Mariners Start Thanksgiving Early

Yesterday it was announced that the Mariners made a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks; the first for the new Arizona GM Mike Hazen. We sent them Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker, and they sent us Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis. I had been out running errands so the house looks presentable for our guests today, and had just started a major overhaul of the living room when I took a break and checked Twitter and saw the news.

My initial reaction was that kind of sinking feeling one gets when you lose your keys and are late for work. I genuinely liked both players and losing especially Walker is a little frustrating, I thought maybe 2017 would be the year he finally nailed it down. And it might be, he’ll just do it in Arizona. I enjoyed (maybe too much of) the hype surrounding Walker. He and his family seemed to like it here, and I felt like he was a good personality to have on the team. He is certainly projected to do much better next year, so perhaps he’ll provide my fourth team with some needed oomph on the mound. Marte was so-so, delivering moments of fun, and it would have been nice to see him go further here since he’s still so young, but it seems like Jerry Dipoto has a plan, and last year’s plan worked out pretty well for us, so I’m going to go with the plan.

After spending some time moving furniture and ripping up flooring, I took another break and found this article by Dave Cameron via Twitter. Dave is right, Segura is the guy I’m focusing on, because of his .319 average, and his .368/.499/.867 line this season. Guy’s also only 26 years old, and already comes with a nickname; Jean the Hitting Machine. Getting a shortstop who knows how to handle a bat is not such a terrible thing, not for a team who could use just a little more power at the plate.

The other two I’m holding out judgement on. They’ll still be rookies through 2017, so who knows how much we’ll see them. I need to make this short because we need to get started making dinner and expecting company, so I don’t currently have the time to research what either Haniger or Curtis might have done, but again, I’m trusting The Plan. I think Arizona fans will enjoy our guys, and I hope to be enjoying theirs in a few months.

In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving however you choose to spend today, and stay safe out there, everyone.

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When my coworkers suddenly talk baseball

It’s always strange to me when people I know outside of the relationships I’ve built with Mariners fans talk to me about baseball. You know, people you see every day but never catch wearing a team cap or t-shirt or anything like that. Baseball is boring, or so popular culture will lead you to believe. It’s too slow, there’s not enough excitement, the NFL is superior, whatever the argument is, baseball is just sort of there, existing. This World Series, though, certainly turned everyone into a Cubs fan, and I had a number of people ask me what I thought about the Series as I walked past them in the hallway or got on the elevator or was in the middle of something else. Of course the thing for me, though, is there’s not enough time in one of those interactions to really get into it. I have nuanced thoughts that cannot be contained in a conversation as short as a tweet.

 

At the start of the playoffs, I didn’t have much care about who made it this year. I didn’t have favorites so much as I felt like I had teams to root against. I wanted the Rangers’ one-run luck to become apparent. I wanted the Blue Jays out to spite the fans of Western Canada that fill the seats at Safeco. I couldn’t root Cleveland because the Mariners should have an intense rivalry with them after 1995 and 2001, but somehow don’t. Not that the Indians were really desirable anyway due to the Corey Kluber Cy Young and Chief Wahoo’s continued existence. Baltimore? I didn’t really have a strong feeling about them but I could probably work myself into some annoyance if I think long enough about the Erik Bedard trade. Lastly on the A.L. side, while I didn’t want the Red Sox to win the World Series, I didn’t think that Red Sox fans would become appreciably worse if they did win it, so that made them maybe the “best of five evils.”

 

On the National League side, I wanted the Nationals to lose so it didn’t leave the Mariners as the only team to never make the World Series. The Giants have had an embarrassment of World Series riches over the last several years and may be getting too big for their britches, though I like their radio broadcast team. The Dodgers’ payroll surpassed the Yankees this year, and that’s never a thing I feel good about rooting for. I can’t say I have strong feelings about the Mets, so I suppose they would have been fine except they lost the opener to the Giants. The Cubs, well, I have a family affinity for the Cubs and I always liked Ryne Sandberg as a kid, but I’ve long predicted that the moment the Cubs take the Series, fans will come pouring out of the woodwork like Red Sox fans did in 2005, and I don’t care to be associated with that. Even aside from that, there are serious Aroldis Chapman problems there that just haven’t been addressed to my liking.

 

Was I rooting for the Cubs in the World Series? Yeah, I was, and probably the best part of that story for me is the retirees who are just getting to enjoy a Cubs championship for the first time. But did I feel 100% good about it? Not with Chapman on the mound, and not with Cubs fans showing up in Cleveland for Game 7 like they were Blue Jays fans coming down out of Canada for their series with the Mariners. I like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and especially Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th, but I don’t think I can quite get over supporting a team that features a known domestic abuser.

