On Fenway Park (and the Yankees)

Fenway Park bills itself as “Americas Most Beloved Ballpark,” but I’m just not sure that’s true. That said, it’s probably number one in the American League. I’ve got to think that Wrigley Field in Chicago has it beat, but that could be changing depending on what you think of the big video screens installed at the Friendly Confines.

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What I will say, though, is when you’re sitting in the seats watching a baseball game at Fenway (and at Wrigley, too), you definitely feel like you’re watching a baseball game. Perhaps the cost of this is that you’re not going to be watching the game from the concourse. For what it’s worth, I haven’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes a ballpark feel like a baseball park.

I’m spitballing here, but it could be the shade of green.

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That green is on the facades, the outfield walls, and the bleacher seats (except one, where Ted Williams famously hit a 501-foot home run), and it’s almost a defining characteristic of the park.

In some ways, though, Fenway wasn’t so great a place to watch a game. Their scoreboards and video screens were hard to read at times and didn’t always give particularly relevant information. In particular: Red Sox players don’t wear names on the back of their uniforms, but there wasn’t really anywhere to look to see the players’ numbers listed. Their lineup on the scoreboard above the right field bleachers only listed the players’ names and fielding positions.

That being said, the Red Sox did a good job of maintaining the old-time style with their presentation. The font in that first photo above does a nice job matching what’s posted on the scoreboard on the front of the Green Monster in left field, and making it feel more human. I didn’t have a good shot of the hand-operated board, but you can click here to check out a still of one of their scoreboard operators updating National League scores back in 2010.

What surprised me the most, I think, was how excited I was to see the Citgo sign beyond the Green Monster.

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It’s difficult to see since the start of the 2003 season when they added a couple hundred seats on top of Major League Baseball’s tallest outfield fence, but it was a staple of watching night games played at Fenway for generations. You should be able to get a good look at it if you watch, say, the 1999 Home Run Derby, so long as you’re watching a righty take aim. I guess it didn’t quite hit me that I was in Boston until I saw that sign walking around the neighborhood around the park.

Boston’s fans were pretty active in the game; I don’t think I heard a single clap prompt from the stadium PA, but people got jacked up for a few key at-bats, especially if David Ortiz was set to hit. He put one in the back of the Red Sox bullpen early in the game and had a chance to win it in the 9th with Boston down one and a man on first, but he grounded into a double play to end it. At one point in the game, a guy sitting near me said to his kid that he should remember this game because two Hall-of-Famers, Ortiz and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, homered in the same game. I told him, “Sure, but you’ve gotta get my boy Edgar in first.” His response, “Edgar who?” nearly made me a Yankee fan. Perhaps I was a little hyped up after taking the tour of the ballpark that afternoon and being reminded that Mo Vaughn won the 1995 AL MVP, though he registered just 4.3 WAR per Baseball Reference (Edgar Martinez had 7.0 WAR, Vaughn’s teammate John Valentin had 8.3, and Randy Johnson had 8.7 in the strike-shortened season; 11 of the 19 players receiving a vote for the award earned more WAR than Vaughn), but maybe give it up for the best DH to ever play the game and the guy who helped keep a team in Seattle (which I’d argue is bigger than any championship)?

I was a Red Sox fan for 2003 and 2004, until they actually won the World Series and everybody jumped on that bandwagon like they were long-suffering from the ’75 World Series or the ’86 World Series or the ’41 MVP vote or what-have-you. It seemed like all of the Yankees fans turned in their gear and became Sox fans overnight.

I’ve come to appreciate Yankees fans because they’re mostly self-aware. They know they have their ownership can go out and get any free agent desired, they’ve won a ton. They understand they’re the bad guy and they seem to enjoy that role (though I still can’t get over the fact that their PA used the Imperial March from Star Wars to introduce the Orioles instead of the home nine). Red Sox fans seem to still think everyone loves them, like Red Sox Nation is still a thing with meaning.

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Thursdays at… The Bronx?

