Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
July 31, 2008 8:55 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
It looked for the longest time like the red dot had a better shot at winning tonight than the Texas Rangers. That is, until the bullpen made things interesting in the ninth. The Mariners opened up a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning and rode R.A. Dickey's arm most of the way. But the bullpen, up by six in the ninth, yielded three runs before hanging on for an 8-5 win.
Mark Lowe had some trouble in the ninth, yielding three straight hits and a run. J.J. Putz came on from there and served up a two-run double to Frank Catalanotto. After a lineout by Michael Young, Putz struck out Josh Hamilton to end the game. Some sweaty palms there.
Dickey held the Rangers scoreless through seven innings before serving up a two-run homer to Ramon Vazquez in the eighth.
It was big for Dickey on so many levels. The last time he pitched here was in his one and only start of the 2006 season. He was starting for the Rangers and tied a modern day major league record by yielding six home runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers.
"It's mainly personally satisfying,'' he said of tonight's return. "It's not like I have any type of vendetta against the Rangers for not keeping me here. But it is satisfying for me, because the last time I was on this field, things didn't go so well.''
The two pitchers he's tied with for the dubious record? Fellow knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough.
The team needed the innings tonight. The Arthur Rhodes trade left the bullpen short an arm. That arm will be replaced with a roster move tomorrow. Another lefty is likely needed, so Ryan Rowland-Smith can be called up. The thing is, Dickey can also neutralize lefties, which would enable the team to put him in the bullpen and try Rowland-Smith as a starter.
Tonight's Dickey outing might make folks think twice about that.
"Dickey did a great job,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "From the second night of the series, we needed somebody to go deep in the game. It was real big that Dickey gave us so much time out there.''
Yes, Miguel Batista went six innings last night. But Riggleman explained how even that isn't always enough for a bullpen.
"Any time a starter gives you more than six, you're going to have some pretty good matchups for your bullpen the rest of the way.''
In the end, he allowed the two runs over 7 2/3 innings. Jose Lopez did indeed extend his hitting streak, to 18 games, with a single in the eighth. His bat is staying strong.
July 31, 2008 6:49 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
We're through six innings and it's a 6-0 lead for the Mariners. R.A. Dickey has allowed just two hits so far. His knuckler seems to be working well, A terrible start by Texas lefty Matt Harrison, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings, gave up six runs -- four earned -- on five hits (three for extra bases) walked five batters and threw two wild-pitches. For once, the M's aren't the worst defensive squad on the field. The Rangers have looked awful. They've booted the ball around left and right. Jose Lopez has his 17-game hitting streak on the line. Needs to come through these next few innings.
They had the "Kiss Cam" going between innings and took a shot of the Mariners' bullpen. Carlos Silva leaned over and planted one square on the face of Roy Corcoran. I kid you not.
As to who takes the roster spot vacated by Arthur Rhodes, it will either be Ryan Rowland-Smith or Jared Wells. If Rowland-Smith comes up, he'll likely push R.A. Dickey to the bullpen. There's also a possibility the team could mix and match Dickey and Rowland-Smith with opponents depending on whether or not they have any kind of track record against them.
A few more things I asked Pelekoudas. I mentioned the obvious criticism he's going to be getting for pulling off only one trade today and what he'll say to answer that, given his team's poor standing and obvious need to improve.
"I'll just say that, right now, we took one step in a process we said was going to be a step-by-step process,'' Pelekoudas said. "And again, repeat that the deadline is an artificial deadline and it's going to be a systematic process of redoing this club. And there are more opportunities that lie ahead. In August, in the off-season, in spring training. It's not going to be an overnight deal to redo the club.''
July 31, 2008 5:13 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Seattle leads 2-0 in the first inning, the first run scoring on a double by Raul Ibanez, pictured above, telling Michael Young how he almost got traded.
So, interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas finally arrived at the ballpark after a long day of talking, but not much deal-making. That Arthur Rhodes deal, I'm told, pretty much came together last Sunday and the M's waited it out to see if any better offers came along. My contacts in Miami say that Seattle might have gotten the better of the Rhodes-Gaby Hernandez trade. Hernandez hung around with the Marlins right up until the end of spring training because they wanted a more in-depth look at him. The folks I talked to say he could be in Seattle's rotation by next year. As a No. 4 or No. 5 arm. He didn't start playing baseball until he was 13, when he switched over from soccer. He'll start off with Seattle's Class AA affiliate. He wasn't on the Marlins' 40-man roster.
Anyhow, I asked Pelekoudas about the Ibanez-to-Toronto scenario. In typical fashion, for the Mariners, he was very short on details.
"I'm not going to characterize what we did or didn't do with any club on a particular player,'' he said. "I'll just say that we came close to a couple of deals and weren't able to get them done.''
There you go, then. Well, hold on. There's a bit more to the whole story.
To recap, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said earlier today that he spent 2 1/2 hours working out details of the Ibanez trade and that things got "intense" and at one point, he thought a deal would get done. Until the Mariners backed out.
We don't know which players were being offered to Seattle. But privately, I'm told this wasn't exactly a case of the Mariners having a deal in-place with Toronto and getting cold feet.
"We were ready to go forward,'' Ricciardi said. "I think at the end of the day they just didn't feel as comfortable going forward to finish off the trade.''
Sure makes it sound as if the M's pulled out of a deal, doesn't it? From what I'm told, some members of Toronto's PR staff actually thought they had a deal and were ready to print out releases.
But now, I'm hearing that the two sides swapped a multitude of names. And not just over a few hours today. Over the past few days. The Blue Jays apparently kept going back to the M's and kept getting rebuffed. Then, the M's would go back to the Jays with names and get rebuffed. In the end, neither side could firmly agree.
July 31, 2008 2:48 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Here are the details on that three-way deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to the Red Sox and four players (all pretty good) to the Pirates. Now, on to the teams that didn't deal, namely the M's. Except for that gimme with Arthur Rhodes that the team had in its hip pocket since last week.
Just got off the phone with some Toronto contacts. It seems the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays did indeed begin working on the parameters of a deal involving Raul Ibanez. The deal began coming together between 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Pacific time). But no, the two players offered up by Toronto, so I'm told, were not David Purcey and Brandon League. If indeed it even was two players. One contact told me there's a chance League's name was out there. But not Purcey's. Now the fun part. We don't know who the players actually were.
But we do have some on-the-record quotes from Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi on why the deal came apart.
"We had some really good talks with Seattle, they were pretty intense and pretty in-depth,'' Ricciardi said in a conference call with Toronto media. "We thought at one point there was a possibility to get something done there, but it just didn't come to fruition.
"We were ready to go forward,'' he added. "I think at the end of the day they just didn't feel as comfortable going forward to finish off the trade. It was just something that didn't come to fruition. Both parties worked hard. At the end of the day they probably weren't as comfortable with making the trade as we were. That happens.''
The version being put forth by Seattle so far is that Ibanez-to-Toronto was nothing more than rumors. Hmmm. Based on what I'm reading, I tend to believe the Toronto version of events. I'm sure the M's version will change a bit once they read these quotes. It doesn't take 2 1/2 hours to flat-out reject an implausible trade scenario. Especially not right before the deadline. Sounds like there was something concrete going on here. In defense of GM Lee Pelekoudas, he's yet to speak to the media. Will do so in roughly 90 minutes. What we've gotten so far is a few second-hand denials.
Why would Toronto do an Ibanez deal? I'd wondered that earlier. Until my buddies back east reminded me of a cardinal rule of covering the Jays that I'd forgotten about during my two years here. That optics mean as much back there as reality at times.
To realists, like most of you, and me, a snowball has a greater chance of lasting the afternoon in this Texas heat as the Jays do of making the playoffs. But in Toronto, the Jays could acquire Ibanez, then tell their fans they still have a chance and that they're going for it.
It's worked before. In that city, the team has told fans it's in contention if it begins September single digits behind the playoff leaders. Drives up the television ratings. And that's very important to Toronto baseball.
"I don't think we're in the middle ground,'' Ricciardi said. "I think we're in it. When you look up and you're under eight...within striking distance of the wild-card and there's still two months to play, I don't we ever thought about us as 'Hey we're going to be sellers.' We've taken on the thought process that if we continue to add without taking anything away from us going forward, that we would try to do that.''
So, there's your motive. Ricciardi's words are the smoking gun. And the Mariners, it appears, certainly had some kind of opportunity that came together over more than two hours.
July 31, 2008 1:03 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
*****We're hearing talk of a Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers deal. Let's wait and see.*************
No official word yet, but it looks as if the Mariners' trade of Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins will be their only deal of the day. It can take 10 or 15 minutes to get word of any last-second deals, so let's hold off on saying anything is certain. Those Raul Ibanez-to-Toronto rumors? No idea where that got started. Talked to my contacts in Toronto and they seemed mystified. It's not like the Blue Jays are actually in the wild-card race. They've taken quite a tumble the past few days.
Forget about local boy Travis Snider. The Jays are not parting with him. But they might be willing to part with pitcher Jesse Litsch, then take the draft picks when Ibanez leaves. But all that is predicated upon the Jays actually contending this year. You don't give up Litsch for two months of Ibanez and a longshot playoff bid -- draft picks or not. Unless you think those picks will pay off more than Litsch.
I don't know. I'll believe it when I see it. We'll know for certain in a few moments. Ibanez isn't going anywhere in August. He'd be claimed off waivers in a heartbeat.
Actually, this just went up, crediting Jayson Stark. Says the M's backed out of a deal for two major leaguers in exchange for Ibanez. If that's true, there might be some splainin' to do. I mean, I love Ibanez. Draft picks are nice. But David Purcey is a former No. 1 draft pick who's now pitching in the major leagues. He has control issues, but so what? You work on them. Brandon League was once touted as a closer. He's has issues with his windup and delivery -- and been messed up by coaches trying to reinvent him the past few years -- but again, so what? The native of Hawaii used to gun it up to 98 mph. Not sure where he's at now. He's obviously dropped off in stature, even when I was still in Toronto in 2006. But even if he's down to 93 mph, that's still a decent filler arm.
With draft picks, it usually takes three to five years to get to the majors. If they make it at all. I'm only going off Stark's speculation here, but if Purcey and League were the names offered back, that sounds like a decent deal. Then again, he says "something like" Purcey and League, which might be a big difference between what was actually offered.
July 31, 2008 10:54 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
I know a lot of you have wondered about those rumors concerning the Yankees trying to go after Paul Byrd from the Cleveland Indians, as an alternative to Jarrod Washburn. Well, this item from the New York Post, released within the hour, shoots down that theory.
From what I'm told, the M's have not budged from their position. They want a higher level prospect from the Yankees. Like I've said, they can afford to wait this one out. We'll know more as the deadline draws closer. If you ask me, though, it's going to be difficult for the Yankees to cave on this. They've gone pretty far in shooting their mouths off in leaks and official statements that they are not prepared to go further. If they give Lee Pelekoudas what he wants now, it's going to look like a defeat. In fact, if they cave and take Washburn and he implodes, they have set themselves up for some major egg on their faces.
My hunch? This doesn't happen before the deadline. Unless both sides meet in the middle and agree on a mid-level prospect like we saw acquired for Arthur Rhodes this morning.
July 31, 2008 8:18 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The Mariners will officially announce at 9 a.m. that Arthur Rhodes is on his way to the Florida Marlins for pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez. The 22-year-old Hernandez, from Miami, is a Class AA starter, who was in AAA earlier this season before being demoted on July 6. His AAA numbers saw him at 2-8 with a 7.24 ERA. But he's put up decent AA numbers.
He was 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA in four AA starts this year after going 9-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 2007.
His peripheral numbers show a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He does seem to walk quite a few guys, but he's young. Command was actually the right hander's forte when he broke in with the New York Mets organization after they made him a third-round pick in 2004 as an 18-year-old. At the time, he projected to be a frontline starter, but those reviews have cooled somewhat. He's a fastball, curveball, changeup guy. Been working on a cutter. Never hurts to have a 22-year-old starter with AAA experience. Rhodes is going to be 39 in October. He wasn't going to help the M's do anything special this year, and likely next.
Besides, if the M's need him so much, they can always try to re-sign him for next year. This was the no-brainer trade. Let's see if anything else happens.
From what I'm told, theTwins have still been calling the M's about Adrian Beltre. But Seattle's asking price has always revolved around starting pitchers Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, or outfielder Denard Span. And the Twins won't do that. As we told you a few weeks back, the Twins feel they're doing the M's a huge favor by taking on the $17 million owed Beltre through 2009 and won't give up any premium in players. That kind of money is a lot for the Twins and they want a bargain someplace. This was never going to happen.
It's the same thing with the San Francisco Giants. They'll have to give up a premium arm and are not prepared to go there. These days, it seems, teams want something for nothing -- at least on the player front. Cash isn't king right now.
OK, it's now 9 a.m., the Mariners have confirmed the deal and interim GM Lee Pelekoudas put out this statement: "We felt the opportunity to acquire a young pitcher made sense as we look towards 2009 and beyond," Pelekoudas said. "Pedro Grifol, our minor league field coordinator, has known Gaby for several years and believes he has a chance to help us in the future."
By the way, I wouldn't get too worked up about his AAA numbers just yet. Remember, the PCL is a pitcher's graveyard and a hitter's paradise. Let's see how he progresses from here. To pick up a young arm for someone like Rhodes, approaching 40 and who wasn't going to contribute to any team success here, makes a lot of sense.
No guarantees Hernandez will amount to anything. But there is a guarantee that Rhodes will be retiring fairly soon. And he's a relief pitcher. This isn't the same as trading Jamie Moyer. You can find new relief pitchers fairly easily. Just not at the trade deadline if you're a contender. But over the winter, they are plentiful. And also, Eric O'Flaherty is still very much in this team's plans despite his year-long struggles.
Also, that Ken Griffey Jr. deal to the White Sox looks to be going down. This will likely spell the end of those Griffey-to-Seattle rumors I haven't stopped hearing about since he came here with the Reds over a year ago. Can't say I'm too upset about it.
July 30, 2008 9:30 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Those were three debatable walks issued by Arthur Rhodes in the eighth inning. Especially the last one, to Marlon Byrd, on a pitch that appeared to go right through the strike zone. A checked-swing on the previous pitch could also have been called a strike. But it became a walk. Michael Young (who'd come in to pinch-hit for Brandon Boggs...no, I wasn't actually at the game, those photos took themselves) delivered a sacrifice fly and Rhodes and the M's take a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Rhodes, predictably, told umpire Paul Nauert, what he thought of his umpiring, Just as predictably, Rhodes was tossed. He had to be restrained and directed towards the dugout. His final M's moment? We'll know tomorrow afternoon.
Eddie Guardado gets the win. He could also be gone by tomorrow. When's the last time two pitchers of record in the same game were on different teams the following day?
Rhodes wasn't a happy man after the game.
"I'm not going to comment on that,'' Rhodes said of the umpire's calls. "I'm out there making good pitches and the ball's over the plate.''
Good thing he didn't comment.
Rhodes insisted he hasn't gotten caught up in all the trade talk. He'll probably wind up with the Marlins tomorrow. If not them, the Brewers. Guardado, the less-coveted of the two, will likely go to the team that doesn't land Rhodes.
Despite insisting that he's still a Mariner and plans to be here, Rhodes did take a positive view of all the interest expressed in him.
"I look at it as I'm having a great year this year,'' he said. "I had Tommy John surgery last year, but came back this year and proved I could still pitch.''
For now, Rhodes said, it's tough going on this Mariners team.
"This whole team is in a funk right now,'' he said. "And once you get in one, it's tough to get out.''
July 30, 2008 7:27 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Texas did indeed tie it up in the sixth when Kenji Johjima threw a ball into center field on a steal attempt. A leadoff double by David Murphy and an ensuing groundout left a runner at third with one out. Marlon Byrd then grounded out to Willie Bloomquist at shortstop, the runner holding. But Brandon Boggs walked and broke for second on the steal. The throw was high over Jose Lopez's head. No chance there. Chris Davis then flied out to deep left center to end the inning. I can't remember seeing Raul Ibanez make a catch that far over in center.
Seattle loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh. Of course, you can guess what happened next. Ibanez hit a fly ball to medium right field. Bloomquist tagged up from third and tried to score, but was nabbed at the plate by David Murphy. Adrian Beltre then took a called third strike that he did not like very much. So, a wasted opportunity Seven runners left on by the M's tonight.
Batista is now out of the game, somehow making it through six innings with only three runs -- two earned -- allowed. It was a high-wire act. Cesar Jimenez is on.
Had a nice chat pre-game in the press dining area with Andrew Percival, a local guy from the Seattle area now working for the Rangers in their front office and scouting ranks. He interned with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and now has a job in Texas. Says he's getting used to the heat. He's an avid reader of the blog, so we were able to swap some baseball theory about what's gone on in Seattle this season. Educational.
Had another chat, not in the dining room, but on the dugout steps, with J.J. Putz about his outing last night. There are two major things Putz has struggled with all season, both of them related to his rustiness in coming back off injuries. The first is the command of his four-seam fastball. The second is his ability to throw an effective splitter.
Before his latest DL stint, the big issue for Putz was the fastball command problem. He kept falling behind hitters. The splitter becomes useless if hitters know you can't get your fastball over for a strike. Nobody is going to swing at a splitter, which will almost always miss the strike zone, when you aren't spotting the fastball. They'll just let you walk them.
The second problem, the splitter, is what has hampered Putz since he returned from the DL post-All-Star Break. You saw the problems he had in Toronto last Friday. Well, the problems were back again last night. Not so much with the first two hitters who got on. One of them swung at a pitch in the dirt and got a lucky hit. The other one hit an OK pitch. But the double that Ramon Vazquez hit came on another splitter that did not split. And when that happens, the result is a big, flat fastball that gets crushed.
Putz fessed up to this. He admitted his splitter is rusty and that it will take time for it to come back. He's got the final two months of this season to get a feel for it again. Hey, many of you wanted Brandon Morrow to go to Class AAA to start working out in the rotation. You didn't care who the closer was. Well, you're getting a taste of what could happen if Putz is less than 100 percent. Come August, it may not matter. It looks like the M's will go that route in any event.
I'm not saying you were wrong. But I am saying that talking about how games don't matter and how you don't care if the M's lose 99 or 110 games is a lot easier to do than it is to see a gut-wrenching defeat like last night's actually take place. No one wants to see a game play out for eight innings, only to be decided by a closer who can't make pitches. Try doing it three times a week and you could get a sniff at what's in-store for the Mariners the next two months.
For those of you asking me about Josh Fields, please, relax. It's not unusual to wait until after the July 31 trade deadline for teams to turn their focus back towards unsigned draft picks. There are still more than two weeks left to sign Fields. Like Brandon Morrow two summers ago, Fields likely won't pitch in the minors this year so it's not urgent to get his signature down on paper right away.
The M's are all tied up on multiple trade fronts for now. Once those go away, they can turn to other things.
July 30, 2008 2:46 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Let's drop the Jarrod Washburn stuff for a just a moment and focus on the two other Mariners with the best shot at getting traded by tomorrow. No, not Adrian Beltre. I'm told the San Francisco Giants want him, but are reluctant to move their best young major and minor league arms. Deal won't happen if they don't. Besides, who would play third base? The Giants would have to include a third baseman. They have 27-year-old Jose Castillo, another free-swinger but solid defender, who could be a stop-gap guy until the next big thing (Carlos Triunfel?) comes up through Seattle's system. But there would have to be a prize in any Betre deal, like one of the "untouchable'' young arms the Giants have. I'm told that Jonathan Sanchez is the one "untouchable'' who could be touchable. But let's face it. This is already getting too complicated. Sounds like a nice winter project to me.
No, I'm talking Arthur Rhodes and Raul Ibanez. Rhodes was beign pursued by the Tigers, Brewers and Marlins -- with Florida about ready to part with the mid-level prospect it would take to get him. Forget about the Tigers, they're done. Just pulled off a deal with the Yankees, sending them catcher Ivan Rodriguez for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. So, that takes care of any bid for Rhodes by Detroit. To answer one question, yes, Farnsworth is right handed, but it was just another bullpen arm (right or left) that the Tigers wanted to bolster their pen. They weren't specifically looking for a situational lefty. You'll also notice in the story that Rodriguez waived his no-trade clause to go to New York. He's got the same agent as Washburn. Like I said, the no-trade thing isn't going to hold up any Washburn deal. This stuff gets taken care of.
On to Raul Ibanez. The M's are apparently asking for two prospects in exchange for him from both the Mets and Cubs. Not surprising, since Seattle would receive two higher level compensatory picks for Ibanez should he leave as a free-agent at year's end.
But here's the catch: in order to get those picks, Seattle would have to offer arbitration to Ibanez. What if he accepts? Then, the M's would have to be prepared to go to 2009 with him as the DH, most likely. So, those draft picks are not a given. In other words, if one prospect is worthy enough, Seattle's asking price could come down from where it is now. As a negotiating position though, I'd expect to see the ask of two high prospects that's now out there. You have to have something to come back down to, especially since the deadline is a full 22 hours away.
Now is when things start to get serious. When the real negotiating begins.
Frankly, I'll be disappointed if Seattle comes away empty-handed tomorrow.
At the very least, Rhodes is the closest to a sure-thing trade you're ever going to get on a team as bad as the Mariners. They have to deal him. You have a shot at getting a young possibility back and that's better than clinging to an old one that isn't going to help this team when it matters. I'd say it's down to the Marlins and Brewers, both of which are also scouting Eddie Guardado. One will wind up with Florida, the other with Milwaukee.
If Rhodes is still here by tomorrow night, then Lee Pelekoudas will have come up short. There's holding firm in negotiations, then there's being too stubborn for your own good. I'd expect that, with 30 years in this business, he's smart enough to recognize that.
July 30, 2008 9:15 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
We're approaching the 24-hour window for that Jarrod Washburn-to-New York deal to get done and the standoff between the Mariners and New York Yankees continues. By "window" I mean prior to the July 31 trade deadline. The M's, of course, can still deal Washburn after that, but everyone has to pass through waivers first. By everyone, I also mean the players (if any) coming back Seattle's way. If it's a decent prospect, fat chance of that happening.
As we mentioned the other day, what you have here is a game of "chicken" or "poker" being played to see who will blink first. The New York media seems to agree on that now. At least, some writers do. Here's the take by John Harper of the New York Daily News, which actually calls it a "poker'' game.
The folks at Newsday have also been all over this deal from the beginning. They call this a "dead'' deal, but I don't share that opinion. I agree with Harper above in that the Yankee spin-meisters only want folks to think it's dead so that the M's will cave and throw Washburn out there. But as we mentioned two days ago, and which the Newsday reporters do in their piece, the M's are really under no pressure to get a cash-only deal done with the Yankees on Washburn. You can do that in August, since waivers won't be an issue in a salary dump. Well, they could be an issue for the Yankees if a team steps up to claim Washburn, either out of interest or to block a trade.
But if it's a salary-only deal anyway, the M's can just let that claiming team take Washburn and all of his salary. What do they care? At most, they'd lose that third-rate, token prospect the Yanks are offering to throw in right now. No big deal. As we discussed, as long as the Yanks stick to their current position, the M's are under no pressure to move Washburn by tomorrow. They can always call New York's bluff and then, if they really are desperate to unload his salary, just make the move on Aug. 1. New York's needs won't change in one day. They aren't going to walk away from the salary-only deal just because 24 hours have passed.
It was no coincidence that interim Seattle GM Lee Pelekoudas picked last night to hold an impromptu gathering with Seattle beat writers just before gametime. Pelekoudas wanted to fire off another salvo in public, directly at the Yankees, without actually naming them.
July 29, 2008 9:50 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just a short programming note, my Talkin' Baseball segment on KJR AM 950's Mitch in the Morning show tomorrow will run an hour later -- at roughly 9:20 a.m. -- to accomodate some scheduling issues with the start of Seahawks camp. Should be lots to talk about.
The crowd at Rangers Ballpark erupts as a two-run double to right center by Ramon Vazquez off J.J. Putz ends the game. An 11-10 loss for the Mariners after they'd overcome deficits of 7-0 and 9-3 to take a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. By the way, it was a year ago -- on July 25 -- that Vazquez hit a homer off Putz to hand him his first blown save of the 2007 season. I'd say he's about done with the guy.
Yes, that's Jarrod Washburn pinch-running at first base for Kenji Johjima in the top of the ninth inning after the latter was drilled on the left knee by a C.J. Wilson pitch. The Seattle bench is depleted, so Washburn was called on to run. For those asking, Jose Vidro has a bad neck, which is why he wasn't used tonight. No, Washburn did not enhance his trade value. He did score the inning's go-ahead run when Ramon Vazquez threw a ball away at first for a two-base error.
Asked to assess his baserunning, he quipped: "I thought pretty good. Freezed up on the ground ball to third and then showed my speed. Now the secret's out. They're going to want two prospects for me.''
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman also wasn't impressed with Washburn's running ability.
"He was at the wrong place,'' he said. "He was back at second base when the ball was thrown. Lucky the throw was so bad that it didn't matter.''
Washburn was so stunned to get the call that he had to race back to the clubhouse to put on his game jersey and spikes. He usually doesn't wear them on the bench between starts. He wound up forgetting his belt, so Riggleman pulled his off his waist and handed it to him.
The fact that Washburn was out there at all tells you what kind of game this was. A bizarre one on a night where pitching and defense took a back seat to everything else. Long balls, errors, blown plays, miscommunication. You name it.
One of the bigger gaffes was Yuniesky Betancourt failing to get a bunt down with one out in the ninth and Jamie Burke racing in from third. Burke was a dead duck when Betancourt missed the ball.
Putz even got away with trying to make a near-impossible out at third base on a bunt with two on and none out. Instead of throwing to first for the out, Putz tried to nab lead runner Marlon Byrd. The throw appeared to arrive late, as expected, since Byrd was only a few yards from the bag when the throw was made. Byrd is not very fast and he somehow, by the most microscopic of margins, was called out. Either that or the umpire blew the call. I'm still not sure. But Putz got away with one there (sorry Jack in the comments thread, 99 times out of 100 the runner beats that throw). It wound up not mattering moments later.
"It just seems like we've been involved in so many games like this that are decided in the ninth and 10th, 11th and 12th,'' Riggleman said. "There were an equal amount of things to be disappointed about and I'm disappointed in all of them.''
