- Watching two favorite teams play each other in delay and having a glass of sparkling wine, to top off a very busy week. #Orioles #Phillies 4 hours ago
- "Ruptured biceps". OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!! mlb.mlb.com/news/article.j… 16 hours ago
- Fridays at Safeco wp.me/pkDSr-1Ud 18 hours ago
- Epiphany this morning; if @seattletimes had JUST a printed sports section, I would totally get a subscription. 1 day ago
- Plans for Fenway in 2015 starting to form. All I need is some money and some time. 2 days ago
Pushing a Giant Baseball Up a Hill and Watching It Roll Back Down Since 2008
January 9, 2014Posted by on
My mom taught me how to keep score at Mariners games in the Kingdome in the ’90s using the dollar scorecards that you can buy from the team. Somehow, despite all odds, they’ve been untouched by inflation; you can still buy those scorecards from the team for a dollar. However, my understanding of baseball has grown so much since then that it just can’t be captured in the small boxes those cards have to offer.
After spending years reading articles at USS Mariner, Lookout Landing, and Fangraphs, just making note of the conclusion of a play just doesn’t do it much for me anymore. Many scorecards these days also include a small pitch-count indicator, usually a set of two boxes for strikes above three boxes for balls like the Grand Salami’s scorecard does, and that’s a start, but it still didn’t satisfy me, so I started working on my own design.
My scorecard may take a minute to explain to most people due to its complication, but I’ve also given myself enough space for nuance and detail. Instead of the regular 10 innings that most scorecards offer, mine go past 11 all the way to 13. I can also keep a pitch count for a 12-pitch at bat and not get cramped. I like having this level of detail so I can call out information as we get to the later innings like they might recall on TV or Radio.
As an example, I framed the scorecard I kept for Felix’s Perfect Game. Based on all the information I take, I can tell you that Felix struck out the side in the 8th against Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Peña with 13 pitches, just three balls, two fouls, and six swinging strikes including all three strike-threes.
John Jaso famously said at the end of that game that he had a good idea of Tampa Bay’s game plan against Felix, saying that they weren’t going to try to hang around into deep counts. Sure enough, of the 24 pitches Felix threw his first time through the Rays order only four went into the book as called strikes, with two fouls, three swings and misses, and seven balls put into play. One of those called strikes was a 3-0 pitch to Zobrist, too (one of three 3-ball counts the entire game, I might add). In total, seven Rays swung at the first pitch of their at-bats, including four of the first nine. That’s more detailed information than you’re going to get off of Retrosheet or the Baseball Reference Play Index, and I have this information on-the-fly at the game.
Logging information like this keeps me paying attention to every pitch and can make the game more interesting as trends start to emerge during play. While Safeco Field’s LED ribbon on the façade of the second level will tell you a pitcher’s balls and strikes, as well as his first-pitch record for the game, that information is somewhat limited in its predictive power. Keeping track of pitches like I do is my way of measuring if a pitcher has his “stuff,” if he’s getting batters to swing and miss. I don’t get a really good idea if a breaking ball is biting from 400-plus feet away in the right-center-field seats, but logging swinging strikes can certainly tell me if a pitcher has been effective in this outing.
The scorecard also serves as an interesting interaction piece with other fans. Those who are around me but don’t know what I’m doing do ask from time to time what this page I’m working on is all about. I can also refer to it when interacting with opposing fans and get a quick retort to any heckling or use it to help educate newer fans or people who don’t have a good handle on understanding of the nuance of the game. Let’s face it; baseball games are three-hour marathons for people who aren’t as into it. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have Hat Tricks and Hydro Races. By paying close attention to the game and keeping score, I may be able to turn fans attention to a crucial moment on the field or let them know that an interesting or unusual event just took place like a swing and a miss by a guy with a high contact rate like Dustin Pedroia.
I keep my scorecard in .pdf format, and if watching sometimes awful baseball intently and trying to avoid bathroom breaks sounds fun to you, I’ve be happy to send a copy your way and explain the unusual features about my design if you’d like a little help.
January 4, 2014Posted by on
I was in a salon last night for an unholy amount of time and didn’t get in until it was literally past my bedtime, so I was not able to set up a post earlier today like I would have wanted, but here we are, back again with this feature. I am on my way to figure out my Friday night, so this will be a short one, but here are three pictures from the 2013 season that were never shared here last year, and might hopefully transport you – at least mentally – to Spring.
Tom Wilhelmsen, closing things out. I have no idea where I was sitting for this one, since my regular season seats were in left field again last year, and this photo was clearly taken at night with the stadium lights on. I have no story behind this one at all. Just The Bartender, doing what he does.
I didn’t really pay much attention to the bullpen this last year again. Since a game ending at 10PM puts me at home around 10.30, and then I can’t unwind until probably around 11 and have to be up at 5AM, I couldn’t really focus on any one thing. I counted myself lucky just to be at a game last year. But I do remember taking this picture while a woman in back of me asked her husband what the suitcase was for. When he faltered in a response, I turned around and explained the bullpen rookie situation. He didn’t look terribly amused to have me show him up, but by the time I realized what I had done it was too late. I guess some people don’t enjoy talking with their seatmates, but that person is not me.
All pitchers, all the time! Brandon Maurer warms up for a start early in the season. That poor guy. I had so many hopes for him after Spring Training. I really wanted him to blow people away. Maybe there is hope for him this year. He’s currently on the 40-man, but I’d imagine he will still have to fight for his spot again. I’d really like to see him do well.
So there you have it, the first reinstatement of this feature. Happy Friday, everyone!
December 31, 2013Posted by on
Hey, all, a quick note…
Just wanted to wish those of you who have stuck with me here over the year and those of you who are just joining the “fun” in progress a safe and happy New Year’s Eve celebration this evening. I personally am having a handful of people over to eat, drink, and watch bad movies, and staying away from driving or noisy bars, and Amateur Night. I can’t do the bar thing unless there is a really special event occurring, and it’s been a while since that has happened. I’m good with it though; staying home or at a friend’s house is considerably safer and saner, for sure.
I am definitely ready to say goodbye to 2013. It’s been a hard year for baseball and a bit of a strain on me personally. Money’s been tight, my health got really iffy back in January and then again at the end of September, I lost a cat that I’d had since she was a kitten to old age back in October, and while some of my favorite teams made it at least as far as parts of the playoffs, the Mariners spent 2013 being awful, and the Orioles and Tigers tanked it up toward the end of the year, leaving me with a World Series that I just really didn’t care about.