 

I should take that back because I’m in deep enough with the Mariners that I would do it anyway, but I hope that the Mariners never test me (again) on that, and I hope that the players on the M’s current roster treat people with the respect they deserve.

 

Could I have rooted for Cleveland? I suppose. Their team was fun. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp are entertaining players. Francisco Lindor is great, Kluber is not a pitcher who is undeserving of awards (even if I want Felix Hernandez to win all of the awards for all of time), and Terry Francona was willing to push the envelope on bullpen usage, using Andrew Miller in ways that may advance the play of baseball for the future. Aside from that, not winning the World Series since the ‘40s is still compelling and I have a few friends who are Cleveland fans and I could root in their interests. Ultimately, though, the biggest strike I had with them is the continued use of Chief Wahoo as a logo and some of their fans’ use of that logo as an excuse to paint their faces red like the caricature. They really need to clean that up.

 

In a way, it seemed to me that the Cubs were the team of choice for most everyone who pays only passing attention to baseball, and that Cleveland was the team of choice for people who are contrarian by nature. Given that, I guess I fit better into the “Go Cubs” camp, if only because contrarians tend to be smart but maybe want to show it off too much for my liking.

 

In any event, we got to witness one hell of a Game 7 in Cleveland last night. It was a beautiful season finale, and maybe baseball will be better for it; maybe the Mariners can pick up a few more fans for 2017.

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Go, Cubs, Go.

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Mariners History and the Final Days of the 2016 Regular Season

I wrote this on the bus to work and almost worked myself into tears doing it, so I want to share:

They took MLB from us in March, 1970. When we got it back in 1977, we played in a concrete coffin that Dave Niehaus called an “ugly duckling” in the final day of its baseball life.

We didn’t win more games than we lost until 1991. When ceiling tiles in the Kingdome fell in 1994, the league demanded that the team that already traveled more than any other play the remainder of its games on the road.

They tried to take baseball from us twice more. Voters denied Safeco Field in September of ’95, before it had a name. Public money spent on pro sports facilities is repugnant and I am against it, but I am forever thankful the state legislature made it happen. Frankly, the Mariners shouldn’t even exist.

But it’s our guy who earned a higher vote percentage for the hall of fame than anyone else to play the game. We got to celebrate perhaps the best team to ever play in 2001 with an All-Star Game in our city. You could have put the ’01 Mariners against the NL All-Stars and I think they would have won. We got to see one of the most memorable in-season comebacks in baseball in 1995.

People forget that the Mariners briefly led the AL West in the final week of the ’95 Season. Despite falling back to a tie, the team hung their first banner on an inspiring performance of one of the most dominant pitchers the game has ever seen, and the “ugly duckling” turned into an ally when everyone scored on a ball into the bullpen.

That team would play one of the best postseason games in the history of the game. The game was a microcosm of a series where they fell behind 0-2 and won the final three. In the bottom of the 11th, the M’s surely would have accepted one run just to tie. To keep playing just one more inning would have been a success. Instead, we got two, and the team earned at least four more games instead of one more inning.

The 2016 Mariners probably shouldn’t even be here. Too many blown leads late and critical errors feel like they should be disqualified. But they aren’t. Their story is really the story of the franchise. We shouldn’t be here, but here we are. Let’s celebrate and play some baseball.

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Famous In Canada

In the last few years, there’s been quite a bit of hemming and hawing over who is to blame and who should feel shame over the annual Canadian invasion which takes place during the Toronto series, with some pointing the finger at M’s fans who don’t show up and others pointing to the Mariners’ play or special offers that may have been made to discount tickets for Canadian fans, but neither of those do much for those of us who actually attend. This year I decided I’d try to take a different approach to the series and make fun of Canada so the visitors understood they were guests and didn’t own the place.

 

Megan and I went to Tuesday’s Mariners-Blue Jays game, and after some discussion with Twitter, I brought a handful of Canadian-trolling signs to display. By now, you’ve probably seen most of the signs, since the Mariners re-tweeted the photos I took of them and my mentions crumbled to the ground as I kept getting notifications of likes, re-tweets, and responses, but just in case:

 

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Fridays At Safeco

I am writing this at 4AM, because the heat has taken such a toll on me over the last 12 hours, and I could only sleep for about four hours or so. I get a lot of flack from people in more arid or humid states about complaining about the weather here in Seattle the past few years, because their weather is worse by comparison. But here’s the thing; I live here so I don’t have to deal with your ugly 90F, 80% humidity. Having the weather we’ve had in this area this year is not cool with me. The Pacific Northwest is supposed to be a lot more moderate weatherwise than it has been over the past five years or so. It kills my ability to sleep or any desire I might have to even go outside. The last game I went to was last Friday, and it was so unbelievably hot out, it’s a wonder the guys on the field didn’t just fall down with exhaustion. I wore the lightest clothing I had and was still miserable. My friend who doesn’t wear hats ever, BOUGHT A HAT to keep his head away from the sun (and I cannot emphasize enough how strange an event this was). This heat is not OK.

