Fan Focus: Eric Yang

Last night was a perfect day for me to get some gardening in before last night’s rain storm, have a nice grilled dinner, and settle in for a Mariners game and another fan interview. This time, the victim fan in question is 26-year-old Eric Yang, a lifelong Washingtonian. This one was a bit of a challenge, as Eric and I have never met and I don’t know much about him, but I found out that he’s an aspiring softball player, possible future sports journalist, eligible bachelor about town, and most of all, fellow Seattle Mariners fan. We fired up GMail chat, and I asked him a few questions while the Mariners skillfully forged ahead of the Angels with the help of Michael Saunders’ and Ichiro’s crazy bats, and a very calm and collected Brandon League taking down the batting order in the 8th inning.

331: Alrighty. Obviously I know your first and last name – where are you from?
EY: I am from Bothell or Kenmore, Washington. Was born in Lake Forest Park, technically, before we moved houses.

S331: How long have you been a Mariners fan?
EY: All my life. [I] was born a Mariners fan. That was too easy of an inning for Williams; one, two, three.

S331: Yeah, especially for a guy with a hit-per-inning record. Maybe he’ll go down soon. We can hope, right?
EY: Hope we hit as well as we did in Texas.

S331: Definitely! So I get the impression you are a follower of prospects and the draft, to a degree. What do you think of our first pick, Mike Zunino?
EY: I think he can be a catcher. From what I have heard, he has all the intangibles to stay there and his body can take the strain of an everyday catcher. I like his bat, but I disagree that his major league comparison is Jason Varitek. When [Zunino is] called up, Montero might end up at either DH or 1B. Another thing [is], they picked the best player avaliable at the slot after (Byron) Buxton and (Carlos) Correa.  (In reference to the Angels game)  I like that double play! Of course Noesi loses the no-hitter in the first inning…and Noesi gives up one hit but due to the double play gets out unscathed…

S331: Typical Mariners! About Zunino, Zduriencik was indeed talking a lot about his leadership and skill (at the draft party), and said he had known the kid for a really long time due to his relationship with Zunino’s father. You might be interested in the fact that Zunino caught all 16 innings of a 16-inning game, the night before Z and Tom MacNamara were supposed to actually watch him catch another game.
EY: That is a concern that he caught all 16 innings, but its been done before at the major league level so it comes with the territory…and Montero gets the first hit of the game for Seattle!

S331: I’ve been really enjoying Montero this year, regardless of whatever instability he may have behind the plate. Who is your favorite acquisition for the Ms this season?
Eric: [I like] Montero as well. He adds offense to a team that needs it. He is a future number 3 or 4 hitter. Reminds many of the late great Edgar Martinez, and according to Brian Cashman, he is the (hitting equivalent) of Miguel Cabrera. And Saunders is developing in front of our own eyes right now!

S331: I was talking to someone the other day, and I am wondering whether or not the entire team might want to start Michael Saunders’ rubber band routine. It certainly seems to have made a difference in his plate approach…
EY: Perhaps, but Saunders has a lot to prove; a hot stretch for two weeks in a season will not secure him a spot on the roster in 2013.

S331: Yeah – it can be difficult to remember that sometimes. I just get so excited to see him doing well, and I’m not really feeling the loss of Gutierrez this year so far. Not saying that I don’t want Gutz back, just that I have been really impressed with Saunders adaptation in center.

EY: I think Guti and Saunders would make a good LF and CF [battery] and hopefully both players reach their potential offensively. If I remember right, Guti had raw 20 homerun power before he bulked up…

S331:  So did you want the Ms to make a splash in the offseason, or are you more or less happy with what they did manage to do? I know a lot of fans are kind of tired of waiting for things to start up…
EY: Well, part of me wanted Prince Fielder because of his overall ability, and he is a proven commodity. Would he be better than Montero in the short term? Probably. Long term? No, and that’s the difference. We needed something for the long haul and Montero will give us that. I heard they made a substantial offer, but of course the Tigers got desperate and blew him away. And Fielder was not worth that money even through I hear [that] if we do nothing until opening day next year our payroll is at 40 million. I’m happy with Montero, I think he is going to be a major piece for a long time here.