This year is going to bring a lot of baseball fun with it. I am hoping to get more prolific at writing here again (with Daniel helping out from time to time, the space itself will at least be a little more active), FanFest is right around the corner, then the SuperBowl, then only a few short weeks from that, pitchers and catchers report, then Spring Training, and then Opening Day, and a visit to the east coast for me, complete with more pictures and reports from two of the other teams I back which I am looking forward to just about more than anything that might happen this year! And more Mariners baseball with Robinson Cano, and Felix, and, what the heck, even Willie Bloomquist. I can smell the grass and feel the sun already. There are also plans to bring back Fridays at Safeco, starting this week; I have a lot to share photo-wise, since I had so little time to write last year. I still take the camera every time I go to a ball game, and I still go pretty nuts with it, so I have quite a backlog of pictures that should probably be posted. We’ll start up again 3 photos at a time on the 3rd.
So this is me wishing you a very happy new year. Stay safe and well tonight, and raise a glass to better and more baseball ahead. Cheers, everyone!
December 31, 2013Posted by on
If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need me to convince you that baseball is better than football, but I feel compelled to write again, so you’re going to get it.
I’m a Seattleite born and raised, and I follow all of Seattle’s teams to a degree probably equal to your average sports fan, but I watched the Seahawks game this last Sunday versus St. Louis and I just found it unwatchable. In fact, I turned to my computer, Fangraphs, and Microsoft Excel to begin my annual Fantasy Baseball spreadsheet more than three months in advance of the season. I know nobody cares about my fantasy team, so I’ll spare you the details, but it was somewhat arduous as I tried to make sure all of the Gonzálezes, Ramírezes, and Martínezes were consistent with their accent marks across different worksheets.
I’ve got to say, though, that the Seahawks game was even more arduous, as Rams players repeatedly spent the time between plays up in the faces of Seahawks players and penalty flags littered the field. I’m sure your Twitter feed blew up like mine did when referees announced that the Rams four penalties on one play were offset by a single Seahawks penalty. It seemed every play, even those that weren’t penalized, ended with a St. Louis Ram jawing at a Seahawk in effort to intimidate the home side, saying words we couldn’t decipher due to the facemasks on the players.
But if we read between the lines of Golden Tate’s taunt from the Seahawks win in St. Louis earlier this season, Carolina Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith’s commentary about the Rams secondary after their game, and the up-in-your-face demeanor of the Rams last Sunday, it looks like the team wanted to spend more time talking than playing. At least Seattle icon Gary Payton backed up his talk with actual game.
Baseball’s head game, though, is generally spelled out in actions during the course of play. Diving catches can make a slumping player doubt himself, thinking, “Will I ever get another hit?” A pitcher delivers a fastball high-and-tight to play the head game, setting up a batter for the changeup low-and-away or a back-door slider. The closest you get to a situation like the Rams/Seahawks game on Sunday is like Brian McCann’s citation of unwritten rules late last season against the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez, and we rightfully decry it as silliness. If benches clear, they do so once, it’s over, players are ejected as necessary, and we go back to playing our game.
Contrast that with the Seahawks game yesterday, with the action continuing throughout the game, culminating in the ejection of Kendall Langford of the Rams. It’s not the first time a Rams player was ejected this season either; Defensive End Chris Long was ejected from their game against the Panthers as well. It is true, though, that ejections are few and far between in football where in baseball they seem somewhat commonplace, but at least if you lose your head in baseball, you usually get to come back tomorrow and try it again. When a football game goes bad, you don’t get a chance at a better one until next week.
Football is built upon such a scarcity of games that the often-slim margin between victory and defeat is enormously important. An injury or an ejection is more important to a football season than a baseball season. Missing one football game, by percentage, is equivalent to missing more than 10 baseball games. A single missed call in a game can change a season; the Chiefs’ missed field goal against the Chargers on Sunday put San Diego in and Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. The incorrect call of a dead play in the Seahawks/Rams game led to Seattle Tight End Luke Willson getting his leg hurt and carted off the field after a play later that same possession.
You lose a regular-season baseball game on a bad call, and you can usually find one somewhere else where you got one in the win column. Luck doesn’t necessarily even out, but when you play 162 games a season you can point to any number of games and opportunities you should have converted. Teams do tie records in the end, but those are cherished exceptions and crescendos to the regular season. One-game tiebreakers and short-series playoffs bring the emotional immediacy of a football game into baseball, and it’s glorious, but it’s glorious because it’s the exception, not the rule.
If you can get engrossed in footballs’ offensive formations and what play-call you should make in a certain down-and-distance combination, you can get caught up in the pitcher-batter strategy trying to figure out what the hurler is going to throw in a 2-2 count. Two on and nobody out is like a chance in the red zone. Football has its “wow” moments when one player flattens another; baseball has them when the batter launches a high, arcing, 420-foot homer. For my money, there’s nothing football has that baseball doesn’t, and not only is there more baseball, but it rules every day of the summer. That’s reason enough for me to prefer it.
December 26, 2013Posted by on
So the National Baseball Hall of Fame is going through its selection process again on the heels of a year where no player was chosen through the regular means, and it certainly seems that writers will again signal their disapproval of any player who competed at a high level in the 1990s and into the 2000s by avoiding the “Steroid Era” almost completely. Of course, this time of year also brings the annual arguments writers advance about a player being better-suited for the “Hall of Very Good,” and an increasing population of analysts who will point to numbers alone to determine a player’s worth, and it leaves me to wonder a little bit, what are they voting on, anyway?
It used to be that the Hall of Fame had certain golden landmarks that, if a player were to pass them, would surely get a plaque bearing their name put up next to Babe Ruth’s. Now, with steroid and performance enhancing drug suspicions, it’s like Home Runs vanished as an important statistic. Not only have Barry Bonds (762) and Sammy Sosa (609) not made it in, but let’s take the case of Frank Thomas. Thomas is entering his first year of eligibility, has not had any credible report against him for PEDs, and is a member of the 500 Home Run Club with 521. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen much publicity for that number from a man who is considered to be a “clean” player, despite the 500 figure being one of those golden landmarks.
Instead, the Baseball Writers have chosen to enshrine nobody in the 2013 season, and just three players in the last three years combined – Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, and Bert Blyleven. Larkin and Alomar were both middle infielders with career OPS+ values of 116, and just five combined seasons with an OPS+ above 140 out of 36 total seasons. In case you don’t follow that number closely, that 116 value falls in between the career marks of Jay Bruce and Ben Zobrist. Guys you don’t mind on your fantasy team, but not Hall-of-Fame caliber offensive players. Check in at 140 and you start seeing legitimate terrors like Vlad Guerrero, Andrew McCutchen, and Prince Fielder. Above-average offense is always nice from the middle infield but these weren’t once-in-a-generation bats that were being elected. These guys were voted in on their fielding values, too.
A lot of people might see this and say, hey, let’s just take the top players by Wins Above Replacement, enshrine them, and call it a day. I have a problem with this approach, too. One of the best parts of talking about the Hall of Fame is figuring out who’s worthy. We all get to talk about our favorite players, their defining moments, how they compare to already-honored players, and how we went to the park with our parents one day when we were kids and saw Our Guy Do Something Special. We get to share about Babe Ruth’s gregariousness, Ty Cobb being the kind of guy you don’t want to cross, Ted Williams never acknowledging his admirers at the ballpark, and Jackie Robinson’s dignity.