It’s a common goal to see all 30 Major-League ballparks, and I suppose it’s a goal for me as well, though I’m in no rush to plow through all of them. By my count, I’ve visited 12 ballparks; the Kingdome, Safeco Field, the Oakland Coliseum, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Coors Field, Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park), Wrigley Field, the Metrodome, new Busch Stadium, Miller Park, old County Stadium (Milwaukee), and would have gone to Jacobs Field in Cleveland had it not snowed in 2007. Lucky number 13 is the new Yankee Stadium up in the Bronx.

In the fine Section 331 tradition, I have pictures for you! There are a handful of trains that send you to just outside Yankee Stadium, and my folks and I caught the D Line train up to about two blocks from the ballpark. We were a little surprised to see so many Orioles fans on the train, but perhaps it was no coincidence, as the train platform was decked out in Orioles colors:

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Like Wrigleyville in Chicago around the home of the Cubs, the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium certainly was aware it was next to a ballpark. Take for evidence this storefront roll door featuring Satchel Paige:


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After we walked a block and got under the elevated 4 train, we were in clear sight of the ballpark. We entered in through Gate 6 and the ballpark’s “Great Hall.”


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Though you can’t see the game from here, it’s a nice wide concourse to meet up with folks pregame, and it’s open to the outdoors, which makes it feel even larger. After milling around there for a bit, I took some video so you could see what it’s like to enter the ballpark:



No batting practice was taken in advance of the afternoon game, so we walked around to Monument Park. Located in center field, you need to walk around and into a concrete tunnel under the bleachers in order to access it. The Yankees honor all of their players with retired numbers there, and the ownership from early on which transformed the Yankees into the Yankees in the 20s and 30s.


Here’s the thing, though: the monument for George Steinbrenner is larger than any three of the players’, and it just reminds you of how much you hate the Yankees if you’re not a fan of the team. A Steinbrenner memorial also stands above the right-center-field bleachers.


I was actually really pleased with the upper-deck. The upper level is split so you get a really open feel when walking around the concourse, though you can’t exactly see the game from the concourse since the game is so far below you. The tickets I had were below the split, which were nice for view of the game, but offered no protection from the sun.


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My mom was pretty well affected by the 80-degree heat and humidity, so she staked out a spot above the split, where I joined her late in the game after I’d spent two-plus hours getting burnt and talking to Yankee fans. I was glad I did, though, since it led to this shot:


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When walking the concourse, though, the Yankees were pretty regularly letting you know that other people were paying more money for a more exclusive experience at the game, like this terrace in the upper concourse that was only available to suite ticket holders:


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As far as the game was concerned, I couldn’t believe I didn’t see a home run in a ballpark that was so small. Baltimore scored two in the first and wound up with a 4-1 victory, beating CC Sabathia on his birthday. The first inning took 30 minutes as a total of 12 batters came up to hit between each side. Only five batters reached base in the second-through-sixth innings, which got us back on track for a 2-hour, 50-minute game.


I was also interested in seeing how the Yanks’ game operations manage their inning-breaks and entertainment. It struck me that they couldn’t decide if they wanted to be serious or play by the Rule of Fun.


The Yankees had several pregame presentations, but despite the fact that one of them involved honoring two of the Tuskegee Airmen, there just wasn’t a lot of fanfare about them. In fact, the Yankees didn’t even have a solo singer or musician come out for the National Anthem; instead they used a recording of the U.S. Army band, and I was shocked. I haven’t been to a pro game where that’s happened before, but the fans behind me told me it was a common occurrence.


All told, I was pretty happy with Yankee Stadium even for some of its faults. I was probably a bit lucky to go on a Thursday afternoon when there was a ticket discount, since cost has got to be the single-worst part of The Stadium: even discounted upper-level tickets were still $24 each.


In the next few days I’ll be sure to give you some more on Yankee Stadium, Cooperstown, and Boston, where I’ll be visiting Fenway Park.