July 29, 2008 7:16 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Ichiro takes a lead off first base after needing just one pitch to hit a flare to left center for a single and the 3,000th hit of his professional career in both the major leagues and Japan. He got a nice round of applause from the crowd when the milestone was announced. Just had a chat with Nolan Ryan, moments after the hit. Yes, that guy. The new Rangers team president. He'd stopped by the press box for a glass of water, so I tapped him on the shoulder as he headed for the elevator.
I asked him the same question we've discussed all day. About the legitmacy of the 3,000 hits given that a huge chunk of them came in Japan. Ryan is a Hall of Famer. As you've seen, many of those players care about milestones and legitimacy of numbers.
"I think 3,000 hits is 3,000 hits,'' Ryan said. "It doesn't matter what league he did it in. For him to come out here and do what he did right away is a remarkable accomplishment. It's a tribute to him as a player that he's been able to do it for so long. When you get to the stage of 3,000 hits, that's an accomplishment and I don't care where he did it.''
We've got a ballgame going here in the seventh, as Jose Lopez and Bryan LaHair just hit back-to-back solo homers off Jamey Wright to make it a 9-8 game, the M's still trailing. Seattle scored three in the sixth, aided by a wild-pitch and some sloppy fielding. Can they get Carlos Silva off the hook? We'll see. It's the first time this season the Mariners have hit back-to-back homers. Only took them 106 games. What a night.
Just got done talking to interim GM Lee Pelekoudas, who said he's involved in all kinds of discussions about a multitude of players. But he reiterated that he's not going to engage in salary dumps. He wants value in return for players. He mentioned, as we discussed on the blog yesterday, that in some cases, he can wait until after July 31 to make some deals.
Pelekoudas kept repeating that he will only make deals that will make the club better. I asked him at that point whether taking $10 million in salary off the books for next year would, in theory, make the club better by freeing uo funds to go after better players.
July 29, 2008 4:27 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, we're about an hour away from game time and there's some genuine excitement in the air over Ichiro's next hit, No. 3000 of his professional career. A small group of fans here began chanting "One more hit! One more hit!'' as Ichiro came out for his pre-game stretching. There is a true sense that he has accomplished something, even though it will be controversial.
A spirited debate this morning on the comments thread, to be sure. Mike mentioned something not too long ago about what will happen if Ichiro reaches 3,000 hits in the majors, putting him past Pete Rose as the all-time hits leader. I was asked that very question in an interview by a Japanese media collegue just before coming up to read Mike's comment. It's a good question. My answer was that it would be controversial. Maybe not along the same lines as Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth's all-time home runs record. That was a racially motivated controversy to be sure. And I'm positive there would be some backlash along those lines if anyone suggested -- as they no doubt would -- that Ichiro is the true all-time hits leader. But it would also be a genuine baseball debate, sort of like the one we had this morning.
Ricofoy made an excellent point about Tuffy Rhodes, who hit 415 home runs -- only 12 in the majors. Should he be in the 400-homer club? I mentioned this downstairs to some Japanese media colleagues and they burst out laughing. They agreed that it presented an interesting counterpoint. My argument would be that Ichiro was equally prolific in both leagues over a prolonged period, while Rhodes was not. But then again, if you're going to argue that all of Ichiro's hits count, then it shouldn't matter which league Rhodes hit his homers in, should it?
That's the kind of stuff that makes this game great. Just try to keep in mind, we are being watched around the world, especially now. There will be fans from all over the world tuning in to this blog tonight, particularly from Japan. Let's try to keep the racism to a minimum please. In fact, let's eliminate it. Most of the time, just ignoring some of the drivel that gets spewed on this site is enough. Most intelligent people will see a comment for what it is, shake their head and move on. But it puts me in a bind. If I address it, then I get accused of wasting energy pandering to idiots. If I ignore it, it makes it look like we accept those kinds of views on this site and get accused of supporting idiots. And we at the Times don't support them. More importantly, I don't. So, I'm addressing it. Either way, I have to waste energy on idiots.
So, try to remember. Those of you who post on here, you're blogosphere ambassadors of sorts to the world. This isn't some local baseball blog for the boys in Port Orchard (though they are certainly welcome here). We are read worldwide. We have a huge number of followers on a daily basis. I don't think most of you want people in other parts of the world to hate the U.S. Most of you are intelligent folks who mean no harm to anyone. Try to tone the racial and xenophobic comments down, please. Especially tonight.
By the way, here's a letter I received today from Thiago Oliveira, a daily reader of our blog who calls himself a "Mariners Fan from Brazil". Doesn't say how he got to support the M's, but he's a Brazillian born and raised. He lives in the city of Blumenau in the Santa Catarina province. He says he's "very angry" with the Mariners season, which I guess makes him like any other Seattle fan. I wasn't aware of baseball being an overly big sport in Brazil but he tells me there are lots of fans and people who play it there.
"Here in Brazil I watch the Baseball games at ESPN on Sunday,'' he writes. "In every transition (he means "broadcast" I think) the fans can write email, and there is a lot fans around the country.
"In my city I can't find anything from Seattle Mariners not a cap or a jersey.''
Hmm, we'll have to find him a jersey someplace. Down below is a picture of Thiago (far right back row) with "my friends from college. When we have a free time on Sunday. we watch a baseball game.''
Remember folks, the world is a big place. There's room in it for all of us fans of the game.
July 29, 2008 10:17 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
All quiet on the Jarrod Washburn front. Like I said, what you've got here is an old-fashioned standoff, with neither the New York Yankees nor the Mariners budging from their positions. This writer in New York even used the same "game of chicken" comparison we talked about yesterday morning. He's right. This story describes the usual trade scenario we've mentioned, that it was going to be either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner going to Seattle along with Washburn and all his salary off to New York. Never both players for Washburn. That would have been a fleecing and the M's rarely end upon the plus side of one of those deals.
Anyhow, the M's just might have to be willing to hold on to Washburn. We've had plenty of debate about this before. Is he for real? Are patsy opponents and an improved defense making him look better than he is? More on that -- especially the defense -- later in this post.
But now, let's deal with the 20,000 pound elephant in the room.
At some point tonight, Ichiro will likely notch the 3,000th hit of his combined major league and Japanese League career. We've heard a lot of commentary about the vailidity of this milestone. I go back and forth on it, personally. In fact, I was willing to dismiss it outright until Jim Riggleman mentioned something yesterday that cannot be overlooked. The fact that Ichiro has compiled his major league hit total of 1,721 (he had 1,278 in Japan) faster than any other player in history.
In actuality, Ichiro is compiling his major league hit totals faster than he did in eight seasons of professional baseball in Japan. Perhaps the era of the three-run homer in MLB caused teams here to position themselves to defend against the big hit rather than the infield and slap singles that Ichiro tends to pile up? Who's to say he wouldn't have already been at 3,000 hits had he begun his career here?
Don't forget. He also played minor league baseball in Japan.
So, this isn't the same as saying that if you reward Ichiro, you have to take the Class AAA stats of all other players and count them as well. The Japanese pro ranks are superior to minor league American baseball. Some would call it a AAAA league.
But I'll throw this out there. Who's to say the hit totals of Amercian ballplayers weren't being inflated throughout the 1990s steroids era? Maybe it was actually tougher to get hits in Japan, playing in a league where rampant drug use wasn't nearly as prevalent -- or tolerated?
Baseball isn't the only sport where the caliber of "professional" leagues comes into play. Let's talk about local football legend Warren Moon. I actually watched him play live in the Canadian Football League a few times as a kid growing up cheering on my Montreal Alouettes against his Edmonton Eskimos. Many folks want to discount the passing yardage he compiled in Canada, as they do with Doug Flutie, when it comes to looking at career totals. They say the level of competition is not as serious in the CFL.
To that, I say, major pro ball is major pro ball. Moon spent six years getting knocked on his back by guys good enough to play in the NFL in many cases. In temperatures of 40-below when it came to playoff time. The difference between the CFL and NFL can often be boiled down to a few more talented guys at certain skill positions. They are different games. But they are played at full speed at the highest levels. Dexter Manley did not go up to the CFL and dominate. Neither did Mark Gastineau. They were done as players and exposed badly, even in the "inferior" CFL. Joe Theisman won a Super Bowl. But he failed to win his only Grey Cup (CFL title) game. Others, like Moon, Flutie, Jeff Garcia, or "Rocket" Ismail, do well in both leagues. Some don't.
When a team of National Hockey League stars went over to Europe to play club teams during the 1992 lockout, they often found themselves in over their head. When NBA stars played for the U.S. at the World Championships this decade, they were hammered by Argentina and Yugoslavia. A club team from Israel beat the Toronto Raptors in an exhibition game. Pro is pro. Once again, the difference between one league and the other can be marginal. Yes, the NHL is the best hockey league in the world, the NBA is the best basketball league and the NFL the best football league. And MLB is still the best place to play baseball. But by what margin is it the best?
I'd argue, not as much as you'd suspect. Many times, whether you play in one league or the other can come down to politics, height and weight. Is that the best measurement? Hey, if sheer size were all that mattered, a lot of those Ultimate Fighting matches would be over before the opening bell. But watch the fights themselves. The size of a guy's biceps is rarely what decides the outcome.
To that end, I think it's somewhat insulting to Ichiro to discount all of his Japanese hits out-of-hand as the product of playing in the equivalent of a AAA league.
Let's face it, at his age, he may never get to prove he could notch 3,000 hits in a major league uniform. The fact that I have to qualify that statement -- leaving open the possibility he still might do it -- shows you what kind of talent he is. Based on the evidence in front of me, I see no reason to believe he would not have done it. So, why not reward him for the next best thing?
July 28, 2008 9:54 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A shot above of Ichiro, driving in pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist (no, not Kenji Johjima as I'd originally written -- he's not that quick) from third with a sacrifice fly and a huge insurance run in the ninth. Seattle goes on to win 7-5 over the Texas Rangers. Ichiro had his shot at No. 3,000 in career hits (in the majors and Japan) but he'll have the rest of the year to get it. The sac fly, off onetime M's closer Eddie Guardado, mattered just as much.
Johjima had led the inning off with a single before Bloomquist came on and stole second, then was bunted over to third.
Rangers manager Ron Washington then had Guardado pitch to Ichiro rather than walk him with first base open to load the bases and set up the double play. Interesting call. Wonder if Washington is aware of the 3,000 hits thing. Not necessarily, though probably. Ichiro said that went he saw Guardado come in for a lefty-lefty matchup, he knew he wouldn't be walked on purpose.
But Johjima likely saved the game as much with his defense. Texas had runners at second and third with one out in the eighth when Johjima nabbed lead runner Ramon Vazquez at third with a pickoff throw. That was huge because Josh Hamilton was at the plate. Arthur Rhodes then struck Hamilton out on a nasty 2-2 breaking pitch to end the inning.
Adrian Beltre has an eye signal with Johjima to use that pickoff play when the runner leads too far off third. They don't practice it in-season, but did back in spring training. With the count 2-1, Beltre went for it.
"Arthur was in a tough spot,'' Beltre said, "and we needed to make a play like that to try to give him some relief so he could make a pitch after that.''
Johjima gets the final say on whether the play will take place. It's no sure thing.
"I've been through a lot of similar plays like that,'' Johjima said through an interpreter. "I've had times where I threw the ball very well, but it would hit the runner and I would give up the run. Sometimes, it would tie it. Sometimes we'd lose that ballgame. So, it's very risky.''
Indeed it was. It helped that Hamilton swung and missed on the pitch. That caused Vazquez to take an additional step or two towards the plate, hoping to score on a groundball. Johjima didn't hesitate.
"That's huge,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "It takes a lot of guts on both Bellie and Johjima's parts. Because we've all seen those balls go flying in the outfield and it begins to look like a Little League game. But it's a play that we've talked about in the past. That play's there sometimes and it's up to Bellie and Johjima to make it work.''
And they did. It took some of the pressure off Rhodes, who'd kept all his pitches down and mostly in the dirt to the dangerous Hamilton prior to that. But with two out and a runner at second instead of third, Rhodes knew he could get slightly more aggressive. He hadn't been aware there was a pickoff play on but was pumped up once it happened. Instead of being overly cautious with first base open, he got nasty.
"After that play, I told myself 'I can get this guy out right here','' he said.
And he did. That 2-2 slider he threw started out in the center of the plate and dropped down and away to shoelace level. Hamilton made a half-hearted swing and had zero chance of contact. He was whupped. Doesn't happen often. Rhodes will be in hot demand on the trade market these next few days. Even hotter when footage of that pitch makes its way around baseball tonight.
So, does Johjima deserve credit tonight? Of course he does. Hey, look. You don't have to tell me about his shortcomings. I know some of you don't like him and are upset that I've given him some credit. Read the blog posts from earlier tonight. From all season. We've been there to note when he's messed up. To comment on his contract.
But when someone does something right, it's OK to point it out.
July 28, 2008 7:20 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Ichiro steps into the batter's box to open tonight's game, needing just two hits to notch 3,000 for his combined career in the major leagues and Japan. He wound up grounding out to second base in his first at-bat, the only one of the first four hitters who failed to reach base.
Check out Buster Olney's latest blog post on the Jarrod Washburn situation. We discussed this situation this morning, about how the M's could, in fact, work to deal Washburn to another club making an equal offer just to stick it to New York for the brinkmanship. Olney is quoting an NL executive saying they'd do it because the M's are upset with how aspects of the talks have played out in public. I don't know if I agree with this, though. I mean, it's the major leagues. We've talked before about how secretive the M's are compared to other ballclubs. Not every team operates this way. And team executives in a media market like New York aren't going to clamp down on all leaks to the media. Won't happen. Doesn't even happen in Seattle, as we saw with the Erik Bedard deal and the two-week blow by blow leading up to that being completed. Yes, the Yanks are most likely putting stuff in the local media to pressure the M's into a deal. It's called big league baseball.
Then again, it works both ways. The M's could also put the fear of God into the Yanks by leaking a story of their own, or simply by putting it out there to other executives so they can tell a story. That the M's would eat money in a deal for Washburn with another club and stick it to New York. In other words, the M's can try to squeeze the Yankees. Fun and games.
So, back to this game, it took Cesar Jimenez three batters to blow the lead for Felix Hernandez, but Adrian Beltre just tagged Frank Francisco for a go-ahead solo blast in the eighth. His second multi-homer game this season, 18th of his career. Seattle leads 6-5. Going to be a wild ride to the end. Hang on.
Hope none of you were betting on "blue" tonight. He (or she, or it) got body-checked big time by red into the side wall, prompting gasps and groans from the crowd.
Not the best night for Mike Mussina of the Yankees, either, giving up six runs in five innings, not to mention two home runs. The bullpen came in after that and Adam Jones hit a grand slam. He has five RBI so far tonight. It's 11-0 for the O's in the sixth inning. Guess the Yanks don't need pitching after all.
Have a look at a round of BP taken by Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, filmed earlier today:
July 28, 2008 3:55 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Jarrod Washburn has been heating up of late, but never more than this afternoon as the team goes through pre-game stretching in 102-degree heat here in Arlington. We've all discussed what the Mariners could do, chooseing to wait until after the July 31 deadline if the Washburn deal is going to be strictly a salary dump to the New York Yankees. But I don't want to present just that one perspective. Obviously, as I mentioned earlier, this is a calculated risk.
On his ESPN blog, Buster Olney feels the M's would be crazy to pass up this chance to shed Washburn's salary right now. Olney has a point. Just two months ago, this proposal from the Yanks would have seemed like an early Christmas gift. There is always a danger in these types of negotiations that a team will overplay its hand.
I can tell you, from being around the Mariners these past 24 hours, that the word is being put out that the team will not give players away for just money. It's not a fluke. The team wants that message out there. From what I've read in the New York papers today, the storyline there seems to be that a deal is on the verge of falling through because the M's won't give in to the Yankee offer. Sounds like that team is pushing its position pretty hard through the press.
Is this a dead deal?
Not a chance. The Yankees need pitching and Washburn -- no matter what you think of him -- is one of the better arms out there. So no, as long as that need exists, the deal isn't dead. It's at a stalemate. Like I said, one side is waiting for the other to blink. We'll see who does it first. If no one blinks, the M's had better be ready to keep Washburn for a while.
A different look to the lineup today as Jose Vidro is out and Jose Lopez is in at the No. 5 spot. Jeremy Reed moves up to the No. 2 position. Vidro did hit a home run yesterday. But there has been zero interest in him on the trade front.
Hank Blalock has been scratched for the Rangers. He has an upset stomach. A break for Felix Hernandez. He'll need it. Going to be hard-pressed to go seven in this heat.
Speaking of home run hitters, I caught the final moments of Josh Hamilton's pre-game batting practice session on video down below. Hope you enjoy.
July 28, 2008 9:33 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
It would appear we still live in interesting times, even those of you who have cheered on the Mariners from Day One of this season and others. I'm sitting in the Houston airport, awaiting my connecting flight to Dallas, and see that the stalemate in the Jarrod Washburn negotiations hasn't changed much over the past three hours.
Who would have thought the M's might hold the "key" to putting the New York Yankees over the top in their playoff push this season? For Seattle to get what it wants in these Washburn talks, the Yanks will have to be convinced that Washburn is indeed the final piece. In case they aren't sure, here's another entertaining bit of help coming Seattle's way. An endorsement from none other than Richie Sexson.
And who said the final two months of the season would be dull?
All kidding aside, as the M's look to score at least one player -- Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner -- as well as getting the Yankees to take all of Washburn's salary (no way Seattle lands both players, even if they try), they actually do have some cards to play. I don't see this brought up very often, but the July 31 trade deadline is in fact, merely the deadline where players can be dealt without having to clear waivers.
So, what would happen if the M's tried to deal Washburn after July 31? Why, he'd have to clear waivers first. And if another team put a claim in on him -- either out of sheer interest or merely to "block" a trade to New York -- then Washburn could be recalled by the M's, or that team putting in the claim could wind up with him -- at full cost.
How does that hurt the M's? It would only hurt if the Yankees were sending players back the other way. A scuttled deal would be a scuttled deal. No one gets anything.
But what if it's a cash-only deal with maybe a mediocre prospect coming Seattle's way? Well then, heck, all the M's would lose is a next-to-nothing prospect.
In other words, the real deadline for the M's, if the Yankees stick to their negotiating stance of merely picking up Washburn's contract, while sending a breathing body to the M's for appearances' sake, isn't really July 31. It's actually Aug. 31.
What harm would there be to Seattle completing such a cash-only deal with the Yanks in two weeks? If the Cards were to jump in and claim Washburn before the deal could go through, then St. Louis would get stuck with the pitcher's remaining salary through 2009. Makes no difference to the M's. Other than the two weeks more that Seattle would have to pay Washburn. Minimial money, considering he still is owed roughly 33 weeks more in pay on his contract.
So, why not sit around and wait? The really interesting part is, Washburn won't have to make another start between now and July 31. He's always going to be as good as that eight-inning, one run outing yesterday, or that 2.29 earned run average his past nine outings. Not the Yankees pitchers. They will have to head out three more times between now and Thursday's trade deadline.
July 27, 2008 2:36 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A stunned Blue Jays slugger Alex Rios (image may not be an exact likeness) watches as one of his two popouts and groudouts goes into the history books this afternoon. Rios had been .389 lifetime off Jarrod Washburn, but goes hitless today in a 5-1 win for Seattle. Washburn went eight innings, then was pulled at 101 pitches to allow J.J. Putz some work. Washburn could easily have gone longer, but allows just four hits and one run in notching the win.
He has not looked the same for two months. If Washburn had pitched like this all year, the M's might not be looking to trade him. Or, maybe they still would be. In any case, this was likely Washburn's final start for the M's and he goes out victorious.
By the way, as to whether this bolster's Washburn's trade values, this post says the Yankees are holding firm. That they'll take on Washburn's salary -- which many of us envisioned as a dream scenario back in May -- but will not include a top prospect (like Brett Gardner) in the deal. And there you have a reason for the trade holdup.
Perhaps this latest Washburn outing did strengthen Seattle's position. What you have right now appears to be a game of "chicken" where the first guy to blink winds up on the side of the road. What would help Seattle's position now, as I've said before, is a bidding war. A second team getting involved. If that doesn't happen, the M's may have to call New York's bluff and wait this out until Thursday, or blink.
Washburn talked after the game about how an improved change-up has benefitted him most during this two-month stretch of success. He's lowered his ERA down to 4.50, a drop of more than two runs since June.
"To me, the toughest part was trusting the grip and throwing it like a fastball with the exact same arm-speed,'' Washburn said. "That's the biggest thing, is you try to fool the hitters by selling it with the same delivery.''
He sold it today. The Blue Jays looked off-balance all-day. For HenryTracks in the comments thread, it's not just about fly balls and groundballs and dividing up ratios and stuff. It's how solidly those balls have been hit off him. Washburn didn't give up any hard-hit balls, other than the John McDonald home run.
You can gripe about it being a two-month "fluke", or maybe accept that perhaps the first two months was a "slump'' and that Washburn is what he is right now -- a league average pitcher. Maybe he's better than that now. He tinkered with a new change-up grip this year, then reverted back to his old one and found that it finally clicked for him.
Washburn admits it's been "a 14-year struggle'' to find a proper changeup.
"I have more confidence right now in all my off-speed pitches than I've ever had,'' Washburn said. "Which allows me to mix it up more than I have in the past. So, hitting the spots with the fastball and the off-speed is just a good recipe right now. I feel I've matured a little bit as a pitcher. I'm learning the secondary pitches and getting more comfortable with them and I feel I've really taken a step forward in my career.''
Yes, he was facing the Blue Jays. Yes, that team uses David Eckstein as a DH against lefties. But Washburn held the Boston Red Sox to three runs over 5 2/3 innings last week. About the same as Felix Hernandez, who gave up three runs over six frames.
So, time will tell whether this is a lasting change or not. For now, it's given the M's a trade commodity. That's more than you can say about a good part of this roster.
July 27, 2008 11:55 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Yes, that is indeed Jarrod Washburn out there on the mound.
Jose Lopez just extended his hitting steak to a career high 14 games with an RBI single in the seventh inning. Seattle now leads 5-1. The M's could have had more, but with the bases loaded and one out, Jeremy Reed hit into a 1-2-3 double-play. Washburn is back out for the seventh, his pitch count in the low 80s. A complete game from him, perhaps? Why not? He's unlikely to be here past this start. Let his arm rip for 120 pitches. Then, tell the Yankees: "We'll take that Gardner kid and you take all Washburn's salary. As for Kei Igawa, I hear Tokyo's real nice this time of year.''
This seven-game losing streak more or less sneaked up on this team. I can't ever remember seven losses in a row happening so matter-of-factly, or routinely. I asked Jim Riggleman about that earlier today. He said he liked the effort the players were putting in. But he agreed, this team does tend to look as if it's just playing out the string at times. He insists that's not the case.
"I'm happy with the intensity that we play with,'' he said. "In the American League -- I think this happend to us in April, May and part of June...if you're not hitting in the American League, you really look flat. Because when you're not hitting, there's not much you can do.''
In other words, it's easier to play small ball in the NL and do those types of small ball things to generate offense and stay close in games. Not so much in a slugger's league. You can scratch a run or two across in the AL as well, but it's tough to keep pace with a bunch of homer-hitting clubs unless you can slug some homers, doubles and triples as well.
July 27, 2008 8:53 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The picture above is of today's starting center fielder for the Mariners. Nope, it's not Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner. It's Jeremy Reed. Willie Bloomquist is the backup. And yes, Jarrod Washburn is still the slated starting pitcher.
Last I saw Washburn, he was sleeping on a couch in the visiting team's clubhouse here. There's little chance something would happen at the last minute. Remember, he has to sign-off on any deal. Once he's in the bullpen warming up, he can't take any calls. So, if you're hoping that a deal with the Yankees will be completed, just pray he doesn't get run over while taking a throw at home plate or something. Nah, something like that could never happen, right?
Anyhow, Mariners manager Jim Riggleman says he spoke to GM Lee Pelekoudas and was told there's nothing imminent. Riggleman added that he'd expect to be informed anywhere from 48 hours to 2 hours in advance of a deal -- not that a deal was going to be finalized, just a "heads up'' to be prepared -- in order to get his pitching lined up.
"No question,'' he said. "Lee would have talked to me about it.''
Well, we're within that two-hour window and he says he's heard nothing.
"I think, at this point, there's nothing that's going to happen (today),'' he said. "If something happens in the next five days, it's going to happen. But I just don't see it (today).''
Some of you have written in via email to ask why we haven't updated since yesterday's post-game. As we said during the Erik Bedard fiasco last winter, we're trying not to get carried away with all the rumors.
Here's what we know:
-- The Yankees and Mariners are talking
-- New York was apparently reluctant to assume all of Washburn's $13.5 million in owed salary, while the M's want the Yanks to eat all of it
-- At one point, New York proposed that Seattle take Class AAA pitcher Kei Igawa, owed $4 million in each of the next three years, to offset that Washburn salary cost
-- Seattle would want value if this wasn't a total salary dump. At this point is where the names of players like Cabrera, Gardner and Jose Vidro start getting tossed around. In other words, the M's get some value back in terms of an outfielder who can contribute to their squad at a low cost. The Vidro equation would see some more money taken off Seattle's hands and potentially give the Yankees a useful switch-hitter.
So, maybe the deal is simply a salary dump and nothing more. Or perhaps it expands to those other parameters I've just mentioned. But there is no deal in place. If there was, Washburn would not be preparing to take the mound.
Closest I've ever seen a player get to playing before a deal was struck? Without actually playing?
In 2002, Raul Mondesi was standing in the on-deck circle in the first inning of a game at Fenway Park. Before he could step to the plate, he walked back to the dugout and a new player came out. Mondesi had been traded to the Yankees (by Toronto) in exchange for a breathing body in a total salary dump. That body never panned out.
Needless to say, it was a long night of writing on a tight deadline. But with a pitcher, things are different. You can replace an outfielder at the last minute. Replacing a starting pitcher like that really messes a team up. So, I think this will carry over past this game.
Things to watch for?
Washburn's health, obviously. No collisions. No little arm twinges. His performance, too. If he gives up eight runs in the first three innings, the New York tabloids will have a field day. Also, let's see how he overcomes this distraction. It is a major one, no doubt.