It’s too bad the Hall of Fame hasn’t set itself up to do this well. It seems to me that perhaps it worries so much about its numbers that it trips on the way of telling the story. Let’s use Hank Aaron’s plaque for an example:
Hit 755 home runs in 23-year career to become Majors’ all-time Homer King. Had 20 or more for 20 consecutive years, at least 30 in 15 seasons and 40 or better eight times. Also set records for Games Played (3,298), At Bats (12,364), Long Hits (1,477), Total Bases (6,856), Runs Batted In (2,297). Paced N.L. in Batting twice and Homers, Runs Batted In and Slugging Pct. four times each. Won Most Valuable Player award in N.L. in 1957.
Okay, clearly an all-time great player and inner-circle Hall of Famer, but what does that really tell you about Hammerin’ Hank? We get a lot of numbers here but nothing about his cultural impact. Nothing about how he played in the Negro Leagues. Nothing about his three Home Runs in the ’57 World Series where the then-Milwaukee Braves beat the Mantle-and-Berra Yankees. Nothing about the outward racism he faced in chasing Ruth through the 1973 and the very beginning of the ’74 season. I think the numbers tell you why a player made it, but not how, and that how can be just as important.
I never saw players like Freddie Linstrom, Kiki Cuyler, Ray Schalk, or Hoyt Wilhelm. Some of these guys I never heard of. In other cases, I don’t know how you distinguish a Cap Anson from an Eddie Collins just by looking at their numbers. I think the Hall is missing an opportunity here to talk about the importance of these players to the game, to their teams, to their cities, and to the lives of the people who watched them. Clearly, the voters think so too, because if it were all about numbers like Aaron’s plaque suggests, Bonds would have been inducted already.
Induction into the Hall of Fame is baseball’s highest individual honor. It’s an opportunity to tell the stories of players past. If we look at it less as celebrating numbers and more about celebrating stories, wouldn’t we want to tell the Curt Schilling bloody sock story with the 2004 Red Sox? Wouldn’t we want to talk about Edgar Martinez not being given a real opportunity to play Big League ball until he was 27, then hitting like one of the greatest right-handed batters in history for more than a decade? Wouldn’t we want to talk about the rise and fall (and rise again) of Mark McGwire, or the creator of a job and a statistical category like Lee Smith? Those are just four of the 17 players returning to the ballot this year, who might not make it in a sea of incredible ballplayers due to make an appearance in the next few seasons like Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Trevor Hoffman. Maybe we should make some room for these stories, too.
December 24, 2013Posted by on
So December is coming to a close, and right on schedule, my excitement for the upcoming baseball season is growing. Regardless of how I feel or don’t feel about the way the Mariners have handled the offseason so far, it’s sort of comforting to know that we are only three months away from men hitting fastballs and curveballs with sticks, and of course summer. And we’re even closer to Spring Training! One of my gifts for Christmas was a decent radio that could
But the thing I’m really looking forward to this year, the gem kicking off my baseball season, is my trip out east to see the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies. And maybe the Nationals; I’m still working that out, because technically speaking, I could get off the plane, grab my luggage, and go straight to Nationals Park. I might be a little late for the first or second innings, but it could technically be done. I could also do it the following day; an early game! But I have a lot to cram into my visit to the right coast, so things need to be balanced carefully, and a Nats game would mainly be because I’m in the area, not out of any true love for the team itself. We’ll see. My flight out is sadly a red-eye (6AM the day after the Mariners’ home opener, which I will also have to stay up to write about/pack/get maybe a smidge of sleep), and I just dealt with one of those for the holidays in the worst possible way, so it’s kind of a big decision.
To prepare myself for sucking as much joy as possible out of Camden Yards, I have been doing a small bit of research. I wanted to know how Camden compared to Safeco Field, as I was (and still am a little) concerned about having enough time for one game to see and do and eat and take pictures of everything as much as possible. To this end, there is a slight possibility that I may have to go to two games while there. Have to. Oh, the humanity! But I know more about the place now than I used to, so let me share what I have discovered.
Camden Yards is in downtown Baltimore, in the Inner Harbor area. They even have their own “official” hotel, a Sheraton about a block or two away from the field. Certain gates open two hours prior to game time, and all gates open an hour and a half prior to game time. This gives me a half hour less to take part in pre-game activities than I normally have at Safeco. I am not yet sure if this will be an issue. The gates that open earlier are on Eutaw Street, and you can take in BP from the bleachers there, or the Orioles Legends Sculpture Park, which I have a very keen interest in from a photography standpoint. I have seen a few pictures of the park from Deanna at Marinerds, on her FaceBook page, and I am very much looking forward to taking as many photos as possible. I love the art and architecture that makes stadiums unique. The site also features these suggestions for first-time visitors. A shirt?! I must obtain a shirt!
Like Safeco, Camden has multiple places of interest to obtain drinks and food; this is where I think I may run into trouble as far as having to attend more than just one game. The All-Star Cafe sounds sort of like the Diamond Club, in that it is a limited access situation for custom-made food. Boog’s BBQ is named after former first baseman Boog Powell, and occasionally he is there signing autographs; maybe a little like Edgar’s in Safeco? Dempsey’s Brewpub is a setup we don’t have in Seattle; the closest would be maybe Pyramid or Jimmy’s across the street. Dempsey’s is actually located within the field itself. I plan on drinking at least one pint there. Hopefully. Free State Pub is located near third base and provides local beers, but there’s no indication as to whether or not it is a pub in the normal definition, or merely a kiosk with beer. Don’t tell me, I’m looking forward to finding out myself! The Miller Lite Flight Deck sounds a little bit like the Lookout Landing in Safeco, but also sort of like the Hit It Here Cafe; located on the club level, but with seating if you want it, and good for groups. The Natty Boh Bar doesn’t have much of a description, aside from the fact that provides fans with local brew National Bohemian, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never had and will need to amend when I get there. The Roof Deck sits atop the batter’s eye in center field with a full service bar and standing and seating room. I like that you can do this, as we can’t in Safeco, and having viewing room above the batter’s eye would be fantastic.
Unlike Safeco Field, unopened non-alcoholic beverages are permitted to be brought in from the outside. Also unlike Safeco, no re-entry is permitted. A smoking ban went into effect as late as this past March (Safeco has of course been a non-smoking facility for years now). All other bag/camera/signage rules are pretty much the same as Safeco. Everyone gets checked, no giant signs, etc. You can of course also purchase birthday wishes for their screens in the outfield, they have a special kids area for playing in, and a few other amenities that Safeco also has.
