The Bear Shadow Returns, And HoLLiday Party Tonight

The big news from last week is the return of Hisashi Iwakuma, after a failed physical left him undesirable to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is a familiar scenario, given the way the Mariners got him the first time, after he failed his physical with Oakland. Kuma says he’s happy to be back, and while it’s probably a bit of an embarrassment to have to come back here after he declined our initial offer, it looks like he will still be getting paid a fair amount, and the contract offer we settled on with him also works out in the team’s favor, what with options and a less money than the Dodgers were going to pay (but more than we had originally offered, depending on how he does year by year). It all works out; fans of Iwakuma’s like myself get to have him back for at least a year if not more, Iwakuma gets to continue working in a city that adores him, and doesn’t have to move his family to Los Angeles, everyone’s happy. Our rotation is now completely complete, per Jerry Dipoto, and that suits me just fine. Tijuan Walker was also apparently pretty happy about it:

walkerSteve Cishek was also acquired recently, which is both good and bad. Cishek will compete with Joaquin Benoit for the closer job in spring training, per Shannon Drayer, and I am hoping that regardless of who gets it, they will both stay in the bullpen as relievers. I saw Cishek in person in both Philadelphia and DC last year, and while I love the sidearm craziness, he did not really impress in those games; in fact, the Marlins lost both of them; if I remember correctly, Cishek was used as short relief in DC and as a closer in Philly, where he failed the save. Seattle fan reaction seemed fairly tepid when the acquisition occurred, and Cishek had problems this season, so I don’t know what to think, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens with him. If nothing else, we have some interesting arms in the bullpen this year.

Other than that, not much has happened with Seattle baseball over the past few days. Tonight is the Lookout Landing HoLLiday Party at Mollusk, the new version of Gastropod, where Epic Ales is now brewed and the food trends towards Indonesian fusion experimental (which is a thing I just made up to describe it). The space look good for a large group, and the beer and company should be excellent. Unfortunately this has to be a very short post, my work is having massive slowdowns with pretty much the entire system today, but I wanted to take a second to acknowledge that Iwakuma is not lost to us, and I see that as a positive. Hope to see some of you at Mollusk tonight!

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Mariners Make More Decisions, Random Bits

It’s still stormy in Seattle, and the Mariners are still busy rearranging their roster for 2016.

Today’s action is the finalization of the Adam Lind trade. We get a replacement for Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison, and the Milwaukee Brewers get minor league pitchers Carlos Herrera, Freddy Peralta, and Daniel Missaki. The speculation is that we are going to use Lind in a platoon with either Jesus Montero or possibly an as-yet-unnamed first baseman. Lind’s numbers against left handed pitching are OK-ish, but he is apparently a powerhouse against righties, with a line of .293/.354/.509. Mike Napoli has also been mentioned in conjunction with the Ms, which wouldn’t bother me at all. With Mike Zunino’s hitting still suffering, we have Chris Iannetta, Jesus Sucre and Steve Clevenger to choose from at backstop, and Napoli (I just rediscovered) has apparently been spending some time at 1B (“It’s incredibly hard“), and I just don’t know if Montero’s performance is improved enough to be a serious contender for a position at the bag. Dipoto seems intent on overhauling everything, and I barely recognize our roster anymore. Also, I like Mike Napoli since he left Anaheim, so there’s that.

Other players we have obtained, of course, that I haven’t addressed are Justin De Fratus (reliever), Nori Aoki (OF), and then Steve Clevenger, who we swapped straight across for Mark Trumbo with the Baltimore Orioles. I like those sorts of trades, as it means, in my head, that “I” get to “keep” the players in question. But really, the only thing I know or have had time to find out about any of these guys is that Aoki is a bit of an injury risk but otherwise good outfielder. I am slowly getting back into things with the new phone and push notifications from various baseball sites. I really want to work on not being Seattle’s laziest Mariners blogger; my job makes it difficult, and I am still quite thankful I am not being paid.

Spring training tickets have gone on sale for those of us who are subscribed to Mariners Mail. Some year I will go to that, maybe, but for now, I need to concentrate on getting to the various major league ballparks as I have the time, money, and places to stay. I wound up grabbing some sort of multi-page leaflet at last year’s FanFest, curious about costs and hotels and such. The leaflet was put together from the assumption that the person reading it is literally made of cash, so I’m afraid it will be an expense I will be putting on hold. And honestly, if I die without ever seeing Mariners stretching and running drills in the sun in March, I will be OK with that; but I have to get in the big stadiums while I can. In any event, if you’re not subscribed to Mariners Mail, and spring training is your jam, tickets go on sale to the general public this Saturday the 12th. The training schedule has already been announced, of course.

