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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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February 19, 2008 8:40 AM

Mariners sign Crosby

Posted by Geoff Baker

UPDATE (11:01 a.m.): Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus just got named winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, on the same day he is celebrating his 73rd birthday. This is quite an honor, since it means he's being inducted into the broadcasting wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. A deserving guy. Ceremony takes place July 25-28.

Bedard 105.jpg

Think it's easy to execute a pitch-out? Not always. Which is why they practice it. That's what was going on this morning.

Oh, yes. Our headline. It's true, the Mariners just signed Crosby. No, not Bobby Crosby. We're talking Bubba. As in Bubba Crosby. Yes, I know. Big difference. It's strictly a minor league deal, no spring camp invite. Crosby was actually an everyday major leaguer once. Played for the Yankees from 2004-2006, the D-Rays once (OK, I guess not. You're right, I am confusing him with Bubba Trammel. My bad.), but was in Class AAA with the Reds last season. For 13 games, anyway.

He's still only 31 and has some speed for a guy named "Bubba". But his .553 career on-base-plus-slugging percentage doesn't hold out much hope for him ever helping the big club. Just thought I'd mention him up top because there isn't much news coming out of camp for the moment.

Jose Lopez is going to be a day or two late getting to camp because of visa issues down in Venezuela. The team has been aware of the situation for a couple of weeks and had hoped to have Lopez here in time. Isn't going to happen. To pre-empt your questions, no, missing a couple of days running laps isn't going to throw him off much. Miss three or four days, it could be an issue.

Some of you may have seen our Ryan Rowland-Smith feature from today. He's from a very interesting family, as you can clearly tell from reading.


I'd have liked to go on more about that family, because I think it's shaped Rowland-Smith into the person he is today. What kind of person?

Well, here's an email I received today from a reader, Joseph Barber, who wrote the following:

"I met Ryan last year when with Tacoma. He has become a friend to our family and I just wanted to add that he not only has a great story as you have so nicely detailed, he is a fine human being. I am sure if you haven't noticed yourself yet, you will. He is genuine and honest and very polite. My 3-year-old son thinks he is "cool" and last year Ryan brought him and my niece to their first game at Safeco. He is the kind of person you hope will succeed and believe he will not only due to his work ethic but also his ability to build lasting relationships with teammates and coaches."

He put it better than I ever could. That's why I wanted to do justice to today's story. Not always easy, with the space constraints of a daily newspaper.

I had long chats with his parents to try to get a better sense of where he came from.

His father, Rob, the so-called Sandhill Warrior, likes to quote from the Rudyard Kipling poem "If'' when talking to his son about how to act with people.

Here's his favorite passage:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

In other words, the true measure of a man is how he treats others, regardless of his own stature. A nice message to drill into your kids.

His mother, Julie White, obviously, doesn't need much more said about her. Any mother that would make a four-hour, round-trip three times per week so her son could face some serious baseball competition, well, what else is there to say? I think it's great that she just retired last week, at age 55, and can now do some serious traveling around the world. She can see her son play for more than a moment at a time. She and her husband, Bruce, actually missed Rowland-Smith's major league debut agaiost the Reds and his strikeout of Ken Griffey Jr. last May.

They had come to Seattle to see him, but he'd been optioned back to the minors. They were on their way to wherever he was supposed to play next (in Class AAA) when he was suddenly called back up again to face the Reds. They were caught in-transit and didn't get back to Seattle until that night. There, excitedly, he told them all about striking out boyhood idol Griffey, the player he used to watch video tapes of because he couldn't catch live games on TV growing up in Australia.

"When he first came to rookie ball in Peoria, you should have seen him when he got to stand in the same locker room with John Olerud,'' she told me of another of Rowland-Smith's early heroes, who he used to watch on videocassettes of the 1992 and 1993 World Series while playing for Toronto. "He thought he was going to die.''

Oh yeah, his grandfather, R,B. Rowland-Smith, really was Australia's minister for Sport and Recreation. Catch him in action here in this stirring debate over legislation for some sports bill. He's also a bit of a Boston Red Sox fan from way back. Rowland-Smith traded team jackets with a Red Sox minor leaguer and got him one. Yes, he's now a Mariners fan as well.

So, hope you enjoyed the story.

What else to say about today? Well, manager John McLaren just reiterated, for about the 1,000th time this off-season (he keeps getting asked) that he expects the team to run more this year. From first-to-third will be a biggie. He wants to do it just as well as the Angels, a team he considers the league's best at first-to-third running. In other words, he said, don't be surprised to see a bunch of guys get thrown out at third this spring. He'd rather see that happen now than guys do nothing at improving and simply hold up at second base during the year.