The Orioles also have a rather curious bullpen set up. Whereas we have two open pens back to back, the O’s and their opponents warm up right next to each other. Asking around on Twitter about the pens, I got a response and photo of the area from Avi Miller of Baltimore Sports Report. Used with permission.
I know a lot of teams do this, but it just seems so open. Our bullpens still feel a little bit closed off; I think that’s due to the ceiling down in The Pen. Whatever the case, it appears that there is a lot of space to position for photography, and that makes me happy.
A pretty good picture I found via Google Images (credit in lower right corner):
You can of course see the famous B&O Warehouse over right field. That is also where Dempsey’s is located. I am planning on getting tickets in the lower bowl; if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right. I will also be getting a blank Mariners jersey lettered for the occasion, and will be wearing an O’s t-shirt under it. Hopefully the weather cooperates with my clothing plans.
Since I don’t think I will get to write over the next few days unless I have time, I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, or whatever it is everyone celebrates. I hope your time with family and/or friends this holiday season is wonderful, your food comes out perfectly, and the presents are good. Happy Holidays, everyone, from me here at Section 331.
December 15, 2013Posted by on
You may have noticed the previous post was not written by me. It was written by the usually well-dressed and always-friendly Daniel Carroll, who I hope will contribute more in weeks and months to come (ahem), and with whom I may be embarking on a future project next year – but for now you get nothing on that, I still need to do a lot of research. I am still catching up on my inbox full of Mariners news from the end of the season, so I figured I’d share some links everyone has already seen and air my big dumb opinions on them while watching the Seahawks play the NY Jets.
So Lloyd McClendon is our manager for 2014, if something doesn’t explode mid-season. As Jerry Brewer points out in that article, McClendon is a newly-former hitting coach, and that angle of things hadn’t even struck me with his hire a short while ago. But I already like McClendon, even though I have never heard him speak or read much about him, and my only knowledge of his existence prior to this was veiled, through the Detroit Tigers’ excellent (then sad, yes, I was pulling for them) post-season. I like McClendon because he is willfully walking into a situation he is already aware the public sees as pretty messed up. He’s walking into a severe lack of job security, a fanbase that is, I would say, fairly rejuvenated after the Cano move, but still maybe a bit gunshy; or maybe it’s just me? Whatever the case, I like McClendon because he is one man going up against a situation much bigger than he is, and he is coming into it with the right attitude. His admittance that he is here because of Felix Hernandez is, frankly, endearing. I hope it works.
Some former Mariners have been shuffled around so far this offseason. Jason Vargas now has a nice four-year contract with the Kansas City Royals. I am still maybe more bitter than I should be about his departure. I had my doubts about Vargas when he first started with Seattle, but he managed to fly right and became a joy to watch in very little time. And then he went away. And now he’s with a rival. For a while. And it’s not a rival we play a lot, and it’s not really a rival that I feel particularly threatened by or dislike much. Everyone’s mileage with the Royals may differ, clearly, but it’s sort of like Vargas just…disappeared. I do hope I get to see him sometime this upcoming year, whether it be on TV or at home. I miss Jason Vargas. This kind of sucks.
The picture that accompanies this article makes me pretty sad too. Look at that smiley face! Don’t you miss that face?!? I was there at Safeco for Doug Fister’s very first major league effort, closing out the 9th inning in a ridiculous loss to the Rays; it was during a LL/USSM event in the upper deck in 2009. Fister came out of the bullpen, all arms and legs, and did alright, if memory serves. He had family and friends there with signs, and everyone in our group was eager to see what he could do. From there, he just got better and better, and when he went to the Tigers in exchange for Caspar Wells, Charlie Furbush and Francisco Martinez (that all worked out super well for us, right?), I was not happy to see him go, but adding him to a roster of pitchers that included Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer made me start lightly following the Tigers as a 5th team. Now he’s with the Washington Nationals, which is going to make it much more difficult for me to keep up on him because it’s the Washington Nationals and I just don’t care. I am waffling a bit on whether or not I want to actually go to a Nationals game when I am out east next April. I feel like I should because I will be in the area, but part of me also really wants to go to two Orioles games so I can get as much taken in of Camden Yards as possible. I have a few months to make up my mind, I guess.
Meanwhile, in other Tigers news, of course Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This breaks my heart. My friend Jennifer, a die-hard college football fan, went to visit some friends in the Detroit area in 2012, and immediately fell in love with Fielder, to the point where she now owns a Tigers jersey bearing his name, and was getting into light verbal altercations with other fans around us earlier this year at an extra inning game against the Tigers (all in good fun, of course). I was hoping to have another close friend to go to games with, but now that her favorite player has been traded to a team she doesn’t like, I don’t know what is in store for the future of Jennifer and her enjoyment of the game. I mean, it’s gotten kind of difficult for me to root for Ichiro now, even though I will still enjoy watching him play, but I am fortunate enough to have already invested several years in the game itself. The thing that kills me is that she didn’t get a lot of time with Fielder in Detroit; it was as if someone gave her a nice large screen TV and then said “But you can only watch it at your ex-boyfriend’s house.” Baseball is so very unfair sometimes.
This week during the Winter Meetings, the Mariners acquired Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Those of you who follow my Twitter account or know me personally know how I feel about this already. I am not going to get political here unless things call for it, but suffice to say that bringing in someone like Morrison, who has made many fairly offensive statements on his Twitter account to a city like Seattle could prove to be a risky move for the Mariners. The Ms have been pretty good about handling such things in the past (with maybe the exception of the Josh Lueke debacle, which was a difficult river to paddle down anyway) and maybe Morrison has been given a talking-to about language and public perception. Only time will tell. I’m certainly willing to let this play out, and hope perhaps Morrison learns to think before he types about where he now, and the impact his words could have on people in this city, and the way his words might cause people to view the Seattle Mariners organization. And for now, that is all I’m going to say about that.
And that brings me all caught up with my inbox! Just in time for the holiday, and the beginning of the year, which I hope will bring some surprises to this space. Really looking forward to FanFest in January, the next month is going to be excruciatingly slow, before I can get back into Safeco Field and have some tacos at Edgar’s, watch the kids run around the bases, and sit and listen to the boys on the dugout. I think I have officially gone from the disappointment of 2013 to excitement for 2014. It’s about time.
December 10, 2013Posted by on
There’s a lot being made right now of Geoff Baker’s piece in the Seattle Times that was published online Saturday night and in print Sunday morning (which you can check out here), basically indicting Jack Zduriencik, Howard Lincoln, and Chuck Armstrong on charges of crimes against the fan with supporting quotes as evidence from recent ex-Mariners Eric Wedge and Tony Blengino. It’s certainly a change of pace to have the front office’s detractors named and on record talking about meddling management, disingenuous claims of doing the rebuild the “right way,” and the statistical and analytical acumen of the decision-makers. I can’t say how many times I saw people on Twitter Saturday night saying that the story fit their expectations of the team almost perfectly. The sentiment overall wasn’t one of surprise of the content, but that the sources who came forward did so and attached their names.