As for things I have more knowledge of, my trip to Denver to go to Coors Field is pretty much a done deal. Plane tickets have been purchased, and now it is just a matter of whether or not I want to try and make the daytime game against the Diamondbacks the day I would be arriving (which would mean going straight from the airport to the stadium), or two slightly-more-relaxed-time-wise Mets games over the following weekend. I am going to be able to cross off a line on the baseball bucket list by getting some tickets in the mile-high row. Yep, it’s touristy, and nope, I do not care. This will be an easy trip, as I will not be having to pay for any hotels, nor will I have to go from city to city like in 2014. Two games at Coors Field, and some time spent with friends I haven’t seen in many years. Not too shabby.

 

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Mariners Do Stuff, It’s Snowing On WordPress

So much has been going on over the past 7 days and I have had no time at all to say anything about it in-depth. I’ve had more effective commentary on Twitter during my bus rides home during the past week than I’ve been able to put in this space.

So, so many things, but I am limited on time so this will likely be a shorter post…

The player to be named later in the Leonys Martin trade was Patrick Kivlehan. This caused what I interpreted at the time to be mixed reactions by various fans. I myself have no opinion on the matter. Kivelehan had a pretty quick rise through the minors to spend 2015 in Tacoma, and while he seemed to have some potential there in 518 plate appearances with a .256/.313/.453 line, apparently Jerry Dipoto doesn’t think so, so away Mr Kivlehan goes to Texas. Curiosity tells me I should have wanted Kivlehan to stay and see some action in Seattle, but unfamiliarity tells me that I should just be OK with this move, suck it up, and move on. Only time will tell which reaction will be the right one.

Dipoto’s been doing a lot of housecleaning though, making a recent move that I really don’t like, which is the trade for Hisashi Iwakuma to the Dodgers. While the Dodgers have been great in recent years and Iwakuma might have the chance to see some post-season action (and for that I am happy for him), I also would prefer to have just kept Iwakuma, in spite of his struggles. Late season ballet-foot inconsistency aside, I would have really liked to see him come back in 2016, and I feel like he had a good chance to do that. I don’t think that Iwakuma will miss us, however, as he turned down an offer of some $15 million to go to Los Angeles. Dipoto is said to have made the signing of Kuma a priority, but one has to wonder how much of a priority it was, as it doesn’t sound like we put up much of a fight there. Either that or the Dodgers’ offer of 3 years and $45 million was simply a better option. I don’t know much about Kuma’s life outside the game; he may have family down there, or he may just want – like pretty much all athletes – to get paid. I can’t fault him, but I will miss him. A lot.

Iwakuma has already been replaced by Wade Miley, as Dipoto touched down in the Winter Meetings in Nashville seemingly before his plane did. Miley comes with reliever Jonathan Aro , who I am not at all familiar with; but the price for this move is also high. Carson Smith goes to the Red Sox, which really bums me out more than I can properly communicate right now. Smith was our resident weirdo arm, and I wanted to see more of him here. Miley is younger and cheaper than Iwakuma, and does not have the same injury history. He also has a history with the GM, from his earliest days in the Arizona Diamondback system, and from what I understand is the type of pitcher that will fare well in a larger park with damp weather  like Safeco. We need a guy to be in our rotation, we got a guy Jerry Dipoto is familiar with to be in our rotation; as with a lot of deals made, I am simultaneously sad and excited to see what these new guys will have to offer and how things will shape up for 2016.

There have been other things done, but maybe I will have to save them for tomorrow, as I am running out of time today.  I changed phone carriers recently, and was made to get a higher grade of phone than I had originally wanted. The bad bit of this is the learning curve, but the good part is that there is more memory and therefore I can start using my baseball applications again (my previous phone was having a lot of problems) so my ability to stay on top of news might increase to where it used to be before the 2014 season, even. Oh, look, it’s telling me that John Lackey has signed a two-year deal with the Cubs. Good for him. More tomorrow. Or the next day. It all depends on how much work I can take care of in the morning. For now, I am bracing myself to witness our new GM’s slash-and-burn of the roster. The week is still young, friends!