We'll see.

I'll leave you with a shot of Arthur Rhodes participating in a fielding practice drill for pitchers just moments ago.

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Posted by slider1

10:24 AM, Feb 19, 2008

keep em coming G more vids would be nice!

Posted by theemeraldcity88

10:26 AM, Feb 19, 2008

have you heard any rumors of possible trades, or even FA signings? maybe cory patterson of Kenny Lofton????

Posted by oregongal

10:40 AM, Feb 19, 2008

Love the features you write on players. Keep 'em coming.

Posted by Nat

11:05 AM, Feb 19, 2008

Thanks, Geoff- interesting bit on RRS. Sounds like he's one tenacious guy. Would love to see him have a breakout spring training! Ditto on oregongal's comments- keep 'em coming!

Posted by Chip

11:12 AM, Feb 19, 2008

FINALLY! Glad to see Dave's getting the recognition he deserves. It'll be quite an event in July, and it's good to see he'll finally be immortalized in the baseball hall of fame as, for all intents and purposes, the first Mariner. Congratulations, Dave.

Posted by Snowbound

11:17 AM, Feb 19, 2008

Very Deserving for Dave...

Geoff, I'd be interested to know, when you run into Dave, if retirement is something he's thought about and maybe what his timetable is on it. It'd be weird not having his voice around associated with Mariner games.

Posted by AKMarienrsFan

11:29 AM, Feb 19, 2008

Good for Dave he deserves it.

Now maybe he can retire. Not to be brutal but he just isn't seeing the game very well anymore.

Anybody read Moore's article about Sexson. Very defensive about his...uh...performance last year. Doesn't bode well for a comeback year. Here's to hoping that the Mariners pull the plug quickly instead of waiting for the "2nd half tear that he AlWAYS goes on".

Posted by Ziasudra

11:39 AM, Feb 19, 2008

I thought it time to post my 25-man roster. This is not a PREDICTION, but what I would do if I were in charge.
Starting nine - stuck with the expected.
Bench: Burke; Willie (super-sub); Reed (4th OF); Morse (back-up IF corners, OF corners).
That puts Clement and Vlad at Tacoma. When Sexson bombs (out), move Raul to 1B and call up Vlad for LF; if Vidro bombs, move Raul to DH, and call up Vlad; if Wilkerson bombs, (Vlad, etc., etc). Meanwhile Clement and Vlad get valuable time in AAA.
Starting pitchers - the anointed five.
But, send Morrow, R-S and Feierabend to AAA as their starters. Lefty relief is Cesear Jiminez (short) and O'Flahraty (long).
Set-up man for JJ is Lowe (his fastball is even better than Morrow's. The other RH's are Sean Green and Jon Huber, and whoever looks best between Dickey, HoRam, Garcia, and Sean White.

None of this will happen - they will waste Morrow, Feierabend and Rowland-Smith in the bullpen, and have no one ready when they need another starter.
They'll keep Cairo and/or Norton, and loose Reed and Morse, and have no back-ups when injuries and slumps come up.

There you have it - a plan to make the playoffs and beyond. But, the "braintrust" (so-called) can't see beyond their nose, and they'll make decisions to just get to the playoffs THIS YEAR, with no thought of 'beyond,' this year or the next.
Sigh. . . .

PS - good job, Geoff.

Posted by Peter F

11:42 AM, Feb 19, 2008

Great news about Niehaus; probably the last good news for Ms fans of the season...

Posted by Nat

11:55 AM, Feb 19, 2008

AKMariner- I just read the column about Sexson and was actually encouraged even though I was a big boobird last year. To me he just sounds like a proud man who's venting - but if he's really injury-free and feeling good, who knows, he may be the hitter this year we used to see - wouldn't that be something!


Congrats to Dave as well! This has gotta be the most exciting time of his career. And yeah, I heard him on the radio not long ago saying if he should win it this year he would probably retire after this season...

Posted by Sharon

12:04 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Congratulations to Dave Niehaus! Finally!! Well deserved. It will be weird to not hear his voice every summer, so I for one hope he's around for a good while longer.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

12:12 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Nat

Here's what I would have said if I was Sexson. I sucked last year, I deserved to get booed, and I am doing every thing I can to have a great season this year.

Not...I don't understand why the fans booed...it just makes things worse for me...they should have had more patience (how long Richie 3 months, a season, two seasons???).

Sexson was never a very good contact hitter. But when he did make contact he could cause some damage. My fear is that his lack of performance last year was due to a reduction in bat speed. It happened to Boone, it even happended to Olerud. I would be really surprise if he is every really close to the seasons that he had in 2005/2006 (which quite frankly were not that great for what was invested in him).