Personally speaking, I’m not sure what to make of it all. Wedge comes out and calls out Armstrong for executive meddling, and I certainly don’t have any ammunition to counter that claim, and Baker confirmed this through other sources, so I’m comfortable taking it as fact. The notion that Lincoln and Armstrong had their hands in the baseball business too much has been a fear of Mariner fans for a long, long time. There are a couple things, though, that come to mind here.
First, Mariner fans have long argued that the ownership only cares about profit and doesn’t care about winning. I think we can put that one to rest. It strikes me that the Mariners upper management is tired of losing and trying to give some direction to the coaching staff. If we take the accounts in Baker’s article to be true, they’re certainly guilty of overreacting, and if you trust Wedge, they clearly don’t know what they’re doing, but can you blame them for wanting to try?
Wedge alleges that management has not shown any patience in the plan to draft and develop, but isn’t it his job to help those players develop? While it’s too early to make any comment about Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino, the previous wave of prospects yielded more failures than successes. Consider Ackley, Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, and Michael Saunders. Of that core group, only Seager has panned out to the level you had hoped. While Saunders also improved, it’s been well documented that he went outside the organization to get assistance. If you’re Zduriencik, Armstrong, or Lincoln, I’ve got to imagine that Wedge’s calls for patience ring pretty hollow.
Then there’s Tony Blengino. In the interests of full disclosure, Tony helped me get an interview with the Mariners in the scouting department, and I had a nice conversation with him up in Everett before an Aquasox game a couple years ago when I did a season there as their game entertainment MC. Anyway, it seems pretty clear that something happened between Blengino and Zduriencik, and Blengino makes it sound like Zduriencik used it as an excuse to run him out of town.
The Baker article supports the line of thinking that Dave Cameron has been pushing over the last year that Zduriencik has become obsessed with finding home runs, and as Blengino says, “To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door.”
This wasn’t backed up by Lincoln, though, in his interview as the season ended with Ryan Divish. In his words, “When we hired Jack Zdriencik, we hired him primarily as a talent evaluator. He did not have any experience as a general manager, so he’s had to learn on the job.” Baker, too, argued against the notion that Zduriencik has become power-bat-only in this article from September. The General Manager also commented to the Bob & Groz show about his plan of attack for this offseason, saying, that while he would of course like to add offense and pitching, “[He’d also] like to get back to what we were originally, more of a speed team, more of a defensive club.” You can listen to that at about 19:40 through this link. While he does lament the injury to Morse, it should be noted that he also speaks to the injuries of Franklin Gutierrez in the same sentence (and did the same in other interviews).
I’m not here to say that the Mariners are fine and dandy, because it’s pretty significant that the internal moves they’ve made are beyond the pale here; ex team staffers don’t just come out of the woodwork to call out the current regime on the regular. All that being said, I don’t buy into the argument that Jack Zduriencik is incompetent in terms of his ability to scout or evaluate players. Thanks to the work done by Colin O’Keefe, we do know that the Mariners do at least employ an analytical department to look into the numbers side of the game, though we can’t say how much influence it carries. We know the Mariners just signed Robinson Cano, who should stand to be an upgrade over Ackley and Franklin at second base. If the Mariners win – and there’s reason to think that they could become at least competitive in 2014 – that should heal a lot of ills. This continues to be an offseason of the unknown. I guess we’ll see soon what Jack has up his sleeve.
December 8, 2013Posted by on
The past few days have been…interesting. I’m sitting at home with the heat turned up as far as I can take it, and the Lions/Eagles game on TV. I don’t watch a lot of football, so while I have seen games played in the snow, I haven’t seen anything like this. Both teams are certainly fighting, but I can’t imagine having to play a game under those conditions. Sure is fun to watch, though.
So the Mariners have signed Robinson Cano for 10 years and some ridiculous amount of money that I can’t remember off the top of my head and don’t care enough to go look up. If you’re reading this, chances are high you know what I’m talking about. I have gotten some degree of pushback over Twitter regarding my opinion about this move. But our memories are short, Mariners fans. I saw this same reaction when we signed Cliff Lee, a situation that resulted in Lee staying here for half a year, and then being traded for Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak. Yes, Lee’s contract was much different than Cano’s; but the level of excitement was pretty much the same. It didn’t pan out for us, and when one major player wound up not saving the day, everyone was let down. I am not, as some may think, completely disappointed by the signing of Cano. I am, however, very, very wary of what may or may not happen for the team over the next few years, with such a massive hunk of money and time being committed to one 31-year-old second baseman. And you know what? That’s my right as a sports fan. Cano and the Mariners now have to prove themselves to me as a paying customer, that’s part of their job. And in spite of my general skepticism, I will happily support Cano once he slaps on a Seattle jersey; the same way I did with Milton Bradley, the same way I did with Chone Figgins (until things got really bad), the same way I’ve done for a lot of players I didn’t necessarily trust in the beginning (because make no mistake, this is clearly not about playing in Seattle for Cano; it’s about the dollah-dollah bills, y’all). The fact of the matter is, Cano and Willie Bloomquist are not going to save our bacon. We need more offense and if the team is serious about that, they’ll do some hefty spending or at the very least make plans for hefty spending during the Winter Meetings and in the months leading up to April 2014.
Personally, now that they’ve done this, I’d actually like to see them pull out all the stops. Justin Smoak may be about as good as he’s going to get right now. We need power from first. I like Smoak, but I’m not sure that he can continue to be part of the team if the Ms are serious about giving us a decent overhaul. Then I go look at Lookout Landing as I’m writing this, and they give me reason to believe that maybe not all is lost, after all. Look; I like Smoak as a 1B. I have zero problem with his defense. But as a hitter? I can’t properly communicate via writing how I feel about that, but imagine a wince followed by a squeaky “Maaaaybe??” followed by a small grimace, and you’ve got how I feel about his offense. I always want to give guys a chance, but it’s hard when you’re looking at projections and there is a 0.4 WAR increase, but SLG, OBP, and AVG are all slightly supposed to go down. Then again, his walk rate decreases by 0.01%, and his strike rate goes down a bit more, depending on who you ask (and none of these are Bill James projections), so who knows. This is part of the reason I never made it as far as statistics in college.
