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Pushing a Giant Baseball Up a Hill and Watching It Roll Back Down Since 2008
April 2, 2013Posted by on
I didn’t sleep well and spent most of the morning with a headache today, but that all seemed to magically go away by around 4PM, when Tom and I packed up and took off for the confines of Safeco Field on a nice, clear Seattle spring afternoon. We really could not have asked for nicer weather tonight. I was wearing a dress and a cotton jacket and never had to zip up or use my fleece!
We parked the car in the Safeco garage for free as advertised, and walked the skybridge to the Terrace Club to stand in line for about 40 minutes. Somewhere during this time, I got a text from Matt Pitman, and was told that I would not be needed to talk during the pre-game show, and that the station had decided to talk to Mariners VP of Marketing, Kevin Martinez. I was actually a little bummed about that, because I was prepared, but also kind of happy about it, so it all works out. Having Kevin on makes more sense anyway, given that he was actually involved in the planning of this thing, and I am merely a lowly fan. Maybe next time. As they say at the Oscars, it’s just an honor to be nominated.
Around 5.30, our bags had been checked and the doors opened, we had our paper tickets exchanged for STH lanyards, and were ushered down the first base line to get our t-shirts near the Hit It Here Cafe. There were tables upon tables of hot dogs, two or three different types of sausages, cookies, crudite’ and dip, peanuts, popcorn, and pizza. And veggie dogs! I haven’t really had cause to bring it up here, but I have been eating a more vegetarian diet, so these were particularly welcome. We had some quick dogs, and then wandered around back toward the third baseline, where we met up with Kevin and he gave us the information necessary to get hooked up to the internet at Safeco.
At first, it seemed like the season ticket holders had the rest of the public outnumbered. It was hard to move through the crowd down the hall, and outside the warning track was a little sparse with people who were doing the general admission thing:
So we got a few beers, and went to sit down. I have not been drinking much lately, but a free Guiness courtesy of the Mariners is too good to pass up. Since I’m writing this as we go tonight, I am not sure at this point in the post whether I will be able to make it to Edgar’s due to the crowds and such, but here are some pictures from section 233, where we wound up sitting:
By around 6.45, nearly game time, the field is starting to fill in with a lot more people:
People are still walking around the warning track when this picture was taken, but the seats were filling in fast. I’m going to beg any reader’s pardon for a loss or confusion of tenses while writing this. Just a warning…
The game started off with a typical 0-0 first inning. Josh Reddick stepped up to the plate without his trademark mouthpiece from last year, but sporting a beard that indicated that perhaps he’d be very good at wrasslin’ a bear. Felix took three up and three down with 7 pitches while sporting a new fashion choice of his own; a new neck tattoo.
People were watching from both dugouts. They were putting people’s tweets up with the hastag #OpenHouse on the screens in the stadium, and one fan noted that the dugout seats were heated. I think I might have known that from a stadium tour or some other event where I picked up the information, but it totally makes sense now why there were so many fans packed into the dugouts during the game – outside the novelty of being able to be there, of course.
The new bullpen area. Honestly, I know the fences have come in, but from where I was sitting for most of the night, you really can’t tell. Things are slightly different in the center and left outfields, but it still looks like the same old Safeco Field. With new bits added, but still the same amount of grass and dirt. I honestly thought it would be noticeably smaller.
People were allowed to walk around the warning track for the entire game. Every few innings rather than commercials, they had Jen Mueller interviewing Edgar Martinez about the new cafe’, or fans taking tee ball swings just over second base to win things. The two men in the first round got three tries (or four, really; possibly five?) to hit a ball on a tee from that point in the field to over the wall in center. Both succeeded.
The sun finally went down, and I was able to get a decent picture of the new screen. The advertisements being on the side are part of the new setup as well, and my only complaint is that I wish they’d been able to get rid of them for this event; but I understand advertiser relationships, and they probably had to be up in place during a public showing of a game. No worries. The board is still pretty massive. Later in the night, they did play a split screen of the action in the 9th inning and the crowd here at home, using the entire screen.
Since the HD is so very H, any picture taken of this thing on any unprofessional camera is probably not going to come out great. But if you can picture the entirety of the center field bleachers under this, then you have an idea of exactly how large a screen we are dealing with here. It’s great. I do hope in the future they might consider removing the ads to have the entire thing active, because it sort of seems like a waste of digital space if the ads are a permanent fixture. But I suppose that remains to be seen.
In the bottom of the 6th, Tom and I went down to the main concourse and met up with some friends sitting in section 133. We sat there and chatted for a bit, but they had to leave for home, so after a nice 7th inning stretch and the first-of-the-year playing of Louie Louie, we left that section in favor of taking a stroll around that lower level and taking some more pictures. So we were sitting about here:
The party deck is far more massive than it used to be. I believe the lower half there is what they are now referring to as The Power Alley, for groups and company parties. You can’t really see it well in this photo with everyone there, but there are chairs and tables and a long bar/table that runs along the front like before. More seating, more space, a really good overall improvement.
In addition to True to the Blue t-shirts, everyone was given red, white and blue K cards in honor of Felix’s start. I declined mine, having way too much to carry around with me anyway, but fans who had theirs used them enthusiastically. It was seriously just like we were at a game; very surreal, but very “normal” at the same time. It felt like home, even without the players on the field.
This is the top half of Edgar’s. It’s a secondary party deck – the bar part is downstairs underneath – but you can see the kitchen back there where you can get several different kinds of tacos. The deck area itself is larger than it looks here, and can hold quite a few people. I did not get to try the tacos. But I will. Very very soon.
The game, of course, was also great, though without the offense I might have hoped for going into it. Felix was awesome as always, and got the win. Charlie Furbush almost tossed that away for him by loading up the bases, but the Mariners were able to get the final out of the bottom of the 8th inning, after Furbush was replaced with Stephen Pryor. Tom Wilhelmsen came in to get the save, and everyone left Safeco Field happy, having had a lovely night of a strange kind of baseball on Opening Day.
