The 2013 baseball season is underway and you don’t know how you should feel about our beloved Seattle Mariners. Fear not, M’s fans. I’m not hear to tell you how you should feel (that’s no one’s place), but I can give you 11 reasons why you might be able to shed some cynicism and believe in this year’s team.
Without further delay…
11. Chone Figgins is gone.
Lest you think three years of vitriol directed towards the Mariners’ sometimes-third baseman was unwarranted, consider this:
In 2012, the team had a record of 75-87 (.451). Chone Figgins appeared in 67 games, during which time the Mariners plodded along at a 26-41 rate (.388). In the remaining 95 games, sans Figgins, the team played at an above-.500 clip, amassing a 49-46 total (.516). Damn near unbelievable.
The trend doesn’t end there, either. Over Figgins’ three-year tenure with the club, the M’s put together a less-than-impressive 203-283 win-loss sum (.418). With their diminutive Donkey from Shrek lookalike in the lineup, the team was just 123-186 (.398). Without him? Try five-plus percentage points higher, .451, at 80-97. So yeah, he actually did make a difference. In the worst way possible.
On top of all that, Figgy just wasn’t very likable, and at the end of the day, paying the guy $8.5 million to go away was worth it simply from a public relations standpoint. The public hated Figgins and now he’s gone. That’s good P.R. if I’ve ever seen it.
10. They get to play Houston 19 times this year.
Nineteen times!!! That’s like 19 games against a semi-pro squad!
I’m telling you right now, the American League Western Division champion will be the team that has the most victories over the Astros. This may as well be a presidential election, and Houston may as well be our Ohio. Swing state, all the way.
9. Felix Hernandez will make at least 30 starts.
That’s like 30 wins right there. A third of our triumphs are basically already counted for.
8. Every A.L. West team has its fair share of warts.
The Mariners may have some question marks at the back end of their rotation, as well as the ever-looming threat of a power outage in the lineup, but they certainly aren’t alone in showcasing a few blemishes on their pate.
Down in Los Angeles (better known to geography aficianados as “Anaheim”), the Angels are dealing with a revamped starting pitching staff that lost an ace (Zack Greinke) and a mainstay (Ervin Santana). Though Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson were obtained to fill the respective voids, one could easily infer that the overall quality of the rotation, one through five, has decreased.
In Oakland, the Athletics are comprised of the usual mish-mash of journeymen, up-and-comers, and no-names. If everything plays to perfection, the team will make a strong push around August, per usual. But as always, the A’s will be in wait-and-see mode until that time. A few key losses along the way and this team has just as good a chance to be out of the playoff picture as they do to be in it come late-summer.
The Rangers were most stricken by defections over the offseason, losing the heart of their order (Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli) and the soul of their team (Michael Young) to other ballclubs. Pitching is always a concern in Texas, and this year is no different. Relying heavily on a de facto ace in Matt Harrison and a soon-to-be-ace in Yu Darvish, the Rangers will need to keep all their arms healthy in order to stay at the top of the standings. An increased workload for Darvish, however, could very well land him on the disabled list by mid-year.
And then there’s Houston…yeah.
Point is, this division is by no means closed. The A’s were AL West champs a year ago, and they’re certainly no favorite to repeat. The Angels are considered the leaders in the clubhouse to finish first, but the same could have been said a year ago and they floundered. The Rangers have been to the World Series twice in the past three years, but they’re a completely different squad this season. The Astros are a punching bag who will serve as a season-long spoiler. And the Mariners are lying in the weeds, on the rise and with the ability to seize a golden opportunity if they so desire. It’s anyone’s race.
7. They have a real-life middle-of-the-order now.
The Mariners’ 2013 Opening Day lineup featured a 5-6-7-8 combo of Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero, and Dustin Ackley, in that order. This same quartet was counted on last season to fill out the heart of the team’s lineup, often batting in some arrangement of 2-3-4-5. The difference? The arrivals of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales.
Morse and Morales may not be first-tier major league stars, but they are imposing figures in a lineup that has lacked exactly that for many years now. Each is capable of blasting 30-plus home runs, while neither should sacrifice much in the way of average as they supply that power — Morse is a career .295 batter, while Morales has hit at a .280 pace over his big league tenure.
The presence of the M’s M&M duo has taken a hefty dose of pressure off the likes of the aforementioned youngsters, Smoak, Seager, Montero, and Ackley. Rather than being asked to carry the lineup, these four can now simply focus on contributing. And as a bonus, the team as a whole should see an uptick in offensive production.
6. The bullpen is ridiculous.
Three guys who consistently flirt with triple digits on the radar gun.
A guy who would start for many teams in the league.
A hard-throwing lefty with a (figurative) chip on his shoulder.
A left-handed specialist who can pitch two innings, if needed.
A six-foot-eight-inch ex-starter who can throw in long relief, middle relief, or simply induce a ground ball if needed.
Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and Tom Wilhelmsen.
You might not know all the names yet. But you will.
