominic Leone entered the bottom of the 5th inning after Walker’s 2-hit, 5-walk, 1-run 4-inning outing. Eighty-three pitches. Yeesh. Leone got Gordon Beckham to strike out swinging, then hit Conor Gillaspie straight in the knee with a 94MPH fastball. I almost expected more walks from the Mariners arms today, but the greatest offender was Walker with his five. Leone and Brandon Mauer both only gave up one each.

I had to busy myself doing laundry and other chores I have not kept up on for the last few weeks, but kept the game on, because why not see where this goes?  Noesi lasted 6 innings and change, pitching shutout baseball of the Seattle Mariners. Depressing, but we did have men at the corners at that point, and Michael Saunders was at the plate. After a commercial break, Eric Surkamp hit the bump for the White Sox. Surkamp walked Saunders to load the bases for Robinson Cano, who, at this point, was 0-2 against Noesi. With the bags juiced and two outs, Surkamp threw his first pitch to Cano; it sailed to the left, and Cano was able to duck just in time. I would have taken that walk, but Cano had other plans. Unfortunately, those plans involved popping up to center. I don’t want anyone hurt, be we could have gotten a run in off of a Cano HBP. I am thankful that everyone is uninjured, but kind of wanted to see what would have happened in extras this afternoon.

Brandon Maurer came out of the bullpen when I was downstairs taking care of some housework during the bottom of the 7th and apparently took care of the Sox batters easily and quietly. But even hits that could have been bases under other circumstances were not going to be had by the Mariners, as Chicago’s defense made good and sure we wouldn’t get any runs in the 8th, either. The other two games in this series, the Mariners got their digs in during or after the 9th innings. Yesterdays game of extras was due to that. But not today. Not today. Brad Miller took Jake Petricka’s final pitch only as far as left fielder Alejandro De Aza, and with that we have lost the series.

So the team heads back home for a pretty important homestand this week before the All Star break, against a weak Minnesota Twins team, and the ever-strengthening Oakland A’s, starting next Friday with Felix Hernandez on the hill after an extra day’s rest. I will not be able to go on Friday, but I would like to see if I can make one of the mid-week games over the next few days. It is strange to look at a Mariners team that might be buyers during the course of this month. Are we really serious about this? We’ve been remaining fairly steadfast at 6.5 games back, and sure there are other teams that are a lot better than we are, but this year more than ever, I have to ask what if? I’ve never gotten to do that before; it’s kind of fun. I’d take even one playoff series. I’d take an elimination game. I really would. And it’s funny to me that it feels like what I have just typed there feels almost impossible. But it’s not. I guess we’ll see how serious the front office is over the next four weeks about all of this. For now, I’m just enjoying a Mariners team that I wasn’t sure I was ever going to see again after 2009.

I won’t likely be able to catch tomorrow night’s game, so I hope that Hisashki Iwakuma fairs well in his endeavor against Kevin Correia. For now, I am going to try and spend the rest of the day staying cool in my house, which was built in 1945 and traps heat like it’s its job. The entire week is supposed to be in the 80s here, excellent weather for baseball near the Puget Sound, made even moreso by a team that might – just might – give the other guys a run for their money this year. Go M’s!

 

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