S331: I agree. Fielder really would have been far too long a commitment for far too much money…so given that you are fan for life of the Mariners, who have been your favorite players throughout the years?
EY: I loved the 90`s. Edgar, Junior, and Griffey come to mind, and I’m Asian so I love Ichiro even through his time is nearly over. And who could forget Randy Johnson in his prime? Even I would not want to approach him on game day. Dan Wilson will always be one of my favorite catchers, not just because of the offense he gave us, but [because of] the way he called a game and solidified the position for years.

S331:  What do you think about the recent signing of Jamie Moyer to a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles? I’m happy because the O’s are doing so well [this year]. Do you think Moyer might be able to make his way back to the majors before age makes it impossible?
EY: I loved it. The Baltimore Orioles gave him a chance and i believe he has pitched for them before when he was young? I think he can make it all the way back, he has the smarts and knows the hitters. Speed isn’t always the way to get people out; it’s location. Moyer proved that and will prove it again. [He] is determined and has set his mind on coming back. Never count him out!

S331: Yeah, it looks like he had three years with Baltimore already from 1993-95.

EY: Maybe he threw harder then? I have a video game on Nintendo 64 in 1998 on the Mariners throwing between 91 and 95 but who knows…

S331: In regards to it possibly being Ichiro’s last year – I have heard a lot of talk about this lately – how do you feel the Mariners should proceed with him after this season? I was listening to 710 ESPN earlier today, and there was someone who was saying that they should wait him out and see how he does this year and then maybe offer him one more year, rather than offering blindly, sort of like they did with Griffey. The radio host wanted Ichi hitting above .260 for a contract to be a good idea. How should they handle it?
EY: Its a delicate situation. I hope he does what (Kaz) Sasaki and (Kenji) Johjima did, and retires on his own and goes back to Japan to coach or something. He is not worth his current contract, I do not see him wanting to retire though. I’d say we offer him a much lower contract and if he does not take it he can go to Japan or another team. Somehow I do not see him being in another uniform. When he retires the hall of fame awaits.

S331: I definitely would prefer he not go the route of Griffey. I wasn’t “around” for the first Griffey era, but I knew what he meant to people, and his departure is still something I think about sadly.
EY: Yes I was so sad, too. Griffey was the second most important Mariner in [team] history. You never want to see someone leave whom you grew up admiring.

S331: So in general, how do you feel about Hector Noesi? I’m curious because I still haven’t made up my mind on him yet.

EY: Number five starter currently with no consistency. He needs to gain consistency; otherwise he may lose out on his spot in the rotation with the big three at Double A. Noesi has some good stuff, [he] just cannot repeat his delivery and consistency.

S331: OK, it’s good to hear that. I think that might be why I can’t make my mind up; because the consistency just isn’t there yet, so performance is difficult to gauge.
EY: We shall see what he does the rest of the year. If he improves, great; if not, we have other options.

S331 (as Kendrys Morales hits a home run in the third inning to score Maicer Izturis): He doesn’t look to be improving at this very moment..
EY: [On] an 0-2 pitch…home run…according to the scout, “he had Morales 0-2 but could not put him away”. At least we are hitting in this game so far.

S331: Thankfully! But now that the Angels are up top, I should probably ask you who your least favorite team is. Or teams, if you have more than one.
EY: Well least favorite would definitely be the Yankees, no ifs [or] buts…that is by far the least…

S331: That seems to be fairly universal for Mariners fans…
EY: Of course! Wow, Saunders is batting .272 currently…

S331: Isn’t that great? Rubber bands, man; the wave of the future! So what do we do with Chone Figgins?
EY: Dump him eventually, but in my mind Olivo goes first due to us having three catchers [when] we only need two. Casper Wells means more to the long term future than Olivo and Figgins…

S331: Wedge seems pretty attached to Olivo, though – I wonder what has to happen before he’s not anymore.

EY:  Yeah, I don’t know why…

S331: So if we didn’t have the Mariners here in Seattle, like no baseball team at all, what team would you follow and why?

EY: Not too sure about that one, actually. Definitely not any California teams. I wouldn’t know baseball if it were not for the Mariners.

