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

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July 28, 2008 9:54 PM

Johjima saves the day

Posted by Geoff Baker

ichiro0728 030.jpg

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.

When Jarrod Washburn gets fantastic results for two months, you don't have to pretend it didn't happen. You don't have to argue that he's been awful, or completely flukey. It's not all a fluke. Maybe some of it is luck, sure. But of course, he does have some talent. It's why the M's gave him all that money. Some of that talent is now showing.

It doesn't negate all the bad that happened beforehand. If anything, the bad stuff is a reason the M's are trying to trade him. One of the reasons they don't see him as a future Cy Young award candidate. I don't think any of us do. But it's OK to acknowledge that even the players you don't like in general are doing OK from time to time. Just like it's OK to acknowledge that Jeff Clement has not looked good at the plate so far. It doesn't take away from his potential. Or the fact he might develop into something real good.

But this is a daily blog. A daily experience. There are going to be good days and bad days for all players. We'll debate those players and those days. But I don't know. As fans, why not be happy when one of your players comes through for you? Johjima making a good throw isn't going to change the team's mind about keeping him. Right now, the team is stuck with him. Who's going to take him? You might as well hope for him to do something right if you're an M's fan. What good does it do to wish him to fail each and every night?

He has his challenges, I know. We were writing about them last year, long before the contract extension. The issue of his not properly framing pitches and ticking off umpires. Even before his hitting went south, the issues were there, they've been noted. But when he was hitting, many of them were largely forgotten. That's neither here nor there. Tonight, he made the game's biggest play. It's biggest throw. He's in the blog's headline because of it. He saved the day.

I understand your frustration with this season. I see it out on the field every night. In the end, you don't need me to tell you who to root for. I know many of you are rooting for change. I can tell you, the individual plays you see here each night will do little to change the overall focus of this team's management towarss the changes it want to make. They are looking long-term. This season is done. Individual plays will do little to improve one's stock or standing on a team already out of it. But if the players do well once in a while, then if the team is looking to deal them, it becomes a little easier to move them. The daily plays can increase trade value even if only marginally.

Had Washburn failed these past two months, he'd be going nowhere. But he's succeeded. No, it's not all luck, sorry. Two months straight worth of luck? A complete turnaround from the beginning of the season? Even with the improved defense we've seen, that's a little far-fetched. I mean, the defense isn't that much better. It's improved, yes. But it's still below average. Hasn't knocked two runs off Carlos Silva's ERA. Or done wonders for Miguel Batista's either.

I don't know. I just find it intertesting to watch all the reactions any time a Mariners player surprises. Keeps things lively, I suppose.

So, Ichiro will likely get his 3,000th tomorrow night. Lots of debate about that I'm sure, and it's a valid one. But it's an accomplishment any way you look at it. I'm just not sure what scale we're supposed to measure it on. Sounds like a blog topic for tomorrow.

Here's Ichiro on getting that sacrifice fly in the ninth. He wasn't compeltely satisfied with the result because he'd been trying to get a hit.

"I wanted to go for a hit and I didn't get the hit,'' he said through an interpreter. "But at the same time, we were able to get the run in, so that makes me happy. I consider them to be two separate things.''

Have a good one.

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Posted by mt

8:10 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Just FYI that it was Bloomquist who stole second and scored after pinch-running for Joh.

Posted by scottM

8:22 PM, Jul 28, 2008

An exciting game to watch tonight. So many contributors. The guy that is starting to worry me though is Reed. He has no more business batting in the two hole than Vidro has at clean-up. His bunt attempt with two outs and that weak DP ball to end the inning were both pathetic and came close to costing us the game. He's starting to play his way out of MLB after showing some real promise in June.

Posted by Top pick in 09 draft

8:31 PM, Jul 28, 2008

I don't think Reed will ever amount to more than a #4 outfielder - instead of making adjustments, he just keeps getting worse the more he is exposed to good pitching. I'm disappointed in his inability to play small ball which a player like him must do in order to survive at this level. All the more reason to not capitulate to NYY and hold out for a decent OF prospect if you trade Washburn. Gardner's stats seem to indicate a faster version of Reed. NYY getting clobbered again tonight might put some pressure on Cashman as without juice, their old sp (Mussina & Pettite) will no doubt fade some during August-Sept.

Posted by DC

8:37 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Ummm...Reed crushed that ball in the 9th. Give the guy a chance to be a regular. He's really only played one full year. Plus, he destroys AAA pitching so MLB is where he belongs.

And Geoff. Johjima, hero? Were you watching the game? mt was first, but myself and countless others are going to inform you that Bloomquist pinch-ran for him until you fix that boo-boo.

Posted by wag the dog

8:46 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Even a broken watch is right twice a day. Joh is right about once a week.

I guess it's good to give a guy his due on the occasion he earns it, but it's grating too.

Posted by DealEmUp

8:48 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Why can't we package Joh with Washburn. The Yanks are looking for catching....and we have too much. A lot of salary, but good for two or three decent prospects, or maybe try to find a third team for that "Blockbuster" deal.