I know a lot of people don’t like Geoff Baker, but here’s a link to the “big story” that has people up in arms over the past 24 hours. I take things with a grain of salt – yes, Wedge and his former cohorts probably have an axe to grind – but somewhere in this he said/he said mess, lies some pretty hard truths, and a lot of those truths I’m pretty sure a lot of us were at least suspecting. I mean, come on. Jack Zduriencik rode into town with a pocket full of SABR and the hopes and dreams of all of us in a bag waiting to be let out. During his tenure here, though, outside of the winning season of 2009, things have been pretty dismal. We have been reassured time and time again that things would change “soon”. Just give us some time. Things are looking brighter. We’re picking great young players. You’ve heard it all, especially if you’ve attended the LL/USSM meetups; I don’t need to continue. The part in Baker’s article about Zduriencik lying about his SABR experience, I’m not entirely sure I totally buy; first of all, he did that when he first got here. We picked up players that led us to that winning season in 2009. But then there was every year after that. And I have to be honest, I just looked up the Milwaukee Brewers yearly win columns, and during Zduriencik’s tenure between 1999 and 2006 as Director of Scouting? Well, here you go… not too great. A lot of Mariners-esque years in there. I really hate to pile on, but numbers don’t lie. Sure, he left the Brewers in a pretty good place, but all the years leading up to that were just bad. We are never going to know the truth. I’m OK with that, but right now it’s just terrifically disheartening. And it feels like we’ve been promised an awful lot with no follow through.
I’m not passing any ultimate judgment here at all. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t throwing this whole organization some massive side-eye right now. I only complain because I care; and in spite of my multiple threats to toss on some orange and black, get MLB.TV and call it a day with Baltimore, I have no current plans to do that. But I really have had enough of this. Let’s get it together, Mariners. I’d like to watch a ball club, not something that sounds like a scene from DeGrassi High. No more drama. Let’s get serious, finally, about playing and winning some baseball.
December 4, 2013Posted by on
A little time at work and some motivation while I’m wading in post-nasal drip and not being able to feel my fingers due to the cold coming into me through the office windows here on the 20th floor…
I’m not sure how I feel about Eric Wedge’s departure. I never really felt strongly one way or the other about Wedge. He seemed appropriately happy and encouraging when he needed to be, and appropriately upset, annoyed, and frustrated when it seemed necessary. I know a lot of people (probably myself included a few times) complained about his usages of relievers during close games, and his pinch hitting decisions, but as far as a manager just in general, I never hated him. I can totally understand why he left; the same reason everyone else seems to be in a hurry to get out of here. It’s difficult to do your job if you’re not given the tools while facing constant criticism from fans and journalists alike. Given our high manager turnover over the past few years with our highly-touted prospects, high-dollar trades, and seasoned players like Felix and Ichiro who stay here as long as they possibly can while seeing no benefits to their loyalty, I’m not entirely sure that the managerial position is entirely to blame. Our best year over the last 5 is still 2009, with my personal favorite, Don Wakamatsu. To be honest, I’d like Wak back. But I probably always will. I sort of wish that Wedge would have stuck it out, but I also can’t blame him for getting out while he can, given that he’s had to take the blame for 25 other people for a while now. I would be super curious to know what the “fundamental disagreement” is, however. What was the problem that caused this much job dissatisfaction? And was Wedge truly responsible for the in-game moves he made? We’ll probably never know; unless something was said that I missed, and in that case, someone please fill me in!
Emotionally, right now, I have to turn off any hopes of seeing Danny Hultzen in Mariners blue. I feel like we’ve had some really bad luck with surgeries (probably due to the overwhelming feeling lately that things are just not working out for the Ms) and I don’t want to get my hopes up just to have them dashed if Hultzen doesn’t make a full recovery. Of course, I really hope he does; and I hope he doesn’t push himself too hard to come back in 2014. Would rather have him miss a year and get all of his strength back than try and heal too fast and lose him completely.
Since the last time I wrote, the Cy Young has been presented to Max Scherzer. I like Scherzer, so I have no problem with this other than that I really wanted Hisashi Iwakuma to win. Maybe next year. I’m just glad Kuma is still a Mariner. Fingers crossed he stays that way for a while. I love the Felix/Hishashi punch at the front of the rotation. Hopefully whomever replaces Carl Willis will work with our staff well.
Willie Bloomquist is back. Part of me feels like “Aw, just like the old days”, and part of me wonders why we are doing this. Granted, I liked Bloomquist before he left, and was happy to see him do well in Arizona, and he’s also projected to do alright next year…I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too hard on the Seattle Mariners lately. Lots of change coming all at one time can be difficult to deal with, when you’ve spent the last few months of the previous season completely disillusioned by what was going on in the first place. I’ll probably be totally fine with this decision in a few months, I would think. I usually settle down by the time FanFest rolls around. Bloomie is still projected to be a 0.3 WAR player, so at least there is that. The power of positive thinking! I feel better already. Yay, Willie Bloomquist is back!
That’s about all I have time for at the moment. I know, mostly old news; I’m still trying to catch up on a lot, and I’m still dealing with some of the fatigue left over from being sick most of October and November. In spite of any meandering criticism I may have hashed out on Twitter, I do still love this team, and want to see them do well. It just seems like there are even more roadblocks now than ever before since I started watching them. I think what is also hampering my excitement is the fact that between the holidays, my general pay grade, and the fact that I’m going to the east coast next April, I am not 100% positive that I will be able to get my beloved 16-game plan; and if I do, it will be RIGHT up against the start of the season. I have been talking to my friend Daniel about going in on something, but it will vastly depend on how much I can save for my trip east between now and the end-ish of March. I plan to go a little nuts on Orioles and Phillies swag, and that stuff doesn’t pay for itself!
Hopefully more tomorrow; in the meantime, we all wait to find out if Robinson Cano and Jay Z can trick the Mariners into a deal.
November 9, 2013Posted by on
I have a few days off work while I show a friend from out of town around our fair city (including requisite drive past Safeco Field, as we were on our way to the Aquarium yesterday). I also have More Opinions on Things.
So Raul Ibanez did some things this summer that were pretty cool. Unfortuantely – full discloser – this was at the point in the year when I had already long stopped forcing myself to watch baseball games, and I’ll freely admit that I was off doing other things. But like always, I keep my ear to the ground, even when mired in the worst apathy (there must be another word for ‘apathy’, this is getting depressing), and I knew about it maybe an hour or so after it happened. I don’t know at this point if Ibanez is going to stick around for 2014, being a free agent and all, but I’m not sure I would mind if he was offered another one-year contract to be used in a minor utility role. Hitting 29 home runs is not too shabby for a guy his age, and while he is currently at 0.0 WAR, at least he wasn’t negative. Also – and again, I’m fine with admitting this – in my short baseball fandom, Ibanez is basically the equivalent of the good ol’ days for me. I should probably also mention that Raul recently won the Heart and Hustle award from the Fred Hutchinson Center, and that makes me happy. I know that a lot of Mariners fans make a lot of jokes at Raul’s expense, but I will always love him.