I have to say, I am really impressed with how well everything was handled this evening. From the lanyard tags with the drink tickets attached to them, to the snazzy sponsor-free t-shirts, to the way fans were just sort of given the run of the place. How many other teams would organize an event like this for their fans? The Mariners went above and beyond the call of duty to give Seattle a night I don’t think anyone will soon forget. It was nothing too fancy, but they didn’t have to do any of this, and they did, and it freaking ROCKED. There was a very friendly and cheerful atmosphere there, and it was obvious that everyone was just happy to be at the ballpark. We all cheered when the Mariners did well, booed when ROOT Sports lost the feed a few times during the evening, and I could hear fans around me being full of either praise or critical of the game being played, as if there were a living breathing game in front of us. It was a lot like watching the game in your living room. With some 17,000 of your closest friends.
All of this, and I never got too cold! Good work, Mariners. Good work indeed. I hope they do it again, and that others have the opportunity to go. It was a great end to my weekend. Baseball season has now officially started. Hallelujah!
April 1, 2013Posted by on
No game recap here, as I spent an hour out of it watching the season finale of The Walking Dead, but I was able to catch back up with the game around the 6th inning or so, as Bud Norris had just spelled by Erik Bedard. Bedard remained in the rest of the game, and kept the Rangers shut out, much to my glee – not because it was the Rangers, but because it was Bedard. The game was broken open in the 7th when Rick Ankiel homered to send in three runs, and that was pretty much that for the Rangers. It was fun to see Bedard pitch again; he was not listed on the active roster earlier today when I took that screen shot, and I had completely spaced that he had even gotten picked up by Houston; that’s what I get for being lazy.
The Astros played well against one of the current best in the league (loss of multiple players or not), and Minute Maid Park is a pretty nice structure as stadiums go. I am looking forward to being able to visit it on my someday-planned NL and AL West mega-vacation. I look forward to seeing the Mariners play there. I look forward to a lot. Deal with it.
I was sitting in a boat off the West Seattle coast in the Sound today when the information came down about Casper Wells’ DFA. I can’t say that it comes as a surprise of course, but it still makes me sad. If he can’t find a home in the Mariners organization via the various ins and outs of designation, then I hope that another team finds some value in him. Whatever happens, Allison from No Run Support was totally right; Wells became a favorite pretty quickly after we got him from Detroit, and it is unfortunate that he wasn’t able to really grow roots here as a Mariner. I wish him well.
So apparently I will be – very much against my better judgement – on the radio tomorrow during the pre-game show. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but apparently I call in to talk to Matt Pitman, and then the magic happens. I kind of know what I’m supposed to talk about, the fun will be to see if I can do it without swearing. If you can’t be at Safeco or watch the game on TV tomorrow night, feel free to tune into 710 ESPN and listen to me get my 2-3 minutes of fame. Will my fear of public speaking make it a hilarious 2-3 minutes? Only my anxiety medication knows for sure! In all seriousness, though, it’s going to be a mess, you should at least check it out for that.
Less than 24 hours from now, we’ll all be watching Mariners baseball. You can’t see it, but I am totally breathing the biggest sigh of relief. Our long national nightmare is over. Baseball is back.
March 31, 2013Posted by on
It is sure nice to go to the Mariners news page and see this again:
It feels like forever since the pitching matchup banner has been up, even though it has only ever been the same amount of time, every year for the past 6. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. While I am watching Moneyball for what has to be about the fifth time over the past year, I guess I’ll write some stuff about baseball.
I figured I would spend some time today seeing what I know about the Houston Astros. Turns out; very very little. They seem to be, for the most part, a very young team, with a handful of names I recognize, one only because he used to be a major league Mariner. Their 40-man is even more confusing, so here is what we’ll be dealing with next Monday:
Yep. Carlos Pena, Phil Humber, and Ronny Cedeno are all I have here, unfortunately. Almost all of the Astros position players are freshly up from Houston’s AAA team organization, having spent at least part of 2012 there before coming up to the big club at various points in the year. Actually (I’m looking this stuff up as I’m writing this post), it looks like over half of the 25 men on this roster were all at a triple A level at some point in 2012. Edgar Gonzalez played for a Mexican triple A team last year, and has spent most of his time at a triple A level since 2009. This could either be uplifting or devastating for them in 2013. I don’t want or mean to sound overconfident or cocky at all, but compared to the Astros, the Mariners, for all their foibles and what we might think about the roster decisions being made, are fielding a definitive major league team. I was telling Tom yesterday in the car that I had read a headline in the Seattle Times that the Astros might not be much better than they’ve been throughout the last few years; at some point in a game, that becomes depressing. I like winning, but winning without challenge is kind of a downer. I’m not making any predictions, and the Astros may prove me wrong. At a quick glance, though, it looks like it’s going to be a bunch of sugar-hungry Mariners going up against some little kids with candy.
Tonight is the official start of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, with the Texas Rangers and the Astros facing off in Houston at Minute Maid Park. I am going to try and catch some of it after we are done enjoying the good sunny weather today, but, in the words of one Justin Platts, it has indeed got to be one of the most mismatched home openers in the history of the game. If the Astros are victorious at home, it will be a great opener to their year, for sure. I am eager to see what the Mariners are up against, so will be balancing that game with tonight’s season finale of The Walking Dead. With either TV event, someone’s going to die in a bad, bad way.
March 30, 2013Posted by on
Just listening to a little of the last Mariners Spring Training game today while northwestern Washington flashes some spring at us this afternoon. Brandon Maurer has made the team and is on the hill giving up a few homers, but the Mariners are paying them back equally with another Justin Smoak dinger. Still waiting to find out whether or not we are going to have Jason Bay or Casper Wells on our bench, and the Ms are delaying this news until tomorrow. If I am as anxious as I am over this decision, I can only imagine what the two players might feel. Bay reportedly has the edge over Wells, but my fingers are still crossed for Casper. I have been wondering today what exactly this says about both players, that it has come this far down to the wire.
I am slightly more proud of myself than I probably should be that I put this information into an actual spreadsheet because I was curious to see what Wells’ chances are. They don’t look good. These are just Spring Training stats, but they are likely indicative of what will happen tomorrow. Wells’ saving grace is his RBI count; but that’s not much, and it can’t be enough to keep him on the roster. I am preparing myself to say goodbye, and I hate it. Baseball is harsh sometimes. I guess I need to really give some thought to falling in like with Jason Bay.