5. They instituted $5 draft beer at Safeco Field.
Look. We all know this team won’t win every game. Heck, they might not win enough games to make the postseason. It’s a real possibility, and frankly, considered a likelihood at this point. So what do we do when they lose? Drink. And if you happen to be at a game and the team is losing (or, you know, winning — the outcome is kind of irrelevant), you can drink for cheaper than you drank last year.
I noticed a glaring absence at Safeco Field in 2012: cheap beer. Of course, when it comes to big league ballparks, the term “cheap beer” is entirely relative. But two years ago, the team offered more affordable options like Miller High Life and Busch Light for around $6 per pint (as opposed to around $8.75 per pint for your standard American domestic draft).
I made the omission known to my buddy Kevin Martinez, who also doubles as the team’s Vice President of Marketing. Kevin took that information, then went and did us all a solid.
Thanks to Kevin and his team, instead of $6 cheap beers on tap, we now have $5 cheap beers on tap. And that deal exists every day at the ballpark. There’s no special arrangement for this sort of thing. It’s every single day.
The $5 beers are sold at two locations in the stadium: at a new bar behind home plate, right next to the semi-hidden Mariners Hall of Fame; and at a stand right outside the entrance to the Hit It Here Cafe.
They’re not bar prices, they’re not happy hour prices, but for a professional sporting event, this is about as good as it gets. I can’t justify a $9 Bud Light. But I can damn well sip on a $5 High Life and not feel bad about it. In this instance at least, we can thank the organization for doing right by the fans.
4. Ichiro is gone.
We all love Ichiro. He’s a baseball icon, a Mariners legend, and a future Hall of Famer. To label him otherwise would be entirely unjust.
For all his greatness, however, Ichiro served as a symbol of the franchise’s decade-long struggles with ineptitude. Though he bridged the gap from the team’s success of the 116-win 2001 season, Ichiro was not so much a leader as he was an individual talent that existed amidst a backdrop of failure.
As time went by and the Mariners continued their losing ways, Ichiro’s presence became less of a boon and more of a burden on a roster desperate for dramatic turnover. A veritable statue both in right field and atop the batting order, the aging outfielder blocked younger players from reaching the majors (consider that over his playing career, the M’s traded away the likes of Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo), and arguably stunted the development of others (Casper Wells and Michael Saunders, to name two).
With Ichiro’s departure last summer, the M’s have finally absolved themselves of the man who had come to personify the organization’s lack of commitment to winning. Entering our first full year without such a stalwart along for the ride will allow the team to finally emerge from the long shadow Ichiro cast upon this entire ballclub.
3. They have players who actually want to be here.
Raul Ibanez is back, and that says a lot. Yeah, the cynics will say that this is just another futile attempt at rekindling the flame with one of Seattle’s favorite sons, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, in the past the Mariners have been known to flirt with nostalgia, but the differences between Ibanez and, say, a Ken Griffey Jr. are two-fold. One, Ibanez is still a productive major leaguer, even at the ripe old age of 40. And two, Ibanez elected to play here not out of sentimentality, but because he knows he can make a difference with a team that, believe it or not, has playoff potential.
Mike Morse is back, and that says a lot, too. Shortly after being acquired from the Nationals over the offseason, Morse took to all forms of media (print, radio, social) and announced his unbridled enthusiasm for a return to the Pacific Northwest. It was a little surprising, seeing as how his career never really took off until after the lanky outfielder shed his Mariners uniform, but the giddiness and excitement seemed genuine and resonated with fans at the same time.
These are just two individuals, of course, but if you think back over the past decade, there aren’t too many guys you can name who were this eager to play for the M’s.
“Buying in” is a mantra preached across the street, more synonymous with our football team than the club inhabiting Safeco Field. Short of Pete Carroll positioning himself atop the steps of the first base dugout, however, Morse and Ibanez have single-handedly perpetuated a culture of “team” that has been sorely lacking on this squad for years. Instead of individuals with personal agendas floating through our ballpark before embarking elsewhere, it seems that these two acquisitions (re-acquisitions) alone have changed the mentality of the on-field product for the better.
2. They’re undefeated.
As of print time, the Mariners are 2-0 and by definition among the best teams in Major League Baseball. Though some curmudgeonly pundits will have you believe otherwise, that record and those two initial triumphs are not entirely inconsequential. Every win, any win, is a great thing.
1. They’re likable.
Yeah, I get it. As long as Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong head up this organization, there will always be at least two reasons to loathe the Seattle Mariners. Forget those guys. They happen to be a pair of flies on our glorious buffet spread. They’ll get theirs eventually, and their legacies will always outlive their own regimes. Beyond the dictatorship of two bumbling fools, there’s a lot of good permeating throughout this team.
When it comes to the on-field product, let’s face it, it’s tough to despise the Mariners. There’s no Figgins and no Ichiro. There are no Milton Bradleys, no Jack Custs, no Johjimas or Sexsons or Lopezes or any other albatrosses destined to drag this team through the mud for a season.