Gee, that Bryan LaHair doesn't mess around with the riff-raff in his fraternization with the enemy. Goes straight to the top. A look at LaHair, posing for a photo minutes ago with Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi. Both men hail from Worcester, Mass.
July 26, 2008 1:23 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The Mariners were thumped, 8-3 this afternoon, by the Toronto Blue Jays, who you can see above as they leave the field.
But the bigger news is the supposedly pending Jarrod Washburn deal to the New York Yankees. Just got done talking to Washburn in the clubhouse. He told me he spoke to his agent, Scott Boras, by phone two days ago and the pair went over the procedure that would take place in the event of a deal. What it boils down to is, Washburn has told Boras what he'd like as far as compensation goes for waiving his no-trade clause if dealt to the Yankees. The agent will verbally discuss this this with the two teams once an agreement in principle is reached. After that, once all final offers are on the table, Boras will phone Washburn and he'll say yes or no.
"That's pretty much it,'' Washburn said.
There are all kinds of rumors flying about what the deal will entail. There has been talk of outfielder Melky Cabrera or outfield prospect Brett Gardner coming over, along with pitcher Kei Igawa. There were rumors that the M's wanted Jose Vidro going back the other way at some point.
The trade by New York for Pirates outfielder Xavier Nady makes this Washburn deal possible. New York is dealing with injuries to several outfielders and would not deal Cabrera away unless it had a regular outfielder coming back.
I could see the Mariners wanting Cabrera, even though I think Gardner is the more attractive pickup here. Anyone who saw Gregg Zaun score from second on that Willie Bloomquist throw home this afternoon would tend to agree this team needs a full-time center fielder.
Right now, Bloomquist and Jeremy Reed are the equivalent of two fourth outfielders sharing that job. Reed's bat has leveled off the more he plays.
Jim Riggleman says he knows nothing of any pending deal. I believe him -- to a point. He left R.A. Dickey out there awfully long today. Yes, the bullpen was a bit tired, but it had an off-day on Thursday. Riggleman looks to be saving guys up for...for...yes, to make a collective emergency start for Washburn tomorrow if needed. Front offices communicate with managers on these things. If a deal is this close, I doubt the Yankees want Washburn on the mound tomorrow for Seattle as scheduled.
Now, we just have to wait for some phone calls to be made and see what happens.
July 26, 2008 12:08 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
We're headed to the eighth inning, with Seattle down 8-3, but on the bigger news front, we're hearing buzz that Jarrod Washburn might not make it to tomorrow with the M's. A trade with the New York Yankees appears imminent. We're trying to peer into the dugout to see whether he's still there. We'll have an update after the game.
For those of you wondering why Jeff Clement isn't playing -- he can't. He can't throw the ball properly with tape over his injured thumbnail. He also isn't swinging properly in BP. As for Bryan LaHair, he's just not playing. They don't have confidence in him against lefty pitching yet. Frankly, he hasn't looked at that great at the plate and I can sense they're trying not to overmatch him so that he can possibly stay up here longer -- not get sent back down right away like Clement and Wladimir Balentien.
By the way, I happened to run in to Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' assistant GM and one of the rumored candidates for the Seattle job next season. LaCava told me he'd yet to be contacted by the team. Not surprising, since it's still in-season. He told me a lot of candidates around the game would love the job and that he'd obviously consider it if asked.
"I try not to worry about that stuff anymore,'' he said. "If it happens, it happens.''
LaCava was a very late finalist for the Pirates' GM opening last year, but withdrew his name during the last stages of that team's search.
He is close to Seattle's director of scouting, Bob Fontaine, having worked for him during his tenure with the Angels.
Not much new to tell you today. Erik Bedard isn't ready to throw yet.It could be several more days before that happens. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to think he's gone until September -- if not 2009.
In case you missed this the other day, the M's are finally getting some of that national recognition they've long sought.
July 25, 2008 8:51 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Jeremy Reed looked to have saved the night for the Mariners with an RBI single in the 10th, but Mark Lowe loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the frame and served up a first-pitch single to Joe Inglett that loses it for Seattle.
Inglett's ball went off the glove of a leaping Ichiro. Two runs came in and Seattle loses 5-4. That kind of night.
"I think I read it,'' Ichiro said, through an interpreter, of how he played the ball off the bat.
"I have to catch it like that because it touched my glove,'' he said.
In other words, he timed his leap OK. Feels it was his play to make.
On to J.J. Putz. who blew a save in the eighth. Putz had trouble getting his splitter over to the first three hitters, made an adjusment, then got out of the rest of the inning unscathed. But he allowed the tying run to score.
"The toughest thing with being a reliever is you don't have a lot of time to be able to find things,'' he said. "You've got to be quick. Today, I wasn't quick enough.''
Putz still took plenty of positives out of the outing. It wasn't perfect, but he eventually did find the splitter. With more outings, he feels it will come to him quicker.
"It's just one of those things where the more you throw, the more out of it you get, the better,'' he said. "Obviously, the better you're going to be with stuff, command and everything like that. I had it the other day against Boston. I threw some great splits there and then today, for whatever reason, it was flat early.
"But I was able to make an adjustment. It could have been a lot worse.''
Not much else to say. Miguel Batista came out of the game mid-batter because he "was gassed'' is what manager Jim Riggleman said. Riggleman later pulled Arthur Rhodes after a passed ball had moved a runner into scoring position with him facing a righty hitter. That's a potential positioning problem with fielders and you're better off having a righty in there.
By the way, Lowe was set to go up to three innings. Riggleman then would have put R.A. Dickey in and gone with a combination of relievers tomorrow. No Jamie Burke. Jeff Clement isn't healthy enough to catch yet and Burke was the only catcher left.
So, that's six losses in a row. Going to be a long final two months, I suspect.
July 25, 2008 6:53 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
It's now a 3-3 game in the ninth after J.J. Putz allowed three straight hits to open the eighth, including a leadoff double by Lyle Overbay, a single by Rod Barajas and an RBI single by Matt Stairs. Putz then got out of a serious jam with a double play ball hit to Adrian Beltre, who tagged the lead runner and threw on to first. Putz thne struck out Adam Lind to end the threat. But it was not a vintage outing by him. He's got a ways to go.
When was the last time any of you saw a team pull two pitchers in the middle of a plate appearance in the same game? Has happened to Miguel Batista and Arthur Rhodes tonight. We'll see what the deal was.
That Brewers scout was certainly here to see Rhodes. Milwaukee needs relief help and GM Doug Melvin said today that he isn't willing to pay a premium to get it. In other words, no Huston Street, no George Sherrill. But Rhodes would seem a better fit.
By the way, the M's bullpen has gotten awfully thin since this photo below was taken earlier tonight. You've got Mark Lowe left if Brandon Morrow can survive the ninth. Jamie Burke after that.
July 25, 2008 3:01 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more confusing in the Brandon Morrow situation, Mariners manager Jim Riggleman now says the pitcher may indeed start in 2008. The way he was talking this afternoon, it's almost like he expects that Morrow will start.
In Class AAA, at least to begin. Riggleman doesn't see Morrow making a transformation out of the major league bullpen. He says the quickest way to get Morrow's arm built up would be to send him to Tacoma for two or three weeks.
It all depends on how quickly J.J. Putz grabs the closer role again. Putz has come back strong from the injury, so strong that the Mariners are now back to discussing Morrow as a starter this year. According to Riggleman, the orgnaization is split right down the middle as to whether Morrow should start now or over the winter in winter ball.
For now, Riggleman is ready to go with a Morrow-Putz combination at closer. He doesn't want to throw either guy three days in a row right now. But -- and here's the catch -- if one guy goes two days in a row, then tells Riggleman he'd like to go three, the manager will oblige. If that guy is Putz, then Morrow will likely be sent down. Even if Putz can only go back-to-back days a number of times, there's a good chance Morrow would be sent out no later than mid-August. After all, who knows when this team will see three straight closing opportunities?
"He would pitch the eighth,'' Riggleman said of Morrow in the event Putz becomes the closer. "But again, we've tossed that around...at some point, does he go in the rotation?''
Riggleman added: "Once we get into August, we'll have a little clearer indication of where we want to go with it.''
And although Riggleman managed in winter ball before, you can tell he's not thrilled with the idea of sending Morrow back there to pitch. Neither is a significant part of the organization, apparently. Last year, when Morrow pitched in Venezuela, there were "times when people were probably holding their breath about it.''
Here's Riggleman's take on winter ball and Morrow:
"It's not that often you're getting your Brandon Morrows down there,'' he said, adding that winter ball isusually a place for top hitting prospects and lower tier starters. "You're just so leery of pitching more innings on that arm that aren't directly affecting the outcome of the Mariners.''
So, that's it for now. Let's see what happens from here.
There's been another rotation shuffle. Carlos Silva's back is still hurting him. So, R.A. Dickey goes tomorrow in his place. Jarrod Washburn goes on Sunday. Felix Hernandez throws the opener in Texas (on his regular rest) and Silva goes Tuesday.
July 25, 2008 9:05 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The final week leading into the July 31 trade deadline is upon us and -- as expected -- this is when things truly start to get serious. As many of you have already heard, the New York Yankees held an organizational meeting in Tampa yesterday to try to narrow down trade targets. Not surprisingly, the name of Jarrod Washburn keeps coming up.
As we mentioned a while back, shedding Washburn makes sense for the Mariners. He's an attractive commodity simply in being lefthanded. He's putting up some strong numbers. He's not going to cost teams an arm and a leg. And he's not really going to help the Mariners win a title next season. Washburn would allow you to eat another 190 innings or so out of the rotation if all goes well. But the team has surplus in lefty starting pitching. Even if Ryan Rowland-Smith doesn't work out, you've still got Ryan Feierabend. It's time to move on.
There's been a hullabaloo of sorts over Washburn's no-trade clause. Some have speculated that Washburn would want a contract extension if he's to go to New York. Of course he'd like an extension based off seven good weeks of pitching. Who wouldn't? It's not going to happen. As you can see from this fan blog in NYC, there's plenty of angst about taking a gamble on Washburn beyond even this season, let alone 2009.
But hey, a player has to try to get the most he can. But, as with all things in a negotiation, once you see the plausible and the totally impractical, you move away from the latter and towards the former. To me, this whole no-trade thing represents a very minor obstacle. Here's how it works: in the majors, players have these no-trade deals inserted in their contracts. It's a negotiated clause and, as in most business negotiations in the non-sports world, if you want out of a contract clause, you have to give something up in return. It's more a token gesture than anything else. Sometimes, you can buy your way out for $50,000. Gets the player an extra car, or a nice round-the-world cruise for the family over the winter.
The thing is, the player worked hard to get the no-trade into the contract. Most of them will be reluctant to give it up for nothing.
So, if you're the Mariners and you have a chance to offload more than $13 million to the Yankees in Washburn's remaining salary, are you going to risk scuttling the deal over a $50,000 payout? Or a $200,000 payout? A $500,000 payout? No, you're not. Well, you're not unless you're really dumb. No jokes please. I'm being serious. Well, a few jokes, but let's not sidetrack the discussion. Even if the Yanks balk at ponying up some cash for Washburn, the M's could always do it if push came to shove. Like I said, they aren't going to blow a cash-shedding move of this proportion over a small fraction of dough.
July 24, 2008 5:02 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
No, not Manny Ramirez. We're talking Richard Ramirez. The infamous "Night Stalker" of serial killer notoriety. Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista throws his name out there along with David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, Ted Bundy and other crazies in this rather interesting website. It's being used to promote his The Avenger of Blood fiction novel. Look, I won't promise it will change your life or anything. But I can guarantee you that you won't find anything similar out there by a major league ballplayer.
Do I have anything new on Jarrod Washburn? Nope. Arthur Rhodes? Other than the same reports that say the Marlins are interested in him? No. Erik Bedard? He's still here. Not going anywhere.
In other words, Batista will have to do for now. If anything, the audio alone on the site makes visiting it worthwhile.
July 24, 2008 8:14 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Sitting at the airport getting ready to fly to Toronto. It occured to me the other day that it was at roughly this time a year ago that Felix Hernandez had one of his two mid-summer meltdowns. The second of those came in Toronto, when a pitch didn't get called the way he wanted. Next thing you know, a couple of home runs are hit off him seconds apart and the game is pretty much done.
I thought about that yesterday as I watched Hernandez battle through that sixth inning jam with the bases loaded and none out. Yes, I know he wound up walking Coco Crisp to force home a run. Mel Stottlemyre went out there to calm him down. To make sure there was no repeat of last summer in Toronto. There was none. Hernandez got through that sixth with his team only down 3-1. Jose Vidro tied it up, mainly because Hernandez didn't bury his club in a 7-1 hole. On a day he didn't have his best stuff, he still went six innings and allowed only three runs. It showed me a lot.
This wasn't like the six-inning, three-run performance he had in Texas back in May. This Boston Red Sox team works pitchers to death. Can destroy them if they show up with less-than-perfect command. The Texas Rangers were hacking that night in May. Hernandez was not in control that night and only some lucky breaks -- like a double play ball drilled right at him instead of into center field -- kept him from getting knocked from the game pretty early on. He was off that entire night and a less-patient Texas squad helped him through some innings. Not so much this time. Against an offense willing to wait him out. Even when he was in trouble against Boston, he still looked like he was in charge. Think of how he obliterated Jason Varitek in that sixth-inning at-bat. Right before the Crisp walk. Hey, I never said Hernandez was perfect. But I'll take what I saw yesterday if that's as bad as it's going to get from here on in.
He's not a true staff ace yet. But he's taken a big step forward this year. He's pitching like an ace several years his senior. Not every time out. But more and more consistently. In a season with little else to be happy about for M's fans, that certainly ranks as the best thing to take out of it.
Here's something to cheer you up after another Mariners loss. A couple of Red Sox fans, we think, have written a song about Manny Ramirez's little run-in with a Seattle police officer on Monday night.
No, it won't win any Grammy Awards. But it beats Milli Vanilli by a nose.
July 23, 2008 7:29 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
There aren't a lot of follow-up questions to ask when a guy offers the point-blank admission that he messed up and the mistake is his alone. That was Willie Bloomquist's response to questions about the center-field drive that he was in position to catch, but didn't in the 12th inning.
"I just flat-out missed it," Bloomquist said. "I can't sit here and make an excuse. It's a ball I should have caught, a ball I've caught it in the past and I hold myself accountable for it. I should have caught it and unfortunately it cost us. In the end, I'm not going to sit there and make any excuse."
Hmmm. No evasion there. Bloomquist's error loaded the bases, but didn't allow a run. The next two batters had base hits, scoring a total of three runs.
On Saturday, Bloomquist lost a ball in the sun at Safeco Field. Was that a factor in Wednesday's play?
"Nope," Bloomquist said. "The sun's no factor. There's no excuse. It's just flat-out a ball I should have and I didn't."
OK. No excuses. No ambiguity there. He goofed. Bloomquist started the game at shortstop, but moved to center field after Yuniesky Betancourt entered the game to pinch-hit for Jeremy Reed.
J.J. Putz pitched for the second time in four days, throwing two innings this time and looking every bit as impressive as the day he came off the disabled list. Putz struck out three in the two innings he pitched, all on fastballs in the mid-90s.
Velocity isn't the only the thing that differentiates Putz's recovery from his first stint on the disabled list back in spring with a rib problem.
"Right now the quality of pitches has been a lot better than it had been the first time I came back," Putz said after the game. "The last few years I haven't been a guy that's walked a whole lot of people and this year, mechanically, it just hasn't been there. And having the time and the coaching staff to have the patience to let me find my delivery again has been huge. I think the results on the field are going to show."
Putz walked 17 batters in the 19 innings he pitched before going on the disabled list in June. He has not walked so far since he was activated.
"It's just a matter of being able to put the ball where I want to when I want to," Putz said. "The first time coming back from the rib injury just for some reason, I don't know if I was thinking about the rib or something like that, mechanics just weren't there. The delivery was not very consistent. All through my rehab assignments and then the last couple times up here, the deliver has been consistent. That's when you're able to repeat and make quality pitches. That's what we've been able to do."
July 23, 2008 2:42 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack?
Not in sections 311 and 312 at Safeco Field on Aug. 5 and Sept. 9. Those will be peanut-controlled zones on those days, the Mariners announced this week, cleaned thoroughly the night before and all peanut products will be banned on those games. Peanut products will not be sold at nearby concession stands. Tickets will be $10 each for those days.
It is estimated 12 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, about one-quarter of them children. The incidence of peanut allergies among children doubled over the five-year period from 1997 to 2002, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
July 23, 2008 2:22 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Well, entering today's games, Sabathia batted in three games for Milwaukee, he had two hits in nine at-bats with a double and a home run. That's a batting average of .222 and a slugging percentage of .667.
Going back to July 8 -- Sabathia's first game with Milwaukee -- Vidro had nine hits in 33 at-bats (.273 average), but his only extra base hits were a pair of doubles (.333 slugging percentage). So what happens Wednesday? Well, Vidro has a walk and a single in his first two at-bats and then hit a game-tying two-run home run in the sixth inning, making the comparison to Sabathia seem very smarmy and ill-timed. Score: Seattle 3, Boston 3.
The next hitter, though, Ichiro's glove let a run in. Kevin Youkilis hit a single into right field, which skipped under Ichiro's glove and past him in right field. Ichiro would have had no chance to keep Coco Crisp from scoring from second base on the play. The play did allow Dustin Pedroia to score, and Ichiro was charged with an error on the play.
July 23, 2008 12:23 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Jeff Clement didn't require any stitches for the nail that tore off the thumb nail on his throwing hand early in Tuesday's game. He was sore, though, and isn't in the lineup Wednesday. Kenji Johjima is catching with Jose Vidro as designated hitter. Manager Jim Riggleman said Clement can swing OK, but throwing is the issue. He didn't completely rule out Clement playing on Friday, but said since the Mariners are scheduled to face left-hander John Parrish in Toronto, Clement's return likely will wait until Saturday.
"If he's totally 100 percent we may get him in there," Riggleman said. "But if he's anything less than 100 percent I might wait until Saturday when a right-hander's pitching."
Carlos Silva left Sunday's game with a lower-back issue, but Riggleman said before Wednesday's game that Silva is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday and is expected to make his next start, which would be Saturday in Toronto. Miguel Batista will start on Friday for Seattle.
Riggleman also said he doesn't expect left-hander Erik Bedard to pitch before the end of the month, however, the magnetic-resonance image (MRI) seemed to be a boost to the pitcher.
"He seemed encouraged by the results of the MRI," Riggleman said.
Riggleman said that it told Bedard that the soreness he's feeling in the shoulder is "pretty normal" and allayed questions if there was a more serious problem. Now it's just a matter of when Bedard starts feeling well enough to throw some.
"His tone in the whole thing is kind of a little more positive," Riggleman said of Bedard.
July 23, 2008 12:17 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Manny Ramirez has a sore right knee and isn't in the lineup on Wednesday. Jacoby Ellsbury is in left field in his place.
Manager Terry Francona said the soreness in Ramirez's knee is something that came up out of the blue.
Ramirez had an icebag on his knee in the Red Sox clubhouse before the game, he demonstrated that there is nothing wrong with his voice, singing along to music from his iPod. He even had the theatrics down, rolling up a magazine and singing into it as if it were a microphone. He even asked for a little help, asking me if I spoke Spanish (the language the lyrics were in).
"Un poco," I said.
Well, he tilted the magazine/mic out for me to join in. One problem. No idea on the lyrics, however, the chorus included the word "todo" on an extended hold. I was able to chime in for at least a second.
July 23, 2008 10:52 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
****see additional note at end of post ***
An early start time today, and I'm told there will be more than 40,000 fans at Safeco Field. So, as the losses pile up, the fans of Seattle keep coming out to watch the Mariners. Is that a good thing? I'm torn. Obviously, a successful business helps any franchise. There is a reason the M's are spending $117 million on their payroll while the Oakland A's will take years to get to that level.
Yes, Safeco Field has a lot to do with that.
But new ballparks don't last forever. The new stadium buzz usually wears off in about five years. I'd say the Mariners have done a pretty good job of getting fans to come out to their ballpark, which turns 10 next season. Safeco still has the appearance of a new park, even though it's getting up there in years. And any team averaging 29,000 fans per game while winning fewer than 40 percent of the schedule has something going for it. Anyhow, I touched on this breifly during last night's game story, printed in our morning edition.
This wasn't meant to be the ultimate attendance story. Simply something else to raise the level of discussion other than simply posting last night's game score. Sure, there were other attendance issues we could have touched on more in-depth. But not in a game story of 800 words. The limits of the newspaper world as opposed to being able to blog on endlessly.
Anyhow, I was looking for a way to show that the Mariners, for all of their losing, still do pretty good attendance-wise. So, I simply took their average game attendance and divided it by the number of wins. Got myself a nice number I could compare to the numbers of other teams. Is it very scientific? Nope. It's a quick and easy snapshot. Meant to give you an idea. Sort of like batting average. You get an idea. Sometimes, when you scratch below the surface, you get a vastly different idea. This usually involves guys like Jose Vidro in 2007, or Yuniesky Betancourt this year. But you get the picture.
Of course, much of a team's attendance is pre-ordained. It is determined before a season even begins. Those attendance counts go off of "tickets sold" and many are sold way ahead of time. Season ticketholders can't get refunds simply because a team loses. Some of the "buyers" don't even show up for games any more but still get counted in the nighly attendance figure put out.
The walk-up crowds at Mariners games -- folks who show up right before the contest to buy a ticket -- are only about 1,000 to 2,000 of those 29,000 or so at the ballpark every night.
Sure, there are folks buying single-game tickets a few days, or weeks, or sometimes months in advance. But season-ticket buyers are where it's at in the baseball business. And that's done in advance of a season. When every team has a shot at the pennant.
That said, being down nearly 4,000 "tickets sold" per game on average over last year can't be great news for the Mariners. Don't forget, the bulk of last year's tickets were sold coming off a last-place 2006 season. There wasn't all that much optimism in the air, despite the fact the team surprised folks and wound up winning 88 games. So, the nearly 33,000 per game last season was built on pretty modest hopes. If the team is now down 4,000 per contest, given all the excess hopes going into 2008, with the Erik Bedard trade and the signing of Carlos Silva generating optimism, along with the Angels losing two key starters, then how does this bode for next year?
Do you think "playing the kids" as a marketing strategy is going to send fans scurrying off to buy season tickets? So, if the M's are feeling a slight pinch now, it stands to reason they could be feeling a full-throat squeeze come next year -- the residual impact of this disastrous season.
July 22, 2008 11:01 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Not every night so many fans get to cheer and go home happy from Safeco Fied after another loss by the Mariners. But these are the Red Sox in town, with their fans in tow. The Mariners go down to a 4-2 defeat and the fans, thousands of them, are cheering in the aisles.
R.A. Dickey told us after the game that he challenged J.D. Drew with that first inning sinker, with the count full, because he did not want to risk walking him with a knuckleball and putting him on base for Manny Ramirez so early in the game. If he was going to get burned, so be it. He got burned. For a solo homer. The M's never caught up.
"I feel for the offense, it's tough,'' he said after giving up four runs over six innings. "Our job is to keep producing quality innings so we have a shot to win at the end of the game.''
Dickey did his part. But this offense is comatose.
Well, the M's saw Bryan LaHair get his first major league hit, in the eighth inning off Daisuke Matsuzaka. An Ichiro double would later bring home LaHair all the way from first base with Seattle's first run after 18 consecutive scoreless frames.
"As soon as Ichiro hit it, I knew it was in the gap so I took off,'' LaHair said.
LaHair grew up watching the Red Sox in Worcester, Mass.
"Unbeleivable,'' he said of his feelings after the hit. "It felt great.''
The M's got another run, on a Jose Lopez single, but that was it.
This team is now 24 games under .500. Yes, a season-high.
"We've just got to come out and put more pressure on the opposing ballclub,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "We've got to do more earlier in the ballgame, get something there and hopefully not be facing the Papelbons of the world every night.''
The M's did indeed see Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who shut them down in the ninth for a second night in a row.
Riggleman feels his players are still working hard and take pride in what they do on the field. When it doesn't worj for them, he said, it hurts.
"When you're going through something like this, you want your players to care,'' he said. "And they care. maybe too much.''
Riggleman was optimistic about the results of Erik Bedard's MRI.
"I was pretty encouraged by what I heard,'' Riggleman said. "I think Erik was encouraged. Whatever was found there, whether it was an impingement, or whatever terminology was used, my understanding is that Erik feels like he's going to get out there and start throwing again soon.
"That's the hope,'' he added. "I don't know when he'll throw again or when he'll be throwing to a catcher again or just playing catch.
"But we need him out there,'' he added. "He wants to be out there. There are some things going on there, though, that are just not allowing him to be free and easy.''
Jeff Clement won't be catching again until Friday at least. He can still swing a bat, which may get him some pinch-hit duty tomorrow. But that torn nail on his thumb is preventing him from throwing the ball.
July 22, 2008 8:29 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
******* NOTE: Jeff Clement leaves game with thumb injury; Bedard has no serious injury *******
I told you earlier, they've pulled out all the stops tonight just in case Manny Ramirez wants to try something. You don't mess with Seattle's finest.
OK, we've got an update on Erik Bedard's MRI. The team is saying it confirmed the club's original diagnosis of a left shoulder impingement. What does that mean? A sore shoulder, says the club. So, no serious structural damage from what we're being told. Bedard will now continue with his regular rehabilitation program. Not sure whether that means throwing outdoors, or in a batting cage, or what. But I'm sure they'll tell us sooner or later.
Jeff Clement is out of the game. The nail on his thumb tore off when it was clipped by that ball. That's why you don't grab on to the protective screen behind home plate, or stick your hands out car windows...that sort of thing.
Boston just pushed three more runs across in the fifth to grab a 4-0 lead. An infield hit by Jacoby Ellsbury, and a single by Dustin Pedroia, that dropped just out of Raul Ibanez's reach, left runners at the corners with none out. Ellsbury scored on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Drew. Manny Ramirez then singled to left, and Mike Lowell doubled to score Pedroia. After an intentional walk, Jed Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly to left.
Might as well be 10-0 the way the M's, two-hit to this point, are looking.