So this thing that is happening on Monday, this big Open House. It’s going to be a lot bigger than I thought. Who’d'a thunk that 20,000 or so Mariners fans would want to pack into Safeco on what will likely be a bit of a nippy Monday night to watch a Mariners game…on TV?! I have never watched TV with 20,000 people before. I hope they have the PA fired up and ready to go; if we do well against 2012′s AL West champs, we’re going to want to yell a lot about it.
It is here where I get to the point of my post, and that is this; I will be blogging from Safeco Field that night. This will not be a liveblog; that would be too much for me to handle in an unfamiliar situation, and I don’t think the occasion warrants it. Due to various circumstances beyond my control I might not be able to get all the pictures I want to get, but Monday’s post will probably come out to be more about the event itself than the game at hand. I will do my best to cover everything I possibly can, and the post should be up just befor or around the same time that the game ends. I must state for the record that this is NOT a media pass. I am not going to be in the press box, and I will not be doing this again this year, unless some miracle rears its head (and I am not holding my breath for that). I will be in the Terrace Club level, probably on the third baseline, in public, with my camera and laptop, writing the post in real time, if all the stars align properly. I am very thankful for this opportunity, and the powers that be are very kind to allow me to do this. Again, NOT A PRESS PASS. Just a one-shot thing that I am going to be doing that I am very excited about. I will of course also be Tweeting and whatnot, but that I would do anyway, laptop or no.
Are you ready for baseball, Seattle? Because I sure am!
March 27, 2013Posted by on
My focus is on April 8th lately, and how I plan to spend that day (with a friend, raiding food trucks on Occidental before the gates open), so I have been lightly forgetting every once in a while that April 1st is only a few days away. It’s almost nice that I’ve been so busy, because every few days it’s like a new surprise – Mariners Open House is in a few days! I am very much looking forward to next Monday night, and not only watching the baseball season start on the new HD screen at Safeco, but getting a preview of the new walls, Edgar’s Cantina, and settling in to 2013 baseball in general from the comfort of the Terrace Club (sorry, everyone; they gave the season ticket holders the option, I took it. Layer up down on the main concourse and stay warm!)
Over the past week, we have “lost” Jon Garland to the Rockies and apparently his own ego, as he took off from Peoria last Friday because he didn’t want to wait any longer to find out whether he would wind up on the major league roster. I totally get wanting to have an answer this close to the regular season about what you’re going to be doing, and I understand that Garland has no committments to us or family in the area. He owes us nothing. But it would have been nice if he had stayed just a little bit longer; given our other options he might have actually had a shot at the rotation. Then again, it doesn’t seem like we really gave him much of a shot, so this is just as much on the organization as it is on him for bailing on us; I think I’m just annoyed because ideally I would have liked him to stay. Fortunately for him, the Colorado Rockies snapped him up almost instantly. It’s a shame, given that his decision literally seemed to be made within 24 hours, but he’s obviously a guy who knows what he wants, and at 33 with shoulder issues, you want to go where you know you’re wanted or needed. I think that the early 30s is my most hated age for baseball players; either you’re still great, or you’re getting worse by the year, and nobody wants to truly commit to keeping you if it’s the latter; so players just start drifting wherever it is they can get paid. There is no loyalty on either side, and there is no team identity, and it gets kind of depressing to me as a fan watching guys go from team to team as they near the end of their career. Say what you want about Derek Jeter, I admire the fact that he’s spent his whole career with one team. It’s a rarity these days. I was never attached to Garland, but I wasn’t given much of a choice, either. Too bad. I wish him well.
The good news is that it looks more and more like Brandon Maurer is going to make our rotation, which makes me want to do a little dance. I think Maurer is perfect for the Mariners. He seems very easygoing and mellow, like a little beardy Jason Vargas. He is one of the players I am most looking forward to seeing this year. And in spite of a general feeling of uncertainty about pretty much everything this year (am I alone in feeling like this spring, with our loss of bloggers and weird roster is kind of tumultuous?), I do really want to see what a team that did so well in Spring Training looks like when the pressure is turned on. I’m going into this season with a lot of mixed emotions.
Endy Chavez is back, and I guess that might be what seals Casper Wells’ fate. I’m not sure how I feel about that; I have no fan relationship with Jason Bay, and I’m not sure if I want to or not. Maybe a few years ago this would have been more of an appropriate move, but right now I am selfishly wanting to keep Wells. I think I am starting to get the pre-season jitters, where I am only seeing the bad points of everyone on the field, or thinking the worst is going to happen. That sounds very pessimistic, I know. The bright side is that Chavez seems totally resigned to and completely OK with the minor league contract. I feel like the Mariners and Chavez have unfinished business, and now that we are Yuni Betancourt-free, maybe we can pick up where we left off in 2009. His projections aren’t great (a quick look at his advanced statss makes it appear that he’ s going to be sitting somewhere between his 2011 Rangers appearances and 2012 Orioles appearances or thereabouts), but they could be a lot worse, given that he’s spent a lot of the past few seasons in rehab and on minor league rosters. I guess only the season will tell. If I had to guess I would not expect him in Seattle much, but all it’s going to take is an awful outfield injury, and I always feel like we are only seconds away from that. There I go again. Will try to get the pessimism in check until the season actually starts. Geez! I think my current outlook probably has more to do with the fact that the weather has been messing with me so much lately; it was so nice yesterday, and I could almost smell the outfield grass. Today? Back to Seattle Winter Part 2. More baseball weather, please!
So now I look forward to the next two weekends; two opening days that are surrounded by other games. I plan to pack up my things and take the laptop and camera to Safeco next Monday, and document as much as possible. So if you’re not able to make it, you can see it here. The Ms have really done a lovely thing for the fans by opening up the stadium and giving us the run of the place for the evening. If you are unaware of this just yet, first get out from under your rock, and then check this link out for more information. This is a great opportunity for us all, and I cannot wait for the day to get here. I think the only person looking forward to Opening Day more than me might be Raul Ibanez.