Bud Selig plans to retire in 2015. I don’t know if this is quite soon enough for me. I am not a fan of Selig’s. He may have done a lot of things for the game as an industry, but he turned a blind eye to the increasing use of steroids, and for that I don’t know that I can necessarily forgive him. The way that players are cherry picked to either be suspended a few games, or have their entire careers ruined amidst gossip and drama baffles me. The fact that we have known users – people who tested positive in the current day – who are still allowed the play the game, while players like Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco are banned for life is amazing. Baseball is not a game of equals in Bud Selig’s world, apparently. And yes, I realize that Canseco is hated for ratting out his teammates; and I am no fan of his at all, but the hypocrisy inherent in banning him while players like Alex Rodriguez are allowed to roam free is stunning.
And just because I don’t want this post to turn into the blogging equivalent of “get off my lawn”, something I am extremely happy about: Hisashi Iwakuma’s rise to the Cy Young nominations. I have this odd feeling that Yu Darvish might win (and admittedly that is because I constantly stand in awe of Darvish), but I would really really REALLY like for Kuma to get it. Really. Are you listening, BBWA? A disgruntled baseball fan in Seattle would like you to vote for her pitcher. Iwakuma has some very tough competition (and I am slowly becoming a Tigers fan and really do love Max Scherzer), but I really am keeping all of my extremities crossed that he gets it. I love the fact that he made the All Star Game this year, he has been nothing but toughness and grace in a year where his batters were not holding him up as much as they should have been. It would definitely be a bright spot in the clouds of 2013.
That is all I have to say today. Time to go to the Zoo or something.
November 4, 2013Posted by on
I have some time at work, and the very-strong antibiotics I have been prescribed have been working to get me a few decent nights of sleep, so I feel like talking about some things today. We’ll get the photo capabilities back on the site in about two weeks.
Back around the middle of September, Larry Stone wrote this colum, depressingly entitled Mariners clearly not following any clear blueprint to success. I am not on any sort of personal friendship basis with Stone, but he appeals to me as one of our more upbeat writers in general, and pretty friendly and funny on Twitter. So when I saw the header on this one a few months ago, I knew it was going to be something I’d have to hold off on reading. Between my growing apathy and lack of time, I had one of two choices; either more apathy would just naturally occur, or I would go from zero to angry in less than a minute, and I didn’t want that to happen, either. Now that I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect on the 2013 season and have managed to talk myself down to a nice even end-of-season keel, I think I’m safe.
So yeah, it’s discouraging to read something like this; and not just because it comes from Stone. It was exciting when Zduriencik and company got here; they loved numbers, they seemed to be building a team by paying attention to them, and we were assured that things would get better. Our yearly commercial catch phrases and general feeling of how well the farm was being built up was very exciting. Maybe not this year, but man wait until next year…and then we started doing things like signing Cliff Lee but not really making any other improvements with the offense to back him and Felix up. Or signing Milton Bradley at all. Or giving Chone Figgins a four year contract. And the big killer for a lot of people – letting Ichiro go to play multiple years in hated New York City.
I am left, on this one, rendered speechless. What is it going to take for the front office, ownership etc to realize that what they’ve been doing isn’t working? When do the fans get the team they deserve? How much longer will it be before we see the “Best Fans in Baseball” nonsense for the “keep giving us money” plea it is slowly turning into? And how much longer can a lot of us tolerate being a punchline in a very bad joke?
After the team majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away a few days after the above article was written, I thought maybe that would change. Maybe there might be some sort of shakeup in the organization that would bring some sort of change, either negative or positive. It didn’t matter to me at the time which way things went. But I guess that’s alright, because nothing changed anywhere at all. The Mariners are apparently staying in Seattle, and that’s fine, but again, we need a shift in paradigm. Howard Lincoln says he’s not leaving his position until he makes that change happen. We’re still waiting. How much longer do we need to give the Armstrong and Lincoln team the benefit of the doubt? I can watch failure for free from my living room couch, or I can drive to Tacoma or Everett and watch less expensive, more winning baseball. Make me want to give you money; because as things stand right now, I gave up my left field seats in section 182, and I am totally fine with that. In the years past when I have had to let my seats go due to not having the money to make the first deposit, I’ve had a bit of a panicky feeling set in. But not this year. This year, I’m thinking I *might* make some effort to scrape together the $200+ it takes to secure two seats in the left field bleachers so I can go grab some seats during FanFest. But I also might not even make the effort to renew my season tickets at all; and that makes me sad. Then again, if the Mariners aren’t going to make the effort to win, why should I flip out over the ever-increasing seat prices, for a big plate of sadness and 16 mopey walks back to my car? The answer is, I shouldn’t.
I love baseball. I love the Mariners. But I don’t like what’s been going on since I’ve been a fan, and a few glimmers of awesomeness that the team seems to coast on (116 wins! 1995! Felix’s perfect game!) are not enough to maintain my interest in the team in general. I don’t want to have to make this an Orioles blog, but currently I’m getting about as much out of a Mariners team playing here that I am out of a team I can’t watch on a regular basis; and the Orioles are a better team.
So fix this shit, Mariners. I want to be in love with you again.
October 26, 2013Posted by on
I promise I will be posting before the year is out. Currently, I am in the midst of a bit of bad health, and have been diagnosed with asthma. There is a possibility that it might be connected with an allergy, but given the nature of allergies, it is difficult to tell. I also need to deal with the payment to increase my photo storage (in case you cannot tell, I have lost my header!), which should happen sometime in November, and that is when I will likely start writing again on a (hopefully) more regular basis.
So bear with me; I do have a lot to talk about (mainly a lot of older news I never got around to talking about before), and I hope to be talking about it as soon as possible. Section 331 will be back.
October 9, 2013Posted by on
I have been hit pretty hard by whatever plague is going around the area lately, and have not watched any of the playoffs at all this year. It’s hard to want to keep track of baseball when you’re stuffed full of cold medicine and keep drifting off and it’s all you can do to stay awake at work, but I know enough to know that the Dodgers are moving on, and that the Detroit Tigers (yay!) have forced a game five against Oakland. That one I’m kind of torn on. The Tigers are my sort-of fifth team, and I would love to see them advance; but I’m also aware that the A’s are ridiculous this year and will provide a very tough hurdle to get over for Detroit. Hopefully this won’t linger too much and I will feel well enough by the time the World Series is on…and care about who goes to the World Series, which is super debatable right now as it is.
Anyway, a few days ago, I received an email from our fearless leader Jack Zduriencik in the form of a season ticket holder announcement. Here it be:
Dear Season Ticket Holder,
Now that 2013 is behind us, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about where we are and where we are heading.
First of all, like you, I am disappointed in how the team performed. Coming out of Spring Training we all had high hopes, but there were some key injuries, setbacks and disappointments which forced us to bring up several young players to fill our roster needs. The good news is these youngsters (Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino, etc.) got some valuable Major League experience. But the fact is this team just did not live up to expectations.