But I digress. Here are some pictures.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.18.47 AMAdam Jones, at the one Orioles game I was able to attend this year. The Mariners and Orioles are currently in the Wild Card chase, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays. I don’t know if Jones would have thrived here like he has in Baltimore, but I’d like to think he would have been an amazing long-term piece of our roster, if Bavasi hadn’t made that terrible move, and then Zduriencik had the sense to give him a good contract (I feel like he would have). When I was in Camden getting my “first game” certificate a few years ago, the people in the office there asked me why I was an Orioles fan (I was wearing my Mariners jersey), and I said “Adam Jones!” They all nodded in sage agreement. Baltimore understands what we gave up, and I’m still glad to have chosen the Os as my second team.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.19.16 AMKyle Seager gets ready to swat a ball. Having Seager out of the lineup the past two games has hurt us in the WC a bit, so I really hope he can recover from his foul ball issues soon. I understand we might get him back as soon as tonight, so that’s good. Keeping my fingers crossed. We can’t afford a lot of losses at this point, if we are to see games scheduled after the formal end of the season.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.21.13 AMThis is Jonathan Schoop. His first full year with Baltimore was 2014, also the year I went to Camden in April. I knew he was special then, because he ran the bases like he was born to do it. That same year, I got to see the Os win the AL East. Two years later, Schoop is still there. There are a lot of good players to choose from as favorites on Baltimore’s roster; Schoop might be my second.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.22.43 AMDae-Ho Lee, checking his swing late in the game. Lee’s production seems to have tapered off during the last half this year, but it hasn’t stopped fans from being really into him. His one-year contract makes me wonder if the Mariners will bring him back. At 34, perhaps a minor league contract? Admittedly I haven’t done much reading about what might happen for him, but this season will be super memorable because of him, so if nothing else, I can completely appreciate that. He’s been a fun surprise this year.

I have been watching games or making sure I check in on them at the very least; Tom is doing a tour this year, so I have been trying to balance my personal life with my baseball life, which means that I have missed some things and caught others, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and formulate opinions about what’s been going on. Recently, given the Wild Card situation we are facing, I have been trying to not take things too seriously, even though I know that things are pretty freaking serious right now for the Mariners. We have a little over a month left of regular season baseball. The team has been fraught with injury and players not panning out quite the way the organization had hoped. Usually it seems to be only the latter, so having both of these situations occur and still being in the Wild Card hunt is pretty impressive, if you think about it.

But I don’t want to get too invested, not with things this close. Down that road leads madness and heartache and a lot of swearing, and this year I’ve just been wanting to have fun watching baseball. Obviously I am pulling for this team, and I won’t allow our recent losses to dampen my spirits. I still think this team is the Real Thing, I still love my Mariners, and I am still keeping the words post season in the back of my mind. Not too far back, though, I might to use need them soon…

 

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Number 24 Gets Retired, And So Do The Angels

Really, this weekend could not have gone any better. I will be finishing it up by going out to play Pokemon GO! with some friends this afternoon while the Mariners finish up their series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. When you make plans and look forward to something for months, you envision certain things and maybe expect certain things out of what you’re going to do. We all do that to an extent, I think. Outside of waiting in super long lines both days (which wasn’t even really a burden, considering), these past 48 hours have gone pretty much exactly how I wanted them to, which is no small feat when your expectations are high. This weekend has met my expectations and them some. This may seem overreaching, but I honestly can’t thank either the Mariners organization or the residents of our fine city enough for making my weekend something I’ll remeber for the rest of my life. I could not have asked for anything more.

So yesterday, with thoughts that there would be no parking left because of a massive influx of early-arriving fans, I left the house a little too early. I managed to get free parking in the spot I use for work, and there were of course still plenty of other spaces around, so while I felt silly, I also felt smart. I walked north on 1st towards the stadium, where people were trickling into position in front of the gates. Not a lot of people, but enough that at 10.45AM it seems a little excessive; but I can’t blame anyone for their day. I went into the team store and purchased both commerative patches with what should have been more reservation, given the cost of $15 apiece, but I was having a good day and didn’t care.