This team is young, it’s rejuvenated, it has the potential to be entertaining, to be successful, to be a joy to watch play. It’s filled with promise (Ackley, Seager, Montero, Saunders, Brandon Maurer, to name five) and production (Morse, Morales, Felix, to name three).
There are smiles in the clubhouse, there are players who seem to enjoy one another’s company, and there’s a sense of quiet confidence that can be felt by fans.
There aren’t jerks wearing SEATTLE across their chests. There aren’t any unwarranted, bloated contracts raising eyebrows and lowering hopes. There aren’t slap-hitting pansies trying to pick fights with their manager. There aren’t malcontents pouting on the bench. There aren’t egotists pulling up half-assed on fly balls, unwilling to sell out for their teammates.
For the first time in a long time, this team feels like it’s headed in the right direction. Whether that leads us to the promised land in 2013 remains to be seen. Without a doubt, though, it’s something we can all believe in. That belief alone should be reason for optimism.
Filed under: Mariners
In between Sunday afternoons spent watching Nickelodeon Guts and Family Double Dare and all the other kid shows that permeated every kid’s existence in the kid-friendly, kid-centric Nineties, I was a baseball fan. My summers were punctuated by bruises and scuffed knees and mosquito bites that only seemed to multiply each time I scratched them. I had a glove with Ken Griffey Jr.’s name burned into the pocket, a wardrobe full of blue and yellow Mariners apparel, snapback caps with an “S” on the crown, and this belief, however foolish, that I would one day grow up to be them.
Throughout the duration of every season, I would type up, print out, and maintain a list of each player on the Mariners’ active roster. Jersey number, name, and position. If Dann Howitt got called up from Triple-A, then by god you’d find me in front of a Macintosh Classic typing Howitt’s information into Microsoft Works. And if I went to a game to discover that Howitt’s jersey number had inexplicably been switched from 23 to 44, upon arriving home that edit would be made, saved, printed, and kept. I could give you the details on every single player, from No. 1 (Greg Briley and Brian Turang) all the way to No. 96 (Mak Suzuki).
Fashion conscious as I was, my mother let me dress myself from an early age. So unlike many of my elementary school peers, adorned in expensive button-ups from Nordstrom and pants that didn’t have an elastic waistband, I was as comfortable and content as any child could possibly be — in third grade, for example, I wore shorts for an entire school year, just because. Mostly, though, I attired myself in t-shirts with cartoon images of Junior on the front, “life-size” jersey replicas of Randy Johnson, and colorful advertisements for the American League Western Division. I wore those shirts down to their last threads. I sweat and fought and bled and cried in those shirts. I had unforgettable experiences in those shirts. I lived an entire adolescence with sweatshirts tied around my waist, securing those shirts through recess after recess as we tossed Nerf Vortex Screamers, held footraces, shot baskets, kicked red rubber spheres, and chased our imaginations across wood chips and dirt fields.
I sat on metal benches — some with red backs, some with orange — and devoured nachos, peanuts, hot dogs, Milk Duds, and any other stadium fare one could conceivably dream up. I blew bubbles of Green Apple Bubblicious gum, then stuffed the popped remains into my lower lip to look like the ballplayers with their chewing tobacco, the ones whose bad habits I couldn’t help but emulate. I stood in the Kingdome concourse and marveled at the souvenir stands, staring down brand new caps, jerseys, jackets, pennants, trading card sets, pins, replica helmets, mini bats, photo balls, blow up bones, everything. Who didn’t want a gold No. 24 necklace? So what if it was $10? It was $10 well spent.
There was no cynicism in those days. We were bad, but we were a dignified sort of bad. We had never won, so there was no expectation to win. Our guys, they just played baseball. And when they won, we were happy. And when they lost, we moved on. We watched players come and go, the ones who wanted to be here staying until those star-crossed seasons when we actually began to win. They led us proudly into a world of expectation. When they left, when we lost again, our innocence was replaced by that cynicism, by a bit of newfound impatience that couldn’t be satiated until we won again. We won again. And even those players left. We lost again. We haven’t won since.
Every spring we find ourselves in this position. The days get longer, the sun shines brighter, and we start believing that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year. So what if we were downright mediocre last season? So what if our competition improved? Do you see that sunshine? Do you feel that warmth? It’s almost summertime! If the clouds can dissipate and the rain can cease and the sun can shine here, now…well, anything must be possible. We are easily swayed, us Mariner fans. Or maybe we’re just blessed with bigger hearts, bigger imaginations, and smaller whatever-it-is that makes you think clearly even in the face of sheer obviousness.
There’s a chance. We get to play the Astros 19 times this year. Nineteen! And the Astros might not even win a game. Really, they’re that bad.
We have a middle-of-the-order now: Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Jesus Montero. We have hitters that actually scare pitchers — or if not scare them, perhaps make their blood pressure rise just a tad.
We have an ace, a King, and he’s not going anywhere for a long time. Players want to play with him, for him. They certainly don’t want to go against him. He’s our fulcrum. Everyone knows it, and everyone respects it.
