SECTION 331

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


Leave a comment

Random Mariners Lunchtime Thoughts

It is Thursday on the week of Winter meetings, and of course the Mariners have been mostly quiet all week long. Actually, everyone has been kind of quiet. Outside of  the Tigers sending Rick Porcello to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes, nothing super major has happened in my baseball world (yes, I know that Matt Kemp moved a few miles south, but it’s all NL and I’m not inclined to be too concerned about the NL in general). Nick Markakis signed on with the Braves from Baltimore, and a lot of Orioles fans (people who are able to follow the team more closely than I am) seem OK with that change, but Markakis has always been with Baltimore, and the fact that he was there when I started being a fan and now isn’t is somewhat disorienting for me. It’s always weird when American League players go to the NL; it’s almost like they’ve died. Quite the opposite is true, of course, but I don’t follow the NL with as much voracity as the AL, so it sure does feel that way.

Current talk surrounds a move between us and the Nationals, a Brad Miller for Ian Desmond thing. Currently I have no feelings about this one way or the other. I am 99.9% sure I saw Desmond play in April when I was in DC, but he didn’t hit me one way or the other, as all my attention was focused on Stephen Strasburg that day. If this happens, it will have to be a wait and see thing for me, and I will definitely have to check out a post on Lookout Landing about it, which I cannot currently do because systems at work make LL unreadable for some reason. Maybe some day, we’ll stop using Internet Explorer here, but that day will not come soon. Everything on MLB Trade Rumors indicates that talks are still going on, so I will continue waiting. I am guessing that we are attempting to bolster hitting further. I know next to nothing about Desmond’s defensive metrics but comparing his and Miller’s batting averages and WAR for last year with what they are both projected to do in 2015 makes that move look like an improvement for us. Maybe a minor improvement (given the fact that those are such basic numbers), but an improvement nonetheless. I don’t have time to do much more in-depth examination at the moment, sadly.

Ryan Divish has an article up about Lloyd McClendon’s thoughts on the upcoming season, and some gossip over the last 24 hours that caused the Mariners FO to have to do some minor, needless damage control. Apparently Keith Law mentioned something on Twitter about the organization not being all that much into Taijuan Walker anymore, and that turned into some online speculation about why. The main point I took away from the whole thing was that there had been some behavior that Walker had engaged in that made him undesirable. This turned into talk about Walker’s early-ish exit from Fall ball, which I remember reading about when it happened, and didn’t think about further because I figured they wouldn’t let him just go home unless the FO said it was OK. At the link, you can see jack Zduriencik’s vehement denial that any such thing ever happened, and here is where I express, again, my thanks for our local media, who don’t tend to start issues where non exist. Not really sure why Law felt the need to run to social media with that “news”, but he is a senior writer for ESPN, so I can only assume that journalism is truly dead with ESPN. I like Law in general, but there was absolutely zero reason for him to do that.

I personally am still waiting to hear what Melky Cabrera’s plans might be. It’s been nearly a week, and I don’t think I have seen his name mentioned once, in connection with any other teams who might be interested, including the Mariners. Is Cabrera asking for too much money? Do the Mariners know something about him that we don’t? Do other teams know something about him that we don’t? I am likely falling behind on my news stories, but haven’t seen much on Twitter. As of three days ago, CBS Sports says we are still talking to him. Maybe the finances just have to be hammered out. Maybe they never will be!  Oh, Baseball, you scamp!

 


Leave a comment

Goodbye Michael Saunders, Hello JA Happ

I was getting out of work and grabbing a bus home last night and trying to catch up on Twitter, when it became abundantly obvious after reading the storm of posts from people I follow that the Mariners had done something, had made another move. Within a few seconds, I found out that that move was a straight-across trade, Michael Saunders for JA Happ.