Posted by AKMarinersFan

12:16 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Does McLaren realize he has a really slow team? Who is going to 1st to 3rd other than Ichiro, Beltre, and Betancourt. If McLaren tests outfielders with this team expect a lot of runner thrown out at 3rd.

When is he going to realize the talent (or lack of talent) that he has on this team?

Posted by AKMarinersFan

12:18 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Does McLaren realize he has a really slow team? Who is going to 1st to 3rd other than Ichiro, Beltre, and Betancourt. If McLaren tests outfielders with this team expect a lot of runner thrown out at 3rd.

When is he going to realize the talent (or lack of talent) that he has on this team?

Posted by Rain King

12:30 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Has Arthur Rhodes lost himself a little weight or is it just the angle of the light?!

Posted by eastcoast

12:42 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Congratulations to Dave Niehaus! Growing up listening to M's broadcasts, he could make a 15-1 game exciting. Now living in Virginia, not being able to listen to Dave call the games is one of the things that I miss the most.

Posted by Lance

12:46 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Congrats to Mr. Voice.

Here's one thing he can't say is "just unbelievable". Maybe the feeling, but not the call.

At least he'll have years to enjoy it. Unlike King and Cheek, who also deserve entry, albeit postumously.

Posted by Pete

12:50 PM, Feb 19, 2008

My piece on booing -

I'm a huge Seattle sports fan. Huge. I think it's embarrassing when fans boo home players. I cringe when it happens. ...Primarily, I don't see how it helps.

Boo the visitors and the umpires all you want. Intimidate the crap out of them. But I do think it's lame to boo the home team. What does it accomplish?

I'm not arguing against anyone's right to boo whoever they want -- you obviously can, it's a free country, as they say -- just that I think it's pointless and classless.

Sure, Sexson sucked. He knew that. Everyone knew that. I was just as frustrated as the next guy.

But booing your own team is embarrassing, and can't have anything but a negative effect.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

1:00 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Pete - Booing does one postive thing. It sends a message to the front office. They may not listen to a bunch of bloggers but they will respond (ok the Mariners are much slower than most teams) to a stadium full of booing fans. Although it took a while, I think its one of the reasons that the M's finally decided to sit Sexson.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:12 PM, Feb 19, 2008

YES!!!!!!!! ALRIGHT, DAVE!!!!!! Long overdue.

Posted by NotBillBavasi

1:12 PM, Feb 19, 2008

This is in response to Jim Moore's piece on Richie Sexson this morning:

Dear Mr. Sexson,

I'm very sorry that you were made to feel bad by the fans last season while you put up one of the worst all-time complete seasons by a first baseman in baseball history. You should know that, for the most part, it isn't personal. We as fans have very little input into how the team we love to follow is run. So when a player comes up to the plate that is having the worst year ever...what is a fan to do? Just keep cheering and hope things get better? The only way we have to communicate our displeasure in a way we KNOW we will be heard is to go to the park (paying some of the highest prices in the league for seats, parking and concessions) and boo. It's not even really directed at you...but at management. The boys upstairs needed to put their arm around your shoulder and lead you to the bench around mid-June last year. Ben Broussard should have had at least half of your AB's from that point on, pending your return to form. Fans had a right to let management know how we felt.

Furthermore, I take issue with several assertions you make. First of all, we don't expect 50 home runs and zero strikeouts per season (if this was Jim and not you talking...my apologies). A career-average season would do. You can't go out there and stink up the joint for five solid months and then complain that people's expectations are too high. Secondly, a first baseman that doesn't hit is NOT a good player. Too few balls get hit that way for a first-baseman's defense to make up for poor hitting. You do a terrific job of picking up balls that others might miss, but your range is bad. You are basically saying that your league-average-at-best defense makes up for historically bad hitting? No way. First basemen need to create offense in the major leagues, period. And on this roster YOU ARE THE LONE POWER HITTER. You are a critical part of this team and you can't expect fans to tolerate month after month of, and I can't emphasize this enough, one of the worst season-long performances by a first baseman.

As I said before, the booing isn't personal. It's not that we thought you were a bad person or anything. I mean a bad person would hide an injury that is obviously hurting his performance, and then feel really sorry for himself when the fans that pay his massive salary express their displeasure with that performance. THAT kind of person might deserve to be booed for personal reasons. We didn't know that last season, so that's not why we were booing you. This year, if you're lucky, we'll overlook the choices you made last year. Especially if McLaren is right and you become a candidate for the Comback Player of the Year award. Failing that, however...as a fan I make no promises.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:16 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Is McLaren going to give the 3rd base coach an oxygen tank, to assist Mr. Vidro when he comes steaming in after one of those 1st-to-3rd things that McLaren wants to see? ;)

Posted by Pete

1:17 PM, Feb 19, 2008

If it had an effect, it was probably minimal.