We have pitchers who can pitch, hitters who can hit, fielders who can field, we got real jerseys and everything! Okay, so maybe that’s oversimplifying things a bit. But we’re not bad. We’re at least okay. And okay sometimes has a way of spiraling its way into good, which can sometimes spiral its way into great. And from there, who knows.
Mostly, though, we have players who won’t make a mockery of our memories. We have guys who want to wear a Mariners uniform. Guys like Felix Hernandez, who cried tears of joy when he inked a contract that will keep him here for the better part of the next decade. Guys like the aforementioned Morse, who was ecstatic upon learning he had been traded to the first organization that ever let him play in the big leagues. Guys like Raul Ibanez, who signed on to finish his career in Seattle just because he likes it here. Every time we’ve ever won, we’ve had players who truly wanted to be in Seattle. Players that made you like them, if for no other reason than the fact that they seemed to understand, in some way or another, that you as a child had worn the same logo they now wore, had scraped your knees in that logo the way they scraped theirs, had sweat in that logo just as they now sweat.
We don’t ask for much in Seattle. We’re an enigma to sports fans outside our corner of the map. We don’t demand winners so much as we beg for them. We don’t expect success so much as we bask in its aura. At the end of the day, all we really ask for is new memories to be made and old memories to be enhanced. Winning, as it turns out, has a way of fulfilling both those requests.
The Seattle Mariners are dealing with a generation of fans who grew up wearing the colors and the emblem of a team that sucked, but sucked in a beautifully organic, pure, simple way. Our innocence mirrored the innocence of an entire organization. We grew up together, and as we’ve grown up, our experiences have shaped the way we approach the future in tandem with one another. We can be cynical at times, we can be unsatisfied quite frequently, we can be down on our prospects, upset with our situation.
But every spring, right about this time of year, all of that is replaced by unbridled optimism. We see the good in one another — us in them, them in us — and we believe that this might just possibly be the year. Maybe. Maybe this is the year.
Filed under: Mariners
After tonight’s 3-2 win over the struggling Toronto Blue Jays with our Ace Felix Hernandez taking the ball tomorrow, the question once again arises as to whether or not the Mariners can manage to finish the 2012 campaign at or above .500? With a record of 69-74 the M’s have already surpassed last year’s win total by two which of course is only a slight improvement but I’ll take it.
This season is winding down rapidly and with Texas and Baltimore up next on the schedule this could be the last time when we get to pat ourselves on the back for improving in 2012 and kick around the finishing at .500 concept, only time will tell. It is apparent that we have good starting pitching, great defense, and a solid bullpen going into 2013 but as usual the big question is the offense. Now don’t get me wrong we have improved slightly in the offensive arena, especially my guy Kyle Seager who went 3-5 again tonight and leads the club in both the home run and RBI category with 18 and 81 respectively. In fact Seager played only 8 games to many last year and had 52 to many AB’s or he would be eligible for discussion in the rookie of the year debate though it would be hard to imagine anyone beating out Mike Trout this year who also played last year but did not reach the 45 game or 130 AB’s threshold.
Overall this year has been easier to watch than the last two, though I’m thinking we still need to bring in the infamous “Big Bat” that we routinely howl for here in the Seattle during the winter months but usually end up without this elusive offensive piece we need to compete. I am hopeful that with the 18 million dollar salary of Ichiro’s off the books we may be able afford at least a mid-range veteran that could hit .280 and 25 homers next year to give Eric Wedge the ammo he needs to put a winning team on the field for us fans.
I want to mention that I will be in New York this weekend taking a bit of a holiday before heading to Casablanca for a Maritime conference and thus I am heading to Yankee stadium Sunday for the Yankees-Rays game. This should be quite a setting and for me it will be my first time at the new Yankee stadium. I will try to take a couple of photos and post them here or via my twitter account fo those of you who like myself want to experience a pennant race even vicariously!
I”m going to go out on a limb and say we somehow finish right at .500 this season and not making it till the very last game against the Angels on Oct. 3rd which I plan to attend…..What do you think? Go M’s http://jeffsmariners.com
I was 18 years old and would be headed to the University of Washington come autumn. I had a job working retail at the mall, but my concerns rarely lent themselves to selling shoes or folding t-shirts. I’d rather hang out, watch baseball, listen to music, go to movies, impress the opposite sex, or work out — all of this according to my AOL Instant Messenger profile, of course.
I was still very much a kid back then, one who had never really emerged from the cocoon that seems to envelop the Greater Seattle suburbs. I was naive, goofy, quiet, innocent, and all the things you tend to be before you settle into adulthood.
In that final summer before college commenced, I just wanted to hang out with all the other kids that I’d grown up with. Kids who would move on to different schools in different towns. Kids I might never see again. Kids that I enjoyed being around. I think we knew back then that life would never really be the same for any of us. And for the final few months of our adolescence, it was important that we embrace the memories we had in our past, as well as those we would create over the following weeks.