I had hoped this would not happen, to the point where I just started to ignore people talking about it before yesterday. First of all, let me just get this out of the way; my love for Michael Saunders is completely irrational. He had some great moments at the plate, I liked his fielding, and he seemed like a good guy on the team; nobody complained, he did the utility thing without any (that I ever heard of) complaining, he was a low-key, no-drama guy. But we all know that does not a ball player make, and Saunders also spent a lot of time injured, and faced some criticism and scrutiny from the organization because they didn’t feel like he was spending enough time taking steps to help himself avoid those injuries. There is little anyone can do to prevent knocking into a wall while trying to save their pitcher a home run, but I guess there were some strength training issues or something. I prefer to remain in the dark about it. He earned his “Condor” nickname making those outfield wall jumps, but you can only do that so many times in so many places before you run out of tickets to play the wellness lottery, and it appears that Michael Saunders’ time in Seattle is up.

Per Ryan Divish, Saunders had this to say about the fans here:

I just want them to know how much I appreciate their support. I can never thank them enough. They stood behind me through thick and thin, good and bad. They always had my back. They are the one thing I’m going to miss the most. I consider them part of my family. They will always have a special place in my heart.

And he is right. We did. Saunders had his die-hards in center field, and he had folks in the upper deck waving signs and cheering him on. I did my part wherever I happened to be sitting when he did well, never booed him when he didn’t, always hoped that he would be able to play. I was aware of his troubles at the plate, but always felt warm and fuzzy when he was out in center. I am sad to see him gone, but I also know I was just ignoring the inevitable. The Mariners seem determined currently to mend holes in our offense and bolster our pitching, so Michael Saunders is headed back to his native Canada (though not his native province) to go play baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays (and familiar face Munenori Kawasaki!), and pitcher JA Happ comes here to fit into our pitching rotation. Or not.

I don’t know much about JA Happ. In fact, someone on Twitter asked me if he was a starter or a reliever, and I honestly had no idea. I felt like Happ might have been in relief the last time I saw him, and I may have, but he comes advertised as a starter. This is apparently not a move a lot of fans wanted; Happ has been pegged as a number 5 at best (unless you read this from Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs, and you should), and we need a Chris Young 2014 season replacement (preferably better). Happ is a 32-year old lefty who is still owed some $6 million, and while the 32-year old part isn’t the most sparkly thing  I have ever heard, his Steamer projections for 2015 are also not the worst thing I have seen for a 32-year old pitcher. This may be a downgrade for the Mariners defensively, but it also doesn’t sound like they’re done yet, we still have Winter meetings upcoming, and the name Justin Upton has been tossed around a lot lately. I feel like Jack Zduriencik is going to start back up with the ninja skills here in a bit…

I’m not going to panic over any of this. What I am going to do instead is wish Michael Saunders the best of luck “back home”, and give JA Happ the benefit of the doubt. Given that I personally know very little about him, I at least owe him that, as a fan. I will absolutely miss Saunders, but things are looking very intriguing for the Mariners in 2015, and I have hope.


Leave a comment

Kyle Seager Just Got Paid

The Mariners continued their forward momentum yesterday by giving Kyle Seager the extension he so richly deserves. Seven years and $100 million (say it in Dr Evil’s voice). You can see the breakdown if you wish at the link.

I love the idea of locking Seager down, but it also sounds like he really wanted to stay here. His wife Julie tweeted yesterday after the announcement was made on most news sites and by the Mariners themselves: “Sooo unbelievably thankful and excited! We could not think of a better place to raise our family or community to be apart of.” It’s nothing like Felix’s tears from last year’s notice that he was being offered a 7-year deal and copious amounts of cash to stay here, but it’s a good sign.  Seager was drafted by the Mariners, and even though he’s not from the area, he came up through the ranks with this organization, so technically speaking, he is sort of home-grown. I know that players and their wives are always going to say things like this, but it has to be a positive for him, that the team values him so much they are willing to go to these lengths to keep him around. Ball players get moved around so much, it has to be nice to be able to make plans for your family and kids for an extended period of time. Plus, Kyle Seager is very likeable. He just is. He smiles when things go well, he’s friendly to fans, he puts his nose to the grindstone and gets serious when in-game situations call for it, makes for a good interview with our press people, and seems like a really great person, like a kid who just wants to play ball. I am glad he will be playing ball in Seattle, and that he bucked the scouts’ odds to get where he is today. His rise to be the third base replacement we have been lacking since Adrian Beltre had to leave for other climes has been impressive, and a joy to see. I am looking forward to what else he has to offer us over the next seven years.