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I walked to FX McRory’s, thinking maybe I’d have some coffee and breakfast while waiting for other people, but it turns out they’re not open until noon, so I went up the street to Cafe Umbria, got a cold brew and sat outside checking Twitter, where I found out that the Mariners had made some moves and had gotten none other than switch pitcher Pat Venditte! So I was stuck there, by myself, being extremely happy about this news and having nobody to share it with! Obnoxious, right? Ah well. At noon, I went to FX, pushed some tables together, and waited until people showed up. We didn’t get a lot of people, but we had more than I’d been able to claim table space for, and managed to fit everyone in still, eat and drink and talk, and in spite of a busy restaurant, got our checks and were able to leave to get in line on time. Meanwhile, Gregg Greene Tweeted this:

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The Ms were wearing 24 while taking batting practice; it was the last time that number will be worn by anyone anywhere within the Mariners organization. During actual BP, a lot of them were wearing their hats backwards also. I kind of wish I would have gone into the early entry for season ticket holders, but I’m OK with what we did, too.

Myself, Su, and our friends James and Tiffany waited in line to get in for around 45 minutes again, but this time we spent most of our time in the shade of Century Link, rather than on the sidewalk on Occidental. Again, the line stretched out far behind us as fans poured in from every direction. Again, Seattle was on its best behavior. Well done, all. Once inside, we hung around in The Pen underneath the new spot for retired numbers, where Jackie Robinson’s new plaque was already out and shiny new in the afternoon sun, and Griffey’s was veiled under a large Mariners insignia. We chatted with some other folks we knew, watched the Root Sports NW crew get ready, and when they closed the roof partially for jumbotron visibility, we went upstairs to find our seats before the ceremony started.

The field was all done up for the occasion:

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.25.19 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.25.32 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.25.44 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.26.15 AMThey even got the plane that usually flies the Geico ads around before the game to just knock it off for the day and fly a different banner:

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.25.55 AMThe Mariners big whigs and Griffey’s wife and daughter came and sat in their chairs on the field. The Griffey sons were not on hand for the ceremony, and neither was Griffey Sr. The kids had football practice for their respective schools.

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Then they started the presentation and whoa the star power! Baseball players both old and young, singing the praises of the guy they played with or the guy they grew up emulating. Other athletes who’d worn the number 24. Hall of Famers and soon-to-be Hall of Famers. Randy Johnson. Jamie Moyer. Alvin Davis. Edgar Martinez. After the initial presentation, Rick Rizzs stepped to the podium and said “Myyyyyy oh my!” to a thunderous roar from the crowd. He introduced Griffey, and I thought he was going to come out on the red carpet, but should have known better; they let him out of the center field gate, and all 45,000+ people in the crowd were on their feet. He walked across the field towards the dais area, waving at everyone.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.26.48 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.26.58 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.27.11 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.27.21 AMWhen he got to the corner of the 2 there, he kissed his fingers and bent down for a moment to touch the grass. Crowd went wild, of course.

Griffey greeted everyone on the dais and then Rizzs announced the guys you knew were going to be there, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer, and Edgar Martinez (in uniform, who came out of the dugout but didn’t stay on the field).

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I think my white balance was a little off for yesterday’s cloudy sun glare, but you get the idea.

Rizzs then announced that Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray had proclaimed that yesterday would be Ken Griffey Jr day in Seattle. It was not clarified if this would be a yearly situation or not, but the thought was nice. The Space Needle has been decked out appropriately for the weekend, anyway.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.28.39 AMTo complete the group on the dais, retired Hall of Fame Seahawks Cortes Kennedy and Steve Largent joined in, along with Seattle Sonics Spencer Haywood and Gary Payton.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.28.49 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.29.05 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.29.16 AMTony Perez and Rickey Henderson also joined the party. Then (and I should really start taking note pads for this stuff, but I thought I’d remember), Griffey was given a bronze glove by an athlete I do not know. I feel poorly about this, but my grasp on the history of the Mariners before I got into baseball is still being filled in, let alone any knowledge I might have of the Sonics or Seahawks. I believe it’s Gary Payton. The woman on the players’ side is of course Marilyn Neihaus. I have only met Marilyn once, and she was a very sweet lady. It makes me happy to have her around and still active with the organization.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.29.28 AMInterspersed with everything were more recorded accolades on the jumbotron, including Willie Mays, who was giving Junior hassle for not calling him when he got elected to go to the Hall of Fame. As the clips were still rolling, Griffey took his phone out and – you guessed it – dailed Mays. He left a message, according to multiple reports, but he did in fact call.