July 22, 2008 4:30 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Take a look at the pitchers above, taking some pitchers' fielding practice, and try to figure out which one isn't there. Well, the title of this post kind of gives it away. Yes, Erik Bedard is absent. He's getting a magnetic resonance imaging scan done on his shoulder. We should know the results in a couple of hours.
From what I've been told, Bedard had a cortisone shot over the weekend. It was hoped that he'd feel well enough to start throwing again yesterday. But he couldn't even repeat the mild throwing he'd done in an indoor batting cage on Sunday. The Mariners figured enough was enough and it was time to figure out what the problem is.
"He didn't really feel up to throwing yesterday, so we're going to have him take an MRI,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Hopefully, the news is good on that. He was throwing the ball the other day in the cage and made a little progress. But not enough, really.''
Riggleman said Bedard's shoulder woes were not an immediate concern. After the July 4 outing by Bedard, he said, it was merely a question of some minor soreness. The DL move, remember, was more a pro forma thing that wasn't originally going to set Bedard back in his next start. But as the days went by and Bedard's arm showed no signs of improving, the team grew more concerned. That's apparently why it took up until now to get that MRI done.
"The more days of that,'' Riggleman said, "it just became apparent that, let's see if we can clear his mind that there's nothing structurally wrong there.''
But the line of the day goes to Bosox manager Terry Francona, who, when informed of last night's jaywalking by Manny Ramirez, quipped: "OK, that's the last straw. I'm not playing him.''
Ramirez is indeed in tonight's lineup as the DH. He'll match up, rather well, I might add. Ramirez's response to the jaywalking story? "It's OK. Don't worry about it!'' he said, raising his hands. You can see him below, no doubt talking to his agent about all the fuss.
July 22, 2008 2:03 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
I guess we ticked off a few of the good folks from Red Sox Nation with our Manny Ramirez item from last night. Judging by this blog entry in the Boston Globe. Reading through the comments, I can't help but think that we folks in Seattle have a bit of an image problem when it comes to jaywalking. As you can see above, they've beefed up coverage of the streets outside the stadium today, just in case Manny tries being Manny again. Well, maybe not.
But then again, as far as images go, if that's the worst thing your enemies can come up with about the place you live, is it a bad thing?
We won't get into discussing the relative quality of the comments, or level of discussion, on our respective blogs.
July 22, 2008 10:50 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
For anyone who hasn't seen it, here's the latest blog post from Ryan Rowland-Smith, written after his demotion to Class AAA.
"It was the toughest day of the year for me,'' he writes. "I left Safeco Field upset and very confused. I'm not sure if people understand the feeling of being sent down, it's tough no matter what.''
It goes on into more detail. Interesting to read his thoughts. I'd have thought he'd be happy once he thought of the bigger picture, knowing that he really wants to become a starting pitcher. Then again, it's easy for all of us to sit and talk big picture. These guys have a limited shelf life when it comes to their athletic careers.
By the way, for those of you asking me about the Manny Ramirez story and how I got it: let's just say that the Times has plenty of reporters and columnists who are Mariners fans and go to games on their own dime. If you're going to have a run-in with a cop, it's best not to do it right in front of those Times reporters and columnists trained to take down notes and get in-close to the action.
Back to Rowland-Smith. He is, as we mentioned, being groomed to take over a rotation spot. Why? Well, part of the reason is the uncertain status of the two lefties in the rotation. Who knows whether Erik Bedard will be healthy enough to pitch at 100 percent efficiency the rest of the season? Or whether or not Jarrod Washburn did enough last night to get himself traded.
Now, here's the part that's going to get me in trouble with some folks: should the Mariners be trading Washburn?
I mean, yes, we've all heard the conventional wisdom. That Washburn is regressing with age and will be a worthless hunk of lefty mound waste by next season. One that will cost more than $10 million.
But if all the M's are going to do is dump Washburn's salary in a trade, would it benefit the team more to be keeping him? You know my take on it. I still think the team should hedge its bets and try to save money. Namely because it has some lefty starters who could step in and do a borderline, replacement-level job right about now. Or, within weeks. Like Rowland-Smith.
The big question becomes, how "real'' is this mid-season transformation by Washburn? Because it appears that, if he keeps this up the rest of the year, he will wind up producing very close to the same numbers that he did in 2007.
July 21, 2008 11:18 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The Boston fans in the crowd here, and there were thousands of them at Safeco Field tonight, erupt as Jonathan Papelbon and company jog back to the dugout after ending a wild eighth inning. Seattle loaded the bases with one out off Jon Lester, but Papelbon came in and got a double-play grounder from Raul Ibanez to end Seattle's last real chance.
Boston wins it 4-0 as Lester scatters eight hits, three of them in the eighth inning. Lester went 7 1/3 scoreless frames, striking out six. He didn't walk anybody. Though he threw 103 pitches on the night, 42 of them came in notching his final four outs. Before that, he needed only 61 pitches to breeze through six innings.
"Lester stepped up,'' said Papelbon, who retired the side in the ninth for the save. "He's stepping up for us. He's a guy right now we're kind of leaning on.''
The story of the game, from a Mariners perspective, was not Miguel Batista pitching a scoreless ninth in which he gave up a pair of singles and a walk that loaded the bases with two out. It was Jarrod Washburn going 5 2/3 frames and allowing just two earned runs on the Jason Varitek home run. Any team wanting to trade for Washburn now has seen him go roughly six innings every time out for the past couple of months. They've seen him limit opponents to two or three runs per game. Tonight, it was against a better-quality opponent.
"They're definitely in the top three or four offenses in our league,'' Washburn said after his team's third consecutive loss. "The Yankees, Detroit and Boston. Even without (David) Ortiz in that lineup, it's an awful good lineup. They've got some speed in there and they've got guys who put the ball in-play, take their walks and they've got power.''
What teams saw from Washburn tonight is what they'll likely get. He won't dominate like Lester did tonight. But he will get you through to the late-inning bullpen guys if he keeps this up.
"He really did a good job,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Washburn has given us a chance to win the ballgame just about every time out there and he did it again tonight. When he leaves, it's 2-0, and when you've only given up a couple of runs to Boston, you've probably done a pretty good job.''
Want to hear a funny story? Here's one, a blog exclusive for all of you. Won't read about it anywhere else tomorrow.
Seems that Boston slugger Manny Ramirez was leaving the ballpark, with headphones on trying to look inconspicuous and quickly get away from the crowds still leaving the stadium. He started to cross South Royal Brougham Way, against the signals of a traffic cop who was directing pedestrians. The police officer demanded that Ramirez open his wallet and show identification. He warned him that he could face a $500 fine and possible arrest for disobeying a police officer.
It became clear to those watching that the policeman had no idea who Ramirez was. He didn't ask for an autograph or anything, but did ask Ramirez if he'd attended the game. After the brief lecture, and no argument from Ramirez, the police officer let him go with no further trouble.
Ah, maybe baseball needs a higher profile in this town? Or, maybe Ramirez has to sit around and talk to the media like everyone else on his team, so he doesn't get caught up in post-game foot traffic? I don't know, I just thought it was a funny story.
July 21, 2008 9:38 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
What a night for Jon Lester, who has a 4-0 lead over the Mariners as we enter the bottom of the eighth. Lester had thrown just 61 pitches the first six innings before a 22-pitch seventh got the Mariners their shot at him. But with two on and one out, Lester fanned Miguel Cairo on a 1-2 pitch. That brought Jose Vidro in to pinch-hit for Bryan LaHair -- which the team had better do at that point if it's going to keep Vidro on the roster. Vidro worked the count to 3-1, put a good swing on the ball, but flied out hard to right field.
I knwo the blogosphere will be in an uproar over Vidro pinch-hitting there. But if you aren't going to pinch-hit for a rookie who's gone hitless in his first six major league at-bats, when are you going to do it? If the M's are going to justify keeping Vidro by saying they see value in him as a pinch-hitter, then you have to use him when the situation calls for it. That's my take.
Boston then added a pair of runs on a Jed Lowrie single off Cesar Jimenez in the eighth. Doesn't look good for the home team. Not with Lester still out there in the eighth.
July 21, 2008 5:34 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Those of you hoping to see some youth in the lineup tonight will get your wish as Bryan LaHair, above, makes his second start at first base. Jeff Clement will catch, even though there's a lefty on the mound in Jon Lester and both aforementioned hitters are southpaws.
Erik Bedard did not throw today, at least not outdoors. Manager Jim Riggleman said Bedard threw a bit in the batting cage under the stadium yesterday and might do so again today. That was news to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, though he said throwing in the cage can be about as good as playing catch outdoors.
I spoke to Stottlemyre and bullpen coach Norm Charlton about Brandon Morrow possibly being converted to a starting role this season. Both told me that, right now, with J.J. Putz still working his way back from injury, Morrow plays too key a role in the bullpen to be moved.
Charlton told me that back in 1990, Lou Piniella converted him to a starting role out of the bullpen after he'd been throwing one and two-inning stints. Said it took him about two weeks to get up to five innings, but that it was out of necessity because of injuries to the Reds' rotation. Charlton was the kind of pitcher who routinely threw 25 pitches per frame in any event. Not like Morrow that way.
In Morrow's case, Stottlemyre thought he'd probably need a good month of rotation work down in Class AAA before he could be called up and used effectively for more than a handful of innings. And right now, he said, that's not an option being looked at.
Stottlemyre said he could envision a scenario in September where the M's could try to extend Morrow out of the bullpen. By that time, other arms would be up with the team because of expanded September rosters.
"You could probably jump him from one to three innings right away,'' he said. "But after that, it takes time.''
Are the M's even considering such a September scenario.
"To be honest with you, it hasn't even been discussed,'' Strottlemyre said with a laugh. "But you asked me if I saw a timeframe where it would be possible and I told you when I thought it could theoretically take place. But no. we're not even discussing it now.''
July 21, 2008 9:43 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Many of you have written in, expressing amazement that the Mariners have sent Ryan Rowland-Smith down to Class AAA to work on becoming a starter, while Brandon Morrow remains in the bullpen. I won't weigh in on the merits of Seattle's decision not to move sooner on Morrow. The team made a judgment call a couple of months ago not to go the Joba Chamberlain route with Morrow.
But I will try to explain the difference between Rowland-Smith and Morrow when it comes to this decision.
I talked about this on the radio last week, but Morrow is not going to be worked out as a starter this year. It's too late for that now. First off, J.J. Putz is going to have to be slowly worked back into the bullpen and the team needs a closer for now. Look at how much work Morrow got on the last road trip. Until Putz is ready, which may not be until mid-August, you need a competent late-innings guy out there. I know the games don't mean much, but fans would be in an uproar if this team were to keep blowing late-inning leads, especially after making them sit through the first 2 1/2 hours or so.
Besides, if you keep forcing a bunch of guys to throw the eighth and ninth when they aren't used to it, who knows how it will impact the health of the bullpen in general? The team tried this already back in April, when Putz went down the first time and Morrow was just getting fully healthy. It was an adventure.
And if you know it will take until mid-August to get Putz back to closing games again -- if that soon -- then sending Morrow down is no longer an option. There would be only two weeks left in the Class AAA season and that's not enought time to stretch out a starter. You could try, but you'd wind up with a guy capable of going four innings or so. That's not what you want with Morrow. You don't want to rush him. What you want, is a guy who can routinely go five or more innings.
Rowland-Smith is a different story. His arm is already semi-stretched to begin with. He's been going two or more innings as a reliever and got up to three or four as a spot-starter. You can send him down a couple of weeks and get those extra innings out of his arm. They will likely be needed because of a trade of Jarrod Washburn, the continued uncertainty of Erik Bedard's health and the ongoing struggles by Miguel Batista.
When Rowland-Smith first got a start a few weeks back, we specualted that he was auditioning for the rotation in the event of a Washburn or Bedard deal. That still seems to be the case.
But Morrow is a different story. He's not some end-of-year fill-in as a starter. And I don't mean that disrespectfully to Rowland-Smith, but things are what they are. Morrow is a huge part of the club's future, you've used up a No. 1 pick on him, and you have to treat him with more care.
July 20, 2008 4:32 PM
Posted by Bob Condotta
A quick injury update that manager Jim Riggleman said Carlos Silva may not miss a start after coming out today in the fourth inning with back spasms.
Riggleman said the injury didn't appear serious and called it "just a little spasm.''
Silva seemed a little more upset afterward and when asked if he would make his next start responded "ask the trainer.''
He said it bothered him all game but caught up to him in the fourth when Kelly Shoppach hit what appearaed to be a low fastball into left field for a three-run homer that broke open the game.
July 20, 2008 1:05 PM
Posted by Bob Condotta
IT'S A FINAL --- Clevelans wins 6-2 as Cliff Lee goes all the way in improving to 13-2. Mariners got two on in the ninth but the rally again ended in a Betancourt pop out. He swung at four straight pitches before finally putting one in play that was caught by the shortstop. M's are now 22 games under --- their season-worst was 23 three games into the Riggleman era before the team went on a little "tear.'' M's are now 13-13 under Riggleman.
6-2 ENTERING THE EIGHTH ---- Mariners got three loud outs in the eighth on fly balls hit well into the outfield, but ultimately tracked down by Cleveland outfielders, so they trail by four entering the final inning. Mariners are 0-52 this year when trailing after eight innings.
A LITTLE, BUT NOT ENOUGH --- Mariners got one run on three hits --- two singles and a triple --- in a frustrating attempt to get back into it. After singles by Lopez and Vidro, Johjima hit into a DP that elicited some boos. Miguel Cairo followed with a triple to right to make it 6-2. But Betancourt then popped up to short on the first pitch to end the inning with Cleveland still comfortably ahead 6-2.
GOOD FIRST INNING FOR PUTZ --- It's 1-2-3 for Putz in the top of the seventh. He hit 96 MPH in getting a ground out to second from Jhonny Peralta and then hit 96 again in eliticiting a swinging strike three from Shin-soo Choo.
PUTZ IN GAME --- J.J.Putz has entered the game to pitch the seventh inning, getting the safe landing the team hoped as he makes his first action since June 11. He has been on the DL since June 13 with a hyperextended right elbow.
BELTRE GROUNDER KILLS THREAT --- The Mariners had a chance to get back into it here with two oh and two outs in the sixth, but Beltre --- who earlied clubbed a double that led to their only one of the game --- hit a grounder back to pitcher Cliff Lee for the final out. Lee has been a strike-throwing machine --- 28 of his first 33 pitches were strikes.
LOTS OF TICKETS LEFT FOR RED SOX --- Given the draw of the Red Sox, you might think those games would be sold out already. But the Mariners report there are quite a few tickets left --- 10,000 for Monday, 11,000 for Tuesday and 6,000 for the Wednesday matinee.
WHOOPS --- I'm just realizing this hadn't been published, so none of you could read it, even though I've been writing it. Oh well, you haven't missed much, either reading this or watching the Mariners, who aren't doing much to keep the crowd into this one today. It's 6-1 Indians in the top of the sixth.
M'S STILL POPULAR --- The M's may be on their way to losing another one. But they are still a draw here in Seattle. Consider that today's attendance of 32,230 gives the Mariners a total of 112,669 for the three games against the Indians, a matchup of teams a combined 33 games under .500.
NICE DAY, BAD GAME --- It's a gorgeous day here at Safeco, which at the moment is the only saving
grace of this one as the Indians now lead 6-1, tacking on two more runs against Roy Corcoran in the fifth. So far, this is the kind of game that makes one think this team really could lose 100 games.
SILVA LEAVES WITH TIGHTNESS IN BACK ---- Carlos Silva left the game in the top of the fourth after allowing a 3-run HR to Kelly Shoppach with tightness in the back. It's 4-1 Cleveland.
M'S UP 1-0 --- Nice double by Adrian Beltre leads to a Mariner run in the bottom of the second and a 1-0 lead. The hit continues a good recent stretch for Beltre, who came into the game hitting .345 (40-11) the last 29 games.
BATISTA TO START AGAIN --- Forgot to mention that Jim Riggleman announced before the game that Miguel Batista will remain in the rotation despite his shaky outing yesterday. Riggleman noted that Batista was moved up in the rotation and that the team didn't play real well behind him. "We didn't give him much of a chance yesterday,'' Riggleman said, adding he hopes Batista will respond to regular rest and a bullpen session.
GAME ABOUT TO START --- This is Bob Condotta, the Husky (as in team, not my build necessarily), filling in for Geoff Baker. I'll try to add a few things during the game but likely won't be as exhaustive in my commentary as Mr. Baker. But glad to have any of you that stop by.
As mentioned in the earlier post, we could see the return of J.J. Putz today as he is back on the active roster. However, Jim Riggleman also pointed out that Sean Green has not pitched since before the break and needs to get in the game, as well, and with Morrow still the closer, there may not be an opportunity to get all those guys in depending on how long Carlos Silva goes.
Silva, however, has gone six innings or fewer in four of his last six starts so odds are the Mariners will need a f ew pitchers today.
July 20, 2008 12:20 PM
Posted by Bob Condotta
The Mariners announced before today's game that they have re-activated J.J. Putz and cleared space on the roster by sending left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith to Tacoma.
The plan is to have Rowland-Smith become a full-time starter in Tacoma with the thought that he will return to Seattle and join the rotation at some point this season.
Manager Jim Riggleman said Rowland-Smith was "not real happy'' about being sent down but that the team felt the best way to transform him into a starter was to have him make a few in Tacoma.
Rowland-Smith threw 75 pitches in Saturday's game and Riggleman said it won't take much to extend him out. Asked if Rowland-Smith would be back in September, Riggleman said "I doubt very much it would be all the way to September before we see him again.'' He said one option could be to simply add another starter to the rotation when Rowland-Smith is ready to return.
Putz could be used today in middle relief, Riggleman said, with the plan that Brandon Morrow will remain the closer for now.
July 19, 2008 1:06 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Bottom 6th: The Mariners scored a couple of runs, but what could have been a big inning short-circuited with strikeouts by Bryan Lahair and Jeff Clement. Those are two of the call-ups the Mariners will be looking at with an eye toward the future, looking for a little bit of hope. Seattle is wearing uniform designs from 1989 today, and that was Ken Griffey Jr.'s rookie season and the year the Mariners acquired Randy Johnson in a trade from Montreal. Are there prospects here that provide similar hope for the future?
Top 3rd: After 52 pitches, three runs and six outs by Miguel Batista, the Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre went to the mound and Ryan Rowland-Smith was rousted to begin working in the bullpen. Seattle trailed 5-1 after Batista gave up three consecutive hits to begin the third.
Oops. My bad. Shin-Soo Choo hit a ground-rule double over Willie Bloomquist's head while I was typing that to make the score 6-1. Batista gave up an RBI single to Casey Blake and was replaced by Rowland-Smith.
Well, six of the nine members of Cleveland's lineup crossed the plate at some point in that inning as Cleveland tallied up six runs and five doubles by the time it was all over.
That was the most runs Batista's allowed this season, and that's really saying something becuase this guy's ERA has been north of 5 since the first week of May. He pitched two innings on Saturday (plus the five batters he faced in the third without getting an out), gave up eight runs on seven hits.
Bottom 2nd: The Mariners' first two innings ended identically on double plays hit with runners on first and third. Seattle had already scored one run in the second when Jose Vidro doubled off the left-field wall, but left two runners on third base in each of the first two innings.
1st inning: Miguel Batista walked the first batter on five pitches, setting the pace for a first-inning slog. The first two outs came on fielder's choices that held a high-degree of good fortune. Jose Lopez was in position for a sharp groundball by Jamey Carrol only because Grady Sizemore was running on the pitch and Lopez was covering the bag. He field the ball and tagged Sizemore out. The second out of the inning came on Ben Francisco's bloop that fell in front of Ichiro. Carrol didn't advance to the bag, fearing Ichiro would catch the ball. When the ball landed, Ichiro threw him out at second.
Cleveland scored two runs, the first on Jhonny Peralta's right-field single. Ichiro got a glove onthe ball, but it came loose when he crashed. Francisco scored on the play. Shin-soo Choo -- a former Mariner -- then crushed a 1-0 pitch to right field for his fourth home run of the season.
July 19, 2008 11:58 AM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Manager Jim Riggleman said that Erik Bedard may -- in fact -- be ready in time to pitch again this month.
"We may get him in there in Texas," Riggleman said. "It just depends on when he comes out here Monday and plays some catch, how that goes, and how soon he can throw a bullpen session."
The Mariners begin a series in Texas on July 28. Bedard is currently on the disabled list, retroactive to July 4.
July 19, 2008 11:45 AM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
J.J. Putz pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings in Tacoma for the Rainiers on Friday night, and the next time he pitches might be back on the mound for the Mariners.
No decision had been made, but manager Jim Riggleman said before Saturday's game against Cleveland that Putz could be activated from the disabled list on Sunday or he could pitch one more rehabilitation assignment in Tacoma.
"Nothing is cast in stone yet," Riggleman said. "I don't know if he'll throw another one down there or he'll be activated tomorrow."
Putz was placed on the disabled list on June 12 after being diagnosed with a hyperextended pitching elbow. He pitched twice in Arizona before coming up to Tacoma, throwing a simulated game on Sunday and a rookie-league game on Tuesday. Putz was at Safeco Field on Saturday morning, playing a game of catch in the outfield before the team took the field for batting practice.
Riggleman said Putz feels ready to return. Then again, Putz felt ready as soon as he came back from Arizona, Riggleman said.
"He didn't want to go to Tacoma at all," Riggleman said. "He felt like after his couple stints in Arizona, he felt great, and he didn't feel a need to go to Tacoma, but we had to do that."
July 18, 2008 11:17 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Cesar Jimenez, above, notches a strikeout, then walks a guy but gets a double-play grounder to end the game in the ninth. The Mariners win 8-2 over the Cleveland Indians, riding a grand slam homer from Raul Ibanez in the second inning and a three-run shot by Jose Lopez in the fourth.
Both homers came off Aaron Laffey.
Felix Hernandez goes six strong innings for the win.
Lots of talk after the game about Ibanez and how his three-hit pouting might impact trade rumors. Ibanez said he doesn't think that far ahead. Says it would throw him off his game and the way he prepares for it.
I asked him about what goes into that.
"For me, it starts the night before,'' he said. "And right when you wake up, it's game time. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning, you're already thinking about who's pitching and what's coming up and what your approach for that day is.''
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman told us what happens once Ibanez arrives at the ballpark.
"He does so much,'' he said. "He's in great physical shape and he spends a great deal of time in the batting cage every day. He's relentless in there.''
Riggleman noted that a shortstop or catcher might not be able to put in that much hitting time. That it might prove detrimental to their defensive game, given the energy it saps from a player's body to do that much cage work. But in Ibanez's case, it merely keeps him as ready as can be.
"With what he does in the off-season to prepare for the season,'' he said, "he's physically so strong that he doesn't lose anything during the course of the season.''
What does that focus do? Keeps Ibanez's head in the game. He'd hit into a double-play his first time up. But one inning later, he'd stood in the on-deck circle as Willie Bloomquist drew a four-pitch walk to force in a run. Ibanez knew the first pitch he'd see would likely be down the pipe. He was ready for it and hit his grand slam. He wasn't still worried about the DP grounder an inning earlier.
"It's a clean slate every time you go up there,'' he said. "And the quicker you can let go of negative things that happen, the quicker you can get back to focusing on the things you need to do.''
If only the rest of his team did that every night.
Hernandez felt stronger than he had his last time out. Said his command felt better as well.
Ibanez joked about Hernandez having hit the team's only other grand slam home run this season.
"He's been walking around here with his chesat stuck out a little bit,'' Ibanez said. "Ever since it happened, he hasn't stopped reminding us.''
But Hernandez knew his place when asked whose was better. He quickly pointed towards Ibanez across the room.
"Raul is such a good hitter,'' he said. "He's a great guy. An unbelievable player.''
Which is why other teams -- starting with the Diamondbacks and Mets -- would like to take a crack at landing him. We'll see how talks progress.
July 18, 2008 9:42 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
NOTE: This is for Brian L. in the comments thread, who writes more here in a day than I do lately. Just FYI, I have indeed seen Riggleman's quote on Bedard. It was taken from a story I wrote and a question I asked him at yesterday's workout.
You can see Raul Ibanez rounding the bases, above, after hitting a grand slam in the second inning.
The game is pretty much over at this point, with Seattle up 8-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Bryan LaHair just grounded into a double-play on a 1-2 pitch to end the eighth. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter and it was his first major league at-bat.
Felix Hernandez was pulled after six innings and 99 pitches. A wise move, given that there's little left to settle in this game. It's been over since the fourth inning.
July 18, 2008 4:58 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
NOTE: To Joey, I've answered your questions lower down in the post.
You can pretty much scratch Erik Bedard off any remaining trade scenarios. Just got done talking with Mariners manager Jim Riggleman and he said Bedard did not throw over the All-Star Break -- after being told not to if he felt discomfort in his shoulder -- and has been shut down for the next few days. That means, at the earliest, he may start playing catch again on Monday, then on Tuesday if that goes well.
A bullpen session? Likely not until a few days after that. So, at this rate, the most he'll make in terms of starts before the July 31 trade deadline would likely be one. That's not going to get a deal done. Not the kind that brings you back anything in returns.
Riggleman didn't sound overly optimistic about getting Bedard back on a mound before the deadline.
"He didn't come out of the break feeling significantly better,'' he said. "Hopefully by Monday he's ready to play some firm catch and we'll go from there. If he's not...''
Riggleman didn't finish. He didn't have to.
"We're not looking at trying to pitch him before the 31st,'' he said. "It's really all going to be based on how he feels. The 31st is kind of irrelevant when a guy's got a tender arm.''
Remember, Bedard hasn't pitched since July 4.
So, anyway, there you go. By the way, speaking of guys who missed yesterday's workout, I was wrong in telling you Arthur Rhodes also got delayed because of a flight. In fact, Rhodes had permission from the team to skip yesterday's workout. The only guy with such permission. He was not delayed. So, I gave you the wrong info about that. My apologies.