So it was that on a warm evening in late June, my friend Danny and I found ourselves in the stands at Everett Memorial Stadium, watching as the Mariners’ Single-A affiliate played before a modest crowd of onlookers.
We had no intentions for the evening, other than to watch baseball, enjoy the weather, and kick back for a few hours. Danny and I had been buddies since fourth grade. We’d been to elementary school, middle school, and high school together. His friends were my friends and vice-versa. Our parents knew each other. We’d been in one another’s company for nearly half of our respective lives, but in one month Danny would be headed to USC. It was that inkling we had, knowing things would be changing very shortly, that took us to Everett that night. And so we sat along the third base line and, very simply, watched.
I won’t ever forget what we paid witness to that night. It wasn’t an event, per se, but another kid. He was tall, lanky, had a dark tan, and wore long sleeves in spite of the mild conditions. The program told me he was only 17 years of age — “He’s younger than us!” I recall remarking — and a native of Venezuela.
But it wasn’t who he was, so much as what he was doing, that really caught our attention.
Perched along the stadium’s outfield wall was a rather inconspicuous speed pitch display, free of advertisements, gaudy lighting, or anything you’d find in a big league ballpark. And with each fastball this 17-year-old kid blew past opposing batters, the incandescent display on that electronic board flashed numbers like 95, 94, and 96.
He didn’t pitch more than a few innings, this kid. In his brief appearance, however, he wowed us.
We left the ballpark that night in awe of what we’d seen: a Mariners prospect the same age as most high school juniors mowing down the opposition with relative ease. His name wasn’t important at the time — how often do you consider the names of low-A-ball prospects, anyway? — but his actions were memorable. Only later on would we realize that this teenage phenom we had the fortune of witnessing was, in fact, the esteemed Felix Hernandez.
Nine summers have passed since I first watched Felix throw a baseball. He’s a king now, or so they say. He’s evolved from a skinny, teenaged prodigy into a polished, 26-year-old All-Star. He’s enjoyed the equivalent of seven full seasons in the major leagues. He’s gone from an über-prospect, to a pudgy mainstay, to an American League Cy Young Award winner.
He has only earned paychecks from one organization throughout his entire professional career. And to date, it has been more than a decade — he signed his first pro contract on July 4, 2002 — since Felix became a Mariner.
The Seattle fan base has embraced Felix Hernandez like few other athletes before him. No other ballplayer in this city’s history has absolved himself of criticism the way Felix has. Wrong? Felix can do none of it. We’re known for running our heroes out of town around here. So far, Felix has proven to be the exception to that rule.
As Felix has grown up, so have his supporters.
Looking back on that summer evening I spent gawking at Felix’s youthful greatness-in-the-making, I realize that all my suspicions about life and the mercurial horizon awaiting me were spot-on. Weeks after that get-together, Danny would take off for Southern California and it’d be a few years before we reconnected. Like so many friends bound for distant colleges, we began to head our separate ways. To this day, though, we stay in touch. And not one month ago, when we met up for the first time in two summers (in Las Vegas, of all places), the conversation turned to sports, baseball, the Mariners, and yes, even Felix.
When you’re a diehard sports fan, you tend to recall your past in conjunction with great seasons, great plays, and other feats of athletic glory. For example, I can tell you all about everything that happened to me in 1995, when I was 10, thanks in large part to the memories I’ve held onto from one miracle playoff run. So it should really come as no surprise that the summer of 2003 is still synonymous with that moment I first watched a young Felix Hernandez baffle hapless hitters.
Since then, however, few moments of notoriety have emerged for your typical Seattle sports fan to cling to. While I’m acutely aware that most of this drought is the product of a decade’s worth of losing, part of me wonders if the sobering reality of my own adulthood has jettisoned prospective memories from claiming real estate in my mind.
You see, when you’re a kid, you tend to attach even the most meaningless events to the coattails of the meaningful. One impactful occurrence can trigger a slew of nostalgia for the remainder of your existence.
When you grow up — or age, at least, since I’m fairly convinced I’ll never grow up — those moments become fewer and farther between. You tend to forget what it’s like to joyously celebrate even the most seemingly inconsequential circumstances. Adulthood has its perks, sure. That carefree manifesto you unwittingly lived by when you were younger, though? It’s long since decomposed.
But then there are days like Wednesday, August 15th, 2012. Days that serve as reminders of foolish, unadulterated bliss. That interrupt the trials and tribulations of the everyday to cathartically grant you a lasting reverie that will attach itself to this very point in your life and never let go.
Felix Hernandez was 17 years old the last time he bestowed upon me a lasting reverie. He’s 26 now. I’m 27. We have never met each other, not once, yet have grown up together in the same city, in completely different environments.
I’ve lived in and around Seattle my whole life. By comparison, Felix may as well be a world traveler. In all my years residing here, there are only a handful of times that the Mariners — Felix’s Mariners — have made me tremendously happy. In 1995, it happened. In 2001, it happened. And on Wednesday, it happened once again.