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2016 AquaSox Coaching Staff Named

I have not had two minutes to rub together this week, so even though the Mariners have been making moves, I haven’t had much time to research, read about, or write about them.   So here’s some news from our baby Mariners up north, as they have decided their coaching staff for the 2017 season.

EVERETT, Wash. -The Everett AquaSox have announced the return of Rob Mummau as manager of the team for 2016. Hitting Coach Brian Hunter will be back for his second season, while former minor league pitcher Moises Hernandez will serve as pitching coach. Head Athletic Trainer Shane Zdebiak rounds out the staff.

In three seasons at the helm in Everett (2012-13, 2015) Rob Mummau piloted the club to a record of 132-86, including two first half division championships, two second half division championships and three playoff appearances. Mummau is a two-time Northwest League Manager of the Year, being recognized in 2013 and 2015. Since 2001, Rob has been a member of the Mariners scouting staff, and is currently responsible for northern Florida.

“We are very excited to have Rob Mummau and his staff back in Everett for the 2016,” stated AquaSox General Manager Danny Tetzlaff. “I have worked with many managers over the years and I can say that Rob is absolutely a class act. It has been a pleasure to work with him – he is one of the best!”

Moises Hernandez will begin his coaching career with the AquaSox in 2016. As a right-handed pitcher, he spent 11 seasons in the minor leagues in the Baltimore (2003-05), Atlanta (2006-09) and Seattle (2011-15) organizations, finishing his career with Double-A Jackson earlier this year. In 272 career minor league games (76 starts) he compiled a record of 37-47 and a 5.05 ERA. Hernandez is the older brother of former AquaSox and current Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.

Former major league outfielder Brian Hunter returns for his second season as the AquaSox hitting coach. Under Hunter’s tutelage, the AquaSox scored a league high 392 runs (5.2 per game) in 2015. Hunter was in the majors for 10 seasons with stops in Houston, Detroit, Seattle, Colorado, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. He led the American League in stolen bases twice (1997, 1999) and compiled a lifetime batting average of .264.

Head Athletic Trainer Shane Zdediak is back for his third season in the Northwest League. Zdebiak graduated from University of Manitoba in 2009 with a B.A. in Kinesiology and was certified through the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification.

The 2016 Northwest League season is scheduled to begin June 17.

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Mariners Random Thought Thanksgiving, And An Ode to Tom Wilhelmsen

First of all, Nathan Bishop at Lookout Landing wrote a fantastic Thanksgiving post here. It is, like any sort of humor on a very specific topic, far more funny if you’re familiar with the members of the team and their skills and personality makeup, but I am, so it’s hilarious. I often wish I was half as talented or prolific as the good writers at Lookout Landing. May they all have a good holiday, and not feel the need to do squats. Also, hopefully James Paxton will finally get some pie. I know Nathan is likely already on beer duty.

I just realized that I waited so long to comment on an article from the Seattle Times about Brad Miller’s transition from shortstop to outfielder, I no longer have to comment on it.

The Mariners acquired Leonys Martin and Anthony Bass in a trade with Texas that sent Tom Wilhelmsen and James Jones and a PTBNL (grab bag player!) to the Rangers. I can say more about one side of this than I can the other. I don’t know Leonys Martin or Anthony Bass. I literally just read this post about the trade, and it doesn’t necessarily engender confidence. OK, great, Jerry Dipoto found a guy whose contract we don’t have to deal with on the cheap. A 27 year old guy with injury problems; I’m not convinced anyone would have to pay high for that, so this doesn’t feel like much of a feat, but I could be wrong, and I hope I am. The second thing he found was a right handed pitcher who had 33 relief appearances last year, and allowed 32 runs over the course of 64 innings. He struck out 45 batters, which is great and all, but .500 in runs/innings doesn’t seem like a place the Mariners really want to be. Anyway, Martin is a center fielder who is apparently very aggressive about it, and that is great, rah rah defense; but our problem is still hitting, and it will continue to be hitting until it’s not anymore. 2014 seems to have been Martin’s best year in his short major league career, so if he can return to that, then great.  But Martin’s injuries are in his hands. And hands are important for baseball. Sort your hands, Leonys. We need them. He is projected by Steamer to have a 1.2 WAR in 2016, so if he can further take care of that wrist and stay away from basketball, gymnastics, and mountain climbing during the offseason, maybe this isn’t as bad as I’m feeling about it right now.