S331:  How many times would you say you visit Safeco Field per season?
EY: At least twice if not more…maybe 2-5 times a year, sometimes more if friends want to join in. We attended one King’s Court game last year, and a singles night game which I remember most. Actually, both games had memorable moments, even though the team lost.

S331: So are you still writing for Gear Up for Sports?
EY:  No; that was only for the spring of 2010 for a school internship
S331: Are you writing now?
EY: Only on FaceBook [from] time to time. Sadly, not as much or as often. I used to write for scout.com too; [it was an] internship as well, but I got in to write in a way no one else has, I think…I started off being a message board user when the publisher (Jason Churchill) said one day something along the lines of, “we are having a article contest [and the] top six get published.” I was thinking to myself ‘what the heck, try it.’ He emailed me later saying it was one big long paragraph, but I fixed it, and it was good enough after all the edits to be in the top 6. My article was too rosy [so] people did not like it, but it was a start for me and my writing career, and gave me direction in college for what degree I wanted to go for.  I credit Jason for sort of taking me under his wing and making me better at not just writing, but [knowing about] baseball too. And he has always said not to credit him so I [see it like this]: [when he was a] Mariner, Raul Ibanez was struggling, but had some talent; it was not until he met Kevin Seitzer that [he was given] a base, and through that base he built himself with Seitzer helping along the way to become the player he is today. Same analogy with Churchill, except [with] writing and baseball. We chatted through the message board, and then AIM; he taught me some advanced stats, [along with writing tips].
S331: So I found this article you wrote several years ago about Eric Bedard. Now that the Bedard trade is far behind us, who was the winner, in your opinion? Did we get enough out of Bedard to win, even a little?
EY:  I think Baltimore won the trade. As I say in the article, for us to win the trade would [have taken] Bedard being healthy, and winning the Cy Young, and taking us to the World Series; but none of those happened. [And Adam] Jones has grown into an MLB player and others down in the Orioles system [are] still developing, while we got injury-plagued years with Bedard.
S331: I can see that, but keep in mind, too, that the first two months of that season we also had Jose Vidro, Richie Sexson, and Brad Wilkerson as part of our regular offense. I don’t know that even two Bedards could have helped us out of that mess…
EY: At least it would have helped his trade value. (Brandon) League is doing a Bedard right now…
S331: It hurts to watch it. Though he seems to have been doing reasonably better in the relief slot, rather than having to deal with the closer pressure. So if the Ms are sellers in July, who do we sell, and what – or whom- do we sell them for?
EY: Unfortunately the M`s are most likely sellers in July. Who I see going? Vargas and League are the most likely candidates, and for prospects.
S331: Still League? Even now? If they were to decide on a third player (if League doesn’t get his act together), who might it be?
EY: Well, you hope he gets his act together. But maybe Miguel Olivo if another team is desperate.
S331:  How do you feel about Eric Wedge?
EY: Wedge is a decent manager. He has carried a team into the playoffs, so we know he can do that. [The] problem is [that] he leaves his starters in too long. That is his one obvious flaw.
8:46 PM me: I agree with that assessment, and would also propose that we have yet to see a really good, player-defending tantrum. He looks like he has it in him, but so far no dice. I’m a little disappointed…so who would you like to see called up in September?
EY: Hutzen if ready, and maybe Nick Frannklin if he is ready; otherwise [I’m] not too sure if the others are ready yet. (Taijuan) Walker needs more time and so does (James) Paxton. Maybe in 2013?

S331: Well, in any event it will be a lot of fun to watch that particular tale unfold.

You can find Eric on Twitter at the link above in the first paragraph of this post, or right here on FaceBook. If you do a Google search for “Eric Yang Seattle Mariners”, you will also find quite a few links to his writing during the internships he spoke of. Eric also told me he is a graduate with a communications degree and would love to get into professional sports writing, so if anyone might be reading this and has need for an intern or writer, I understand he is available.
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One Response to Fan Focus: Eric Yang

  1. Bart's Evil Twin says:

    Good interview. Thought his comments about Ichiro were pretty interesting.

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