March 20, 2013Posted by on
I’m not really keeping track of Spring Training games this year, with the exception of poking around online for news about how things are in general, who’s being let go/sent down, and other light news. I think the first few weeks of ST really got me wishing the season proper would just hurry up and get here; I am ready for the games to start counting now, ready for Opening Day, the home opener, ready for baseball.
The roster this evening was a pretty good impression of a major league roster, with Brandon Maurer taking care of the starting pitching duties. I haven’t heard much about Maurer, but I started paying a little more attention when I found out that he was the only one of the Danny Hultzen/Taijuan Walker/ James Paxton group that didn’t wind up in the round of cuts that sent the rest of those guys back to the minors for more polishing. When I saw that he was starting, I figured maybe watching more Futurama on Netflix could wait for a few days. I’m glad I decided to tune in rather than be lazy and tune out because Maurer’s performance this evening against a group of recent World Series winners was quite good; 5 full innings with 3 hits and 1 run/earned run. He threw 62 pitches, 42 of which were strikes, and managed 4 strike outs. Now I’m no scientist, but that sounds pretty good. Most of Maurer’s lobs were all over the place, from low-80s to low 90s, and according to GameDay, a variety the like of which is rarely seen at a major league level. When Maurer was not trying to lull batters into a false sense of security with a low 90s fastball, he was smoking past them with an 83MPH slider, or an 89MPH changeup. All over the map. As of tonight, my first sighting of him, I am really hoping that Brandon Maurer makes the starting rotation. I would love to see how this translates into the majors.
Tom Wilhelmsen was tossed into the 6th inning, and did not have a good time of things. I cannot remember who it was that was being interviewed, but I do remember a closer saying that middle innings were no good for performance because of the lack of pressure. It might have been David Aardsma. Maybe it was Wilhelmsen himself. I would imagine that a lack of pressure in the 6th combined with a lack of pressure in general probably doesn’t lend itself well to the highest of performances, but it’s a good thing to keep Wilhelmsen throwing in competition if for nothing else than to keep him loose.
Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse were the doers of good defensively this evening, along with a 3-6-3 double play in the first inning to get Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence out; this last bit was between Morales and the guy at short today, Brad Miller. Miller is another one I haven’t been hearing much about, but it’s nearly April, and he’s still here, so who knows what will happen. Nick Franklin did his part by going 2 for 2 as of the time I am writing this down. I am preparing myself to lose Casper Wells. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to lose the players they like, no matter if you can see it coming or not. But I am doing my best to try and convince myself that he will not be with us come April 1st. I won’t like it, and I will miss him, but I know it might have to be done.
I hate to end this so abruptly, and I hate even more to bail on this game in the bottom of the 7th, but it’s been a long day, and I am definitely needing to get to sleep. Have to save my staying up time for when the games start counting, when watching baseball becomes a Necessary Thing(TM), and I don’t mind getting up at 5AM after a game.
Aaand Kendrys Morales just hit a home run to give the Ms a 5-3 lead. I can sleep now; I won’t when we get started
March 18, 2013Posted by on
So I whacked the tip of my left index finger and a bit of the nail off last week while dicing garlic. Typing short bits on Twitter and some on Facebook (and a lot at work, which is necessary) has kind of rendered me a little useless on the blogging front this week. Throw in a busy schedule outside of work, one of our monthly shindigs over the weekend, and a Sounders match against the Le Tigres that I was woefully underprepared for sleep-wise last Tuesday, and that is what I have been up to, grabbing Mariners news here and there while I can. There is so much to write about and I am so behind…
I cut my finger off and was at the Sounders game on the same day I found out about Jeff Sullivan’s departure from Lookout Landing. I got some hints over Twitter while I was at the Clink watching Seattle battle Mexico, but didn’t get the full story until I got home. I figured I’d do some thinking about it and then write the next day, but then I got into a fight with my ceramic knife, and was barely able to deal with work the next day, let alone any massive amount of typing like a blog post (fingertip bandage + data entry = hilarious). At least on Twitter I can use my thumbs and phone. But the news hit me in the same way you get hit when someone you have just started to fall for announces that they have found another person they are interested in; that sort of awkward, pit-of-the-stomach feeling of rejection that isn’t quite like being punched in the gut, but is kind of like that. There is a sense of abandonment, and while it won’t last long, it still, pardon the phrase, sucks.
I have been writing about the Mariners since late 2007, when I started on LiveJournal. I kept the blog there, sitting in my original section, where it was kind of but not really accessible to the public because LJ was gradually falling out of favor for blogging. When I was reading and found a link to my sad little LJ on the sidebar of the old SBN LL, I was ecstatic. I told Tom, I called my parents, I’m pretty sure I told a bunch of my friends, who were still in shock that I had gotten into baseball to begin with, so couldn’t really grasp the importance of a simple link. I was so happy that I had been recognized by one of the “big guns” of the Mariners blogosphere. I even emailed Jeff to thank him, a gratitude that he accepted with typical, no-big-deal Jeffness. It was a good day. I spent the next few years participating in game chats, reading the posts when I could grab a spare minute at work or school between classes, and being generally happy that I was finally a part of something that wasn’t the music scene I had been involved in previously.
I haven’t read the new SBN site much lately. Work is usually pretty busy, and the only place I can read anything online is my desk during lunch, which often results in interruptions from my time off the clock; by the time I get home, I’m usually not interested in doing anything but watching Netflix, eating dinner, and winding down. Getting up at 5AM every day is rough that way. There have been a lot of new faces and usernames there, and the site layout is…not really something I enjoy wading through. The old one was cleaner, easier, etc. So I haven’t felt much like a part of the community there over the past year, a thing I have come to be OK with out of necessity; I have my Twitter account, I have here, and the two are already far more than I can handle. Regularity with any other site is just icing on top of a very busy cake.