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Fridays At Safeco

The Mariners have made a deal with the Cubs that send our reliever Mike Montgomery to Chicago for a 1B/DH type named Daniel Vogelbach and a someone named Paul Blackburn. Rainier Jordan Pries also was sent to the Cubs. I don’t have much in the way of anything constructive to say about this move, other than that it doesn’t seem that the Mariners are in a huge hurry to move any more players, with the end of July trade deadline fast upon us. I’m disappointed that I won’t get to really watch Mike Montgomery assist us in the bullpen anymore (and a little perplexed as to why that was the guy they chose when our pitching has been so weird lately), but I have also learned not to get too enamored with the bullpen guys anymore; 2010 was a blow for me. The decimation of the 2009 bullpen taught me to deny myself the attachment to relief pitchers, and I never have really paid as much attention to them since. It’s just too much heartbreak. Montgomery will be missed.

Speaking of bullpens, here’s one now!

PENTom Wilhelmsen and BFF Charlie Furbush hanging out together, with Wilhelmsen entertaining the others, naturally.

GONEIt’s always a hard call when choosing throwback-style photos to post here. I don’t want to bum anyone out. This picture is full of harshing your mellow. Sorry.

SUNSETAnother fantastic night on the upper floor of Safeco.  I refuse to sit in the upper deck over right field because of the way the sun sets here, and I often wonder how much of the game the people that do sit there miss due to having to look into the sun. Sunglasses and hats with brims might help, sure; but the glare is so obnoxious, and I have found my eyes getting far more sensitive to light the older I get. Having had sat in the lower deck below that area a few times this year (not my ticket choice), I can’t imagine how it would be farther away from the game. So I make sure and get tickets where the sun doesn’t shine.

Ken Griffey Jr is going to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, of course, and Ichiro Suzuki is four hits away from reaching 3,000 between MLB and the Japanese league. There is a pretty decent chance that both of those events may happen on the same day. I was thinking the other day how appropriate it would be if they did; a lot of these throwback pictures remind me of the 2009 season, and how much goodwill and positivity was floating around in the air here with those two on the same team. It seems only right that two of the greatest baseball players that Seattle and the world has ever seen should both reach these massive milestones on the same day. I don’t want to start sounding like all the fans who cling onto the 1995 or 2001 seasons, but there are just some memories that are too good to stop remembering, aren’t there?

Sometimes-writer-here Daniel Carroll and his family are currently in New York state on a tour package with a bunch of other Mariners fans to go to the induction ceremony for Mr Griffey.  I am jealous, but I am saving my pennies for a similar set up when Ichiro goes in.  Since I am unable to attend the real thing, I am very much looking forward to the games on the weekend of the 5th and 6th. If you are looking for something to do before the game on the 6th, there is an all ages gathering at FX McRory’s on King and Occidental starting between noon and 1pm that day (other details at the link and in comments). Join us for some food and snacks, then go get your miniature HoF plaque and watch Junior’s jersey get retired!

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Felix Hernandez’s Everett Rehab In Pictures (Better Late Than Never?)

Two Sundays ago, Felix Hernandez had a rehab start up in Everett with the Aquasox. I had tickets for that game for ages, because a a very old friend of mine from Portland was coming up for a few days, and I took an extended weekend so we could hang out. I wanted to take her to a Mariners game, but both the Ms and Rainiers were out of town before the All Star break, so I went to the next best option: the always-enjoyable Everett Aquasox. Then, the day before she was supposed to be up here, the Sox announced that Felix was going to have a start up there on his way back from injury, and suddenly, this casual little game we had planned to go to became a Very Big Deal. So Sunday around 2, we loaded up on iced coffee, hopped into her mini Cooper, and took a drive to Everett.

After parking and being told we couldn’t bring food in (a rule I don’t remember being in place, but that is neither here nor there), we managed to get in the gates and were greeted by a massive throng of people just inside, all waiting for Felix and the Sox to hit the field. The team lockers are in the building below, and the players have to walk out of this and across the end of a football field, and then through a set of gates to get to the field. Normally, this isn’t such a big problem for anyone, but that day, it was Felix, and people were waiting.

IMG_7905IMG_7907Felix braved a massive crowd to get through. You can see K cards the team had made up just for the occasion. It was also WSU day, so there were K cards in red and white as well.