Felix Hernandez went out and threw a perfect game. It was the 23rd perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball. It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest pitching performances the world has ever seen.
More importantly, for me, for you, for us, it was a memory that can never be taken away. Regardless of our ages, our places in this world, our pasts, our presents, or our futures, this is something we will never forget.
With each pitch, we held our breath. With each out, our hearts leapt. And when that final strike zoomed across the zone, as home plate umpire Rob Drake made the decisive call on a game that would go down in history, as Felix Hernandez looked to the sky and let out every ounce of emotion he’d contained for nearly two-and-a-half hours, and as every man clothed in the Mariners’ home whites made a beeline for the pitcher’s mound, we smiled. Or cheered. Or laughed. Or cried. Or shrieked, screamed, yelled, gasped, squealed, you name it.
We rejoiced. Because on this particular day, Felix Hernandez gave us a reason to.
We will never forget this.
I will never forget this.
From an eternal Seattle sports fan, to an eternal Seattle sports icon, thank you. Thank you, Felix. You did great.
*Image courtesy The Everett Herald. For more rare Felix images, go here.
Filed under: Mariners, Uncategorized
Tonight’s game pretty much highlights the difference between the 2010 Mariners and the 2011 crew. Last year it would be a safe bet that if Felix Hernandez was on the mound down 1-0 in the eighth to the Angels we would almost certainly lose. But tonight our young guns came through in a big way rallying for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Angels 2-1 in dramatic fashion.
The Angels are in a tight race with the Rangers and this loss must be a real killer for them especially since the Rangers lost tonight but that makes it even sweeter for our guys as they try to finish out the season on a positive note. It looked like we would never get anywhere tonight off Angels starter Dan Haren who pitched a great game himself before getting pulled for Lefty Scott Downs after giving-up back-to-back singles to Gutierrez and Ackley in the eighth. Most of us were just hoping for a single to tie the game when Carp came up and when I saw that double to the gap in left I knew the King was going to triumph tonight.
Felix Hernandez is an emotional guy and when he got three outs in the ninth he showed how much of a competitor he is by raising his arms as if we had just won the World Series. Hernandez know has 13 wins on the year and with his 9 strikeouts he took over second place from Jamie Moyer on the all-time Mariners strikeout list. While Felix may not get another Cy Young award this year he pitched like a true champion tonight that is hungry for the big stage one of these years.
And the man who is tasked with providing the missing pieces to surround the King Jack Zduriencik, looks like he will be around for a few more years to try and complete the rebuilding project after he was offered a multi-year extension today. I have been lukewarm about Jack Z. all along but with a couple of smart moves this winter he just might be able to get us into contention next year. Time will tell if Carp, Seager, Ackley, Smoak and Pineda will produce as hoped for in the future, but tonight it looked hopeful.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that Jack Wilson was traded today to the Braves for a player to be named later. I have always loved watching Wilson play defense as he has some unique skills and a boyish enthusiasm that is engaging. But just like Mike Sweeney who was picked up last year around this time I”m happy that Jack Wilson will get a chance to play for a contender and maybe reach the playoffs for the first time in his career as well. Good Luck Jack and thanks for all your hustle!
Just a reminder to my readers I will be going on vacation to Southern California starting Thursday and won’ be back till the following Friday, so Blog Posts will be hit and miss. I do know that I will be attending the Mariners-Angels game next Tuesday the 6th and wearing my old school blue Mariners hat surrounded by red rally monkeys and hopefully observing another spoiler type game in enemy territory. Also in case you missed my weekly Podcast ” Steady as She Goes” tonight here it is : http://tobtr.com/s/2157857. It was a fun show with a couple young local Bloggers so check it out.Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
MARINERS: Michael Pineda shows what he has to offer and represents the M’s well in the All-Star game
By Scott Rinear
The Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland A’s in extra innings tonight down at the Oakland Coliseum to take the second game of this 3-game road series against the AL West cellar dwellers. I’ll admit it was difficult to stay inside and watch the Root Sports broadcast of the game with summer having arrived alive and well in the northwest, albeit a little late. Coming off a very fun and relaxing 4th of July weekend down at my family’s beach cabin in Normandy Park, I feel ready for a summertime pennant race in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers both won, again, and yet the Mariners are back to .500 and remain a mere 2.5 games out of first place.
Felix Hernandez brought his typical dominant A game, pitching 8 solid innings of 1-run ball. Felix gave up 4 hits on the night, and I was almost glad Oakland leadoff batter Jemile Weeks lead off the game with a hit, that way Dave Sims wasn’t able to jinx a potential no-hitter by mentioning a potential no-hitter with 2 outs in the 3rd inning. Felix also finished the game with 10 strikeouts, striking out 7 of the 9 A’s batters at least once each. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that Oakland mounted a threat off Felix, with a solo home run by Kurt Suzuki just out of reach of left fielder Carlos Peguero‘s leap.