The team has also been reported multiple times as saying they harbor no plans to trade Hisashi Iwakuma, something that makes me giddy. I guess before people started  talking about it since the end of the season, it had never really occurred to me that it might ever be an option. Kuma has done so well for us, we would be fools to eliminate him from the team, regardless of what we might get in return. I have to wonder if an extension is going to be offered based on his 2015 year, since we are clearly exercising our option for 2015 by keeping him. I am happy to have the one-two of Felix/Iwakuma or vice versa; now we need a one-two-three, since the Yankees decided that Chris Young is a worth another round. I haven’t heard many rumors about what the Mariners are looking at as far as added pitching, however, so it will be interesting to see what happens at the Winter meetings next week (is it really next week already?!? Time is flying!)

Now,  I am confident that the M’s management is making a statement about what we should expect from the team next season. By making sure we keep Kyle Seager, publicly saying that Iwakuma will not be traded, and having Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez also here for the next few years with big price tags, and given the performance of last season, it looks like the Mariners may finally be ready to truly get down to business. I was hesitant to go nuts with the Cliff Lee deal was made (even though yay, Cliff Lee, and I was happy about that) because we still didn’t have the offense necessary to back up our pitching staff. But we seem to be moving away from those dark times and into an era of bright shiny bat power. If we can add an arm, spruce up our utilities a bit, and maintain the bullpen we have become known for, 2015 will be even more fun that this last year.

I have seen some skepticism from national sports media on whether or not this Kyle Seager contract was a good move for the Mariners, because sadly, nobody seems to have any clue who Seager is, in spite of the fact that he was sent to the ASG game in July. Believe it or not, kids; whether or not you believe in Kyle Seager does not make him exist to any lesser extent. And now he exists with a confidence that the people he works for respect and want him to continue his career here, and the hunger of youth. I have the feeling that by next September, the national media will be not only aware of Kyle Seager, they’ll be happily talking about him. A lot. Heeeeeere come the Mariners!


1 Comment

Helloooooo Nelson Cruz!

The company I work for still uses Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office 2010. Pretty sure the IE is version 8, so I can’t actually do the research I wanted to do before writing this post, and I’m not going to have time later. I am hoping that maybe Daniel will have some words about this one that he can add to this space to balance out my generally uninformed excitement about who we sign, for how much, and why.

First of all, I think it’s important for anyone reading this to know that I have really stopped caring about money and the Mariners. The general thought is that there is some sort of cap on money and that we can never afford to spend a whole lot of it on free agents or players people consider big names; but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I remember people being really concerned about this a while ago, people who kept referring to the Mariners as a “small market team”. But we still managed to nab Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee that year, and make a few other deals, and come out over budget, and the only thing that imploded was the Mariners’ 2010 season; but that had nothing to do with the budget. We spent money, we got what Jack wanted, and that was that. It didn’t really impede the future and what we could spend all that much. So I don’t care about money. We’re already looking at a payroll of around $100 million by opening day, and I think they’ll trade or add more before then (add more than trade, from what I’ve heard). We’re not done yet, and it’s not my money, so I don’t really care what they spend. Do I think that grown men playing a kids game are overpaid? Sure, I do; but I have no control over it, so there is no reason for me to worry. All I am concerned about is the final product they put on the field, and how that works out for us for the six months they’re there.

That said…

I like the fact that Nelson Cruz is going to be wearing Mariners colors for the next 3-4 years. That is the simple version of what I have to say here. But nothing is every quite so simple in baseball, is it?