Posted by JP

8:57 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Trade Washburn and Rob Johnson for Melky and Gardner. They need both pitching and catching. Rob is ready to go just so happens he is in AAA for an orginization that just so happens to carry "3" freaking catchers.

Clement and Joh are here for the long haul, Rob Johnson is officially trade bait.

Posted by wag the dog

8:57 PM, Jul 28, 2008

You can't deal crap and except treasure in return. Joh and Washburn isn't worth two, let alone three, good prospects.

The Yankees are going after Mariner rejects because they have a solid every day lineup and now need role players. On a team where almost every regular makes 8 figures, doling out top dollar for reserves isn't a big deal. But they aren't look to become Mariner East. It's a tweak here and a tweak there. They know full well we've got crap to offer. And that's what they'll give us in return.

Posted by Mothy

9:22 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Jeez people give Kenji his due. Yeah for some reason he's sucked this year after being real solid the past two years, but regardless. That play in the eighth where he threw vasquez out at third was sick and really saved the game for the M's. Way to go Joh!
Now let's talk about your hitting...

Posted by Bill

10:39 PM, Jul 28, 2008

I didn't get to watch the game tonight but from all the reports I've read (including here) the game sounded like it was a little intense. Nice to see them pull out a close one if that was the case.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

11:16 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Rumors (Buster Olney) have the M's looking to deal Washburn to another club since the Yankees won't add Cabrera or Gardner in the deal. It sounds like the M's were initially reading some saber site and just doing the deal to dump salary. Now the clowns in our front office are mad at NY and we might get a better deal now that the M's are willing to eat some of Washburn's salary to spite NY and deal to another club.

This is exactly what the M's should have been doing in the first place. Adding better talent to the club, not landing a suspect prospect with no power for the sake of dumping salary. Wouldn't that be something if the front office bozos get a better deal out of this afterall. I know the saberscouts are hoping for the next Willie Gardner Bloomquist with an average arm to play center field next year.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

11:33 PM, Jul 28, 2008

Ummm...Reed crushed that ball in the 9th. Give the guy a chance to be a regular. He's really only played one full year

Reed has a long swing conducive to ground outs, he hits the ball every time to the right of the first baseman or right at the pitcher. He tries pulling every pitch despite his lack of power, once in a short while he pulls one out to right field or the rare hit to left field.

With 288 games under his belt, one would think Jeremy Reed could start reading pitches better. He's been overmatched since 2004. How many years do we give Reed to develop?

Reed has played 141 games at the big league level in 2005. He was given 67 games at the big league level the following year and hit .217. He is not a prospect at the ripe age of 27, there is little room for improvement.

I'm not sure why the bozo front office doesn't look at targeting a Felix Pie, or Cameron Maybin in a trade; if the M's have no confidence in Michael Saunders or Greg Halman,

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:58 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Wow - eye signals? Seriously? That sounds almost like James Bond territory. Cool.

Go go Ichiro! Here's hoping you slump hard until you can come home and get your 3000th (yes, I said 3000th, to hell with the haters) at SafeCo, where we love ya.

Posted by Ryan

7:38 AM, Jul 29, 2008

" Johjima saves the day"

There's a headline I never thought I'd see.

Posted by Ragarm

8:14 AM, Jul 29, 2008

A tip of the hat to both Kenji and Adrian. Nice play, didn't get burned. Something positive at last.

Posted by Waz

8:15 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Yesterday game was awesome, four homers and a victory over Texas. That was a game one.. Mariners has three more games vs Rangers. The next three starts will be Silva, Batista and Dickey. Oh that's a sad story..

Why can't Mariners get V. Diaz from Tacoma? He's doing pretty good at Tacoma.

Posted by Top pick in 09 draft

8:22 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Glad to see the M's FO not get bullied by the Yankees and settle for just doing a salary dump. M's have a definite need for a real CF assuming they don't move Ichiro back next season. Assuming they get a FA to play CF, if it's between Reed and Bloomquist for the 25th roster spot, I would go with Willie as he offers more versatility and speed - he can also play both OF & IF positions. Getting Reed as part of the Freddy Garcia package was one of Bonehead Bill's first
major decisions and things just went downhill from there. Reed just looks to be one of those career AAAA guys.

Posted by Oscar TG

8:44 AM, Jul 29, 2008

as a fan, this M's season has been like a trip to the topless bar. you as a fan give and give and hope and hope, but at the end of the night you go home alone, emptyhanded with blue balls

Posted by ancient mariner

8:48 AM, Jul 29, 2008

The Mariners have financial resources. They don't need to panic in a trade like the Pirates did just to reduce payroll.

If the Yankees or any other team offers a good (not mediocre) prospect, then by all means trade Washburn, Johjima, Vidro (if anyone wants him), Ibanez, Bloomquist, Rhodes, etc. I would put Erica Bedard on that list, but she has obviously decided to remain a pussy wussy for the rest of the year.

Posted by scrapiron

8:58 AM, Jul 29, 2008

The Marlins have interest in Arthur Rhodes, and are also looking for a catcher. They say Mike Jacobs could be available. How about Arthur Rhodes and Jamie Burke for Mike Jacobs?

Jacobs could be the .800+ OPS first baseman we are looking for.