The majority of the Mariners offense tonight had both a name and a steadily bearding face: Dustin Ackley. I get more and more excited about this kid with every at bat. Ackley singled, stole second, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Peguero in the 2nd. Then, not to be outdone by himself, Ackley smashed a solo home run to dead center field in the 7th, pushing the Mariners lead to 2-0. Maybe if more than one Mariner could have provided some offense in the first nine innings of this game, Felix would have gotten the victory he deserved rather than the no decision he actually got, because All-Star closer Brandon League blew his 4th save of the season, allowing the game-tying run in the ninth.
The Mariners took the lead for good in the 10th when a potential inning ending double play relay throw missed first base by a good 10 feet, allowing Franklin Gutierrez to score easily after leading off the inning with single. Adam Kennedy followed up with an RBI double, putting the Mariners up 4-2. Jaimie Wright pitched the bottom of the 10th to pick up the save, and, as happens only in baseball, Brandon League’s blown save turned into his first win of the year, as he was the pitcher of record when the Mariners regained the lead.
It was nice to see at least two members of King’s Court at the Oakland Coliseum, although Oakland isn’t the most opportune stadium to wear yellow shirts, but A for effort guys. And although I really wish the King’s Court was an organic grass roots phenomenon, it is a much more productive promotional strategy than bobbleheads and rally fries, because at least it has more people paying attention to the game once every 5 games.
Following this series in Oakland the Mariners will enter a brutal 47 game stretch between now and the end of August against some top tier competition, including 10 games versus the Angels and 7 against the Rangers. Also included in that stretch are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Indians. In fact, during July and August, Mariner opponents are a combined 42 games above .500. Needless to say the next month will be a big test for this 2011 Mariners team and will go a long way in determining whether they stay in the race as summer roles on.
Will the Mariners be buyers or sellers this year as the trade deadline approaches? Your guess is as good as mine. I still say they should make a move to improve the offense if possible, but I don’t have an answer for what move they should make. That’s what Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik and the Mariner scouts get paid to figure out. Let’s see what kind of deal they can get done. In the short term this team is at a tipping point, and the next couple of months hopefully will see this team keep pace in the West and challenge for a playoff spot, albeit a little earlier than planned. Go Mariners! http://jeffsmariners.com
MARINERS: Felix Hernandez and Brandon League get selected to the All-Star game and the East Coast Bias’ curse on Michael Pineda
by Scott Rinear
The Seattle Mariners’ struggles on the South Side of Chicago continued today as the White Sox jumped all over Felix Hernandez early on, winning the game 5-1 amidst sweltering 90+ degree temperatures. The loss officially ends the Mariners consecutive series wins streak at 6 straight, and tomorrow the Mariners will try and avoid the sweep.
April, 2009 was the last time the Seattle Mariners beat the White Sox in Chicago. Felix Hernandez was on the mound in that game, the night half of a day-night double header. Seeing “@ CHW” has not been a welcome site on the schedule for almost a decade. Since 2002, the Mariners are 11-29 at U.S. Cellular Field including 6 sweeps. I’d be surprised if another stadium has been as bad for the Mariners in that span, and it doesn’t seem to be a White Sox thing, as the Mariners are 23-15 at home versus the ChiSox in that same span. Sometimes another team, or in this case another stadium, just has your number for a while.
Even Felix Hernandez, the best month of June pitcher in terms of winning percentage (.800) the game has ever seen, was not enough to change that luck. South side slugger and Mariner-killer Paul Konerko put the White Sox up 1-0 with a solo home run in the second. The White Sox exploded for 4 runs in the 3rd with a 2-run triple by 44-year-old Omar Vizquel and a 2-run long ball by Carlos Quentin.
The Mariners lone run came on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Olivo in the 4th inning, as White Sox starter Phil Humber had the Mariner hitters off-balance all night.
The Mariners have dropped the first two games of this tough road trip, and I imagine the radio waves and internet will be swimming with the usual negativity about this Mariners team and the lack of offense. The reason I am confident in this is that before this current road trip the Mariners were 15-5 in their last 20 games since May 16. Only two other teams could say the same, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the surging Milwaukee Brewers. Before today’s first pitch, the Mariners were averaging 4.7 runs per game in June and five different players had combined to hit 9 home runs in 6 games. But, one 3-1 road loss later, and earlier today we were immediately back to panic button mode.
It’s not that I’m naive and not aware that this team is last in the American League in runs, hits, total bases, batting average, on-base%, slugging % and close to the bottom in most other offensive categories. How could I not be aware of this? It’s all anyone EVER talks about in one way or another. Today on the radio it was back to how terrible Jack Cust is and why hasn’t Mike Carp been brought up yet to DH. I actually agree with this move. I’m just tired of the constant seeking out of what’s negative about the Mariners. In the last 22 games, the Mariners have a better record than most MLB teams, including the Yankees and Rangers. My question is, if the Mariners can go 15-7 in their last 22 and be above .500 for the season and in striking distance of first place, and do all of this with the weakest offense in the league, how good could they be if their offense can find a way to improve?