Nelson Cruz had a phenomenal year this year with the Baltimore Orioles. He really did. He wound up with a WAR of 3.9, his second best since 2010, where he was a 4.9 with the Rangers, which is where I learned to fear him; then again, we were awful that year, so pretty much everyone was scary. Projections for 2015 have him falling back to earth at 1.5 WAR and 637 plate appearances, but I’m not sure he’ll get that many here. My understanding thus far is that a lot of people have him pegged as a DH while the Mariners look for a nice reliable right fielder. Michael Saunders is viewed as a possible trade chip (though I hope we don’t lose him, as I like his outfield flexibility, and the way he runs the outfield in general). Cruz had a line last year of .271/.333/.525 and an OPS of .859; his projected for next year is .256/.317/.471, with an OPS of .788. He hit 40 HR last year and is pegged for 30 in 2015. We have signed him for four years and $57M. And though I don’t care about money, this is where things get sketchy for me.

Cruz is 34 years old. $57M and four years seems like a good deal…if he was 30. When I got the news on my phone earlier today, all I saw was that we had signed him, and I figured it was for a one year deal, veteran presence, all of that. I would not have pegged us spending that kind of contract time on him at all. I would have been happier if it was maybe two years, three tops. That’s the quick and dirty version of my hesitance, without being to really looking into things in as much depth as I would ultimately like to. But is he a good replacement for Kendrys Morales? You’re damn right he is. Is it possible he could continue a bit of his streak from last year and come out over his projections? Of course, that is part of what makes baseball great; anything can happen. Does Cruz still have to prove himself as a Mariner to me? Absolutely; but I am glad he is going to be able to do that, and I am  now looking forward to 2015 even more than I was to begin with.

I also think this signing says something to the players and the fans, which is that we may finally be willing to throw some money at our problems, and that may also bring more players to be interested in playing here. Throwing money at things isn’t always a negative. I know that small money for larger (aka; hidden) value is always more preferable, but sometimes you have to demonstrate that you’re willing to show a bit of respect to the players, and now we have Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz all paid up and ready to go. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a fine start to me.


Leave a comment

Yay Kyle Seager!

I fail so hard at keeping up lately, but the Mariners have made some news today that I am exceedingly happy about, so here we go on a very short ride…

Kyle Seager has been locked down! Er, at the time of this writing is at least very close to it. Depending on which source you go to, he is one or the other. I was just browsing Twitter in an effort to catch up as fast as possible and I am seeing followers and followees mentioning something to the effect that people don’t know who Seager is, which is absolutely flooring to me. The guy won a Gold Glove this year! He has started to become one of the most common jerseys in Safeco, and has inspired small fan sections at other teams’ fields. Maybe it’s just the small sphere of baseball I live in, but how do people just gloss over Seager’s performance this year, and then not realize that the deal we are giving him is the best thing we could have done for the team? Has the fan base really become that apathetic that a kid who is the best third baseman we have had since Adrian Beltre (plus hitting!) is unrecognizable as a player worthy of signing on for the next five years? Or is this on a national level? Because if it is, that is almost more shameful than locals not knowing who he is. Then again, I have not come to expect much from the national media where it concerns the Mariners. Due to our work filters (apparently ESPN is OK but SBN isn’t) I can’t check Lookout Landing and unfortunately USS Mariner hasn’t updated for a while either, so as I try to break the land speed record for typing, I have very little other information about this situation. But I know enough to be happy about it, and right now that is all that matters. As early Christmas presents go, this isn’t a bad one.

I am still saving up for my trip to Colorado next year, and trying to choose which team to spend a few games with at Coors Field. While it would be nice to see the Diamondbacks or the Mariners while I am there, I sort of developed this thing where I prefer to cheer for the team whose stadium I am at. I don’t know that I would be able to enjoy my first time at another team’s stadium if I was against them, and I don’t want to irritate the locals, either, so for a few days in 2015, I will be a Rockies fan. A Rockies fan maybe wearing a Mariners jersey, but a Rockies fan nonetheless. Right now, the Brewers and the Reds look like good frontrunners, but the Padres are also going to be in Denver at some point next summer, and it would be pretty easy to be on Colorado’s side against a team I’m already supposed to dislike (but don’t really feel one way or the other about, much like the Marlins in DC and Philly last year).