But regardless of the time I can allot to the surfing of other sites, I am still terribly sad that we are losing one of the best writers in our Mariners virtual space. I completely understand the reason he’s going; there is a lot out there in the world to explore, and Jeff was an extremely diligent and tireless researcher and writer of all things Mariners; and he did it all from either California or Portland, a feat I don’t know a lot of us could necessarily accomplish. I don’t think I could have; I probably would have just opted to be a Padres fan; locality is, after all, a big reason I got into this to begin with. Jeff has been the creator of so many inside jokes and phrases about and for the Mariners, I don’t know that I can count them all. He coined Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows as Felix Hernandez’s unofficial theme song, and it was embraced not only by fans of the team, but by local radio media as well. He helped organize and promote the meetings led by USS Mariner and LL, being part of the panels, and has always been around since my Mariner fandom started to help add levity to the awfulness of the Ms and some of our darkest moments as fans over the past few years. He’s always been the guy who made sure that none of us took anything too seriously, even when we really really wanted to, someone who could temper excitement or anger with a bit of humor and a lot of numbers and facts to back it up.
But most of all, he inspired me to keep writing. Even though we are from two totally different schools of blogging, his style of prose was always fun to read, and I aspired to add that same sense of humor with my own rabid fandom in order to express myself; because above all, I have always been someone who needed to do that, regardless of whether it was via writing my own music, session playing, painting, taking pictures, or writing stuff about baseball. Jeff, I wish you much luck and happiness, but you will be terribly missed.
It seems almost appropriate that I write about Jeff’s leave of absence today, in light of this post made earlier today from Matthew Carruth. I can only hope that this is something that doesn’t come in threes, because I don’t know that I would know what to do with myself if we lost anyone else this year.
The upside of all of this? There is but one; Jon Shields. And I still have the guys at USS Mariner, and of course Deanna at Marinerds, my other inspiration for being a Girl Who Writes About Baseball (even though she is far departed from the Mariners themselves). If nothing else, I am hoping that this will give me a much-needed kick in the pants to write even more, to get back into my pre-work fighting shape, when I was inspired and able to write every day, and sometimes twice. Maybe new writers will appear, people who can – if not replace Sullivan and Carruth – at least open some windows and freshen us up a bit. I’ll be watching…
March 14, 2013Posted by on
It’s Mariners commercial day! There are six this year, and they can all be viewed here, along with a blooper reel that clocks in at about a minute and a half or so. Some lucky fan has already won Mike Morse’s t-shirt from the “Focused and Relaxed” commercial, and the “buffalo cookies” recipe has already been worked out and posted. I myself am more than ready for some High Heat Hot Sauce, and I hear whispers on the internet wind that it might indeed become a reality! Tom and I and most of our friends consume spicy sauces like we’re being paid for it, so anything new is more than welcome. The Baseball Hall of Fame hot sauce that I wound up with from my visit there a few years ago was more or less like a spicier version of Tabasco; I don’t mind this in general (Tabasco on eggs is wonderful), but more flavor, more spice, more different is always something to look forward to. I also appreciate the fact that this year, the commercials are kind of interactive! I don’t know how well other teams utilize social media, but the Mariners have really managed to go above and beyond with their involvement in it, and as a frequent flier on the Safeco Express, I have to say that it’s pretty cool. If the intended effect is to help fans feel like they’re a part of the game and organization, they have definitely succeeded. It will be exciting to see how they improve and continue their interaction with fans on an online level.
As if this wasn’t enough good news for the day (commercial day is always fun, every year), I received the coolest email before I left work for the day…
The Ms have been working to give those of us unwashed heathen poor a few breaks during the regular season. Last year (and I believe the year before, if memory serves, but I could not make it), 16-gamers were given the thumbs up to come to the season ticket holder appreciation game. We were basically allowed to wander in through the right field gates and be in the park for Mariners batting practice, grab a beer, and hang out way before the regular night’s crowd was let into the field, and even before happy hour in The Pen. There were opportunities for autographs as well, but you know me and my lack of desire to fight the under-12 hordes. It was fun to people watch and take pictures, and was a little calming before the storm of the game. For those of us who just like to hang out in a baseball atmosphere and take in the grass and the smells of fresh popcorn, dogs and burgers, it was a nice way to start the evening.
So imagine my absolute joy when I got an email inviting me to come to Opening Night at Safeco! My two season tickets are getting me passes for myself and a guest, free parking, drink vouchers, t-shirts, photo ops with “Mariners legends” (their words, no mine – I am guessing Buhner and Wilson, and this time I might actually do it. If Edgar is there I will for sure), a tour of the new Edgar’s Cantina, and all the hot dogs I can eat (I am assuming 99% that there will be hot dogs)!!! On top of all of this, we will all get to watch the opening game against – who else – the Oakland Athletics! I was already planning out my food for that evening and getting ready to hang out in my cozy living room, but this is much better. As an added bonus, Tom told me he would come with me, so he’ll be making a rare appearance at a baseball-related event. I’m pretty sure he’s just coming along for the hot dogs, but I’ll take it. Seriously, it’s kind of like seeing a tiger in the wild.
Between all of this and my plans for the home opener, I am really quite excited for the next few weeks. I have a lot of other things planned to be going on as well, so this is like the icing on a super fun cake. Two weeks and six days seems so. long. Can’t WAIT!
March 5, 2013Posted by on
Today was the day! The first bit of televised Mariners baseball of 2013.
I have been tempering my excitement over the Ms recent hit parade with knowledge of the fact that yeah, this is only the start of a very long year. These games don’t count towards regular season numbers, and a lot of them are intermixed squads and/or split squads, and there are a billion other factors that contribute to why a player might do poorly or well during Spring Training and then do a 180 the second they step to the plate or the rubber for the regular season. But man is it difficult to watch a game like today’s, or hear a game like Saturday’s and not get totally hopped up on hope.
If it were not for Miguel Batista in the 4th or Parker Frazier in the 5th, this might have been a very different game. Or it might have been pretty much the same. Therein lies the torture and uncertainty of the game; is it bad pitching or good hitting that caused the Mariners win today? Does it matter? Why do we care?
Well I care because whether it counts or not, you cannot deny that Mariners fans have long been waiting for the team to start hitting – especially power hitting. And it’s suddenly coming out of places we haven’t really seen it before. Justin Smoak now sits at a comfy .533, with 8 hits in his 15 ABs. Two home runs for Mr Smoak as well! Franklin Gutierrez and Carlos Peguero have been mashing things up in grand fashion, and Peguero has even taken – wait for it – walks. Out of the 29 guys with offensive stats in camp right now, 14 of them have not hit home runs. I care because Casper Wells is out of options, and he’s got an average of .111, and I want Casper Wells to do better and be a Mariner in 2013. I care because it was fun to see Raul Ibanez back in a Seattle uniform, talking to Brad Adam over the bar in the dugout as if he’d never left and spent time in other places on better teams. And lastly I care because if there is anything better in the world of sports than seeing happy Mariners, I really just don’t know what it might be.