After Felix was safely on the field and the guard rails were pulled back, my friend Wendy and I went to find our seats, and I was a bit dismayed to find out that I had overestimated the reach of the press box’s shade; we wound up sat in the sun. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hot, but we still had a bit of a challenge keeping ourselves shaded. Wendy loves the sun and was mostly fine. I wore my light sweater over my head and shoulders, taking it off occasionally when the clouds obscured the sun. I managed to avoid sunburn, thankfully, everything but my eyes (I kept having to take off my sunglasses to take pictures). The team on the field, from our seats.

IMG_7908And Felix taking some warmup shots.

IMG_7909IMG_7910The grounds crew comes out to make sure the mound is in good condition.

IMG_7911IMG_7912Because the team had printed out so many K cards, the entirety of Everett Memorial was the King’s Court. Even people who were sat out on the right field berm were waving them around.

IMG_7913And more photos of Felix in an Aquasox uni…

IMG_7915IMG_7916IMG_7917Felix strolls back to the dugout prior to the 4th inning…

IMG_7918Throwing some more…

IMG_7919IMG_7920And finally, leaving the game after pitching 3.2 innings, doffing his cap and waving it to the crowd. And yes, we were all standing.

IMG_7921IMG_7922Felix was, to be quite honest, a little creakier than I had hoped. I figured he’d just mow over single A bats, but he struggled and gave up three runs. I don’t know if he was attempting to take it easy in his 59 pitches, or if he was truly having some problems, but he assured everyone after the game that he was ready to come back on the timetable he was given. He also had a start in Tacoma, but I didn’t hear how that went.

But it doesn’t matter! Felix comes back today, for a matinee game against the White Sox, and a game that it has apparently gotten increasingly more difficult to get tickets for after his return was scheduled. I myself will not be there, though I did give some thought to showing up; but a mid-day game is a no-go for me and the job, so I’m just going to have to live vicariously through Twitter and friends. Let’s hope the King is back.


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Lazy Mariners Blogger Chooses Not To Be Lazy, Is Made To Pay For Optimism

My job is still pounding me into the ground, and I am still struggling with work/life/whatever balance. It probably won’t be remedied any time soon, but as a result, I chose to go for a walk on Alki last night, rather than stay indoors watching the Mariners play the White Sox in a first of three. Houston Astros series are also really hard to take, and this past weekend’s was no exception, so I felt like going outside (but still keeping an eye on things, because it’s necessary) and taking in the sunset and the sea air and just being outdoors away from most social media and the TV. It was nice. When we got back to the car,  though, I turned on the radio to what turned out to be the top of the 9th (and then quickly the bottom of it) of the game, and it was just barely past 9PM! When the Mariners started to load up the bases, I was just pulling in the driveway, and we got out of the car and ran into the house to change the channel. You know, just in case. And there were men on after a Kyle Seager RBI single, and there was a run plated after an entire game of being shut out, and as Adam Lind stepped to the plate, the broadcast immediately reviewed the last time Lind was up in the bottom of the 9th with a run deficit. A Wade LeBlanc start against the Cardinals, a game I was at. I didn’t believe what happened then, and I still don’t believe what happened last night, because they were the same exact thing; an Adam Lind walkoff dinger. Maaaan is baseball weird sometimes.

So keeping that in mind – and because I’m a little tired and don’t feel like going anywhere – I stayed at home and watch game 2 of this series. As I started writing, the score was 1-0 on a Brett Lowrie solo home run, and it was the top of the 4th. So things could’ve been worse.  Newly-barbered Wade Miley was gracefully holding his own against the Chicago White Sox at that point.

I went outside to pick some beets from the garden on a commercial break, got distracted by the state of things due to neglect of the yard, and missed Robinson Cano’s tater to tie the score. Figures, right? But a tied game is certainly better than the alternative, and hey, I got some weeds pulled as well. In the top of the 5th, Miley got Todd Frazier to foul out over the stands and third baseline, and Kyle Seager went for it, tumbling over the wall and into a small family of fans; and when I say “small family” I mean three children. Everyone lived to tell the tale, and Seager got the first out of the inning. The second out went to Robbie Cano, and Miley did battle with Avisail Garcia prior to giving him a base. Garcia got a broken (or thrown) bat single, and Dioner Navarro (who is in Chicago now?! When did that happen??) eventually struck out swinging to finish that half of the inning.