Good debate in the comments section today over the Ichiro conundrum. As you can see, there are no easy answers (under the assumption, of course, that he's not moving back to CF next year, since the team has already said the physical toll impacted his offensive production and Ichiro himself has made clear he prefers RF. That won't change by 2009). Just one thing I'd like to clear up, based on comments I've seen: Ichiro is the furthest thing from being a problem for the media. He's the first guy out in the clubhouse talking after every game. Says he feels it's his responsibility. Interpreter or not, who cares? He talks to everyone. I can't personally remember him turning me down for an interview, including last week's comments over his decision to skip the Home Run Derby. Don't know of a media member who has a problem with him for issues like that, or his use of an interpreter. The idea being spread about, that the media has it in for Ichiro because he's not a good quote, or makes life difficult for reporters, is laughably out-of-touch with present-day goings-on within the team's realm and being a tad unfair, to both the player and the media.
July 18, 2008 10:32 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Conundrum: 2 a: a question or problem having only a conjectural answer b: an intricate and difficult problem
-- Webster's definition
So, the Mariners tonight embark on the "second half" of their 2008 schedule, trying to make folks forget about how bad the opening 3 1/2 months was. Good luck with that. Trade talk continues to percolate, though, as I said yesterday, the odds of Erik Bedard now being moved by July 31 are somewhere up there with the odds of the lefty winning a Cy Young Award. Jarrod Washburn is now more likely to be the only Seattle starter dealt by then and who would have figured that a couple of months ago?
Another guy who almost certainly will not get traded is Ichiro. There are ample baseball reasons both to trade and to keep Ichiro, summed up nicely in this article from yesterday, though I feel there were some notable points left out of it.
First off, the idea put forth by the writer that clubhouse chemistry -- or, as some of you tried to define it last week, clubhouse culture -- is a non-factor, seems to me like taking the easy way out here. It may be impossible to predict, or to measure in statistical form, but I think that the fact so many Mariners insiders have discussed elements of it this year makes it tough to argue it doesn't exist. Can you plan chemistry in advance to try to help you win? Maybe not. But can clubhouse culture blow up on you and help you lose? From what I've seen with the M's this year, yes it can. Stinks doesn't it? Something like the best laid plans of mice and men? You can't plan everything. You can't predict everything. But it can sneak up and bite you. Sort of like life itself, I gather.
I prefer this blogger's take on chemistry.
So, you might not be able to plan good clubhouse chemistry. But you can, perhaps, take steps to mitigate it from blowing up in your face. How? I don't claim to know for certain. By choosing players who play the game the right way? By having some who can show others how to play the game the right way? By making sure you have a few with the fortitude to tell others -- even forcefully -- when they are playing the game the wrong way? Those would be my three suggestions. Not claiming they will always work. But to ignore the clubhouse culture element, to me, seems lazy, even negligent, in light of what's gone on this year.
As far as the on-field stuff goes, the one element I often see left out of any Ichiro discussion is the whole move back to right field thing. I still can't see how Ichiro as a right fielder helps this team moving forward. One of the biggest problems -- perhaps the biggest -- this team faces is a lack of power at traditional power-hitting positions.
And right now, Ichiro is as poor a power hitter in right field as you're going to find in the AL among regulars at the position.
Going strictly off his 106 at-bats since the move back to right field, we find him 19th at the position with a .330 slugging percentage. That's for every guy in the AL with at least 100 plate appearances. In other words, dead last among regulars. By more than 50 points worth of slugging. He has yet to have a single extra-base hit as a right fielder.
I can hear the screaming of "sample size!'' already from the Ichiro defenders. So, let's be fair. Let's take his statistics from this entire season and compare them to other right fielders. Right now, his .371 slugging total for the year would still rank him dead last among right field regulars. He would be 17th among right fielders with at least 100 plate appearances, just ahead of Brad Wilkerson.
July 17, 2008 4:25 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
NOTE (4:40 P.M.): The Phillies just traded for starting pitcher Joe Blanton of the Oakland A's. See bottom of post.
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman is addressing the players on the field as I type this. Lots going on today. The Mariners finally called up first baseman Bryan LaHair from Class AAA, sending Tug Hulett down in his place. That explains the Craig Wilson acquisition. He's the minor league replacement for Hulett.
"I think I just want to be myself,'' LaHair said. "Kind of do what I want to do, stay focused.''
What does "being himself" equate to on the field?
"Produce, I like to produce,'' he said. "Driving in runs, whatever it may be. Moving the runner over. All the things the Mariners like to do.''
Here's a photo of LaHair, down below, catching a glimpse out of a major league dugout for the first time.
Yes, Jose Vidro is still here. Riggleman sounds like he's going to keep batting him cleanup against righties, saying no major lineup changes are planned -- other than LaHair, who hits further down in the order to break into the majors. Against lefties, who the M's will see three of this coming series, it's Adrian Beltre hitting fourth and Jose Lopez batting fifth.
Here's something you won't see this series: Erik Bedard.
July 17, 2008 11:59 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
As many of you have no doubt heard, Richie Sexson has reportedly agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees. They like his numbers against left handed pitching this season, albeit in a limited sample size. He hit .344 with a 1.046 on-base-plus-slugging percentage off lefties in 61 at-bats this season.
Yes, that's right. A total of 61 ABs. Many of them before he revamped his batting stance. Last year, his OPS was .752 off southpaws, while it was .763 the prior year. Not terrible, but perhaps not what the Yanks need. Still, this makes sense as a gamble since it's barely costing New York anything. Sexson is expected to be in-uniform by Saturday. If he tanks during the next 10 days, the Yankees can still pull off another deal for a bat. Don't forget, if they really want to go throw money around, they have until Aug. 31. The July deadline is only for dealing players without them passing through waivers first.
For the big ticket guys, some of them have a high enough salary that you can ram them through waivers without much worry that another team will snag them. Adrian Beltre could fit into this category. He's owed about $17 million between now and the end of next year. Not many teams would want to put a claim in on
that. Some might, but not a whole bunch can afford it. Raul Ibanez? By Aug. 1, he'd be owed less than $2 million for the rest of this year. Some teams might consider that a bargain. But then again, those teams might already have their needs filled by that point. You never know.
In anybody's book, Sexson is a limited gamble. In the Yankees' book, he's chump change.
To answer your questions, Sexson was a pretty stand-up guy his final two years in Seattle. I know he ducked the media a bit towards the end, but, as we wrote a few weeks ago, it's tough to blame him given the lose-lose situation he'd be in by opening his mouth. He knew he was terrible the past two seasons. Didn't make excuses for it this year. Said just about all there was to say. Was out there talking when he was a focal point in a game -- including when he started that brawl against Texas. Few of us, including most of you, had any questions left unanswered about why he was performing that way. So, no, I felt no inherent need to torture him by making him repeat everything he'd already said about being unable to produce.
His final day as a member of the team did not go over well. He pouted, made it clear to all that he was not happy on the bench -- by not staying there for at least part of the game -- and was released. But overall, I'd say he comported himself well under the circumstances of being the most loathed player in Seattle.
July 17, 2008 10:07 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Baseball gets back underway today, not for the Mariners, but a few other teams. Thanks for your insights into the Jose Vidro discussions yesterday. As one of you wrote, you can agree to disagree with an organization's thinking, or the explanation of it, without degenerating into mudsligning and a self-righteous pounding of the chest. For the record, I agree with many of you. The short-term need for this franchise to win games should take a backseat to the need to get on with building the franchise for the future. It doesn't get entirely wiped from consideration. But nor should it be a 50-50 split.
Time for some decisions. Bryan LaHair continues to hit for power in Class AAA, his replacement-in-waiting is there in Craig Wilson, so why not call him up? Who goes? Heck, we've said for two months that Vidro should be released. If he can't play the field on a regular basis without wearing down, then he makes a logical choice to send packing.
Also, I'd like to see Wladimir Balentien come up and Raul Ibanez get moved to DH. You now have Jeremy Reed showing he can play multiple positions. Balentien doesn't have to be guaranteed a major league job. You can bring him up here, play him a bit and see if he can hit. If he slumps, you can sit him a couple of days, put Reed in left and Willie Bloomquist in center. I do think Balentien should be a left fielder and not a center fielder. I like what Reed has shown in center so far.
We should know more by this afternoon, when the team holds a Safeco Field workout. But I'd be shocked if no changes are made. Now is the natural time to do it. Doesn't change the explanation the past two days for why Jim Riggleman was doing what he's been doing. But his own words a few days ago in KC, that Vidro needed a rest, kind of spell things out. Vidro needs a rest because he can't play the field. This team needs a guy to play the field in Richie Sexson's place and it isn't Miguel Cairo.
Now, make no mistake. I've written here before and will continue to write that Bonds will be a huge distraction for any team, both from a clubhouse and media perspective. If you don't think he will be a clubhouse distraction, go read Jeff Pearlman's Love Me, Hate Me book which quotes past Bonds teammates about what he was like to have around. About what kind of teammate he was. If you still think it's a media myth after that, well, then we'll have to agree to disagree.
But as much as I think that Bonds has tarnished his legacy, and the game, and will get what's coming to him in a court of law, the perverse side of me thinks seeing him in New York could actually be good for baseball on several levels. Laugh all you want, but most of you hate the Yankees to begin with, right? I mean, those of you from outside New York.
July 16, 2008 10:30 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Wow, wasn't it fun watching last night's All Star Game? Or, as we here in Seattle like to call it, just another Mariners adventure? I mean, when's the last time we in the Emerald City were able to see so many runners left on base in the same game? Probably last Sunday, or Saturday, I'd suspect.
At least Larry Stone got to star gaze a bit. Ah, the joys of covering the All-Star Game. Know them well. Up at 6 a.m. every day to cover sponsor-driven press conferences, then to bed by 3 a.m. after being forced to sit through the entire Home Run Derby, then a 15-inning game, in which you have to hustle off to interview your team's player, who went 0-for-2 or something. Actually, at least Ichiro gave Larry plenty to write about, going 1-for-3 and throwing out Albert Pujols trying for a double on a ball off the wall. Good on Ichiro, though if he'd connected with those guys on base, the game might have ended two hours earlier. Anyhow, if you see Larry after the break, or write in on his guest blog appearances, give him a hand. These all-star things are not as easy to cover as they might seem.
For those wondering how the M's are faring on the pitching market, this start next week could have plenty to do with whether a Seattle pitcher gets moved to Philadelphia. From that same blog (a lot shorter than ours, wouldn't you say?) comes word that the Phillies are taking a look at Joe Blanton. Not surprising. So is everyone in baseball in need of pitching. No big concern there.
OK, on to today's topic.
I read a comment from 7hourlinedrive written at 2:11 a.m. this morning, which states: "You people, you "fans" who claim to be Mariners fans but waste no time trashing its players, its coaches, its management, want so badly to hit Riggleman with the idiot stick, that you just can't fathom the fact he could be RIGHT... so you'll spend all your energy disproving it or explaining it away, with the whole "correlation doesn't prove causation" argument. You've been proven wrong, at least for the moment, and that so badly discombobulates you. You people still don't deserve the M's when they get better. You've abandoned them.''
Doesn't mince words, huh?
Anyhow, it struck a chord with me because I've noticed, for the better part of a year, a growing gap between what is written here, by me, and a lot of you when it comes to numbers and analysis. It's bothered me, because we all used to get along so well (holding back a smile here). But seriously, there is also an obvious gap between the day-to-day decisions taken by this team and what some of you consider to be logical and acceptable statistical analysis. And it's not only with decisions made by this team. But in just over a year, I've now seen three Mariners managers, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren and now Jim Riggleman trashed on this blog for being what some of you have called "stupid" and "idiotic" and "clueless".
Now, obviously, those three men are neither. They do know the game of baseball. Better than just about any of you, and certainly more than I do, for that matter. No, that does not mean they are always right. They have been wrong before and it's been pointed out. But after thinking about it for a bit, I think a big part of the gap is that their timeframe for making logical decisions is different from the one being used by many of you, and other folks on sites like U.S.S. Mariner and Lookout Landing.
In the case of major league baseball teams, both the Mariners and other clubs, the timeframe for making their "logical" moves is often short term. With a lot of you, it's the longer term. And that's where it gets tricky.
July 15, 2008 10:58 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Now that we've remembered what home runs are supposed to look like, with a Canadian once again establishing athletic dominance last night in the made-for-relevision Home Run Derby (in the final round, anyhow -- Josh Hamilton did the rest), we turn our attention back to Mariners DH Jose Vidro -- a guy who hasn't gone deep since John McLaren was still managing this team for GM Bill Bavasi.
This blog post last week, and this story I later wrote for the paper, about Mariners manager Jim Riggleman keeping Vidro in the clean-up role as "protection" for Raul Ibanez, earned him nationwide scorn and derision. And why not? Vidro has the fifth lowest on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) out of 200 major leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances. By the way, catcher Kenji Johjima is the worst on that list at .549 compared to Vidro's .571. But both are beyond horrible.
Believe me, it was tough to hold off on ripping Riggleman for that. But I did want to do some legwork first. Some actual research to see whether this claim could possibly have merit.
Being that 100 percent of my day is taken up actually covering the team and traveling from place to place, I don't always have time to sit down for an exhaustive crunching of numbers. It was going to take at least a couple of hours, time I did not have writing on-deadline in Oakland. The next day, Richie Sexson was released, then there were all kinds of tight flight plans to meet getting in and out of Kansas City. But I know Riggleman has been around the game a while and -- like his predecessor -- is not an idiot. So, I vowed that the moment I had a day off, I'd crunch the numbers to see what in the heck he's thinking. I owed him that much, given how he'd been getting mocked for days. It was admittedly going to be a small sample size, since Vidro has only had 42 at-bats as a cleanup hitter. His stat line in that spot is the worst Vidro has hit at any spot in the order, with a .167 average, .222 on-base percentage and .214 slugging percentage for a laughable .436 OPS.
Sounds about right. But wait, this is supposed to be about Ibanez, right?
Ibanez has not had the greatest of seasons relative to his recent performances. He's hitting .273 overall with a .338 OPB and .438 in slugging for an OPS of .776. Against right handed pitching, he's at only .264 with a .763 OPS. Remember, Vidro bats cleanup when the opposing starter is right handed.
So, how has Ibanez done with Vidro "protecting" him in the clean-up spot? Hold on a minute. Go and find a chair because you're about to get floored.
July 14, 2008 9:50 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Sorry I haven't posted since right after yesterday's game. Had to write today's stories, then drive to the airport in Kansas City, hop a flight that left about two hours after final pitch, connect to another flight in Houston that was due to take off 45 minutes after my first flight landed (across the mile-long airport) and finally arrive in Seattle and back home just before midnight. But it worked. I'm here. Just did my weekly Talkin' Baseball segment on the Mitch in the Morning show on KJR AM 950 a couple of days early. Jayson Stark of ESPN had a scheduling conflict this week, so we swapped time slots. Our conversation today had plenty to do with the July 31 trade deadline and ranking players.
Here's how I would rank the M's players most likely to be traded:
1. Arthur Rhodes
2. Erik Bedard
3. Jarrod Washburn
4. Raul Ibanez
5. Adrian Beltre
I say this with regards to what both Jim Riggleman and Lee Pelekoudas said in today's story wrapping up the pre-All Star portion of the schedule.
"I don't feel that we're going to be moving people just to move people,'' Riggleman said. "Some of our higher-profile players that some teams might be interested in, they're not going anywhere unless we are just overwhelmed with something that you just have to listen to.''
As for Pelekoudas: "We want to make changes. I think that's what we said a month ago. Whether they occur in the next two or three weeks, or in several months, remains to be seen. We're not going to make change for change's sake.''
You can read those quotes different ways. Some of it sounds like posturing, trying to drive up the price of players by saying you're not going to hold a fire sale. But some of it is grounded in reality. This team has a terrible offense power-wise. The two offensive players drawing the most interest right now are middle-of-the-order hitters who have been productive when it comes to power. Get rid of them, the offense could be decimated and this team has a shot at losing 110 games.
July 13, 2008 1:46 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Brandon Morrow got back in the saddle and notched a save, retiring last night's home run hero, David DeJesus, on a flyball to left to end a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Sean Green gets the win, largely because of that boneheaded play by Royals shortstop Mike Aviles on that rundown between third and home. The Royals had Adrian Beltre dead-to-rights in a rundown. But a high throw went over the third baseman'shead. Aviles, backing the play up, made a great basehanded stab of the ball. But instead of throwing home to get Beltre, he for some reason tried to throw to second in a futile attempt to nab Willie Bloomquist.
The M's will take it.
July 13, 2008 1:10 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
That lead didn't last long for Seattle. Ryan Rowland-Smith threw only six pitches total. But he gave up two singles and a sacrifice bunt to the three hitters he faced. Sean Green came in to pitch with runners at second and third and surrendered an RBI groundout to Mike Aviles.
So, we're tied 3-3. Guess what? I have a flight leaving the airport (40 minutes away) at 4:06 p.m. (Pacific) time. It goes to Houston, where I have 50 minutes to change planes and fly to Seattle. In other words, a tie game right now is not good. Doesn't work. Just like Oakland last Thursday.
Watch our video tour of Kauffman Stadium above.
July 12, 2008 9:38 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
This is a story I've written for tomorrow's paper, but since you've all been so patient watching the Mariners tonight, I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of what will be in tomorrow's Times.
Yes, Ichiro was indeed offered a chance to participate in next week's Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He was approached earlier this week by MLB officials and said he'd get back to them on it. An MLB source revealed this, so I asked Ichiro -- through his interpreter, Ken Barron -- what was up.
"Yes, I was asked,'' he confirmed to me earlier today. "But because of my hamstring, I decided not to participate.''
That would be the hamstring he felt tightness in this week. Which caused him not to start that series finale in Oakland, though he entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Kenji Johjima in the eighth.
Ichiro approached both interim GM Lee Pelekoudas and manager Jim Riggleman for their input. Both had obviously been aware of the hamstring issue. Riggleman had even tried to get Ichiro to take a day off.
"It was discussed,'' Pelekoudas said. "I think it would have been nice for him to participate if he wanted to. You watch him in batting practice and he puts on a show.''
"I think he would have won the thing,'' he said.
Riggleman said he was approached several days ago, by an interpreter for Ichiro, and asked for his opinions about him participating.
"I didn't hear anything else about it and sort of forgot about the whole thing,'' Riggleman said. "Then, I was told just the other day that he wasn't going to do it.''
Ichiro still plans to play in the All-Star Game itself. He just won't be answering any of those questions we've long had about his power and ability to belt home runs at will. We know he can do it in BP. It would have been nice to see him try on a bigger stage, in front of a huge crowd with millions watching on TV. Though he did do it in last year's All Star game (an inside-the-parker, mind you). Remember, he's hit 36 singles in a row. Not every singles hitter gets a shot at winning a Home Run Derby. For now, fans will have to wait another year and cross their fingers. For him to first be invited. Then, to actually accept.
Watch our video tour of Kauffman Stadium above.
July 12, 2008 8:00 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Brandon Morrow got the first two outs of the ninth, then walked Billy Butler. David DeJesus hit the next pitch into the right field bullpen to hand the Mariners a 5-4 loss. Stunning development.
A good job by Jarrod Washburn in not letting that 39-pitch first inning do him in. Washburn held on and stayed in the game for six innings, throwing 111 pitches. The bullpen took over from there, with Sean Green and Arthur Rhodes carrying things though to the ninth and Morrow getting the first two outs.
But it was not to be.
One of you, I believe it was ScottM, brought up the point about all the mental miscues tonight. Well, it might have gone unnoticed in most of the post-game discussion here so far, but I can tell you the Mariners noticed. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman addressed the players post-game and let them know they can't keep giving away extra outs or ruining chances at extra runs.
"I just reminded them that we do not have an offensive club out there right now that's going to overcome a lot of mistakes,'' Riggleman said after his team's sixth loss in seven games. "Things happen that we have to minimize because we are not scoring seven or eight runs a game.''
July 12, 2008 5:48 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Christmas just came early for the Mariners, who scored four runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead. It's apparently driving the fans here to drink. All of the runs were off ex-Mariners starter Gil Meche. Raul Ibanez hit the team's first home run by anyone other than Richie Sexson since Jeff Clement went deep last Saturday. That was a two-run shot to get Seattle back within a run. Jose Vidro and Adrian Beltre then added singles with one out. Jeremy Reed then lined one into the left field corner to bring both runners home. Reed went to third on the throw back in, but then foolishly tried to score when the ball got away from the catcher.
He was easily thrown out at the plate and the inning died soon after. With only one out, you can't be sprinting home in a one-run game like Reed just did. I know he wanted to catch the Royals off-guard, but there's the element of surprise and then the element of delusion. You hold your ground when you're at third with less than two out. Even if it's the M's hitting.
Jarrod Washburn begins the bottom of the sixth at only 88 pitches. He's allowed just the one earned run. A pretty good performance considering how it began. He stands to win this game.
Hey, if you're bored, be sure to watch our latest video, down below.
July 12, 2008 2:17 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
They just took the tarps off the field. It's been raining most of the day in Kansas City, but the sun is just starting to peek out. Not in time for batting practice. That's been cancelled. Remember, it's a 4:10 p.m. (Pacific) start time.
Tug Hulett makes his major league debut tonight at...DH. Yes, you read that right. A 5-foot-8 designated hitter. Believe me, he was a bit surprised at it as well. But sounds confident. Can't do any worse than the other guys this team has run through there. No, he isn't "protecting'' Raul Ibanez. That'll still be Jose Vidro, tonight's first baseman. Hulett will bat eighth. He was primarily a second baseman and shortstop in Class AAA Tacoma.
"I'm not really your prototype DH,'' Hulett said, not realizing that -- on this team at least -- he actually is. "I know that's what everybody's saying. A five-eight DH? Let's see that.''
Anyhow, Hulett proving that size doesn't always matter was nothing new during his climb to the big leagues.
"I've always had to do that,'' he agreed.
Don't forget to take our latest stadium video tour, by clicking above.
July 12, 2008 9:01 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, I thought we'd get away from baseball talk just a bit this morning. Here's our latest video. I took it on the trip to Kansas City, from Houston, Texas, where I'd bunked over at the airport hotel after barely catching that harried flight out of San Francisco right after the game in Oakland on Thursday. It was the best way to make it here on-time, with the time difference, instead of having to wake up at 4 a.m. and fight rush hour traffic to be at yesterday's game. And you thought this job was just sitting in a chair, crunching some numbers and trying to sound like an expert? Hah. Anyhow, you'll see the drive in to KC, to the Country Club Plaza section of town, then back off to the ballpark, Kauffman Stadium, which is right next to Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL Chiefs. Then, we take a tour of Kauffman Stadium, which opened in 1973 and is presently undergoing a $250 million renovation. Most of it will be done by Opening Day 2009. But they've already installed an HD video scoreboard, one of the largest in the country. They plan to build a concourse with restaurants all along the back of the stadium, behind the outfield fence. And they'll put seats atop those famed waterfalls behind the fance as well. Hope you enjoy it!
OK, I lied, we will talk a little baseball. Been reading from a lot of you (and not specifically Brian L., there have been plenty, he was just the latest to raise the issue) that Erik Bedard, when he's actually in games, is performing exactly the way he did in Baltimore, so none of us should be surprised. Sorry, I just can't stand to listen to that any longer. Those of you who want to make this into a pitch count thing, well, I'm sure you know better. It's not about the pitch counts. It's about the innings Bedard is throwing with those pitch counts. The guy Seattle traded five players for had 14 starts last season of at least seven innings. This season, he has only three. None since May.
He had only five starts last season in which he didn't go at least six innings. This year, he's already had eight starts of fewer than six frames.
That's the beef in a nutshell. Anyone with ace pretensions has to be able to go seven innings on a regular basis and let the bullpen be set up in the best possible way. Bedard is not doing what he did last season. Not even close. So please, let's stop saying otherwise. Maybe he's hurt, true. But the bottom line is, he has not produced what was expected. Has not delivered the innings of a top-of-the-rotation starter.
As for Luke Hochevar, I'm well aware of who he is. Know all about his stuff, his potential. So far, though, he's been mediocre. Had given up 13 runs over 10 innings in his last two starts. Had gone more than six innings against only one other AL team, that being the Baltimore Orioles, and that start came back in early May. Make that two teams. The M's have a habit out of making any young pitcher with potential look good lately. Which was kind of the point being made. Yes, he'd look good in Seattle's rotation right now.
July 11, 2008 9:21 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The new video scoreboard here says it all.
Another one of those nights for the Mariners, turning mediocre Royals starter Luke Hochevar into a Cy Young Award contender. Hochevar went seven innings, allowing just a run on five hits. That's what Erik Bedard needs to do for the M's. Anyhow, a 3-1 loss by Seattle. Felix Hernandez gave up three runs in his five innings, but had no shot of winning this game with an offense behind him that's barely done anything the past week.
Seattle led the Royals 6-4 in hits, but stranded five men on base.
"In Oakland, we weren't finishing off some rallies,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Here, we just really didn't rally at all. But you know, that's the nature of it. I'll take it. Just keep pitching good and playing good defense. The hits are going to come and the runs are going to come.''
I understand where Riggleman's coming from. Hitting is a cyclical thing. But this team's hitting has been catastrophic. It's not like last year, when the M's would go on a two-week rampage to offset a two-week slump. I mean, the last Mariners guy to hit a home run was Richie Sexson. What does that tell you. Hernandez himself has more home runs the past four weeks than the guy who started tonight's game at DH, Jose Vidro, or the one playing first base, Miguel Cairo.
July 11, 2008 6:55 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Felix Hernandez was indeed pulled, going five innings and allowing the three runs. Roy Corcoran got through the sixth unscathed and Cesar Jimenez is now on in the bottom of the seventh, his team trailing 3-1. The Mariners scored a run in the top of the seventh as Adrian Beltre doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an RBI groundout by Miguel Cairo. No Horacio Ramirez in this game. He's already sat back down and others are warming up. Yes, I know. The window of opportunity is closing fast.
The Mariners have shipped Jared Wells back to Class AAA Tacoma to clear room for Felix Hernandez to start tonight's game. They could have put Miguel Batista on the DL and kept Wells here. But manager Jim Riggleman said there's a chance Batista could be used out out of the bullpen if the pitching situation gets dire the next few days. Oh well, at least Wells got a free night in a hotel and a ride on the team jet.
Jose Guillen has been scratched from tonight's game with a stiff neck. He had the neck pad on while we were interviewing him earlier and it's too sore to swing properly. Had this problem in Seattle last year as well.