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Mariners president Kevin Mathers took just a bit of time to announce that next year, there will be a Griffey statue outside the stadium. I’m not sure where, I think the home plate entrance. This is fantastic, as every other stadium I have been to has a statue or multiple statues of ball players from the team’s past. If we’re going to start with anyone, it should be Griffey; and how amazingly appropriate that the other statue will also be Dave Niehaus, of course.

Then it was time. Griffey’s daughter Taryn had somehow snuck out without notice to the deck in center field for the unveiling of the number. You can see her in the white right above it.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.29.47 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.29.57 AMAnd just like that, it was done.

Griffey took the podium to say some words, and while all of this drama was going on, Taijuan Walker still had to continue warming up in the outfield.

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This speech seemed a little more polished and a little more smooth than the one he gave at the Hall of Fame, but it was still tremendously emotional. Maybe it was that he was speaking at “home”, and that a number retirement is a little less harrowing than the actual induction ceremony, I don’t know. And there were thanks, of course, but the most important thing he might have said is (paraphrased, regarding the players waiting in the dugout) ‘These guys are playing for you, for the city.’ Then “Keep supportin’ these guys.” This of course set of a roar from the audience. Then he said, in regards to Henderson’s frequent self-referential comportment; “Lastly, Rickey, you were the greatest. Today, I’m the greatest. Thank you.”

After his speech was over, the whole team came out to congratulate, and have their photo taken:

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And after all of that, we still had a game to play!

Taijuan Walker took the hill against Tyler Skaggs and things started off on a bad foot, with another three-run homer by who else but Mike freaking Trout.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.31.05 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.31.16 AMThat’s not Trout, but it is Chris Iannetta, who was so miserable at the bat yesterday that they replaced him with Mike Zunino in around the 6th or 7th inning. I like Iannetta well enough, I guess; I mean, I certainly did at one point in time. But he’s had some hard games  since just before the All Star break, and is sort of following down the line of a lot of other catchers we’ve had. I am hoping his issues are just temporary.

Shawn O’Malley was truly the big deal of the game last night, hitting the HR that would put us over the Angels for the rest of the game, and making a fantastic play on the field to get an out at first. I didn’t see this latter bit as I was on Twitter for a moment. Twitter is both fantastic and detrimental for me this way. The crowd erupted multiple times in “Shawn O-Mal-ley! *clap clap clapclapclap* chants for the remainder of the game. Franklin Gutierrez was a triple away from hitting a cycle (those triples are so difficult to get), and Guillermo Heredia hit his first major league home run EVER. It was a crazy night. We also got some relief from Tom Wilhelmsen and of course Edwin Diaz to close it all out again.

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The final out of the game was a double play to gun out the runner at first, and it was clearly and easily called by the first base umpire, but Mike Scioscia – in what has to be one of the most ludicrous moves I’ve seen in a while by a manager – decided he wanted to challenge the play. I don’t know how easily managers are embarrassed (probably not easily), but the review took almost no time at all, as the replay showed the runner out at first by a mile. The guys waited on the hill with the home plate ump while the call was maintained.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.32.12 AMAnd of course it was, and we all went nuts at the win.

Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki was called in to pinch hit in a game in Colorado, and got hit 2,999. You can see a .gif of the hit at Angie Mentink’s Twitter feed from last night. He was up anothe time in that game, but did not get number 3,000. The press was ready, however.   He is in the lineup for the Marlins in Denver today, and may get his hit while I am out and about.

Shawn O’Malley was interviewed for the post game, and got a giant tub of orange Gatorade dumped on him, and the crowd was so loud with cheers and chanting his name that the interview was barely audible over it all. O’Malley said he’d never had anything like that done for him before, and couldn’t stop smiling. He said he could hear us all during the game, so that answers a question I had over whether or not that might be true.

I’ve probably missed a bunch of stuff that I should have taken notes on to remember, but the past two days have been amazing, and an event I think a lot of us will be talking about for years to come. As I’m posting this, James Paxton is pitching in the top of the 3rd inning, with a 1-0 score in the Angels favor. I would love a sweep, but won’t be able to finish watching this game due to prior obligations. That’s OK. There are 162 games in a season, and every once in a while I could use a break. We’ll get back on the train tomorrow evening.

Oh, and lest I forget…a lot of teams have retired player numbers. But do those numbers light up? I think not. Congratulations, Kid. Enjoy your retirement.

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