James Jones had flashy moments of flashy brilliance, and he was fun to watch steal bases because opposing teams never seemed to be expecting it, even if they surely had to have known he was going to do it; but Nathan is right in the link above; he just wasn’t delivering offensively, and that’s a problem with the manager keeps sticking you in the leadoff spot after a draught in team production in the early middle of the season has caused a severe nosedive towards any sort of playoff possibilities. I do hope he does well for himself; like Nathan said, he is fun to root for, and it would have been easy to nickname James “The Flash” Jones. You’re welcome, all other teams Jones might be on. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

But Tom Wilhelmsen. I was going to say what can anyone say that hasn’t already been said about Tom Wilhelmsen, but then I realized; there is nothing to say, because there is no need to say it. Any Mariners fan knows Wilhelmsen’s skill and character. He was one of a small group of players to consistently show up to FanFest and sit in the cold outside – usually proudly walking up to the Dugout Dialogue with Turn Down for What blaring over the PA, and wearing a beard hat – and take questions from fans until he ran out of time. He hung out with fans at the Ms social media booth; several people I’m acquainted with had their pictures taken with him, and it always looked like he was the one holding the camera. He made faces, he laughed and joked with people, he signed autographs for just about anyone while he was here, he danced like a fiend (and will do it for an audience at the drop of a hat), and if there was ever such a thing as a player I regret not getting an autograph from or trying to talk to, it’s him. In the short time I’ve been a baseball fan, there have been a lot of players come and gone through Seattle while we try and find our winning combination, but Tommy was and is special. He didn’t hide from fans, he seemed to welcome them. He wasn’t a big money guy. He was always in the yearly commercials (and his and Charlie Furbush’s friendship, whether manufactured or not, was amazing). He seemed down for anything and everything in and surrounding the game of baseball. And when it came time to get out on the mound and throw, he threw. He threw fast, and he threw hard, and he threw filthy. And then he’d high five Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre, or John Jaso, or whomever else, and then he’d dance some more before signing more autographs. He’s been a steadfast fixture in the Mariners bullpen for a while now, and helped the trend in the team towards wearing high socks (a trend that I think those of us who now own pairs of those high socks appreciate). But most of all, he was real. And that is why I will miss him. I want to say they’ll never love you like we do in Texas, Tommy, but I hope I’m wrong. Go get ’em. We’re gonna miss you like hell.

Lastly, my long national nightmare is slowly coming to an end, in that JJ T Putz, my fat orange cat, came swimmingly out of surgery two weekends ago, and has been having a good recovery. His shame helmet comes off next Tuesday, and the surgical site looks good and has been looking better day by day. He will live a long happy life, and maybe that, above all else, is what I have to be thankful for today. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it, and happy Thursday to those who don’t or can’t. Cheers, everyone! Winter meetings are coming!

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Australia’s National Anthem vs Hiccups

I am trying to organize some things for an actual post soon, but in the meantime, check out this little guy singing the Australian National Anthem before a game between the Adelaide Bite and the Brisbane Bandits while battling a mean case of the hiccups.

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The Mariners Did Some Things Last Week

I am spending this very Seattle day indoors watching the last bits of the Packers/ Panthers game.* Might give other games some thought, but after the week I’ve had, I think I’d prefer to just shut down and watch the South Park marathon currently happening on another channel. I’ve spent my week sick, and overtaxed. My cat JJ (yes, named after that JJ) was in the ER for two days with bladder problems, and that ultimately means that I can no longer fork out a downpayment to keep my season tickets with the Ms; there simply isn’t enough money left after the debt I am now in over his medical bill. This is fine, as we have to do what we have to do as responsible pet owners, but it completely takes the wind out of my sails for heading to a pub for lunch to watch football. Home is cheaper and less noisy.