And for every one instance that booing "helps" in the sense that you describe, there are a dozen more instances that the booing is without any baseball logic at all, thus sends mixed and unhelpful messages to the front office.

Almost every time I hear booing at a game in my hometown, it's at a ridiculous time by a bunch of people who don't know what the heck they are booing at.

From my perspective, those who boo are most often fans who think they are educated baseball observers, who in reality are utterly clueless.

Posted by AKMarinersFans

1:31 PM, Feb 19, 2008

I disagree Pete. The Mariner organization is all about "image" (the primary reason that Guillan was not resigned). If the team has a player that has a poor image with the fans, they will have a problem keeping that player around. Of course $14 million per year is a lot of "image problem" to swallow.

Mariners fans don't boo often. Sexson and ARod.

Posted by scrapiron

1:36 PM, Feb 19, 2008

AK - Good point. Mac mentioned that he thought Ichiro could steal 60 bases and Yuni could steal 20 a year. That's a nice increase in steals, but other than that, you're not going to have additional steals or more players going first to third.

Jimerson has speed, but won't make the team, Bloomquist has speed but is a role player.

The only increase I could see is if/when they call up Balentien if they give him a green light early and often.

This team is assembled as emphasizing power. That is a roster that Hargrove liked. Johnny Mac is more of small ball, speed type of manager, and this roster isn't exactly assembled to his strength. Unfortunately, I'm also not hearing a lot of quotes that shows he's adapting.

Posted by scrapiron

1:44 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Lopez showing up late to camp is a huge disappointment. Visa problems happen all the time, but remember this offseason McLaren went to Venezuela to personally speak to Lopez and talk to him about his lack of focus. Then they put another shot across his bow by signing Miguel Cairo and telling the national press that it was to "push Lopez".

With all that being said and done, I would think Lopez would have showed up weeks ago to make sure the Mariners knew he was dedicated and focused for 2008.

Posted by shortbus

1:46 PM, Feb 19, 2008

I cringe when I hear a manager talking about being "more aggressive" on the basepaths. This was a disaster when Grover did it a couple of years ago. If you look at the odds of scoring a run with men on first and third with X outs and compare it to the odds with men on first and second with X outs...the marginal increase is not nearly as great as the difference between second and first with X outs and a man on first with X+1 outs. In other words, you only take that extra base when you are sure you're going to make it. Being overly aggressive is a recipe for failure.

And asking Ichiro to steal more is just as stupid. You're basically asking him to steal in situations he's less certain to succeed in. If he has a fifty percent success rate in those extra attempts...he's not helping the team with those attempts. The guy knows when to steal and has an awesome success rate. Don't mess with a good thing.

Posted by LAME

2:08 PM, Feb 19, 2008

PETE: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

We boo, because we have the RIGHT to boo Freedom of speech biatch! and now I boo you for being LAME!
BOOOOOOOO! PETE! BOOOOOOOOO!

Posted by DustininCorvallis

2:42 PM, Feb 19, 2008

GET OUT THE RYE BREAD AND SALAMI!!!

CONGRATS, DAVE! Well-deserved.

On another note, I was excited briefly because I thought we'd signed Sidney Crosby! Oh, well ... he's got that bad ankle, anyway ...

Posted by Donovan

3:22 PM, Feb 19, 2008

How about David Crosby? I'm not sure stirrup pants would be a good look on him, but I hear he can still "belt it out" with the best of them....

Posted by BubbaFan

4:16 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Bubba Crosby has never been in the D-Rays organization. Dodgers, yes, D-Rays, no.

Posted by BavasiRocks

8:22 PM, Feb 19, 2008

Geoff, you must be confusing Bubba Crosby with another Bubba. Bubba Trammell did play for the D-Rays a while back.

Pete: I'm with you. Booing home team players is ineffective and portrays a city that has some less than spectacular fans. Booing A-Rod? That's another matter.

AkMarinerfan: It's naÔve to think that the front office actually thinks that fans booing is a wake-up call. The only thing the front office listens to is $$. Donít go to the game if you donít like the product.

Lame: Classless post. Hope this is just spring training for you.

Posted by Anna11

9:17 PM, Feb 19, 2008

For my bachelor's thesis, I got the chance to interview Dave Niehaus over the phone. I saved the tape -- parts of it were like getting my own personal Mariners' broadcast. The man has an incredible memory of Mariners games. Congratulations, Dave. Thanks for being the voice of baseball in the Northwest. I grew up listening to your voice.

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