Leonys Martin was caught out at first, then Daniel Robertson popped up to shallow center, and the ball bounced before JB Shuck could catch it, even though he put forth a good effort. Shuck wound up somersaulting on the grass, righted himself to get a glove on the ball as Robertson attempted to get a double, and threw the ball to first base; but the throw went wild, and Robertson used the error to take his double anyway. Shawn O’Malley got a walk, and the White Sox pitching coach paid a visit to the hill to speak with starter Jose Quintana. Quintana’s pitch count was climbing into the 80s; he remained in the game to face Franklin Gutierrez. Gutz sacrificed a ball to the right fielder, and Robertson tagged up and moved to third. O’Malley stayed put, and with two outs, Robinson Cano stepped back up to the plate. But you know how it is with the Mariners sometimes; Cano collected two strikes before swinging at a ball low and away. Men on, opportunity squandered.

Adam Eaton was called out on strikes in the top of the 6th, and let everyone know he didn’t like it; the microphones everywhere picked up his very animated “Fuck!” as he walked back to the dugout. Tim Anderson broke his bat into two large splinters for a single, and Jose Abreu followed that up by grounding into a double play. The White Sox made Wade Miley look pretty good this evening. The Mariners were up then, and Nelson Cruz swatted a 94MPH fastball thrown inside to shallow left field for a base. Dae-Ho Lee – who has been having some trouble lately – was strikeout number 7 on the game for Jose Quintana. Chris Iannetta walked, and the Quintana got another mound visit from his pitching coach. He then loaded the bases by plunking Leonys Martin in the back of the elbow; on his arm guard, but you could hear it over the broadcast and it sent Martin to the ground briefly before he took his base. Ouch. With the bases loaded, Daniel Robertson flew out for the final out, after taking a ball that was very far outside.

Melky Cabrera started off the 7th inning by hitting a solo shot into the visitor’s bullpen, a hit that was caught by LHP Zach Duke, who waved his hat at the crowd.  Tom Wilhelmsen started to warm up in the Mariners’ side of the ‘pen. Miley allowed two runners on, and that was it, after 6.1 innings, our starter was relieved of his duties. And then the wheels came off the bus. The Sox small balled us into another run on Wilhelmsen’s watch, score 3-1 Chicago.

Hat-tipper Duke came in to relieve Quintana, and the remainder of the game was uneventful, outside of a challenged call against Dae-Ho Lee at first, where Jose Abreu tagged but did not actually tag Lee for an out. Replay showed that the only part of the glove that might have touched Lee was a stray lacing, but if that’s the criteria being used by MLB, that seems problematic. The call was sustained amid boos from the 25,000+ people in attendance. Joaquin Benoit worked slowly as usual in the top of the 9th, and then gave up an HR to Todd Frazier with men on, tipping the score to a disappointing 5-1 in Chicago’s favor. And then 6-1 in Chicago’s favor, while I was just proofing my tenses on this post. This last run came in under the watch of Mariners reliever David Rollins. Carson Fulmer came in, wiggled his glove around (this is apparently a thing he does during his delivery), and took two outs from the Ms almost immediately. Adam Lind came into an extremely low leverage situation, and leveraged his way into a groundout at first.

This was the game I chose to stay home and write about. The Mariners are now 47-47.

Well, Felix is back on the mound for tomorrow’s 12.40PM start, so that should be a positive, right? Right?! 



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Fridays At Safeco

A shorter work week means I’m far more busy than I want to be; I took some time off to visit with a friend, got the opportunity to see Felix Hernandez’s rehab start up in Everett (I will try to get to posting those photos over this weekend), visited some museums, fed some fish at the Japanese gardens, completely missed out on All-Star anything because of an assumption I made about the scheduling of it all…I don’t feel too poorly about this last part, really. I do like the Home Run Derby, but the ASG I could really take or leave. I get that baseball is long and a mid-season break is probably a positive for players and their families; but you know when we really need to see something like this? Mid-winter. I don’t need meaningless baseball in the middle of meaningful baseball; I need it in December or January, when the offseason wears on me. Let the BBWAA decide the players based on numbers rather than popularity, go somewhere warm like the NFL does for the Pro Bowl, and give us some baseball to quell the drought. But that’s just me…