Sometime eventually I will a have a Coors Field preview, and I am planning on going for two games; one in the mile-high row (like the tourist I will be), and one down front so I can get a good look at everything. More to follow. Hoping more Mariners news will come soon, I am ready to hear it.


Leave a comment

Thursday’s Old Mariners News

I got a call from my season ticket representative yesterday! It’s nice to see that they follow up. I know that the only reason is because there is money in it for them, but it’s sort of like being asked to a party; I might not be able to go, but it’s nice to be requested. As so happens, I *do* plan to get season tickets; but likely not until Fan Fest. I have no reason to do it any sooner, as I have no last year’s seats to hold. So I need to call him back and let him know. Still, it gets me all giddy about the 2015 season, and we haven’t even made it as far as the winter meetings yet!

The Mariners have released some dates of interest for February 2015, which are pretty much identical to dates of interest from February 2014. Pitchers and catchers report on the 20th, and everyone else shows up on the 24th. Our free agents are listed here, and while I’d like to see Joe Beimel, Endy Chavez and Chris Young come back, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they wound up on someone else’s roster. Out of all of them, I would imagine Young would be the guy they’d keep. The main sadness in that list is of course Franklin Gutierrez. I don’t think I have enough time on my lunch hour to go into all the reasons that Gutierrez’s departure is both necessary and tremendously depressing, but if some other team is willing to take a further gamble on his health, I hope he becomes Death to Flying Things once again. Poor guy. If they decide to sign Kendrys Morales again, I may have to set something on fire. I can’t do that again, and I hope that a lesson was learned this year. I feel like I still have reason to be skeptical, but at the same time, maybe now the Ms know what type of player they should be looking for, based on this season. I’ll stop beating the offense drum, everyone is well aware of our shortcomings behind the plate.

The crop of league-wide free agents this year is not too shabby. I would be lying if I said that seeing Ichiro’s name on that list didn’t make me want to do a little dance or maybe panic a little. I don’t know what Ichiro’s plans for retirement might be – if any at all – but I would be totally down for a Griffey-style return, with position playing allowed, because while I haven’t been able to pay much attention to Mr Suzuki while he’s been in NYC, I haven’t heard of any shortcomings in right field per se, and that leads me to believe he is still fully serviceable at that position. His singles count has gone down rather significantly, and that is worrisome. Pinstripe Alley gives him a C- on the year, and since they have been watching him more closely than I have, I will defer to them. Still, it’d be great to see him back in Seattle, even if only for a little while; but that’s 2012 me, who remembers how sad so many of us were when he had to leave.

Hisashi Iwakuma and Robinson Cano will be having a little fun during the offseason, being able to keep their skills sharp as part of the MLB All-Star team traveling to Japan to play several exhibition games, starting next Tuesday. The Mariners have also released the spring training schedule for next March. Due to my short trip to Denver, I am also debating the possibility of an extended weekend to go catch a game or two there, but that will depend on quite a bit that is currently outside of my control. Failing being able to go down there, I will happily enjoy listening to it on the radio, and simply accept that Denver will be my goal for 2015.

Lastly, Kyle Seager has won his first Gold Glove. Lock him down immediately! The Orioles also had three winners in Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, and Nick Markakis. Congratulations, everyone. Enjoy your metal sculptures! I have to get back to work.

 

 


Leave a comment

Pitch Black at NAAM – Ends November 9th

Earlier this year, there was a billboard over I99 for an exhibit called Pitch Black at the Northwest African American Museum. It was a history of black players in the Pacific Northwest. I told myself I would go, then would forget about it (NAAM is a small museum, off the beaten path of downtown on 23rd and Massachusetts, a few blocks east of S Rainier Ave, so it isn’t anything I drive past every day like SAM is) then remembered, then forgot, etc. So when Tom asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday this past Sunday, and I realized that I had foolishly whittled my time down to a week left, I enthusiastically opted to make sure we went.