So the Ms now have their 10th straight Cactus League win; at I think 8, they had already broken a record from the early 1980s. I don’t know how to feel about that that is any way but pleased with what is going on in Peoria right now.
I find myself wishing that I had given more thought to next year’s trip to Arizona sooner, and tried to get down there this year instead. The skies are sunny in Seattle today, but seeing people enjoying this game and not wearing jackets at the same time is really making me jealous. So far I have $90 saved up for next year. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I will of course be posting that little adventure when the time comes; but we are far from that now.
The thing we are not very far from, however, is the WBC game this upcoming Friday featuring Team USA facing off against Team Mexico. I was planning on watching it anyway, but they upped the ante earlier today by announcing that RA Dickey will be taking the hill for the US team. I didn’t need more of an excuse to watch baseball, but I have just been given one. This should be great. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching bits and pieces of the WBC as time allows. Last night, I switched the channel to see China and Cuba playing in a stadium in Japan. There was literally nobody there to watch the game; the stands were virtually empty. The lack of a crowd must have been a great relief to Chinese player Fujia Chu, who got caught in a rundown during a steal attempt after he believed that the batter had hit a foul. There is video at the link, in case you didn’t see it when it happened. It is possibly the saddest, most mischievous, yet hilarious thing. The Chinese are new to baseball, and they have just learned a very hard lesson in a very public way; don’t simply trust what the opposition tells you just happened if you didn’t see it for yourself. Hopefully, their manager, former Mariner John McClaren (nope, not kidding) will help them learn so that things like that don’t happen again.
So the Ms get a break tomorrow from meaningless games. I am currently watching a Mariners All Access episode and trying to prevent my eyes from watering over clips of Felix’s perfect game last year. It’s not working. Only a little while longer, and baseball will be here!
March 2, 2013Posted by on
Last night as I was scrolling through channels looking for an episode of Iron Chef or some other such thing to kill some time before the 8.30PM start of the World Baseball Classic, I stumbled upon a Spring Training contest between the Pirates and Red Sox. Normally, I would have kept scrolling because for the most part, I care about neither team. But I stopped, and I watched the remaining few innings before changing the channel to anything else, and it turned out to be far more enjoyable than I would have ever thought. I wasn’t riveted, but I was paying attention, especially when I saw familiar face Mike Carp step to the plate. I don’t know what Carp did off the top of my head, because I was so distracted by the fact that he just doesn’t look quite right in a Boston uniform; but I watched the remainder of the game and it just felt right…like sinking into a big vat of warm pudding, or sleeping on Memory Foam (for those of you who don’t like pudding). I think I missed baseball a hell of a lot more than maybe I originally thought.
The World Baseball Classic started on the MLB Network last night between Chinese Taipei and Australia. The stadium was small but very modern looking, and the crowd was not a sell out by any stretch, but the stands were pretty full (20,000+ fans), and the home crowd was enthusiastic. The umpires, however, were not. I do not have time to do more research (you guessed it, writing from work on lunch again), but there was a blatant awful call in either the first or second innings against Australia where the runner was called out at first, but appeared to have come in quite safely. The cameras panned to the Aussie player being quite vocal about the call, but there was no replay, so nothing could have been set. I don’t think it would have mattered anyway. Chien-Ming Wang outpitched Australia’s Chris Oxspring, and Australia was simply outhit, final score 4-1. I had to go to bed at 9.30 to be able to get up on time this morning which was super disappointing, but there will be more WBC over the upcoming week, and best of all, Mariners Spring Training on Monday!
I made an executive decision to make a full or almost full day of it on Opening Day; fortunately this year it just happens to fall on a day off for me. My friend Kevin and I are just going to hang out near the stadium from about lunch time on. I have a gift certificate still laying around, so perhaps a new jacket or shirt from the team store is in order. I also will be needing a new jersey that actually fits me over the course of the next year (my original Putz jersey is a size 52 and while that is great for layering sweatshirts under or, say, wearing as a dress, I will need a smaller one for my planned Spring Training trip next year), so why not start on Opening Day? There will be lunch! And beer! And I may have to step on someone to get a taco from Edgar’s Cantina! I’m getting bouncy just thinking about it. Also, this year I will be bringing hard, cold cash. I am not leaving another home opener before the game ends because of stadium-wide machinery failure. Never again! I know I cannot realistically assume that it will happen again, but I am also not taking any chances. I need to make up for last year big time.
Now, ’tis time to get back to work and listen to today’s Mariners challenge and Iwakuma start against the Dodgers. And up the Sounders, too! Their home opener is tonight. Yay Seattle sports!
February 23, 2013Posted by on
Woo hoo! Baseball is finally (technically speaking) here!
The Mariners opened up their 2013 season with the annual charity game against the San Diego Padres today. I was able to listen to most of it, but not all – today’s workday was fraught with one problem after the other, and I am sort of responsible for spearheading problem solving in my particular job. So I got to listen on my little radio until about 2PM, and then it was training time. But it was also enough time to make some observations…
Hector Noesi isn’t that good. Yes, it was the first meaningless game in a month-long string of meaningless games, but this guy was a starter for us for some of last year. He started 18 games, in fact, and he came out of 2012 with a 2-12 record, and a 5.53 FIP (ERA 5.83). Yes, he was at the back of the rotation. No, nobody seemed to expect him to be great before he graced the grass in Safeco. And yes, it seems that the back of the Mariners rotation for the past few years has been reserved for pitchers who really shouldn’t be in the major leagues. I just can’t help thinking “we let Shawn Kelley get away for this?!” Unloading Kelley’s near-million-dollar contract was probably not a bad thing, but Kelley was a sure thing. I just don’t feel like I can say the same about Noesi, and I have never really felt that way. I feel kind of badly going after him like this. While I am sure that others have and are saying worse things about today’s performance, I try to always be on the positive side as much as possible. I’m just going to shake today off, hope his next start goes a little better after some more coaching, and hope he can shake it off too. And also, that he doesn’t read the internet.