July 11, 2008 2:57 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, just got done talking to Jose Guillen in the Kansas City clubhouse. Quite the interesting conversation, as you might imagine. Lots of subjects. He was happy to see the media from Seattle. Been having a rough time in Kansas City. But when I arrived today, he was surrounded by the local media. Looked like a one-man press conference in front of his locker. He assured me it was the first time in two weeks he's even spoken. Caused a fuss earlier this year for calling out some of the team's younger players for not working hard enough. Used some colorful language that didn't go over all that well with some of the good midwestern folks in this neck of the nation. There was more focus on his language at the time than his message.
Then last week, Guillen got into a verbal confrontation with Royals pitching coach Bob McClure. Guillen had been giving an interview saying that coaches didn't need to be getting in the players' faces, that they knew they had to play hard and were trying. Anyway, there seems to be a common theme here. A theme missing in Seattle this season. When controversy erupts with the Mariners, it's usually because no one is calling anyone out for not playing hard.
Former GM Bill Bavasi said as much and then, the day he was fired, said that letting Guillen leave as a free agent might have been his biggest regret.
So, how surprised is Guillen to see what's happened with the Mariners? Very. Says he didn't see it coming.
"I just cannot believe it,'' he said. "It was such a great team. A veteran club, got some great pitching this year. Has some good offense. I was totally surprised to see that team have pretty much the worst record in baseball. I did not see that coming, trust me.
"I just feel bad for Mac and Bavasi. Such great baseball guys, to see tham go like that...it's not their fault. It;s the players' fault. We all have to realize and understand that. Thet are not the ones playing. I know they're the ones putting the team together, but if you don't come to play hard and play to win every day, what do you think is going to happen?''
July 11, 2008 11:53 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just arrived in Kansas City. Spent the night in Houston just to get a little bit closer to here in order to not have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get here by 4 p.m. Not a while lot of direct flights here, across the two time zones, that fit with our needs and schedule. So, I opted to fly to Houston, arrive there at midnight and get a good night's sleep before the two-hour hop-over to here. But I made that flight to Houston last night with about 10 minutes to spare, thanks to the ninth-inning collapse by the Mariners in Oakland. The quick version is, I wrote my game story on the train from Oakland to San Francisco, which had the night's last flight out to Houston leaving at 6:25 p.m. It's an hour train ride from Oakland to SFO Airport (longer if you drive in rush hour traffic). It's a quarter-mile walk to the train station with luggage. Needless to say, I didn't have time to draw you up any colorful stat boxes.
Anyway, remember a couple of days ago, when we discussed the M's need to get a bidding war started over Erik Bedard? Well, let the bidding begin. First off, it looks like the career of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder, one of the Big Three from the Oakland A's heyday earlier this decade, is done. With that pitching loss, Cards manager Tony LaRussa is hitting the panic button and putting some public pressure on his GM to do something.
Doing something could mean getting into a bidding war with the Philadelphia Phillies over Bedard.
But here's the catch. New Cards GM John Mozeliak has already said he isn't going to make reactionary moves. Well, that stance is going to feel pressure as the days tick by towards the July 31 trade deadline.
There is a trend by newer GMs, especially those committed to rebuilding from within, to resist the temptation to spend big bucks on free agents or do mega-deals at the deadline. Hey, after seeing what just happened to the Mariners after going all-in on Bedard, who can blame them?
But it's one thing to talk tough. Quite another to do it and watch as your team loses games in the nights leading up to the deadline.
We're seeing a kind of similar thing take place in Tampa Bay, where Rays GM Andrew Friedman keeps insisting he isn't in a hurry to give up tons of talent to bring in arms that can help his staggering bullpen.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on both situations and see what happens next. Not only from a Mariners perspective. But just insofar as how it relates to what GMs do going forward. If the Cards don't add an arm and fall out of the race, or if the Rays keep blowing late leads and eventually squander their division advantage, it could provide a lesson to future GMs. That there may be such a thing as being too cautious, too focused on the future at the expense of the present.
Conversely, if the Cards can hold out until some injured arms return in August, and should the Rays manage to make the playoffs while not giving away any of their core of young prospects, it could send the lesson in the other direction. That maybe holding off and not making the July 31 trade deadline into an annual circus really is the smartest way to go.
There is, of course, a third way. That would be for the Rays to hold off now, miss the playoffs, then make the playoffs again and again. Or contend for several years down the road.
That third route is laden with risk. For one, you need a patient fan base, an owner willing to stand behind you and wait and a future that unfolds the way you see it. There are no dynasties left in baseball. Maybe a handful of teams that make the playoffs year after year, yes, but even they are not guaranteed to make the post-season on a continuous basis.
It's a risk. And it's not your job, or mine, at stake.
That's why this year's deadline should be particularly interesting to follow. Even after it's come and gone.
July 10, 2008 5:32 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Brandon Morrow coughed up a pair of solo home runs in the ninth inning, by Jack Cust and then pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki, the latter with two out, to send this game into extra innings. Emil Brown then took Cesar Jimenez deep to left with one out in the 11th inning to give the Oakland A's a 3-2 win.
The earlier blasts off Morrow tied the game 2-2. Morrow had a 2-0 lead when he took the mound. He was pulled one batter after the Suzuki homer, pictured above, when he walked Donnie Murphy. That prompted manager Jim Riggleman to bring in Mark Lowe, who fanned Jack Hannahan to end the threat.
Tough way to lose this series. The M's got three great outings from starters, all ending in defeat.
"I was missing a lot of spots today,'' said Morrow, who hadn't been scored on in 17 2/3 innings before Cust belted a 3-1 pitch into the right field stands. "That was the main thing. I think I fell behind every single hitter.''
Despite the "bad feeling'' from the loss, Morrow hopes to shake it off quickly and "come back with the same mentality I've had.''
R.A. Dickey was obviously feeling better about his own four-hit shutout performance over seven innings. Know what caused his problems in the first, when he had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam? The bullpen mound was facing in the opposite direction of the regular game mound. So, in gauging how his knuckleball was reacting to air currents, he had it all backwards when warming up. It took an inning for him to get used to throwing in the other direction.
Dickey is sure making a case for himself to be kept in the rotation.
"I think I've certainly worked hard to be trustworthy in that role,'' Dickey said. "I think I can get better and throw a lot of innings. I think that's a good definition of a quality No. 4 and No. 5 starter.''
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman wasn't about to quibble with that.
"He's so durable, he'll probably be around at the end of the Kansas City series to pitch, too,'' said Riggleman, whose squad plays a weekend series against the Royals. "He's really persevered. He's trying to grasp it and hold on to it. No matter what profession, if everyone worked like he did, good things would happen.''
July 10, 2008 3:22 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A shot of lovely West Oakland as we bring you today's game between the Richie Sexson-less Mariners and the hometown Athletics. Remember, Ichiro is not playing because of a tight hamstring.
The streak is over. Willie Bloomquist hit a one-out, ground ruled double to the left field corner in the top of the ninth inning for his first extra-base hit in 125 plate appearances this season. Bloomquist then stole third base and was driven home on a double to left by Jose Lopez.
So, it's now a 2-0 game. R.A. Dickey walked the leadoff batter in the eighth, but Sean Green pitched out of the jam. Brandon Morrow now on in the ninth.
July 10, 2008 12:08 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Just got back up from the field on an eventful day for the Mariners. By the way, Ichiro has just been scratched with tightness in his hamstring. Had played in 126 consecutive games since his last off-day. The hits just keep on coming, don't they? Anyhow, it turns out that Richie Sexson was told he'd be released last night at the team hotel in nearby San Francisco. What prompted the team to do this? Interim GM Lee Pelekoudas said the decision had been formulating in his mind the past several days. He said the fact Sexson hit a three-run homer here in Monday's opener and then followed up with a double on Tuesday did not hamper the call one way or the other.
But when I spoke to manager Jim Riggleman moments ago, he told me that the "body language" Sexson displayed yesterday when kept out of the lineup was what ultimately led him not to oppose the release.
"If I felt that he could handle the next couple of weeks with less playing time, I would not have agreed with the move,'' Riggleman told me. "But yesterday, his body language was such that he looked like he wasn't going to handle it at all.''
We've been telling you all year that this Mariners clubhouse has not been the most joyous place. Things have started to look up a bit in recent weeks, after the firings of Bill Bavasi and John McLaren and some winning by the ballclub. The last thing Riggleman wanted was Sexson to become a focal point for disenchantment that would upset the delicate balance the club is trying to achieve for the time being.
Sexson was a popular guy in the clubhouse, with teammates always around him.
"He needs to play, or go someplace else he can play,'' Riggleman said.
July 10, 2008 10:46 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Richie Sexson was released by the Mariners this morning, likely causing most of you to lose out on the office pool. Interesting timing. But seriously, not sure what the team waited for. Sexson is pictured above, in the background, doing stretching on Tuesday before what would be his final start for the team.
Erik Bedard just went on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 4.
The team has called up Tug Hulett and pitcher Jared Wells. Hulett, an infielder, was acquired in the Ben Broussard trade last winter while relief pitcher Wells was the return in the Cha Seung Baek trade with San Diego. More in a bit.
July 9, 2008 11:15 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Strange game this baseball. Two complete games tossed by Mariners starters the first two nights here both ended in losses. Tonight, Miguel Batista lasts just two innings and three pitches before going down with a right groin strain. Of course, the Mariners rally to a 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Batista won't pitch again before the All-Star break. We saw Batista hopping off to the training room, his leg in an ice pack. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said the injury isn't serious, but he won't risk sending Batista back out to the mound until he knows he's right.
"I hope that we can get this behind him and he'll be in the rotation when we come out of the break,'' Riggleman said, not too convincingly. "That would be the No. 1 option. And when we work out over the break we'll test it out and see. And if it's not ready to start and give us significant innings, then we’ll use him in pieces.''
Brandon Morrow, above, gets the save for Roy Corcoran, who notches his first big league win.
"It feels good,'' Corcoran said after tossing 2 2/2 shutout innings. "It's been '03, '04, '06, three years up and down and I never got one.''
Mariners closer J.J. Putz soon crept up on the post-game interview session and treated the pitcher to a shaving cream pie to the face.
"Now, I've got to shower again,'' Corcoran moaned, his eyes stinging.
It was only the fourth time all year the M's have overcome a deficit of two or more to win a game. It was just the second time they have rallied from three down to win. They trailed 4-1 in the fifth, then put up a five-spot against Joe Blanton. Jose Lopez doubled home three of those runs.
"That's a big inning, especially when you've lost three games in a row,'' Lopez said. "We didn't play bad those first two games here.''
Lopez said he held up at third the previous inning, after being waved home on the Jose Vidro double, because the ball didn't get by the right fielder and go to the wall. He said he didn't want to make the second out of the inning at home plate when the team had two runners in scoring position with one out. He wound up scoring on an ensuing single by Adrian Beltre.
By the way, Jeff Clement said he didn't think Jack Hannahan running over him at the plate was a dirty play, though he wants to see it again on replay. Clement said the throw started carrying him back across the plate again, causing him to get drilled.
He's being political. The play was very borderline.
July 9, 2008 8:36 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
UPDATE -- Miguel Batista came out of the game with what the team says is a right groin strain, three pitches into the bottom of the third.
Seattle just scored five runs in the fifth to take a 6-4 lead in this see-saw game. Jose Lopez drove home three runs with a double, then Raul Ibanez doubled in the go-ahead marker. Ibanez then scored on a bizarre infield hit by Adrian Beltre off first baseman Daric Barton's glove. Ibanez was hung up between third and home, then broke for the plate. Barton bought him time by throwing to third instead of home. The throw home had Ibanez beat, with Kurt Suzuki completely blocking the plate. Ibanez tried tip-toeing around him, with Suzuki draped all over his back -- and was ruled safe. replays showed he was out. A break for the Mariners there.
I see some of you are having laughs over Jim Riggleman's explanation for using Jose Vidro. Hey, what did you expect him to say? That he thought Vidro was the second coming of Barry Bonds? I'd like to see the M's get this whole Vidro thing over with as well if he isn't going to hit. But for me, the sad thing for M's fans is, this is the solution the team feels is its best bet for now. Says a lot about where this team is right now and where it's headed.
July 9, 2008 6:35 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Another hot one here, today. If you folks can tear yourselves away from insulting each other for a bit, I did manage to ask Jim Riggleman about why he keeps batting Jose Vidro fourth. Riggleman's answer was long and multi-faceted. It isn't black and white. Several shades of gray. But here goes. Even with an OPS of .571, easily making him one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, Riggleman feels that Vidro offers him the best shot at "protecting'' Raul Ibanez when a righthanded pitcher is on the mound.
The reason for this has little to do with Vidro's current numbers. In the past, though, he's been close to a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate. Against righties, he figures Vidro will offer some incentive for pitchers not to walk Ibanez intentionally, or pitch around him. This type of thinking began under John McLaren, but Riggleman was part of it as the bench coach and is continuing to implement the thinking into his nightly lineups.
He said it was not the same when Adrian Beltre or Richie Sexson was hitting behind Ibanez in the order.
Ibanez has been intentionally walked a team-high nine times (tied with Ichiro for the lead). None of those occasions has come with Vidro batting fourth.
Riggleman admitted to me that it was not a traditional use of a clean-up hitter. That he'd love it if the guys who were expected to hit in certain spots had performed up to expectations and they could go with a traditional type of lineup. Against lefties, he'll move Vidro away from the clean-up role.
But this type of allignement is actually what Riggleman used to use in Chicago, when he managed the Cubs in 1998 when Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs. Sosa didn't bat clean-up for that team. Mark Grace did. Same reasons. Riggleman knew that teams were going to hesitate to put Sosa on base, knowing that Grace was a guy who could put the ball in-play.
Vidro is also a guy who puts the ball in-play. Not like he once did. Not like Grace in his prime (or, in 1998, that's for sure). But he can put it in-play. And reputation still matters in this game. Sometimes, it carries as much weight as current stats. Teams know Vidro has hit from both sides before, know he's driven in some runs this year. And that he is not easy to strikeout with men on base.
Is this logic perfect? Of course not. Vidro has a sub-.600 OPS. But for now, on this team, it's the best shot the M's feel they have to help Ibanez see as many pitches as he can.
I asked Ibanez whether he'd noticed a difference and he laughed and told me he had not. But he never notices things like that. He's too zeroed-in on his job. He admits he stays away from thinking about things like "protection" and other stuff at the plate. One time, he told me, the M's had Ken Griffey Jr. hitting behind him for protection. Pedro Martinez was the opposing pitcher.
"The count went to 3-2 and I thought for sure he was going to groove the next one over,'' Ibanez said, figuring Martinez would not risk walking him with Griffey on deck. "Next thing I know, he drops a curve ball in on me. After that, I stopped thinking about protection and trying to guess what guys would do because of who is behind me.''
So, there you go. Hope that answers your question.
July 9, 2008 10:51 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The one thing yesterday's trade of Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs did was establish Erik Bedard as one of the top remaining options for contenders on the pitching front when it comes to trades. In fact, I'd say Bedard is the best option right now. If it's between him and A.J. Burnett, or Daniel Cabrera, I'd go with the lefty every time. But will the Philadelphia Phillies? In this story, Bedard is refered to as the "B'' list option. Frankly, given the fact Bedard will likely go on the DL tomorrow, retroactive to July 4 (he isn't pitching until July 21 anyway, so the DL is just a formality to clear room for Felix Hernandez), the window for the M's showcase him much more is quickly closing. There is a lot of pressure being put on the front office in Philadelphia to make a move. This story was written before yesterday's Harden deal, but you can see the premise.
At this point, I don't see the M's getting back much more than Class AAA starter Carlos Carrasco, the top pitching prospect in Philadelphia's system. And that's only if GM Pat Gillick, who is not afraid to "Stand Pat" in the face of public heat come deadline time, swallows hard. What might make him swallow harder? Some competition for Bedard's services.
Right now, the best chance of that happening would likely be from the St. Louis Cardinals, who have all sorts of pitching needs and yet somehow find themselves within sniffing distance of a playoff spot. The Cards just watched their division rivals beef up on pitching. This writer, about the only guy in town in a limited media market, isn't sure the Harden and C.C. Sabathia deals will put the Cubs and Brewers over-the-top.
But if you're the Cards, contending unexpectedly, can you afford to take that chance?
July 8, 2008 10:03 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Not much to say about this game, a 2-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics in which the M's tallied just two hits. A Richie Sexson double in the fifth and a Miguel Cairo single in the sixth. Justin Duchscherer went the distance on 105 pitches, allowing just two hits. Faced only 30 batters.
Game time was one hour, 49 minutes. That's the shortest game time-wise the M's have played all year. It was only 10 minutes slower than the team's quickest game ever on the road.
The Mariners have scored just four runs in their last 33 innings. They've tallied zero runs in their last 17 frames. This game was so fast, I don't even have time to put up a post-game photo. Sorry about that. You didn't miss much.
Three losses in a row by the M's. More tough luck for Carlos Silva, who needed only 94 pitches to get through eight innings. That's back-to-back complete games by starters. But it doesn't matter. Well, it might matter a bit in the long run. Here's why.
Silva has been working all year to figure out why his sinker isn't working the way he'd like. It isn't sinking much. That's a big reason why he needed 100 pitches to get through five innings against the Tigers last Thursday.
It turns out, Silva made a between-starts mechanical adjustment. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, an ex-sinkerballer himself, felt Silva was squeezing the ball too hard. So, instead of holding his hands up near his chest as he began his windup -- which Silva felt caused his arms to press together and his fingers to grip the ball tighter -- he held them at waist level tonight.
"We've been trying so many things,'' Silva said of the work he's done between starts with Stottlemyre. "We've been working so hard.''
Silva had even apologized to Stottlemyre after one recent loss, figuring all his hard work had been wasted by a poor outing.
Silva needed a few innings to get used to the mechanical change tonight. Unfortunately for him, that's when all the game's runs were scored. But a team needs to score to win. That's not his fault. By the middle innings, though, he felt as relaxed on the mound as he has all season.
And now that he's got a complete-game under his belt, Silva hopes he can be more like the pitcher the M's thought they were getting when they signed him to that four-year, $48-million deal.
"Five innings, 100 pitches, that's not me,'' Silva said.
Silva has thrown a team-high 112 2/3 innings this season, so the longevity is there. It's just the quality of some of those innings that's been lacking. Take Silva's innings and Erik Bedard's stinginess over short periods and you'd have the perfect ace.
July 8, 2008 8:37 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Blink and you might miss this game. It's already the eighth inning, with the Mariners down 2-0. A great game pitched by Carlos Silva so far. And the M's have finally started to "work" Justin Duchscherer, making him throw 30 pitches the last two innings. But Duchscherer enters the eighth with only 79 pitches thrown. He's working on a two-hitter. The M's have just four runs in their last 31 innings. Zero in their last 16.
For those of you asking about the ethics behind Pat Gillick perhaps wanting to overpay in an Erik Bedard trade now, as GM of the Phillies, so he'd have some talent in Seattle as the rumored incoming president of the Mariners, I'd say that's an intriguing question. There is no way to guard against it. Gillick would never sabotage his current team. He has a reputation as a winner, a guy who puts teams over the top. He'd love to do it with the Phillies. But giving away prospects? Who would not be missed by the 2008 Phillies? Well, he's also got the reputation as a guy who leaves farm systems in disarray after he uses them up acquiring players in "win now" fashion.
But could you ever prove he was willingly playing both ends against the middle? Nope. Especially not with his reputation for wanting to win now and being willing to sacrifice prospects. That's his M.O. If he keeps doing it, no one can call foul, can they? Especially if the Phils were to get in a bidding war with, say, the St. Louis Cardinals and an extra player needed to be thrown in to sweeten the pot? It would be a very unusual situation, no doubt. I'm sure that if Gillick is now entertaining any thoughts of joining the M's next season, he would not do anything silly that would warrant an investigation later on. Like an out-and-out fleecing of his own farm system. But then again, what is a fleece? The M's gave up five players for Bedard. If Gillick gives up four, is that a fleece? He'll just say the market for Bedard was set by Bill Bavasi.
In the end, the game relies on integrity. All sports do, to a certain extent. When that integrity gets sullied, by gambling, steroid use and other stuff, the sports themselves suffer. I don't think Gillick, at his age and with what he's accomplished in baseball, would do anything to embarrass himself or his legacy. It's just not worth it. For what? So, he can get the M's to the playoffs again? He wouldn't even be the GM, the way the rumor goes. But if some fans think the M's received a player too many in a deal, well, it would lead to interesting coffee table discussion, that's for sure. But we're a long way from that.
July 8, 2008 5:45 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A look above at Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who just traded pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Chicago Cubs for four players, including pitcher Sean Gallagher and outfielder Matt Murton. My girlfriend, Amy, is in the stands at Wrigley Field tonight, taking in the game (guess I drew the short straw on that exchange) and tells me the fans there seem pleased. Over here? We'll see.
Before we get into that a bit more, let me tell you that Erik Bedard has been scratched until after the all-star break. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said moments ago that he'd rather not risk sending Bedard back out there too early. Looks like he'll start about the fourth game after the break, giving him a nice, long layoff to recover from all his hurts. For now, Jarrod Washburn goes Saturday and Carlos Silva on Sunday.
Back to Beane. He said today's deal hinged on the willingness of the Cubs to include Gallagher in the deal.
"It's always tough letting talented players go,'' he said. "But it's always nice acquiring talented players.''
July 8, 2008 11:23 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A great morning here in San Francisco as I peer out my hotel window in the Nob Hill section of town. That water you see out there is the bay, where the Golden Gate bridge is off to the left, out of view of the camera. Beats downtown Oakland, which is a 20-minute train ride away. It's a million light years away from Marshalltown, Iowa. For those of you who keep writing in, please, stop. I know, I know. Jeff Clement is from Iowa and not Indiana, as I accidentally wrote in my newspaper notebook. My mistake. My apologies. That's what happens when you're trying to do 10 things at once with a deadline looming. The first casulaty, once in a while, can be the truth. But I do know Iowa from Indiana. Iowa has the potatoes, right? Kidding.
Erik Bedard went on Philadelphia radio with the local ESPN affiliate yesterday, as rumors continue to swirl about the Phillies now itching to land him in a deal. He didn't say anything overly inflammatory, other than blaming the media for his image troubles, insinuating it makes stuff up. Well, uh, only when we try to pass off Indiana for Iowa. Other than that, well, maybe if Bedard feels he's being unfairly portrayed, he can speak up and set the record straight before some potential misperceptions get out of hand? Just an idea. But he chose the path he now finds himself on. To imply otherwise seems a bit silly.
Anyhow, back to the interview. He didn't openly welcome a trade to Philadelphia, saying all the politically correct things. Then again, he didn't exactly turn it down either. I think if he gets criticized for this interview at all, it will be for actually going on the air in a city where the team is thinking of trading for him.
Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with players giving interviews. I think they should do it as often as possible and be far more open and honest than they usually are. But let's get real, here. Bedard usually puts total effort into steering as far clear of the media as he possibly can. He turned down the entire Toronto press corps during a visit to that city last month. Now, he's granting a radio interview in the city rumored to be his hottest landing point in a trade? I don't think it would be unfair for some to speculate that he may be greasing the skids for a deal out of town. Either that, or he's decided to turn over a new leaf. If it's the latter, good on him.
July 7, 2008 11:11 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Ichiro, above, reaches second base with one out on an infield single and a throwing error in the ninth inning. But once again, the Mariners failed to cash in the runner and go down to a 4-3 loss to the Oakland A's. A ton of guys left on base tonight. Double-plays, baserunning mistakes, you name it. No runs scored after a Richie Sexson homer in the first inning.
The ninth inning ended when, after a walk to Jose Lopez put two on with one out, Raul Ibanez popped out to third against Oakland closer Huston Street. Adrian Beltre then came up, looking for his fifth hit of the night. But he flied out to left to end the game.
Jarrod Washburn went eight solid innings, allowing four runs. He continues to increase his trade value with each outing. But it was all for naught on the scoreboard tonight.
"We've got to win that ballgame,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman told reporters. "Richie jumps us out to an early lead, Washburn pitches a good ballgame. That's just one where I feel like we didn’t put the killer instinct on them. Jump on them and get them early.''
Riggleman seemed to feel a little of what John McLaren felt on a nightly basis towards the end of his tenure. He's not losing his mind. But you could see the frustration. He's been upbeat for the first few weeks of his managerial stint. He wasn't tonight. He saw his team score one run in 15 innings on Sunday, get held to one run until the eighth on Saturday, then notch no runs after the first inning tonight.
After the game, Riggleman walked to a table where Beltre and others, including Miguel Cairo, Cesar Jimenez and Felix Hernandez were eating. A low key conversation ensued, where the topic of the Beltre baserunning mistake in the fifth inning came up. Beltre, you'll remember, had left second and rounded third on a flyout by Kenji Johjima. As Beltre was scampering back to second, he forgot to touch third and wound up called out on a double play.
Towards the end of his chat with the players, Riggleman lightly rapped his fist on the table.
"We've got to win that game, man,'' he said, turning and walking away. "We've got to win that game.''
Riggleman went out of his way to tell the media he considers Beltre one of the game's best baserunners. So, no, he wasn't hanging him out to dry. And Beltre made no excuses. He told me he's never botched a play like that one. He just didn't touch the bag and only realized it when he was called out.
As for his four hits., he said he hoped it was a sign some of his hard luck will change down the road.
"I just pray that in the second-half, things start to turn around,'' he said.
Washburn really had only the one bad inning, in the fifth. He threw a backdoor slider to rookie Wes Bankston on the first pitch and watched him belt a game-tying homer.
"Right there is a perfect example of not knowing your hitter,'' Washburn said. "I'd never faced the guy before. I didn't really know how to approach him. Usually, Oakland guys are really patient and take some pitches. I thought I'd get a nice little strike one right there, and he was on it.''
Yes, Washburn had read scouting reports on Bankston. But no, he added, those don't really help. Won't tell you the guy is going to hack at a first-pitch breaking ball. Not the same as facing him in a game. Now, Washburn knows what he's capable of. A little late, but he knows.
His team needed to score more than zero runs after the first inning. The way Washburn's pitching, he likely will have a different set of teammates in a few weeks.
July 7, 2008 8:27 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A shot of Jarrod Washburn warming up in the bullpen for tonight's game.
