SECTION 331

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


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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.


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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.

 

 


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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:

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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.

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Who else?

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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!


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Tuesday’s Old Mariners News

I have spent the past week or so battling a cold, finishing up the World Series, and watching a rugby game. Every day I mean to write, and every day I manage to schedule myself out of it, whether by work or health or just being tired with the time and light change as autumn and winter set in. So I have all these thoughts on things that are backed up from like mid-October…

Chris Young of course was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Sporting News, by a group of voters that was comprised of baseball players and not members of the press. This is actually surprising to me, since it seems like so many awards surrounding baseball are determined by the BBWAA, the fans, or managers and coaches. I approve of this greatly, but not just because I’m a Mariners fan. Young had his moments, certainly, every pitcher does, but he also engendered quite a bit of confidence when he was up in the rotation. I started the year out not being so sure about him; I had no prior experience with Young, so all I had to go on were blogger opinions and jokes (yes, I could have looked it up on Fangraphs, but I didn’t, just naturally assuming that everyone else knew more than I did), and everything I heard – outside of quite a few jokes about Young’s height – sounded like Young might be a decent back of the rotation guy and nothing more, after spending 2013 out recovering from shoulder surgery. But he proved that he still had a lot of gas in that shoulder, and had a super solid 2014 with a winning record. I am glad that his fellow players voted accordingly. Some of them were likely on the receiving end of the Chris Young slingshot, and could see that comeback for what it was.

Justin Smoak got snatched up by the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of last month, a move that both thrilled and saddened me. Smoak, of course, never turned into what he was supposed to, and we have dealt with the fallout from that for a little over four years now. I literally had to sit here and count the years on my fingers, feeling like I was over-counting but no; it’s been that long. Smoak went from the reason we traded Cliff Lee to the Rangers (aside from the fact that our season was down the drain before the All Star break was even being mentioned in 2010) to a great Tacoma Rainier and bad Mariner, to a great Tacoma Rainier and  so-so Mariner, and then…a Blue Jay. I would find it funny if Smoak did what a lot of fans think he will do, and became an amazing ball player while in Toronto, but I have the feeling we’ll be seeing him here in Tacoma again as a Las Vegas 51 more often than in Seattle as a Blue Jay.

And because apparently our work servers are powered by hamsters in  a wheel somewhere and I am nearly out of time on my lunch break, I need to cut things short, but I will say that while I was glad the Giants managed to eek one out over the Royals this year with a very close and exciting game 7, I am really glad that playoff baseball is over so  I can get back to Mariners news, and planning next summer’s baseball trip, which will be a short flight to Denver and Coors Field to see some sweet Rockies action. Have to plan a smaller trip this year so I can afford season tickets again. I really missed having them last year.

 


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Well, Now What?

I have been battling a cold, a deadline, and extra time at work over the past two weeks. I was not terribly pleased with the outcome of the ALCS playoffs – as you can perhaps imagine – nor was I too interested in the World Series itself, as I have no horse in either the Giants or the Royals. I know a lot of Mariners fans were on the Royals side. There were even a few articles written in the local press about how Mariners fans should be “jealous” of the Royals, or that somehow the Royals have something in common with the Mariners, so Mariners fans should be happy about their ascent to the World Series – I must have read that particular article at least twice, trying to figure out the connection. Didn’t make it. But that’s not where I’m going with this…

I started out the year, technically speaking, at Camden Yards. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life as a baseball fan. Getting to see your second team in their natural environment is one thing; but when you’re afraid of flying, and then slip a disc two weeks before you have to leave, and aren’t sure if you’re even going to be able to walk to do the things you want to do on your vacation is completely another. But I was OK, and I was walking without the cane by the time I got to OPACY, and the first night I spent there, with the good tickets over the visitor’s dugout was one of the most fun days for me this year.

Then the Mariners season happened after I got back home, and things got even better! From a good start to sort of a scrappy middle and then a boost of energy after the All Star break, and then a run at a tie-breaker for the Wild Card, the Mariners made this year so much fun! We even made the Angels walk the plank in the last series, dominating them in an attempt to make that run, but it was not to be, because the Rangers were just terrible this year and couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain against Oakland.