Posted by scrapiron

9:04 AM, Jul 29, 2008

From what I hear, there are only 3 starting pitchers available at the deadline. Washburn, Vincente Padilla and Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo has already said publicly that he doesn't want to be traded, so I doubt any team would trade for him if he could be a potential attitude problem.

That leaves Padilla and Washburn as the only available pitchers. That should leave the Mariners dealing from a position of strength. Wait until just before the deadline and find the team that will take on Wash's salary and give us the best prospects. No need to rush, and no need to cave in. The Mariners don't "have" to trade him, and they should let all other trade partners know that. If you want him, overwhelm us. Otherwise, we'll talk trade in the off season with our new GM.

Posted by Mike

9:05 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Resin---Up until the last couple of weeks, even dumping Washburn's salary seemed to be the best we could hope for. And $10M worth of salary relief on a budget of, say $120M next year is not peanuts. But I'm sure every "saberscout" you like to mock would seek to balance cost saving with adding talent.

And if the Ms had listened to the "saberscouts" we wouldn't have $21M tied up in Silva and Batista next year.

Posted by Lopez' Hunger Pains

9:36 AM, Jul 29, 2008

"as a fan, this M's season has been like a trip to the topless bar. you as a fan give and give and hope and hope, but at the end of the night you go home alone, emptyhanded with blue balls"

Well said, pretty much sums it all up.

Posted by Ryan

9:40 AM, Jul 29, 2008

It was nice to see the M's hit 4 homers and make a huge defensive play in the 8th to save the game. I'd like to see them run off an 8 out of 10 or 12 out of 15 streak( something like that) to at least give them confidence if nothing else. That ballpark is obviously a hitters park, and it was nice to see Beltre break out a little bit. Let's keep it going tonight. Silva pitching in Texas scares the hell out of me.

Posted by 11Records

9:47 AM, Jul 29, 2008


Not to get all "Adam Jones" on y'all, but DAMN. Quite the game yesterday in the Bronx. a GS, a triple, 3 runs scored, 5 RBI.

You would think at some point though, ESPN would get a better picture of him than this:

Oh - and go Ichiro. To have 3000 professional hits so young is insane. Esp with the shorter seasons in Japan.

Posted by Ryan

9:54 AM, Jul 29, 2008

The only saving grace about Silva, Batista, and Dickey going the next three nights, is that Texas's pitching is actually worse. There could be a few 12-10 or 11-9 games ahead of us. That's OK!! I don't understand how the Rangers could get any free agent pitchers at all. That park is a launching pad. Vicente Padilla gets around 7 runs a game for support. No wonder his record is what it is.

Posted by Scanman

9:54 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Question for everyone, Is there a rating system for all of the Major league farm systems? We want to know how the Marinerís system stacks up against the rest of the league.

Posted by BrianL

9:58 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Scanman - I know Baseball Prospectus used to do that, but I haven't read their work in a while. I'm mostly interested in the M's farm system, and Jason Churchill goes into far more depth than BP could have.

Posted by meagain

10:05 AM, Jul 29, 2008

Am I the only one who was sweating the bottom of the ninth even after the M's added one on in the top? I have no qualms about Morrow's stuff, but his control has been a bit shakey of late. Nice to win that one.

Could someone with catching experience--or Geoff--explain in detail the problem with Johjima framing the ball? He didn't get the close calls last night when the mitt appeared set, steady and clear, at least from the tv side. I hate that mitt-jerking--Veritek is a leading offender--does that actually fool umps? Or is it a matter of verbal communication? Joh seems to be very cordial with the umps.

Posted by BrianL

10:15 AM, Jul 29, 2008

meagain - You are correct, Morrow's strike percentage has been regressing for about a month now.

As for Kenji, I believe people take issue with him "pulling" the ball back into the strike zone after he catches it, rather than leaving it where it crossed the plate. Umpires don't appreciate it when a catcher does that.

As far as balls and strikes yesterday, the home plate ump wasn't on his A-game (not Kenji's fault). According to Gameday and PitchF/X, Felix was getting squeezed hard in several key at-bats. I don't have access to it right now, but if you head to the official Seattle Mariners site you can access yesterday's Gameday log to view where each pitch of the game was.

Posted by meagain

10:27 AM, Jul 29, 2008

BrianL, thanks. What you refer to as pulling the ball into the strike zone, I have always known as jerking the mitt. I'm surprised you cite it in reference to Kenji; he has always struck me as more of a framer that a jerker. I thought maybe his problems had something to do with not positioning his mitt properly on borderline pitches, eg catching in the piocket when it would help to catch a ball in the web. I'll have to observe that more closely.

Posted by BrianL

10:48 AM, Jul 29, 2008

meagain - I really don't have anything to back that up with, just some subjective observations and little tidbits I've read. I don't have a way to quantify that, so unfortunately that's all I really have.

I've noticed that Kenji "jerks" the mitt into the zone on borderline pitches, and if I'm the umpire and I see that, I'm going to call a ball rather than award a strike on the black.

Posted by Mississippi Mariner

3:01 PM, Jul 30, 2008

Man, I love Kenji Johjima and i pull for him every game he's in.

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