Things came apart for the M's in that fifth inning. Carlos Gonzalez led off with an infield single and made it all the way to third on a wild throw to first by Kenji Johjima. Washburn then yielded the first career home run by Wes Bankston on the very next pitch. That tied the game. Gregorio Petit then doubled to left center and scored on a single to left by Ryan Sweeney, putting the A's up 4-3.
Seattle botched a great chance to build on its 3-1 lead in the top of the frame. With two on and one out, Adrian Beltre was on second and took off, rounding third, on a flyball to deep center by Johjima. But when the ball was caught, a retreating Beltre forgot to touch third base on his way back to second. The A's threw over to third and Beltre was ruled out on the inning ending double play. Seattle has eight hits, two walks and a batter reached on an error. But only the three runs on Richie Sexson's first inning homer to show for it. Same old story.
Another thing I asked manager Jim Riggleman before the game was what his thinking was behind not trotting out R.A. Dickey in the 15th inning of yesterday's game rather than Jamie Burke. I know that Dickey threw about 100 pitches the previous day, but isn't he supposed to have a rubber arm?
Apparently, the rubber only stretches so far. Riggleman did not want to risk any injury to Dickey by using him back-to-back like that.
"If that situation was up there in September, and we were two games out of first, he would have been in there,'' Riggleman said.
In other words, this isn't a pennant race. These games only mean so much.
By the way, the team just released Anderson Garcia. Remember him? Picked up off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies back in spring training? Had a sore arm early and was never heard from again? Well, now you've heard from him.
July 7, 2008 6:01 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Greetings from Oakland. The travel here would have made a good video. My Alaska Airlines flight was over an hour late, forcing me to go from the San Francisco Airport directly to the ballpark, suitcase and all. I'm staying in San Francisco this time and had hoped to fly in there, drop the bags off at the hotel, then hop the rapid transit train to here. But nope. This is what flying in the U.S. has come to these days. The system just isn't reliable. Not if you need to be somewhere at a precise time, without several hours of flexibility. Good job everyone, keep up the splendid work.
On the positive side, I had a nice conversation with my cabbie as he sped at 85 mph up the freeway towards Oakland, trying to avoid getting caught in rush-hour traffic. He asked me what Seattle was doing for power and whether Jay Buhner was still with the M's. Told him nothing and no. But I had a good laugh.
On to baseball, Felix Hernandez is to start on Friday in Kansas City. You can see Hernandez, above, getting set to audition as an extra in Pirates of the Caribbean IV. No, no, he's just finished a workout with trainer Rick Griffin. Anyhow, he goes Friday, Carlos Silva tomorrow, then Miguel Batista, then R.A. Dickey. Erik Bedard could go on Saturday or Sunday depending on how his shoulder feels. If not, Ryan Rowland-Smith will start in his place. Read Rowland-Smith's latest blog post on prolebrity.com right here.
I asked Mariners manager Jim Riggleman whether he's tempted to just rest Bedard until after the All-Star Break.
"That's certainly a possibility,'' he said. "But it's going to be determined by how he feels and the doctor.''
Riggleman and the team will keep apprised of how Bedard's shoulder feels.
"If it's a little achy, I think we'll probably end up doing that,'' he said of skipping Bedard in favor of Rowland-Smith.
By the way, if Jarrod Washburn goes out and gets lit up for seven runs over three innings tonight, I don't want to hear from any of you. The question isn't whether Washburn can sustain this pace the rest of the year. I don't care if he does or doesn't. This team's biggest trade deadline question is whether a team out there feels Bedard can do better than this pace (of the past six weeks) moving forward for the final two months of 2008. If they feel he can't do it, or might not, then the trade returns likely won't be substantial. If the M's do get something significant back, it will be because a team is either desperate, or actually does think he can turn things up a notch this season. Simple as that. The Washburn comparison was made to show that Bedard's actual results have been no better over a six-week span. Not to advocate Washburn as the better choice. To show what the M's are up against in perhaps needing to change some perceptions if they wish to deal Bedard and get some returns back.
Anyhow, Jeff Clement is back in at DH tonight, so many of you will be happy about that. Richie Sexson is in there as well, batting fifth. I know many of you -- most of you -- won't like that.
July 7, 2008 7:02 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Good morning to all of you. A huge thanks to Jose Romero for hanging in for yesterday's marathon. Did a fantastic job with all those multiple blog posts. Tough game yesterday, in a series where the Mariners did indeed decide to show up after a lousy opening night loss to the Detroit Tigers. Same old problems scoring runs, but at least the pitching did make itself felt over the final three games. No, I would not have pitched Arthur Rhodes on a sore arm either. Not when the team, if it has any smarts, is just weeks away from dealing him. Brandon Morrow went through the whole "sleeping on the arm wrong" problem a few weeks back. It sounds funny, but a pinched nerve, or whatever, from sleeping is the same as getting it from throwing. Had Jim Riggleman sent him out there and seen Rhodes get hurt, botching his team's chance to pick something up in a deal before the July 31 trade deadline, that would have been negligent on this team's part. Sorry, I know it's tough to swallow for fans who followed all 15 innings yesterday, but these games are meaningless. Dealing Rhodes and picking up something in return is more important to the big picture.
Speaking of which, some of you likely already know that C.C. Sabathia is about to be traded by the Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for three prospects. The centerpiece of the deal is said to be Matt LaPorta, a Class AA outfielder who was Milwaukee's first-round pick last year. Next on the list is Class AAA lefty starter Zach Jackson, who I know from his days in the Toronto Blue Jays system. Jackson was dealt to Milwaukee by Toronto, along with Dave Bush and Gabe Gross, for Centralia's Lyle Overbay at the 2005 winter meetings. Bush and Gross are both in the majors (Gross in Tampa Bay) now, but Jackson was thought to be the best player going to the Brewers in that deal. Was thought to be a "can't miss'' arm at the time. He was in Class AA back then, so now, at age 28, he obviosuly hasn't "hit'' the big leagues full-time yet, though he's appeared in 10 career games at that level. Such is the prospects game.
The third prospect is Class A right handed pitcher Rob Bryson, a 31st round pick from 2006. Another player will also reportedly be included.
So, that's a premium prospect, a onetime premium prospect who should be big-league ready soon and some filler.
Sabathia was the top lefty on the market. Teams like Philadelphia and Tampa Bay had been after him. What does this mean for Erik Bedard? Well, conventional wisdom has it that he should become the next most coveted lefty starter out there. I agree with that. But can the Mariners expect to haul in what the Brewers just did? That depends. On Bedard.
July 6, 2008 6:55 PM
Posted by Jose Romero
Many of you are questioning the use of Burke as a reliever today and why not Arthur Rhodes or Brandon Morrow.
True, both were in the bullpen and available if needed. But here is how manager Jim Riggleman explained their absence from the game:
"Arthur, he came in today and said he slept on his arm funny and just didn't feel good. So he said "If I get up, I want to get in.' He didn't want to get up (in the bullpen) and down. So we had a point in the lineup where we were going to use him, and Norm (Charlton) called down and said he's not feeling to good, so we shut him down."
Riggleman also shut down Morrow because he had pitched four of the past five days.
Morrow will be available tomorrow.
July 6, 2008 5:14 PM
Posted by Jose Romero
-Burke uncorks a wild pitch and Cabrera goes to third. Deep fly ball to left by Marcus Thames drives in Cabrera, it's 2-1 Detroit.
-Burke is throwing in the low 80s in mph, and Miguel Cabrera just tagged him for a leadoff double. The fans are getting behind him.
-Well it's official, the M's have run out of available bullpen arms. Backup catcher Jamie Burke is now the pitcher. He's the third M's position player in team history to pitch.
-Clete Thomas, the Tigers LF, just dropped an attempted basket catch in fair territory and Cairo is on at second with two out for Jamie Burke.
-Sexson pops out to first and is now 0-for-6 today.
-Aquilino Lopez, long ago a Mariners minor-leaguer, is now on to pitch for Detroit. Read this from my colleague Larry Stone from years ago, while you wait for the next inning to start (I was Larry's translator for the story).
-It's now time for the 14th inning stretch as we head to the bottom of the inning still tied at 1. They're singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" again."
-Just to clarify, this is NOT Geoff Baker writing this. OK now moving on...this is officially the longest game as far as innings the Mariners have played this season. Jimenez has thrown more than 50 pitches and anything he gives them now is just a bonus. Two outs with a man on second for Detroit. Not a great many folks have left the stadium. That's good to see. Someone is actually starting a "Let's go Tigers" chant.
-Ichiro walks, but is thrown out trying to steal second. Riggleman comes out to argue but when he sees the replay, he will see that Ichiro was tagged out before his foot hit the bag.Too bad, because Lopez just singled and that might have been the game winner right there.
-Three great innings by Jimenez. Impressive against a very good offensive team. Now the Mariners have to find a way to make it worthwhile.
-To the lucky 13th we go after a ground out to first. Jimenez back out there for his third inning of work.
-Willie can be the man again, like he was the other night (July 1). Cairo at second with two out.
-I got away from this for a bit, but it's Richie time to lead off the 12th against a new pitcher, Freddy Dolsi. And he grounded out meekly to shortstop. More boos.
-Jimenez, the sixth Seattle pitcher, gets it done. The bullpen has been huge today but they will be taxed for the upcoming series at Oakland that starts tomorrow.
-This game was breezing right along until no one could score in the late going. Now Cesar Jimenez is on to pitch for the M's.
-Betancourt fans to end the inning.
-Bloomquist just fouled off what the Safeco speed gun clocked at a 101 mph fastball. Next pitch was over his ducking head a la Charlie Sheen as "Wild Thing" in "Major League." Willie is fouling off pitch after pitch, and just drew a walk.
-Flamethrower Joel Zumaya is on to pitch for Detroit. Robertson was outstanding...9 IP. 4 H, 1 R, 1 K, 2 BB both intentional.
-Sean Green now pitching for Seattle, Batista might yet make that Wednesday start. Green is 5th M's pitcher of the day.
-Sexson flies out to center, gets a few more boos. We're going to extra frames.
-Ibanez strikes out swinging, and now Sexson gets the chance to atone for the 7th and be the hero after Beltre is intentionally walked. A lot of cheers for Big Richie.
-Lopez executes the sacrifice bunt, Ichiro to second.
-Ichiro leads off with an infield single, typical of the All-Star. Robertson is still in there for the Tigers.
-Batista gets through it, and now it's game time. Sun is out, maybe a good sign for the M's.
-Miguel Batista is in the game. If he goes beyond this inning, he probably won't start Wednesday as planned.
-Give Corcoran credit. Dude shut down the Tigers in order for two innings, including this one.
-And as if on command, Sexson hits into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, stranding Ibanez after a one-out double.
-The Tigers just intentionally walked Beltre and his .248 average to get to...everyone's favorite whipping boy, that singles machine Richie Sexson.
-Roy Corcoran is now pitching for the Mariners on a sleepy Sunday here at the ballpark. Has anyone out there ever won Blowers' Rally Fries? Just asking.
-Now it's the Pistons, I mean Tigers, playing defense. Beautiful diving catch by the new RF, Joyce, to rob Betancourt of a hit.
-Soft fly out to Ichiro ends the threat by "The D," which is what a couple of my friends call Detroit. Still 1-1.
-Lowe walks pinch hitter Matt Joyce with two out and two on, loading the bases. Roy Corcoran now warming up in the pen. Lowe has thrown 35 pitches this inning.
-Five pitches and out for Detroit starter Nate Robertson in the bottom 5. Now Lowe is on to pitch for the Mariners. RRS line: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 2 K, 87 pitches, 56 strikes.
-M's get away with just the one run allowed. I could swear Lopez forgot there was one out on that grounder to Beltre. He caught the throw to get the lead runner, but didn't even attempt a throw to first for the 5-4-3 DP. Johjima was running up the line pointing at first, Beltre stood there in disbelief, it looked to me, and Lopez patted himself on the chest as if to say "My bad." But it doesn't cost them.
-RRS up over 70 pitches now, so Mark Lowe is now warming up in the pen for Seattle. And there it goes...a solo HR to LF to tie it at 1. Ryan Raburn goes yard. RRS is on the ropes, it seems, but if he can get out of this, he still should buy his teammates dinner for all the times they rescued him today.
-Lights are on here, its mostly cloudy but there is a bit of blue sky.
-More D...Ichiro goes down to a knee to make a sliding catch for the second out. And as I write that, Johjima just threw out Pudge Rodriguez trying to steal second.
-Mariners on the board when Bloomquist gets an infield hit, scores on Betancourt's double off the base of the left field wall. Betancourt is tagged out off second base but Bloomquist beats the throw home. 1-0 Seattle.
-Wicked hard line drive to third by Carlos Guillen is knocked down by Beltre, ball glances to Betancourt, who throws out Guillen after Miguel Cairo scoops the one-bounce throw. M's are d-ing up today so far.
-A few boos for Sexson as he fouls out to the catcher
-Nice diving catch by Bloomquist in center. Keeps RRS out of trouble for the moment after a leadoff single.
-Back-to-back walks loads 'em up for the Tigers, but Adrian Beltre picks up his pitcher with a diving stab of a Placido Polanco grounder to Beltre's left and he throws him out. End of inning. 44 pitches for RRS.
-Ichiro got a nice ovation after a video tribute to him being named an All-Star was played on the big board here at Safeco.
-Rowland-Smith threw 25 pitches but emerged unscathed.
64 degress at first pitch, 1:10 p.m.
July 6, 2008 12:36 PM
Posted by Jose Romero
-He is the only Mariner named to the All-Star team.
-He received 2,012,912 votes, third-most among AL outfielders.
-He is 6-for-18 with a double, HR and 4 RBI in 7 ASGs.
-He was the MVP last year, going 3-for-3 in San Francisco and hit the first inside-the-park HR in ASG history.
-He's batting .304 this season
-This is the 15th consecutive season Ichiro has been named an All-Star, with seven in a row in Japan with the Orix Blue Wave before he came to Seattle.
July 6, 2008 11:56 AM
Posted by Jose Romero
Sorry, I had to have fun with the skipper's name just this one time.
Riggleman said reliever J.J. Putz could get a couple of rehabilitation outings during the All-Star break. Putz is on the DL with a right elbow injury and might be able to re-join the roster as soon as a week after the All-Star Game July 15.
Riggleman would like to use Putz earlier than in his typical closer role -- currently taken by Brandon Morrow -- for at least the first few outings after coming off the DL. "Just to kind of get the rust off," Riggleman said. "Then just go from there."
The starting rotation will be juggled some leading up to the break. Miguel Batista, who pitched two innings last night and got the win, might return to the starting rotation if the M's can get some quality starts in the next few days and not need him out of the bullpen again. Erik Bedard will have his scheduled start Wednesday moved back to Thursday or Friday because of tightness in his left shoulder -- no big shock there -- and Batista could start that day. If it isn't Batista, Riggleman said, R.A. Dickey, last night's starter, might get the call. Then Hernandez would make his return from the DL Thursday, if all goes well with his bullpen sessions. Or it will be Bedard Thursday, Hernandez Friday.
Did all that make sense?
Bedard, Riggleman said, "has caught a lot of grief for coming out of games." This time, Bedard told trainers that his shoulder was tight after Friday's game, which he won.
"Everything looks good," Riggleman said. "He's going to get pushed back a little bit."
Riggleman said Bedard is a little frustrated. "He doesn't want to come out of games," the manager said.
Now let's go to the alineaciones (Spanish for lineups) for today's game against Detroit:
Riggleman said Jeff Clement, who hit two HRs last night, isn't in the lineup because the Tigers have a lefthander going today in Nate Robertson and it is a day game after a night game.
July 6, 2008 11:40 AM
Posted by Jose Romero
No, Felix Hernandez is not moving to the bullpen. He's just in there as I write this, throwing a bullpen session at Safeco Field under the observation of Mariners trainer Rick Griffin and others (Update: it just ended).
Manager Jim Riggleman said Hernandez, who is on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle and could come off the DL as soon as Tuesday, will throw another lighter bullpen session on that day. Then the plan is to have him return to the starting rotation this Thursday or Friday when the Mariners are on the road.
Hernandez threw some pitches off a mound yesterday but had a more extensive session today.
July 6, 2008 11:35 AM
Posted by Jose Romero
The starting lineups for the All-Star Game were announced just a little while ago, and Mariners outfielder Ichiro was voted a starter.
Ichiro, 34, is on the AL squad for the eighth time in his eight seasons in Seattle, and seventh as a starter. Here's a link to the lineups on mlb.com.
July 5, 2008 6:54 PM
Posted by Tom Wyrwich
8:45 p.m. Galarraga gets Beltre again with two-on, two-out -- this time on a groundout to shortstop. The M's have stranded eight in five innings.
8:34 p.m. Dickey gets out of that bases-loaded jam. He can thank Raul Ibanez for nailing Dane Sardinha at the plate, and then he did a great job of getting Cabrera, who had absolutely smashed the ball during his first two at-bats. Still 2-0 Tigers.
By the way, Richie Sexson has drawn two walks today, and he has now walked 12 times in his past 12 games. He has a .444 on-base percentage in that span, which dates back to June 21 (which happens the first day of summer).
8:10 p.m. Ichiro just climbed that wall like he's Tenzing Norgay. But Miguel Cabrera would not be denied a second time, shooting a 0-1 Dickey pitch past the fence in right field. 2-0 Tigers.
8:07 p.m. Adrian Beltre strikes out, and the Mariners leave two stranded again. (By the way, the big screen at the ballpark said Beltre's favorite road stadium is Coors Field. I'd like to meet a hitter who doesn't prefer Coors.)
7:54 p.m. Big third inning for Dickey; he got through it in only six pitches (he's at 50). Also a big inning for the defense, which got a couple impressive plays from Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez. Middle three, and it's still the Tigers up 1-0.
7:50 p.m. The M's let a good opportunity -- Jeremy Reed's one-out double -- pass by. Jeff Clement and Yuniesky Betancourt both fly out. Still 1-0 Tigers after two.
7:18 p.m. Carlos Guillen didn't hesitate on that R.A. Dickey 87-mile-per-hour fastball, sending it 391 feet to right field. Then Miguel Cabrera almost followed with another home run, but Jeremy Reed made a jumping catch at the track in center. 1-0 Tigers.
Before we get started, I wanted to point out two stories that have come out today:
-The New York Post is reporting Ichiro will be an outfield starter in the All-Star Game. Apparently, he'll be in center field.
-Jeff Weaver will pitch another day. He's been signed to a minor-league deal by the Cleveland Indians.
AND...as a reader point out, Jose Guillen got into a little tiff with the Royals pitching coach.
July 5, 2008 5:19 PM
Posted by Tom Wyrwich
Manager Jim Riggleman isn't so sure. He surmises something might still be bothering Erik Bedard after Bedard went 99 pitches and five innings on Friday.
Riggleman had this to say before the game, when asked about what he or pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre could do to extend Bedard.
"I don't think he's really totally feeling right, with whatever was happening before -- hip, back and all that ... He may be pitching a lot more than he should.
"I don't think he's totally right yet. I might be wrong about that, but I do feel that he's given us everything he could give us."
Bedard hasn't pitched more than 100 pitches since May 28. That's also the last time he made it past the sixth. And the M's really could have used a longer start last night, because their bullpen has been doing an awful lot of work lately. Six relievers have combined to pitch 16 1/3 innings the past four games, and three times a pitcher has gone two or more innings.
At least they won't be a man short tonight. Yes, Miguel Batista is back.
"Batista is very much available and very likely to be in there tonight," Riggleman said.
July 4, 2008 5:49 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Some ninth inning fireworks as Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is thrown out of the game after arguing about a leadoff at-bat in which Brandon Morrow struck him out. Rodriguez had to be restrained from going after umpire Brian Knight.
A big day for both Sean Green and Jose Lopez in a 4-1 win by the M's over the Detroit Tigers. Seattle looked a lot more in this game, on both the mound and in the field, than it did on Thursday night. Erik Bedard held the Tigers to a run over five innings before Green came in a tossed 2 2/3 scoreless frames with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time.
Morrow notched the final out of the eighth and went on to record the four-out save.
But in between his first out and the final three in the ninth, Lopez came up big. With runners at first and second, he drove a ball to the gap in right center off Kenny Rogers -- only the sixth hit of the day by Seattle -- to bring home a pair of huge runs. Lopez also came up big defensively in the top of the eighth, holding his ground at second in turning a 5-4-3 double-play after a leadoff single by Miguel Cabrera.
On the double-play ball by Marcus Thames, Cabrera came in hard at second. Lopez had to twist acrobatically out of the way. But he did and got the throw off in time to first base.
"I didn't even think about it with that play,'' Lopez said. "I caught the ball, heard the runner close to me and knew I had to jump. You need to make one out first on that play. Especially leading by one run. I heard the runner close and needed to jump on that one, or I'd get killed.''
Lopez appeared to surprise himself in actually pulling off the leap-and-throw.
"It was my first time,'' he said. "I never practiced it. It's just instinct. You catch the ball and try jumping and making a good throw.''
As I said, a much better game for the M's all-around. They are 9-5 under Jim Riggleman.
Erik Bedard dressed quickly and sped out of the clubhouse without talking to reporters. Riggleman and Jamie Burke did his talking for him yet again.
Riggleman thought Berdard did a good job.
"Erik did a great job,'' Riggleman said. "That's a heckuva ballclub over there and they make you throw a lot of pitches. He was throwing so many pitches that were very close and -- rightfully so -- they were balls. But most teams would have taken a cut at some of those pitches, which would have kept his pitch count down. They just forced him into a very laboring five innings and they did a good job.''
I agree with him on most of that. The issue isn't the work he did on the scoreboard. He allowed just the one run. It's the longevity. This team didn't trade away five guys for a pitcher who needs his bullpen to hold off the Tigers for four innings.
Burke thought Bedard was missing his spots at times rather than the Tigers merely not swinging. Has also noticed that Bedard simply gets tired as his pitch count climbs towards 100.
"Once he gets that 90 pitches, 95, you can tell he gets a little bit tired and starts cutting the ball off a bit too much,'' Burke said. "You can just see it on the way the ball comes in on the plate. You can just tell he's starting to get tired.''
Riggleman said he didn't want Bedard going back out in the sixth with those big sluggers due up. Can't blame him. He made the right call.
Thing is, this is now what the team has. A five or six inning pitcher who can hold teams to a run or two. In case you hadn't noticed, that's what Jarrod Washburn has done lately.
So, to the reader who wrote in below, asking my take on Bedard as an alternative to C.C. Sabathia, I'd say it's a rather poor second place. Sabathia logged well over 200 innings last year. Bedard is on pace to throw about 153 innings. He hasn't gone seven in a game since May 28. He's a poor man's Sabathia right now. Cheaper than Sabathia, granted, but giving far less on the mound.
Seriously, there's a better comparison to be made between Washburn and Bedard, at least over the past month. Bedard had a devastating curveball today, I'll give him that. But if he can only use it for five or six innings, you'd almost rather he abandon the strikeout approach and pitch to more contact. That's my take. I think teams will take a cautious app[roach towards trading for him. But all it takes is one rogue willing to gamble, We'll see. Remember, he's under club control through next year. That's attractive.
July 4, 2008 3:16 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Still a 2-1 game, M's in the lead as we head to the bottom of the seventh. Erik Bedard did indeed bow out of the game after five innings and 99 pitches. Sean Green has done a fine job picking him up for two innings, escaping a two on, one out jam in the top of the seventh by getting Placido Polanco to hit into a fielder's choice out at third base and Edgar Renteria to ground out to shortstop.
A better-played game by the Mariners today, even though Kenny Rogers is still working to them in the seventh inning, his pitch count at a lowly 82. This is the kind of game where one mistake can kill a team. So far, the M's have not made any lethal ones.
There's a Milwaukee Brewers scout in attendance. He's been watching the entire homestand. What do the Brewers need? Some rotation and bullpen help. Particularly of the lefty variety. Remember, that team's GM, Doug Melvin, hails from Ontario, as does Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash. Does that mean anything when it comes to an Ontarian like Bedard? Might, or might not. Depends on the asking price. Jarrod Washburn might be a better fit. But I'd think that Bedard, Washburn, Arthur Rhodes and Ryan Rowland-Smith will all be on that team's radar.
July 4, 2008 12:28 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A Happy Fourth of July to all of you. It's that time of year. At least, for fans of losing teams. The time when everyone gets sick and tired of all the negativity. I know all about it. Been there, done that before covering a losing team that everyone expected to at least be around .500, if not contend. It gets old. This team collapsed two months ago and now, after two months of hellfire raining down on it from all directions, we're looking for the silver linings. The bright spots. No one wants three more months of this. I understand.
It puts me in somewhat of a bind. For all of you writing in saying you're tired of the negativity -- and there are many of you out there -- I see just as many people rooting against the M's. Some of you are afraid that if this team wins too many more of these games (meaningless ones), management might somehow be "fooled'' into thinking this team can contend next year and not make the needed moves.
So, I'm torn. I don't want to be the guy some of you are already accusing GM Lee Pelekoudas of being. A guy who can get duped by this team into standing pat. The last thing I want to do is encourage that by being too optimistic. So, I try to temper that in game stories and blog posts with some reality. But the end result is, it can wind up sounding overly negative.
Just for the sake of balance, I'll point out a couple of positives I've seen the last month.
Jeremy Reed continues to surprise me. I still think of him as a fourth outfielder, but if he keeps playing like this every day, busting his tail in the outfield and hitting like he has, I may have to change that opinion. Reed is hitting .295 with a .755 on-base-plus slugging percentage. As a center fielder, that's OK. Not great, but not the worst in baseball either. He can at least hit for average. In an outfield with more power, he could be an every day player with these numbers. Not completely sold, but to me, this is a positive development.
Felix Hernandez continues to improve. His innings totals are up and his other numbers are headed downwards. He now pitches with a plan and seems to have a grasp on what he's doing out there. As I wrote last week, he's not an "ace'' stopper yet, but he's getting there. A sound building block.
Brandon Morrow has also become a pleasant surprise, considering how his year began. He's now a three-pitch guy, with that changeup added on to the fastball/slider routine. He'll either get a shot as a starter or present an intriguing option as a future closer. On a playoff-type team, having a healthy J.J. Putz closing and Morrow setting him up would also not be a complete waste. The game would be over after seven innings and that would make the team's current starters seem much better. We're still a long way off from that scenario. More things have to happen on other fronts before I'll call this a serious playoff contender again. I thought it would be this year. After what I've seen, I still think wholesale changes are needed. Maybe not a complete blow-up, but a lot more than just one or two repositionings.