But then? The Orioles were still going strong. They beat the Jays to clinch their playoff spot and win the AL East – a game that I watched from a pub by my house, nearly on the edge of my chair the entire time. And then they didn’t stop, plowing through the Detroit Tigers to face the Royals…where they played terribly and got swept for four games. The Royals were even cocky about it, former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie even wearing a shirt at a post-game presser that said “These O’s ain’t Royal”. Another player poked fun at Baltimore in another interview. And that pretty much sealed it for me. Maybe if the Royals had shown a bit of humility over their win, I would have been on their side. If they acted as if they’d been there before, and not been sore winners, I could have dealt with it and might have watched this World Series with less contempt. But they didn’t, and frankly I’m not really into them as a team to begin with – Jason Vargas or no Jason Vargas – so there you go.

And baseball is weird that way. It makes you think things and feel things that you wouldn’t think you would or could about the game. And while we’re on feelings, I need to talk about mine for Baltimore. You see, this is the first time in the short history of me being a baseball fan that I have ever gotten to feel these feelings about the game. I have followed the Orioles since 2008 because of Adam Jones. Getting to watch a team and players I am familiar with over the years get to that position in the season that the O’s just had was amazing. It was overwhelming to be able to watch these games with the kind of hope one has that one’s team might actually make it to the  World Series, for real, because they are playing so well. And I can’t act like I’ve been there before, because I haven’t. It was, dare I pull a cliche’, sort of magical. After having this experience, I think that if the Mariners were in the thing up until the end, I might actually lose my mind. I want that experience, but I’m not sure if I could handle it. It is too awesome and too horrific to think of the stakes being that high. But I feel like it’s not that far off, so I’ll get my prescription heart medication and wait…

I do love baseball.

So I woke up this morning and, after realizing that I was too sick to be around other people and called in sick to work, saw this Tweet from Craig Calcaterra, who has been following the series  while writing about it for Hardball Talk. And I realized that it’s over. Baseball is over this year. I am stuck in the momentum though; surely there must be another game coming? Today is just a Thursday break and then tomorrow we start another series, right? RIGHT?!?

No, we do not. What a terrible way to end such a great season.


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Monday Baseball Odds And Ends

Baseball in 2014 was over for me when the Orioles got booted unceremoniously from the playoffs in a four-game sweep by the Kansas City Royals, a team I can neither really bring myself to care about or dislike; but now I can’t bring myself to like them, either, Jason Vargas or not, because they have robbed me of enjoying the World Series. So now they will fall solidly under the mantle of teams that I still don’t feel I should be paying much attention to, but regard with a higher degree of distaste than I had at this time last year. I knew the Mariners were never going to make it, but the Orioles had a chance. All I can do now is be thankful to all the teams I follow in the AL this year (Tigers included) for a really good baseball season. From Opening Day here in Seattle, to finally getting to travel east to see the Phillies and O’s in their natural habitat, to the gonna-have-a-heart-attack end of the Mariners’ summer, and then the playoffs with the Orioles facing the Tigers (who I had fully planned to support, had the outcome of that series been different), baseball has been very good to me.

There was a tiny dust-up on Twitter a little over a week ago regarding this Ryan Divish article on Michael Saunders and an issue I hope begins and ends with the article itself. Surely, I don’t have access to anything behind the scenes, and I don’t have any idea what Saunders does to prepare himself for a game. But I do know that none of this is any of my business, unless Saunders has other issues that make him a clubhouse poison, and so far I haven’t seen any evidence of that, and I don’t think anyone else has, either. Physical conditioning and training should be a matter between the player, coaches, and the team. It is not something that needs to be brought out into the public eye (one could make the argument for reports on injury rehabilitation, of course, but this was handled badly). The organization may be alright with throwing Saunders under the bus within earshot of the public, but this is just as damning to the organization itself; isn’t part of a ball club’s job and the work of its employees to keep the players fit and well so they can play? Saunders spending more time in the weight room is mentioned as a possible reason for him being so injury-prone during the season. So…make him go in the weight room; don’t tell the press he’s not doing it, do your job and have your professional property do his job to prepare himself for the games you’re paying him to play. I really don’t like when things like this come out. It makes the club look like it doesn’t have itself together, and it takes the sheen off what was otherwise a fantastic string of 162 games. I don’t think that public shaming is really the way to handle a lack of activity in the weight room (if that is indeed what they believe the problem to be). Take care of this in-house.