We still have work to do over the winter, but we are building on a solid foundation. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are an excellent base to build around for our pitching rotation and we like the young talent that has earned its way to the Major Leagues. We recognize that there are challenges ahead as our young players mature into their roles, and we will be working over the winter to augment what is already in place.
The most important decision of the offseason will be a new manager. We are going to do a thorough process so that we end up with the right person to take this young team to the next level. I am already compiling names and have started the vetting process for potential candidates. In the next 10 days, these efforts will pick up steam. But because we may have interest in candidates who are involved in the playoffs, the final decision may come after the World Series.
I know this has been hard on everyone, especially our season ticket holders. We could never get through this difficult process without your support. You are demanding better of us, as you should, but you have not given up. Everyone inside the Seattle Mariners organization is grateful every day for your loyalty. Thank you for standing with us.
I’m excited about 2014 and beyond. Our plan from the beginning was to build this from the ground up, starting with a solid foundation. With the young players already on the team and the solid performances of our September call-ups, I hope you agree with me that the Seattle Mariners future is bright.
The next time you hear from me, I’ll be introducing our new manager.
Executive Vice President & General Manager, Baseball Operations
I am taking this one with a few grains of salt, because until something is done, it’s all just talk. Yes, I am encouraged by some of the things on the field this year, and yes, I also see a lot of potential in the younger guys on the team. But the beginning and end of the story follows thusly: We need offense. The end. I’m not espousing anything new here, clearly.
I find it interesting that the team built on pitching and defense approach went so horribly well that the bats just got left behind in the process. Talk about overkill. But I am skeptical that there is much that will or even can be done in 2014. It’s possible, but I am not holding my breath. We now have basically a lame duck GM, and some random manager that might or might not have delivered a baseball team to the playoffs and who might or might not stick around past next season. That’s not really fair to the team or the fans, and I’m afaid I don’t have a whole lot of hope for massive change next year as things stand right now. Than fan part of me wants to jump in head first and be cheery about the prospect that big things are in store for next season; but the part of me that has been burned every year that I’ve been a fan just shakes its head sadly and grimaces. The Mariners may be painful to watch for a while to come; and because of that, I couldn’t justify scrambling to keep my seats in left field. I may try to make something happen at FanFest next year with another 16-gamer if I can (please keep in mind that I am also currently saving for a trip east to go see some other teams, and on my salary, that’s not easy), but the lack of inspiration I’ve had for Seattle baseball is making automatic renewal of season tickets a shoulder-shrugging event at best.
Back to trying to get rid of this unholy cold. Stay healthy, Mariners fans!
September 27, 2013Posted by on
I was going to wait until the absolute end of the season to make this post. I had pictures I was going to put up, and thoughts I was going to try to collect, and all that stuff that I normally do to be as thoughtful and thorough as possible when writing. I had a bunch of pictures I had taken of Rivera’ s last game on Seattle soil, but I am lacking the storage space and time at the moment. So it’s time to do it. Today is the right day.
Mariano Rivera is leaving baseball. Not because of injury, not just for the offseason, and not because he’s been let go by New York and is waiting to get picked up by another team; he is retiring. He’s done. Last night was his final game. He was met on the field by Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter, two other Yankee greats, and led off the field in a very emotional sendoff, which you can watch at this link here. That is a little over four minutes of hugging, cheering, and yes, even grown men crying, and if you are a baseball fan and find yourelf with absolutely no emotional response watching that clip, then you, pardon my language, are a hard motherfucker. It’s beautiful, even though I feel like he deserved even more than that. I don’t know what else the team and fans could have possibly done, it just feels like it should have been longer. I am glad that it was Pettite and Jeter who met him on the hill, and I am further glad that Alex Rodriguez was nowhere to be found. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t deserve to so much as lick the dirt off Rivera’s cleats.
Joe Posnanski has an excellent article that I feel a lot of baseball players need to read and take to heart. It should be required reading for anyone called up to the majors. Mariano Rivera is exemplary of how every player should conduct themselves. It makes me immensely sad to think that maybe he is a dying breed.
Mariano Rivera averaged 34.3 saves a year every year he played baseball. In seven of those seasons, he had 40 or just over 40 saves. In 2004, he racked up 54 saves. His next largest number prior to that was 50 in 2001, the fateful year that saw the Yankees topple the Mariners in the playoffs, after a history-high 116 wins for Seattle. I am mentioning this because when JJ Putz had 40 saves back in 2007, I thought it was a pretty big deal; it was, after all, part of what got me invested emotionally in closers, and in baseball itself. In his 19-year career, Rivera never once had negative WAR. Some years lower than others, but never negative. With my vague understanding of WAR and from what I’ve seen from position players, that’s an accomplishment. Maybe for pitchers not so much, but still it’s worth recognition, in my humble opinion.
This is one of those things, though, that is far more emotional for me than it is scientific. I have a lot of words in my vocabulary, but none can truly do this any justice. I find myself wishing I’d paid more attention to Rivera over the last few years. I find myself wishing that the sinking feeling I’ve had in my stomach when Rivera stepped onto the hill in Safeco was maybe replaced by more of a reverence – I had respect, I had awe, but I don’t feel ever had the amount of either of those things that I probably should have had for this player. He was amazing to watch. When Ichiro homered off of him a few years ago, I was well aware that that was something to be celebrated. Mariano Rivera was and is something special.
Rivera is, to me, the perfect closer and yet there was something not quite closer-y about him. He isn’t weird like a lot of them are; he didn’t tilt his cap or grow crazy facial hair, or make strange comments to the press. He doesn’t have a lot of visible tattoos (if any – sorry Yanks fans, I really don’t know), he doesn’t give an air or indicate that he is anything but a human gun firing a baseball bullet; but truthfully, that’s kind of all you need to know about him. His demeanor on the hill was that of a blank slate. An amazing, terrifying, serious, wonderful blank slate that made the top, middle, and bottom of any batting order cower in fear. Always expressionless, mostly always flawless, and always there for the purpose of getting the game done and over and securing a Yankees win. There was no flair, not a lot of stress as far as I could ever tell. He was there to do a job, and he did it very very well for 19 years.
I really don’t know what else to say. I can’t rattle off stats or incidents in Rivera’s history that I might have fond memories of. In his career, my fandom is but a blip on a radar somewhere; and even that might be giving me too much credit, as I have never been a Yankees fan. All I know is that baseball is a worser place for his departure. The season isn’t even over yet, and early on when his retirement was announced, it made me feel as if there was a massive hole in 2013. And if this is the way I feel, I can’t even imagine how Yankees fans must feel. It has to be devastating. This is the one instance that I will absolutely not poke fun at or make light of a Yankee loss. I feel for all of you, totally. You, after all, have my Ichiro.
So goodbye, Mariano Rivera. You can leave baseball knowing that you were the classiest act, a master of your craft, and feared and respected by batters and fans alike. I will miss you, Sandman.