The Mariners, meanwhile, were busy while I was trying to avert crisis. We have sent Logan Morrison back to Florida, and he is taking Danny Farquhar and Brad Miller with him. My initial reaction was to be disapponted in the move, because Morrison was a player I started out not liking as a personality. He was a fair to middling player acquired during a time where we needed one that was much better, and his online antics made me wonder if Seattle was really the right fit for him. But he grew on me after a bit, and when he had his moments, they were great and a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, those moments were not frequent enough for Jerry Dipoto to keep him around (or for us as fans wanting to see some more runs put up to want that to happen), and after my initial shock, I warmed up to the idea. I like the concept of an everyday first baseman. It seems like forever since the team has had someone at first who was truly worth keeping there. Since 2008, our first basemen have been:

  • Miguel Cairo
  • Tug Hulett
  • Richie Sexson
  • Mike Carp
  • Mike Sweeney
  • Russell Branyan
  • Justin Smoak
  • Alex Liddi
  • Nick Franklin
  • Kendrys Morales
  • Jesus Montero

There are other bench players I am sure I am missing, but that’s not really an all-star list, is it? In return for these three, we got back RHP Nate Karns, reliever CJ Riefenhauser, and some kid named Boog Powell who has nothing to do with the ex-Oriole Boog Powell, but who is apparently ranked 13 in the list of Tampa Rays prospects, so we have that going for us. Powell spent 56 games at the triple A level last year, after playing 61 games in double A. He is 22 years old and Steamer projects him to improve next year, so he might be fun to watch come up, though I really hope they don’t rush him (which will also be a point of interest as far as how Dipoto handles our minors). I should probably get down to Tacoma at least once in 2016, unless of course the team sticks him at double A. He will be getting an inviation to Spring Training, though, so at the very least I might be able to check him out on TV or radio.

The general consensus seems to be that this move was a good one, and I can’t say I disagree. I feel awful about Brad Miller; he was one of the guys I really liked here, and I had hoped he would improve and thrive here, and he may do well with the Rays, but he’s 26 now, and probably should have spent more time in triple A before being moved up here; I don’t think his short stint with the Rainiers was really long enough to get a full idea of who he is as a player. I am hoping he makes a nice utility guy with the Rays; he’s a likeable guy and I wish him luck. As for CJ Riefenhauser, I’m going to leave that to the upcoming season. He’ll be 26 years old by the time the season starts, and he has spent just about his entire baseball career in the Rays minor leagues. His numbers are difficult for me to gauge, because my understanding of pitching metrics is light, and the fact that he’s a reliever makes it even more difficult. I’m guessing he’ll spend time between here and Tacoma next year, but I’m not sure I see a 26 year old reliever with a 6.27 FIP being a regular in our bullpen. Stranger things have happened, though.

I feel like Nate Karns is the gem in the bunch. He’ll be 27 by April, and while he hasn’t spent much time in the majors, he is being looked at as a back-of-the-rotation starter, probably anywhere from 3-5 depending on injuries and whatever else. Per Nathan from Lookout Landing, he is under team control for the next five years, so if this doesn’t work out, it’s not like we have a bunch of red tape to wade through to get ourselves out of it. He is fresh out of his rookie season, and I am keen to see what he can do.

The name Byung-ho Park has also been floating around. Park is a player in the Korean League, on a team called Nexen Heroes. I am going to be the first to admit that the amount of knowledge I have about the KBO could fit in maybe half a thimble. In fact, I know more about British baseball than I do about Korean baseball, and Korean players are actually sought after by MLB teams. The Heroes accepted a bid for MLB teams to even start to speak with Park about a deal; the bid winner is still a mystery, but the Mariners have not been ruled out. The winning team has 30 days to nail down a deal with Park, and if they don’t, then the Heroes lose the money and the bidding team goes back to square one. Park is, of course, a first baseman. There have been a number of Korean players in MLB, but there are issues with how stats in Korea equate to professional baseball here. I got into a discussion earlier today on Twitter with Alex from Seattle Sportsnet regarding the hype around Park and how it’s not as easy to measure the Korean metrics as it is Japanese metrics, since we deal with Japan more frequently in trades. Park’s statistics are at BaseballReference.com , and while I am in no way taking those numbers at face value, I feel I need to point it out that a lot of people doubted Yu Darvish when he came over here as well, and yet he has shown up as advertised. Does that mean Park will as well? Of course not; but the basic (very basic, yes) numbers in KBO look good, and if he is obtained at a sensible price, why not check him out?

All of this might be moot anyway, because nobody knows who is talking to whom. But I have to say, Jerry Dipoto has started the offseason with a bang. I am looking forward to seeing what else he is able and willing to do.

*Game is very over and was very terrible as this is actually posted.

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