The game ended before my training did, at a nice decisive 9-3 in favor of San Diego. This is disheartening as a fact of the game, and a lot of people were half-jokingly referring to it as Mariners baseball(TM) but I am encouraged because six of those runs for the Pads came at the expense of Noesi. The rest of the boys in the lineup – with the exception of Danny Farquhar in the 9th – did a great job keeping the Padres from batting us into a sad, charitable hole in the ground. Things could have been worse. Take Noesi’s inning away, and it’s a tied game. The thing I feel I should be a little more concerned about is our hitting. Again. We had Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, Eric Thames and Jesus Montero at the plate at some or several points in the game, and we come out of this with five hits?! And Michael Saunders, with all his wacky, newfangled, training devices; two plate appearances, two times making contact with the ball on 7 pitches, no hits. Oh, you kids. Do better!
Mike Carp is gone! I know y’all know this already; I didn’t have the time to go into it the other day, but trust and believe I was sad. I went from liking Carp, to not really liking him that much, to loving him; this last bit was specifically because of last year, even though his numbers took a pretty big dive from 2011. Carp was a fan favorite, and I had hoped to see him perform well at the plate with the walls moved in. Mike Carp home runs were fun home runs. He was a fun player to support; my favorite baseball persona, Guy Who Just Wants to Play. There was no pretension about him, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans. I know the gals in the “Girls Corner” by the bullpen will miss him, probably far more than I do. And chants in the King’s Court just got a little more lifeless. No more Seafood Special for you, Seattle. Good luck, Mike. I hope Boston treats you well.
I was looking at the Mariners.com headlines today, and they are as follows:
- Wells needs to make his mark in camp
- Fighting for roster spot, Wells goes deep
- Wells launches 2-run homer vs Padres
More of this, please. I have really come to enjoy the fact that Casper Wells is on our team. I like that he’s been embraced by the fans, and I like that he knows we love him. I wish the team would maybe use him a little more and send him to Tacoma a little less, but that is not for me to decide. Keep fighting the good fight, Friendly Ghost!
Lastly, today was the radio debut of new announcer guy, Aaron Goldsmith. I am impressed. He worked well with Rick Rizzs; their banter back and forth sounded natural and easy, and I heard no noticeable errors in announcing names or stumbling on his words at all. And he has obviously done his homework very well. He talked about our team like it’s been his own since day one. I know Goldsmith is a pro, but I have to think that having only a handful of weeks makes for some super brutal crunch time to remember player names, prior performances and stats. No matter how many notes you have in front of you, or how much help you get, a new team is a new team; I would be terrified, but that is one of the many reasons I am not in broadcasting. Goldsmith blended in seamlessly. Welcome to Seattle, sir!
Tomorrow we showdown with the Pads again, a veritable mano ‘y mano of terror and Mariner-ness. I don’t know if it will be on the radio, but I hope it is, because I will get in some degree of trouble for trying to use GameDay at work; I guess our servers are not interested in live streaming sports nonsense, so I’m at the mercy of ESPN. And Twitter. Oh, and if you haven’t already, follow up the Mariners Haiku account on Twitter. I started doing some haiku a while ago with a hashtag, so friend Daniel Carroll (current president of Dave Sims’ Sweet Hat Club) decided to create this account, as he, too, is familiar with the subtle art of haiku. I cannot promise they’ll all be good ones, but they’ll all be fun to write!
February 18, 2013Posted by on
A screenshot from my email inbox on Saturday. Between the abrupt offseason weight gain after he went to New York and this information; while I loved Pineda and was upset to see him go, it definitely looks like the right decision was made here. Better to have that verified in hindsight, rather than deal with it in real time. Obviously there is no way the Ms front office could have seen any of this coming, but it does make me glad the trade was made, even if I wasn’t happy about it at the time. I still miss the Michael Pineda that caused Dave Niehaus to exclaim “Diabolical!”, but it looks as if for now, that Pineda is long gone. I hope he comes back. Time will tell.
February 14, 2013Posted by on
In case you were not there as some fans were, couldn’t listen to it on the radio, or have just plain been living under a rock, here is the entirety of today’s press conference with Felix Hernandez. Get a tissue, you’ll need it. I was nearly sniffling at my desk, and I was listening through the tinny squeal of AM radio in my AM wave-hating building at work. I don’t know if I can deal with video. Might be too sad-happy.
Today’s 2PM event set Twitter ablaze with a fan-fueled love-fest the likes of which I don’t believe has been seen since Felix threw his perfect game. I set my afternoon break time aside specifically to sit and listen and participate in the back-slapping and rejoicing at the altar of Mariners baseball (rather than taking it earlier to go read Cracked or FaceBook like I usually do). A wonderful 15 or so minutes. From what I understand, several fans showed up with King’s Court shirts on, along with a bunch of front office employees as well, to greet Felix and his wife downstairs behind the front desk area in the massive hallway behind home plate. The Mariners Twitter account posted several photos of Felix’s arrival to Safeco, including this one of him breaking down at the greeting he was given. Following it in real time was sort of like being there, or at least listening from an adjoining room with my ear pressed up against a wall. It was the closest I was going to get. Had I known that fans were welcome, I would definitely have attempted to get a few hours away from work. It would have been worth it, and I might have had some good photos to post up here.