On to happier news…the Mariners came out over .500 this year, and I am making good on my promise to get a Mariners-related tattoo. They have to win bigger to get an actual team logo (I need a good reason to become a billboard, thank you very much), so I have designed something that goes with my general aesthetic, and my appointment to have it done is on November 7th. Pictures will of course be posted when it is finished, though I have posted the draft of the design on Twitter (not enough time during lunch to look it up today, sadly). So in a few weeks, the deed will be done!

So the World Series start tomorrow at Kauffman Stadium, with the Giants paying the Royals a visit for the first two games (go, Giants, go!), and I start to pick up the pieces of the year and wonder what the 2015 tour has in store for us. Not a lot of Mariners news has been coming into my inbox from The Times, and I haven’t had enough time in my day to check all the blogs to see if there is much going on that hasn’t been pushed through the news filter, so I may be woefully behind on what counts as news for the Ms these days, outside of Taijuan Walker’s starts in the Arizona Fall League, before he went home just the other day. Two starts sees him very agreeable, and apparently that was all the organization wanted from him before giving him a well-deserved  break. I really hope that he is not – as has been tossed around on local radio – going to be a trade chip. I feel like we have a prize here, and we need to hold onto it; but I also know that we still need to bolster our offense, still, and Jack Z and company might run into a deal they can’t refuse. I just hope it’s better than the plan they envisioned with Kendrys Morales. Please, let’s not take that train again. We are getting better, though. It feels like there is finally a little bit of hope for the Seattle Mariners.

 

 


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Some Research on Traveling Baseball Teams

It’s well documented that the Mariners travel more than any other big-league team. We hear about this often in discussions in the offseason when looking at free agents and how Seattle has to overpay for players, and we’ve heard this in the discussion about the September swoon on the M’s final road trip. I had to wonder, though, if it could be proven that the long road trip actually was the culprit.

The question then is, well, how do you measure the influence of travel on a team?

At first, I took a look at the Mariners record for the first game after traveling between cities. This would mean the first game of any road series and the first game of any homestand. I found the M’s were 23-16 in these games (including 2-1 on the final road trip). Travel, in and of itself, didn’t seem to mean much – the M’s also outscored their opponents 174-139 in this subset of games.

So I tried taking a bit of a Mythbusters approach. Under what circumstances would travel actually be hard for a team?

I searched through the Mariners calendar and found a handful of cross-country trips. Surely, if there were going to be complications with travel, they’d occur on the first game after traveling more than 2,000 miles. The Mariners were 4-3 when traveling 2,000 miles to meet their opponents. Huh.

Okay, so how else can we stack the deck? I took my list of games again and determined whether or not the team had an off day prior to the trip or not. The Mariners were 3-0 in games after an off day when they traveled 2,000 miles or more to get there. Looks like we’ve got something (of course, this means they were 1-3 without the off day).

It took me a while, but I started indexing the number of miles between teams, taking care to log the Angels as “Anaheim” rather than “Los Angeles” and the Rays as “St. Petersburg” instead of “Tampa Bay,” though I also set the San Francisco and Oakland distances to be the same on the assumption that teams fly into SFO to play Oakland. Both Chicago teams were assumed the same mileage as well as the New York teams.

All in all, I found 78 total games where one team flew basically cross-country to meet the other. A few of these were games where both teams actually traveled 2,000 miles (San Francisco at the Dodgers on May 8, Detroit at Oakland on May 26, Toronto at Oakland on July 3, Dodgers at San Francisco at July 25, Angels at Baltimore on July 29, and the Mets at Oakland on August 19). Sixteen of the games were in the middle of road trips (teams in those games were 8-8). I indexed them for days off or no day off, and here’s what I got:

Without a day off, teams went 16-23, scoring 126 runs and allowing 153. Nine of the games were decided by one run, and the team that had traveled went 4-5.

With a day off, teams went 23-16, scoring 184 runs and allowing 154. Twelve of the games were decided by one run, and the team that had traveled went 6-6. Funny that it’s the reverse of the other, and it’s the exact same number of games, and it doesn’t look to be influenced heavily by luck.

Six teams faced long-haul travelers five times or more. Oakland went 9-0 in these contests, and the Mariners went 4-2. Atlanta and the Yankees each went 2-3.

But what does it mean? I’m not entirely sure. It does seem like having a day off to travel seems to help, but we’re still not talking about a very large sample size. Certainly nothing large enough to draw meaningful conclusions, but maybe it’s something to keep an eye on.

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