My verdict on Jose Lopez is one of cautious optimism. He has hit better. but the knock on him the past two seasons was his second-half fade, We're not even at the All-Star Break yet, so let's hold off on any medals.
I'm not as high on this core group as our friends at Lookout Landing this morning. I see their point. What I don't see, with the lineup mentioned, is a playoff contender. And if this team isn't going to contend next year, then there are trades -- like one involving Erik Bedard -- that might be better off taking place this year. What if Bedard remains a six-inning pitcher next season? How will that impact his value. You've still got two camps out there split on what he is. Some still feel he's a legitimate ace. But that camp will dwindle if he continues to pitch like a No. 2 or 3 starter. So, the guys paid to make this call have to get it right this time.
But hey, we'll try to avoid cliff diving on a daily basis here. I'm not being sarcastic. It's going to be a long season any way you cut it. The future is full of huge question marks. Kenji Johjima is not going to be a $24 million backup catcher. Just isn't going to happen. Plenty has to be sorted out. I'll try to present you the context required to wade through these decisions. Try not to fall victim to overt negativity, because, frankly, I don't want three more months of this and neither do you.
But I also can't lie to you. Yes, an 8-5 record under Jim Riggleman is a first step. But these Tigers are also the first winning team faced by the M's since they got beaten in Boston a month ago. This is an AL team. The record against Detroit is a little more pertinent to discussing the future than how the M's did against San Diego (I mean, Seattle stranded 18 runners in a game and still won, which tells you how bad the Padres are). It's not so much a glass being half-empty or half full. More like making sure the glass is actually made of glass and not paper.
Still, I hear you. It's been a long season. Some tough calls by the front office are coming up and we'll be debating them for weeks, I'm sure. Looking forward to Kansas City next week. Want to hear what Jose Guillen thinks about this team.
July 3, 2008 11:13 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Look, I don't mean to negate everything the Mariners had accomplished the past two weeks under Jim Riggleman. But tonight's 8-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers showed us this team still has a long way to go. The Tigers, at 42-42 coming in, are the only .500 team the Mariners have laid eyes on since facing the Boston Red Sox a month ago. Even closer Todd Jones, pictured above, who gave up two runs in the ninth, wasn't going to blow the 8-2 lead he had going into the final inning. He's bad, but not that bad. Fernando Rodney came on to get the final out with the tying run on-deck. But still, this was a different night from the get-go.
In other words, Riggleman sure hasn't seen the likes of the Tigers. Not unless they were wearing the uniforms of the Padres, Blue Jays, Mets and Braves.
"That Detroit ballclub is just a very aggressive, good hitting club,'' Riggleman said afterwards. "That lineup there, you've pretty much got to be on top of your game to shut them down.''
A different team faced tonight. A winning one. From the AL. Not the best of teams -- at least not yet -- but one that is now winning more than it loses.
And the M's? Well, they looked like the M's.
Carlos Silva needed 100 pitches to survive five innings. The offense left seven runners on the first four innings when it was still a game -- five of those by Richie Sexson alone. Even when they did things right, like Raul Ibanez getting a double in the seventh, it gets undone by him slipping and falling when he had to retreat to second on a Jose Vidro lineout.
Silva did not come out to talk to reporters after the game. Few Mariners did. Jose Lopez was one of them.
Lopez had tried to throw Curtis Granderson out at home on a hard grounder. Against any other baserunner, he might have had a play. Not that baserunner. Instead of taking a sure out at first and being down 3-2 with two out and none on, Lopez's late throw kept a runner on with only one out. I'm not saying Carlos Silva would have done better than the three straight singles he yielded after that, but you never know. Silva did yield them, of course. Two more runs scored. It was a 5-2 game and pretty much over at that point.
Lopez was caught in a no-man's land positioning-wise. He wasn't in close enough to nab Granderson. Nor far back enough to automatically concede the run. Told me he was off-balance.
"Lopez made a heck of a play,'' Riggleman said, but then added that "if he had to do it over again, he would have conceded the run and just gone to first.''
Anyhow, this team was down 8-2 heading into the ninth. A lot of other stuff happened besides Lopez.
This bullpen has been very stingy of late. But the first batter it faced in the sixth connected for a home run off Mark Lowe. That was the first of young Michael Hollimon's career.
Yes, that kind of night for the M's.
Lowe was one of the players who did come out after the game. The entire bullpen showed its face. Arthur Rhodes and J.J. Putz make sure of that. Raul Ibanez was there, but the media is tired of forcing him to be team spokesman after every loss. R.A. Dickey, Jarrod Washburn. No, they didn't pitch tonight.
You get the picture. Same M's, a lot of the same problems. On and off the field. Team Pelekoudas plods along. he's yet to make a player move, Maybe he thought that 8-4 stretch was for real? I doubt it. Especially after tonight.
Maybe they'll win the next three and shut me up. This Tigers bullpen is bad enough toi give them a game. But for tonight, I didn't see anything from the M's to show me they're cured. You can't keep taking doses of the Braves, Mets, Padres and Blue Jays. Eventually, you have to face some halfway decent teams. And this one made the M's look bad. Plain and simple.
Oh yeah, Ichiro got his 1,700th hit. He had three singles in the game. He was out at his locker, too. As after every game. Hope you enjoyed the game tonight. Gotta run. Get to do this again first thing tomorrow.
July 3, 2008 8:56 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
8:56 p.m.: Add on another Detroit run as rookie Michael Holliman takes new pitcher Mark Lowe deep to right center on an 0-1 offering in the sixth to make it a 6-2 game. Holliman's first career homer. Been that kind of year in the Emerald City. A lot of firsts. Not too many of them good for the home nine.
Had a chance to go on the Detroit FSN pre-game show down on the field earlier this evening. Have done stuff like that a few times and let me tell you, the atmosphere down there is much different just before a game than when we usually go on during batting practice. Had my trusty camera with me and snapped some photos just before heading on with the host, who you'll see below (guy on left).
Down below, a shot up at the press box from my position just next to the visitors' dugout.
July 3, 2008 5:45 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A shot of Mariners manager Jim Riggleman, above, chatting with some players during mandatory pre-game fielding practice. That's one new addition to this M's team since it got beaten by the Detroit Tigers in a pair of series about six weeks ago. We'll see if the M's look a little better prepared this time. Some good news on Felix Hernandez today. He threw for 10 minutes on flat ground from a distance of 90 feet and felt good. There's a big chance he'll see a start before the all-star break.
"He didn't experience any problems so that's very encouraging,'' Riggleman said. "It makes us feel better about, well, any time he's eligible to come off the disabled list, he would be able to pitch right then.''
Before I go any further, Ryan Rowland-Smith has started blogging for a new site. Check it out right here. OK, back to the post...
Riggleman was asked about the struggles of catcher Jeff Clement, who is behind the plate again tonight. Clement is hitting just .179 with a .286 on-base percentage and a .310 slugging percentage over 84 at-bats with the M's this season. He's gone 7-for-36 (.194) since being recalled for his second go-around with the team.And he's struck out in 12 of those ABs, which is slightly better than in his first shot with the club, but not all that great.
"What you see happening there, that's what's happened,'' Riggleman said with a shrug. "We're just giving him every opportunity to get it going. It's tough. It seems lkike they're making great pitches on him. And it goes that way sometimes. Guys are getting their hits, but you step up there and you're the guy that he makes all his great pitches of the night on. And that seems to be happening to him. He's just really not getting that many pitches in the center of the plate that he can just jump on and get it going.
"If he does, you want to build on it but then they continue to make good pitches on him. He just hasn't gotten on track. But we know he's a good hitter. We know he's going to hit. But it's tough. It's tough for a guy coming up trying to establish himself in the big leagues.''
July 3, 2008 11:12 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
One of our regular readers, ScottM, wrote in to ask which was worse, the Sonics leaving Seattle, or my hometown Expos leaving Montreal after the 2004 season. I'd argue they are both the same. Neither city is going to suffer for it in the long-term. Both places, Montreal and Seattle, remain dynamic in their own right and a fine place for which to attract tourists. Cities that define themselves based on their sports franchises...well, let's face it. A lot of you wouldn't want to live there when the teams aren't playing. Hey, the visiting Detroit Tigers are part of a city that gets voted among the best sports towns in the U.S. every year. Want to splurge on a downtown condo right next to Comerica Park? You'll get it pretty cheap. Yeah, I thought so.
What will suffer, from my experience with Montreal, is the lack of a place for fans to put their passion for a sport. Unlike the Sonics situation, the Expos spent roughly eight years threatening to pull out of Montreal. When they finally did, relocating to Washington, the fans there had already been conditioned to expect it. The shock was lessened. What remained was a bit of an empty hole in the hearts of baseball fans. It's one thing to be a fan of a sport. Another to be a fan of a team. With a team, there is a target for the passion. And finding another team to cheer for just isn't the same. I know some people who tried to cheer for the Washington Nationals. Some who tried to find a reason to cheer against the Florida Marlins, whose owner, Jeffrey Loria, used to own the Expos and is seen as Public Enemy No. 1 in Montreal.
Some have even tried to cheer for the Blue Jays, Canada's only remaining team. But Montreal and Toronto hate each other in sports and most other things. In 1992 and 1993, Montreal ball fans cheered mostly for the Braves and Phillies to beat the Blue Jays in the World Series. So, that's a no-go.
The sad truth is, a generation of basketball fans who grew up watching and cheering for the Sonics will have no other team to cheer for as fervently. Older fans who grew up with other favorite squads could revert back to that. But for most, things won't be the same basketball-wise.
Still, there is an upside.
One thing I've noticed about the Montreal situation is that sports fans there have seemed to throw their surplus passion into the other sports in town. I don't think it's a coincidence that since 1996, when the Expos began seriously making noise about leaving the following year (which they did every year the remainder of their existence), world class tennis has thrived. Soccer is now a very popular professional sport there as well. Montreal also played host to the last Presidents Cup golf tournament. As far as city teams, the Canadiens are as popular as ever. The Alouettes of the CFL have grown from an afterthought in 1996 to one of that city's hottest pro sports tickets. Oh yeah, I forgot. Montreal is also a Grand Prix auto racing city. For world class sports, that one's hard to beat.
Yeah, it misses baseball. But life goes on. MLB baseball is one American-based sport in an increasingly global arena. So is the NBA. Basketball has been fighting popularity problems for years now. So, yes, Seattle sports fans will miss it. But they will find other things.
This isn't whistling in the dark. I sat in on the Brazil-Canada soccer match a month ago at Qwest Field. Sat behind the net in the stands. That was fun. The fans were educated about the sport. It was a new experience and -- frankly -- meant a heck of a lot more on the world stage than any NBA regular season game. Ask any folks who sat in a bar watching Spain play Germany for the European championship last weekend and see if they weren't having fun.
Sports change. Teams change. It's the nature of the beast. No passion is ever completely satisfied. That's why it's a passion. But Seattle fans feeling a hole in one area of their sports passion will always have new ones they can turn to. Or old friends, like the Seahawks and...sigh...yes, the Mariners. Both of those teams now have a responsibility, to the city and the fans who pay their freight, to step up their efforts just a little bit more in coming months.
There is a sports vacuum in this city. And it will need to be filled. Who is up to that challenge? We'll see.
July 3, 2008 9:23 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, the other day, I was reading one of those panel discussions from a national online sports site in which the panelists got to vote for their biggest surprises/disappointments of the baseball season so far. One of the biggest surprises for me was how many people chose the Mariners. Next on the list seemed to be the Detroit Tigers, who are in town tonight riding a 7-3 streak in their past 10 games. This will be the biggest test of the Jim Riggleman regime to-date. It's one thing to look good against the NL's dregs and the Toronto Blue Jays. But these are the same Tigers, remember, who are 5-1 versus Seattle this season. You've got four games against them here. Split the four and I'll start to be convinced the M's really have turned things around. Too late, but around.
Anyhow, which of these clubs has been the biggest disappointment?
Both mortgaged away some sizeable talent in the hopes of contending.
Seattle gave up Adam Jones and others for Erik Bedard. Detroit surrendered Andrew Miller and a bunch of others to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The latter is back in the minors, while Cabrera -- expected to return tonight after being out two days with a sore hip flexor -- is muddling along with 11 home runs and an on-base-plus slugging percentage of .806. Not quite the 34 homers and .966 OPS he had last year. Cabrera's average career OPS -- even when dragged down by this year's numbers -- is .917.
In park factored OPS+, he'd averaged 150 or higher the past three seasons. It's now only 115. Yes, he's been a disappointment.
July 2, 2008 10:50 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Another "quality start" of six innings, two earned runs allowed by Jarrod Washburn tonight ina 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He could have gone deeper, retiring the final six batters he faced. But Jim Riggleman pulled him after 98 pitches. Washburn had thrown 119 and 118 pitches his last two outings and Riggleman told us pre-game he wasn't going to push it with the lefty's arm in case of fatigue.
But Washburn is certainly making a case for himself to be used as trade bait, especially for a National League team. Remember, he's owed about $15 million between now and the end of 2009. That's a lot of money. So, a team picking him up won't have to ship off a ton of prospects to get him. And not every playoff team needs a frontline ace. Some just need a steady, middle-of-the-rotation guy. That's Washburn. Right now, it is, anyway. In May, it wasn't.
"I feel good physically, mechanically I feel great,'' he said. “I'm making pitches and guys are making plays behind me.''
Washburn is throwing a split-fingered fastball again. He does it about 6 to 8 times per game, when he really needs it. Tonight, he used it to strike out Rod Barajas on a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning.Called it the best splitter he's ever thrown. Came in at about 86 mph.
Remember back in May, when opponents were combining for a 9.30 ERA off Washburn? Big innings killed him. Didn't want that this time. He'd pitched around Scott Rolen to get to Barajas. You can do that against some teams, like the Blue Jays or in the NL. It worked this time.
"That's big,'' he said. "It's early enough in the game where it could go either way. We'd just put two on the board and I wanted to stay out of the big inning.''
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman wanted to pull Washburn after five. But Washburn persuaded him to let him go one more inning, despite the heavy pitch count his last two starts, and retired the final three batters in the sixth.
Two RBI doubles for Miguel Cairo tonight. He's certainly contributed in some different ways this season. Dustin McGowan had thrown him some high 90s heat in the first inning, foiling a bunt attempt. Cairo knew he had to get his bat "on top of the ball'' quicker the next couple of times.
"When you get that kind of pitcher, you know you're going to get some fastballs,'' Cairo said. "He threw me that pretty hard in the first at-bat and I told myself 'Hey, you'd better get ready' in the second at-bat.''
Brandon Morrow tossed a perfect ninth for the save. He looks more and more like a closer every day. A serious closer. Maybe one of the best in the league. We'll see how he does on three straight nights. Maybe. The M's will have to keep this up -- an impressive 8-4 run so far under Riggleman -- when more serious opposition than the Blue Jays comes to town. Seattle probably just knocked Toronto out of wild-card contention for good.
The Detroit Tigers are in next.
July 2, 2008 8:51 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The Mariners figured out a way to get to Dustin McGowan in the fifth inning. They decided to sick Miguel Cairo on him. Cairo delivered his second RBI double of the game, a two-run jolt to left center, that scored Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt to make it 4-2. That's the score now as we head to the seventh. Jarrod Washburn is done, throwing another "quality start" of six innings, two earned runs allowed. He's upping his trade value by the start.
July 2, 2008 5:47 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The photo above is of onetime power hitter John "Mule" Miles, a Negro League player from 1946 to 1949, chatting here pre-game with Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. Miles was drafted by the Mariners last month during an honorary draft of former Negro League players. Obviously, the meeting with Gaston was significant. Miles was the first black player to play in the Gulf Coast League, back in 1951 with the Laredo Apaches. Gaston is the first black manager to win a World Series. Both hail from San Antonio, Texas and Miles has actually met some of Gaston's family before.
When Miles was breaking some of the sport's color barrier with Laredo, there was no such thing as a black manager. Fans in the stands would call him the "N'' word from 10 feet away. He talked to us about walking into a restaurant with his team. The manager refused to serve them, so the white teammates, to their credit, got up and left. The restaurant's owner came running outside and told them it was OK, that Miles could eat with them. Which he did. In the restaurant's kitchen.
Back in 1947, Miles once hit a home run in 11 conseuctive games while playing for the Chicago American Giants of the Negro League. I asked him what the media pressure was like and he laughed. Just the local papers covered it.
Could he do the same thing today with ESPN cameras and a swarm of media covering his every move?
He laughed again. Shook his head. A different world.
"I played for the love of the game,'' he said. "Baseball was my ambition and I'd do it all over again just for the love of the game.''
His salary? $300 per month. But that was OK, because a soda only cost him a nickel.
He's now 83. He'll throw out tonight's first pitch.
If he's any good, the M's...nah, they're going with Ryan Rowland Smith on the mound again next Sunday.
"I appreciate that the Seattle Mariners drafted me last month and now, I'm a major league ballplayer,'' Miles said. "It's 60 years too late, but I'm here.''
July 2, 2008 10:16 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Good morning to you all, especially to Novice in the comments thread. Must be some Fourth of July fireworks going off early at your place in honor of Mr. Bloomquist's game-winning hit last night. And no, I would not put you in the category of a "troll" either. If all trolls were as simple to deal with as you, I wouldn't be keeping the Tylenol folks in business. Thanks to all the lawyers who came out yesterday and offered some insights on the Shawn Chacon-Ed Wade situation. Enjoyed reading your takes.
So, Richie Sexson hits his first home run since May 24. I'm sure the phone lines are burning up at the Pelekoudas residence. Or, maybe not. Here's one national writer's take on what's happened to the M's this season. Interesting to read what the rest of the world thinks about you. That outside viewpoint comes into play come trading time. And there are some places shaping up as possible destinations for Mariners players. They are also places the M's can safely deposit those players without having to worry about being burned by them too often in the near future.
There are problems in Philadelphia, where the Phillies looked like they might have a shot at a World Series not too long ago. Well, now, after weeks of losing, the Phils just unloaded big-ticket starting pitcher Brett Myers to Class AAA.
The Phils need another arm. If they can't trade for C.C. Sabathia, you'd have to think that Erik Bedard would be an interesting fallback plan. Or maybe even Jarrod Washburn, if he continues to pitch well. Washburn has proved adept at handling NL lineups. He's gone at least six innings and not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his three starts against NL clubs so far. Also went six innings and allowed only one earned run against Toronto -- an AL club that hits like an NL team -- his last time out. We'll see what he does tonight. Unlike Bedard, Washburn won't cost teams an arm and a leg. But dealing him would get the M's out from under the $13 million or so that he's still owed through 2009.
July 1, 2008 11:29 PM
Posted by Tom Wyrwich
On Tuesday night, Richie Sexson had power.
On Tuesday night, so did Willie Bloomquist.
On Tuesday night, the Mariners, even as they stretched their bullpen thin, stared at a 6-2 lead and came back.
It was a crazy night.
Let's start with Sexson. The last time he homered? May 24. That was before the NBA Finals even began, to give you an idea of the timeframe here. This one was a no-doubter, 376 feet, and could not have come at a bigger moment in the game.
I wish I could tell you what he said after the game, but I can't. He didn't come out to speak with the press. Someone saw him leave out a back door in the team dining room.
Now to Bloomquist. He put one in deep left center to win it. It could have been his first extra-base hit of the season, and he joked about it after the game.
"I wanted a double. I haven't had a double yet this year, so I was hoping to get to second" he said, laughing. "No, it was kind of instinctive running, I guess. You never know if a guy falls or trips and you get the next base. I was trying to outrun all the crew trying to tackle me."
Lastly, the comeback doesn't happen unless four relievers -- Cesar Jimenez, Arthur Rhodes, Sean Green and Brandon Morrow -- don't pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Morrow was again spectacular, and his ERA is now 0.74. If he stays there by the All-Star break, it will be the best pre-break ERA in team history.
OK, you all will get Geoff Baker back tomorrow. I'll be back Saturday against Detroit.
July 1, 2008 5:22 PM
Posted by Tom Wyrwich
Jose Lopez did Roy Corcoran no favors there with that error, and the Blue Jays are starting to pour it on. It's 6-2 Toronto, with an important at-bat coming up: LHP Cesar Jimenez vs. Matt Stairs.
Perhaps the Blue Jays could have used some pitchers' fielding practice like the Mariners conducted today. Because Jesse Litsch's error on a throw to first opened the door for a pair of Seattle runs, both unearned. Sam Perlozzo decided to hold Richie Sexson at third on Jeff Clement's two-out single, and he was rewarded when Betancourt singled to right to bring Sexson home.
One note: the M's have stranded two runners in three of four innings.
Another note: that's Sexson's first s
And this is no longer going as well as the Mariners could have hoped. Here's Rowland-Smith's line, as he leaves with two outs in the fourth: 3 2/3 innings, four hits, three runs (all earned), 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HB.
And for those scoring it, Gregg Zaun's shot to left is not a single. Thanks to Vernon Wells' less-than-astute baserunning, it goes down officially as a fielder's choice. Zaun still gets the ribby.
Rowland-Smith gives up a hit in the third, but he gets out of it -- and he needed just 9 pitches for the entire inning. This is going about as well as the M's could have hoped.
The second is a 13-pitch inning for Rowland-Smith, who's rolling so far. The Mariners are hoping he can go five, and so far, it looks like he might be able to.
Oh boy. Commentor favorite Jose Vidro grounds into a double play, hit hard but right to the pitcher, and a promising inning ends.
Rowland-Smith's pitch count is going to be interesting to watch tonight, and so far, so good for him. He got through the 1st in just 12 pitches.
I hope so. Because it's all relievers, all night for the home team against Toronto tonight. Ryan Rowland-Smith will start, with the hope that he can go four or so innings. From there, it's everyone on call. Miguel Batista isn't available, and you'd have to think that Mark Lowe would be a last resort after going 2 2/3 last night. Expect Roy Corcoran if Rowland-Smith gets in trouble any time early.
One more thing: you might have noticed that Cesar Jimenez was slotted to start today for Tacoma before his move to the big-league club last night. I assure you this has more to do with the Rainiers' injury situation than how much Jimenez has in him today. He said he can go two innings, or about 50 pitches. Riggleman said Jimenez will be used "as needed," and I'm not exactly sure if that tells you anything.
Toronto's starter, Jesse Litsch is 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA.
Here's the lineup:
David Eckstein SS
Marco Scutaro 2B
Alex Rios RF
Vernon Wells CF
Lule Overbay 1B
Scott Rolen 3B
Gregg Zaun C
Adam Lind LF
John McDonald SS
Jesse Litsch, RHP
Jose Lopez 2B
Raul Ibanez LF
Jose Vidro DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jeremy Reed CF
Richie Sexson 1B
Jeff Clement C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP
July 1, 2008 3:22 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Many of us have dreamed at some point, if only for a millisecond, of doing what Shawn Chacon did to his boss last week. Of course, we live in civilized society. I'd love to jump off the Space Needle, flap my wings and soar around Puget Sound just like a free bird sometimes. But I don't do it. The Houston Astros pitcher got tired of hearing his boss berate him in front of teammates, so he threw GM Ed Eade to the ground. Naturally, he was released by the team.
But the MLB Players' Association is going to handle a wrongful termination grievance on his behalf. They say his release came without just cause. And you thought ballplayers were just like you or me? Think again. Now, look. I realize there are probably some legal definitions and interpretations to be ironed out here. Understand that contracts have provisions for things like this and such.
But hey, in what job out there (besides baseball) is a guy going to be able to throttle a boss nearly twice his (or her) age and not lose their employment? What am I missing here? Anyone care to help me out?
By the way, I don't ever advocate physical violence as a way of sorting out workplace problems. Yes, we've all had supervisors and co-workers we'd love to give the schoolyard treatment to. And they to us. But that's not a healthy way to build a career and sort things out. In the home or office. Unless, of course, you happen to pitch for a major league team. Or hit home runs for one, as Manny Ramirez demonstrated over the weekend. For me, this is different from former Toronto manager John Gibbons duking it out with Ted Lilly a couple of years ago. Gibbons invited that scrap. Lilly took him up on it. They were both in reasonably decent shape. Gibbons was in his early 40s and a former big leaguer.
Ed Wade is 52 and a former PR assistant turned GM. I'd love to see Chacon try pulling this on Billy Beane.
But really, have we, as a contract-driven society, lost our minds in this case? Is this the end of civilization as we know it? Or just business as usual?
July 1, 2008 10:18 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Happy Canada Day, folks. Though, from the looks of things, a whole lot of visiting fans were celebrating Canada Day last night. Anyhow, as some of you have mentioned, no harm getting shut out 2-0 by a guy looking like this year's Cy Young Award winner. Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays may only be 9-6. But he has as many complete games -- six -- as any other team in the American League. Halladay currently sits sixth in AL earned run average, but is blowing away the field with 130 1/3 innings pitched. His 6-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is also the best of any AL starter in the top-20 ERA-wise.
Yes, he's that good.
Over the past 16 months running this blog, I've made a number of references to Halladay in regards to Felix Hernandez. Unfortunately for Hernandez, he's now on the DL. Not a huge setback. The team simply couldn't afford to go through a second night of an all-bullpen start after tonight's. Some of you were wondering yesterday why the team simply didn't call up another starter for tonight's game. Well, the thing is, somebody would have had to be sent down to Class AAA. Likely Roy Corcoran. And you don't want to lose a relief pitcher with Miguel Batista already shaky, Hernandez not right and those free-swinging Detroit Tigers looming for a four-game series. The team had been hoping to avoid losing Hernandez another week to the DL. So, it crossed its fingers, waited for yesteday and hoped Hernandez could make it back to the mound later this week. When that was obviously not going to be a possibility, it placed him on the DL and freed up the roster spot to add Cesar Jimenez. This way, you don't lose a reliever.
There you go. No big mystery. No conspiracy of incompetence. Just that.
Anyhow, back to Hernandez and Halladay. We could include Erik Bedard in this discussion, but, from what I've seen the first half of the season, Hernandez is a better comparison. He's a power pitcher. Has all the right "stuff'' to be a future ace, including the innings durability and the knack for going eight or nine innings when he's on.