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.20.37 AMWaiting for the fireworks to start after the last game I went to vs Baltimore. I am fortunate enough to have a friend who hosts seating down on the lower level, so when fireworks happen, I go down there from left field, rather than trying to go upstairs, where we have been given hassle by other fans for doing what thy tell us to in left field. Heads up; you can’t sit in the left field bleachers during this event. There are signs telling people who sit there to move before the fireworks show, and the seating people will shoo you out. So if you sit in the upper deck, other fans are not trying to take your seats; we’re doing what we’re told and attempting to relocate so that we can see. Work together, and everyone can enjoy the show. There is no need to yell at someone because a seating host told them to sit in an empty seat.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.21.42 AMSafeco always puts on a great show, regardless of theme. That night’s theme was country music. I had hoped to avoid this one, but wound up there anyway; Orioles trump my dislike of pop music, and I usually sort of tune out the music part anyway, at any fireworks event.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.21.58 AMIt’s not all explosions at a Mariners fireworks night! Since we have all these fabulous digital screens, those are used to great effect in coordination with the incendiary devices planted in and outside the field.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.22.31 AMPart of the finale; the techs located on the C-Link parking garage set off a bunch of stuff at once, before the charges around the top of the roof of Safeco go off, a photo/video I can never get because I never know when it’s coming; but if you’ve never been, just trust me, it’s pretty cool. I have a friend who moonlights as a pyrotechnician (she does Vashon Island’s 4th of July fireworks, among other displays around the area), and the way they set these things up is fascinating. Certainly nothing like setting them off in your driveway.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.19.50 AMAnd the aftermath. After about 10 or so minutes of flame, sparks, and noise, it’s all over and we can go back to the outside world.

The final fireworks night of the season is August 19th, against the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s also the Mariners Star Wars night. I have to say that the Everett Aquasox Star Wars Night is still the best one I’ve been to, out of the two; but there are advantages that a minor league team has that a major league team doesn’t – the lack of TV coverage, for one. Without having to adhere to a televised broadcast, a minor league team can take inter-inning breaks that are maybe a little longer than normal so that a story can be told. A mascot can be stolen by the Sith! Light saber fights might break out! The Jedi can teach the crowd how to use their powers! I still need to post my photos from last year’s Aquasox night; perhaps another project for the weekend.

The Mariners start a three-game series against Houston (again?!) tonight. I have an appointment and will not be able to watch probably most of the game, which is a downer because James Paxton and Doug Fister are starting. Hopefully I can make it home to catch at least a little bit of both pitchers. If not, I will gladly watch Hisashi Iwakuma start tomorrow early. Have a great day, everyone!


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Fridays At Safeco – Better Late Than Never?

This week has been busy – once again – and I am trying to unwind into having the next four days off work while mentally preparing to wake up at 6AM on a weekend so I can do the Refuse to Abuse 5K tomorrow morning at Safeco Field. The Mariners lost one last night and won one tonight, both games with a 3-2 score in their favor in the 9th, both games with Steve Cishek pitching for a save. Baseball is weird, isn’t it? I’m about to live up to my Twitter description as the “laziest Seattle Mariners blogger”…

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.40.02 AMThe Orioles bullpen, standing in the outfield prior to going in the gates last weekend. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.36.37 AMSteve Cishek’s “Courtesy Call”.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.43.30 AMSteve Cishek-ing, in honor of the last two games, I guess. You can bet that if there is a pitcher who does anything other than a regular sign check, set, and windup, it’s going to be a guy I like. It’s been tossed around that maybe Edwin Diaz might come in to the save sometime soon. I have mixed feelings about this, but not too mixed; I like both pitchers, and either would be fine going foward. And while we have the tendency to harp a bit on Cishek, I’d like to place a reminder that at the ASG break, Cishek has had 20 saves. This may put him on pace for roughly 40, if the Mariners can maintain or improve. And if there is anything that JJ Putz and Mariano Rivera have taught me, it’s that 40 saves isn’t a bad number to have.

Good night!

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