NAAM is in an old school building, and it is still relatively new as an entity. I have lived here for 13 years now, and can remember when it was still boarded up and kind of spooky, an old unused building surrounded by a nice park, towering over 23rd. When I heard that it was being turned into a cultural museum, I was really glad, because it’s a nice building and should not have been razed like everything else is so easily in this city. It is currently reduced in exhibits; the front hallway where I can assume there were once children’s lockers, is now occupied by a very detailed history of black milestones in the PacNW area and around the country. African Americans were responsible for quite a few advancements in this area which I would love to go into, but this is a baseball blog, and I’m going to talk about baseball with this post (but also, did you know that Ray Charles spent a lot of time playing here when he was younger? Or that George Washington Bush introduced a bill that became the roots of Washington State University, and also founded Bush Prairie (Tumwater)? Well, now you do!). Oh, and it costs $7 to get in, so you should go.

The long room just west of the timeline area was where Pitch Black was housed, and if you think I didn’t take a few pictures, you’d be wrong. This was the first thing I was greeted with:

IMG_2903

You can touch them! I have never been to a museum where things were not only readily touchable but where I was encouraged to do so. Those jerseys are wool, and while I admire the attempt on the catcher’s chest guard, I don’t envy anyone having to deal with a fastball while in one. I have long wondered if that style offered much protection, and I can say with confidence that the answer is ‘not really’. The leg guards, on the other hand, were light and very protective. There was an old school catcher’s mitt in the basket, too.

IMG_2904

Who else?

IMG_2905

Signed rookie cards! Old bobble heads! Wheaties! Is it just me, or does it seem so strange that this was almost 20 years ago now? I was still largely unaware and uncaring of baseball in 1996, playing in bands and going clubbing in between work hours was my life back then. I am glad I got to see Junior hit some out of the park before he retired.

IMG_2906

A felt that hung in Sick’s Stadium. I am somewhat fascinated by the fact that there was a ballpark where Lowe’s is now. In the event that you have never been to the Lowe’s on 23rd, you might not know that home plate is still there; they kept it in tact, with a plaque acknowledging the former presence of the stadium. Aerial views of the stadium in the exhibit show a very different area in the early 1900s than there is now.

IMG_2907

BASEBALL FOR FIVE BUCKS ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! The Seattle Mariners really need a true Turn Back the Clock Night.

IMG_2908

A scorecard from a game featuring the Harlem Globetrotters vs the House of David. When I was first introducing myself to the game, I read a few books containing lists of facts and history. None of that is complete without talking about barnstorming games, and one of the most interesting (in my opinion) barnstorming teams of that era was the House of David. HoD was a fringe religious group (I don’t mean that in a negative way) made up of men who cut neither their hair nor their beards. A GIS produced this photo:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.58.21 AM

I had completely forgotten that I meant to buy a book on these guys, will need to remember to put it on my wish list.

The last picture I have is of the Seattle Owls.

IMG_2909

The Owls are a bit of an historic curiosity, as the only woman identified in this c. 1930’s photo is the gal in the front row second from left. I did not write her name down and really should have. The museum also has an Owls uniform in a case (my hip and leg hurt just thinking about having to slide in the dirt in that thing), but the exhibit says they have virtually no information on the team. A quick search in Google for “Seattle Owls” produces pictures of…owls. A search for “Seattle Owls baseball club” brings up pictures from the rest of the exhibit, and a few additional photos from the Owls 1938 and ’39 championship seasons, but nobody seems to know who any of these women are. To that end, I have created a page here for them, and will do some light research when I have the time here and there, as I find it incredible that there is so little information on them. One would think, with today’s eyes, that such a piece of history would surely be documented somewhere; but people who make history often don’t realize they’re doing so – and an African American women’s baseball team might have been looked upon flippantly at the time. In any event, if anyone has any information they can contribute, I’ll add it to the page here above.

I urge you to go to this if you have time this weekend. It took Tom and I maybe an hour and a half to walk through the few exhibits they have (there are other wings but they are currently closed off), I learned a lot and there is a lot more that I didn’t take photos of. There is also an art gallery of locals on the north side that has some fabulous paintings and mixed media pieces that I really liked. The whole thing is worth the time and money you’ll invest and then some. Go before it closes after this Sunday!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 707 other followers