In the course of my life, I have watched a lot of press conferences; some for politics, some for sports, some for music. I have to say that this one might be the most moving I have ever seen; and that is really putting it lightly. Ichiro’s departure from our team definitely runs a close second or even tie, but you don’t often get quite this much emotion from athletes, especially not over a simple contract signing. A lot has been said about Felix and the fact that he has made Seattle his home away from home. Listening to Brock and Salk earlier today, a clip was played of an interview with Jack Zduriencik from yesterday. I can’t immediately find or remember the exact quote, but it was something to the effect that Z believes that the signing sends a loud message to fans that the Mariners mean business and that “he is ours.” I hope it sends not only a message to fans, but a message to our current roster of players and also to any prospective free agents that might be doubting the city, the team, or those of us who go to watch the Mariners play. Yes, it is a huge amount of money to shell out to a pitcher, and I am sure that the cash doesn’t hurt Felix’s decision. But the fact that the organization has held onto him for so long and he has made the choice to stay here rather than attempt to get more money from an organization that could give him more do speak volumes. I love that we have a player of this caliber, someone who recognizes how much the city appreciates what he does here, in spite of the bad quality of the team’s overall performance. I know one player does not make a team, but this is one player who definitely makes a difference. And I am glad to be present for all of this, to have been able to watch him develop. I am glad that, unlike Ken Griffey Jr or Ichiro, I didn’t arrive too late.
There are rarely ups without downs, though, and while today’s “up” is a pretty big one, the down is kind of a bummer. Shawn Kelley got nabbed by the New York Yankees. This is significant to me because it marks the absolute end of the gladiator bullpen of 2009. They’re all gone. I knew Kelley would get picked up; other teams would be crazy not to go after him. I just didn’t really want him to go. I don’t even care that it’s the Yankees; it just makes me sad that my favorite bullpen of my favorite version of the Mariners has been scattered to the 30 winds of MLB. I knew it was just a matter of time, but it is difficult to say goodbye so abruptly; there was no warning here, just a poof! of number 23. I don’t know who keeps the bullpen weird anymore, or even if it’s kept weird. I know that there were some funny handshakes and little rituals that were done last year, but last season was kind of an aimless one for me, so I never really paid much attention. I don’t want to foist any expectations on the kids that are left, but it would certainly be great to have some more character in our relief pool. 2009 was fun, and I will always remember it, the guys, and what they did for my fandom. In an event, I wish Kelley very well. Not against us (though I won’t be surprised), but I wish him well.
Now, the vaguely agonizing few weeks left before Spring Training starts all proper-like, and the final haul before that best day of all days, the Seattle Mariners home opener. I felt a little warm twinge to the air this afternoon while I was waiting for the bus. Spring, and baseball, are both on their way to Seattle!
February 8, 2013Posted by on
And I was not in a position to write about it, but wow did everything go nuts.
Obviously, I am beyond excited about the Felix Hernandez extension. The fact that he chose to stay here rather than go to another city that could have offered him more money is wonderful, and shows what I believe to be a clear devotion to the city of Seattle and its fans. Sure, the money definitely helps; but other teams could have offered more if he’d wanted it, and they would likely be able to give him the playoffs that he so richly deserves a lot easier than maybe we can. It is clear that Felix likes it here; and since he puts the El Rey in our mopey Seattle spring, we are all quite happy to have him. For my part, even though I was not witness to his earlier years in Everett or Tacoma, I am pleased to be able to witness (and continue to witness, most importantly!) his rise to prominence. He will be the first Mariner I have seen who will likely be here for all or most of his career. It’s a pretty cool thing to see. I look forward to many many more King’s Court and if at all possible, another Supreme Court. And if you haven’t been to the King’s Court yet, you really need to go. It’s wonderful. Felix is wonderful. Everybody’s hugging!
Joe Saunders was also brought into the fold yesterday, and though I occasionally get Saunders’ and John Lackey’s faces mixed up in my head, when I remember that they are different people, I realize that I like both of them. I am sure this will garner some sideways looks from other fans, but I don’t care. Lackey won me over during the playoffs a few years ago, and Saunders I just have latched onto for some reason; probably because of his general success against us when he was with the Angels. He will be helping out as a lefty in a Jason Vargas-y sort of way this season, and while it looks like his best years are a ways behind him in Anaheim, he still had a 2.5 WAR year last year split between two teams, so I am pleased to have him in Mariners blues and grays. In case nobody has noticed, WAR is my recent favorite stat; but I think that is mainly because it is relatively easy to understand based on the number alone. I’ll have all this down by the time I’m 80, which should be around the time that calculus clicks, too. Numbers and I don’t really speak much, but we go out for a drink every now and then. It’s awkward, but necessary.
The Kelly Shoppach signing was also more or less solidified yesterday, and as a result, Shawn Kelley was DFA’d. I panicked a bit, but so far so good. If Kelley can ride out his assignment, perhaps he will wind up back in Tacoma. I can think of at least one other bullpen arm I would rather see DFA’d (and at least two starters, ahem), but Zduriencik knows best, I guess. Shoppach will do the veteran thing, like Miguel Olivo, but unlike Olivo, Shoppach’s offensive numbers are much more acceptable. I haven’t delved into defensive metrics really (plus, our main issue is offense anyway, so I have the tendency to concentrate more on that), but if passed balls are a metric, I’d like to think that we’ll see less of those. I have no qualms about this situation. We needed an improvement, and Shoppach represents just that. I do hope to see Kelley back in Seattle soon, but I have to believe he’ll get picked up. He’s a good arm, and any other team would be crazy not to go after him. My hope that he sticks around is purely selfish, and based out of the fear that one of the other members of the bullpen will cause us to need proven backup. Matthew says that there might be some clubhouse issue with Kelley forcing the Mariners’ hand, but I don’t know so much about that. Kelley seems like a good guy, and it is easy to see him yukking it up in the pen with the rest of the group. For whatever reason, the Ms would rather keep this guy on the roster than Kelley. Go ahead. Click the link. I wish I could see all of your faces when you do.
I just put yet another down payment on my season tickets. So close. Christmas pretty much destroyed me financially, and now one of the cats needs to have dental work done. Before you laugh, know that it is very important to cats and dogs overall health to have their little teeth clean; all sorts of awful things can happen to their hearts and mouths, it’s not pretty. So I am having to save up money for that (believe I love my little woogums), while trying to get my tickets paid off and make sure that I have two tickets to Opening Day because it’s imperative that I go to Opening Day. Imperative, I tell you! I don’t know that I can wait two more months. I might have to start stalking Safeco Field.
Anyway, I’ve run up against my lunch hour, so I gotta bail. Only a few more days until pitchers and catchers report and we can get this season started. Oh, and the Marlins just signed Chone Figgins to a minor league contract, so…y’know…that’s fun.