Chone Figgins was able to get a hit today, but also struck out, committed his team-leading 7th error, and ended the game by hitting into a double play. I heard a great statement on the radio today, that the only thing Figgins has done consistently in the last 5 years is frustrate the Seattle Mariners and their fans. I have to bring up something I heard on the Root Sports broadcast tonight. In the 4th inning Mike Blowers and Dave Sims were talking about Figgins during his second at bat. Blowers mentioned how frustrating it is to the player when slumping, and Dave Sims chimed in that it was “more than for the fans at home, that’s for sure.” I just wanted to go on record in saying how tired I am of Dave Sims and his cocky and condescending statements. We as fans have the right to be frustrated about how players on our team are performing, and we have the right to voice that opinion. Sims’ comment, to me, took a shot at Mariners fans. I don’t want to listen to a broadcaster who is going to take shots at a frustrated fan base for being frustrated.
With that out of the way, at the time of this post the rest of the AL West was losing or had already lost, so hopefully we won’t lose any ground after tonight’s loss. I’ll be back out tomorrow rooting for our Mariners to break their unlucky streak in Chicago and get back to the offense they showed at Safeco. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
Just thought I would give you something light on this grey Monday morning to try and cheer you up as you slog through your week. This fun video clip was put together by another quirky fan like myself named Rob R. whom I met while I was down in Peoria. FYI I am always open to contributions from you the readers in keeping with my slogan of Jeff’s Mariners Fan Blog “Where the fans call the plays”. Go M’s http://jeffsmariners.com
Tags: Felix Hernandez
The Mariners rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning tonight scoring three runs to beat the Angels 3-1. That’s the good news, the bad news is that despite going seven innings of 3-hit shutout ball Felix Hernandez was once again denied a victory.
Manager Daren Brown decided to pull Felix after he had thrown only 103 pitches tonight bringing in Brandon League in a strategy that looked for a minute like it would backfire as League was tagged for a pair of doubles that resulted in a run for the Angels. Fortunately League was able to get out of the inning without further damage thanks to a double-play.
The Mariners put together a sweet little rally of their own in the bottom half of the eighth thanks to hits by Lopez, Moore and Josh Wilson combined with a walk to Branyan to lead-off the frame and a nice sac-fly by Michael Saunders that also drove-in a run. This 3-run outburst came a few innings too late once again for Felix Hernandez who desperately needs to add a few more wins to his total of 10 in order to have a shot at the Cy Young award this year.Full Box Score
I don’t usually subscribe to players playing for stats or awards in lost seasons like this, but Felix is having a heck of a year and it would be nice to salvage something in the way of hometown bragging rights if Felix continues to blow teams away and somehow gets the votes to win the Cy Young award.
Believe it or not tomorrow is September 1st which usually means it is time to expand the roster and bring-up some of the AAA guys to get a taste of “The Show”. However due to the fact that the Rainiers have a good shot at making the play-offs, it looks like the Mariners will be holding-off on bringing guys up till the Rainiers are done with their run at glory. Once again like the decision to pull Felix after only allowing him to throw 103 pitches, the decision to let the AAA guys finish out their season is the right thing to do, but it sure doesn’t seem fair to us fans who have suffered so much in 2010.
On a couple other random notes it seems that Mike Sweeney is being well received by his new team the Phillies and their fans. I’m glad to see him get a chance to play for a contender and to be appreciated after all the snide comments tossed his way here in the local press and blogosphere. I also wanted to note that Milton Bradley who is out for the year with an injury, seems to be completely forgotten as a part of the various 2011 visions for the Mariners which are being thrown around. Milton may have been a disappointment this year but we are still on the hook for $12 million next year so look for his name to resurface in the offseason once the denial of his potential return fades away. If Jack Zduriencik wants to get his growing flock of doubters off his back in a hurry I can’t think of a better way than to somehow trade him away even if we have to eat most of his salary. Of course I have no idea who would take a chance on Bradley at this point in his bizarre career, so we may just have to give him a shot at a position next spring and if he doesn’t produce simply let him go…
Still trying to decide which game I’m going to attend in this homestand, I was trying to wait for the Indians but may just sneak down tomorrow for the rubber-match of this series with the Angels. Ciao……http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Cy Young, Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Mike Sweeney
Well I had to break-up my vacation to put up a quick post tonight after the Mariners took care of the Yankees 6-0 tonight.
For once King Felix got some run support thanks primarily to Russell “The Muscle” Branyan and his two homers including a three-run shot early in the game which shut down the crowd in the Bronx.
After the blow by Branyan it was all about Felix Hernandez who went 8 innings without giving up a run and in the process struck-out 11. As I wrote yesterday if the Mariners manage to win one of these two series against either the Yankees or Red Sox, this road trip will be the best one of the year.
Whatever Daren Brown is telling these guys, it is working as he is now 7-3 since taking the helm. The Yankees are in the thick of a hot race in the AL East so you know their fans and press are livid after being dominated by the Mariners!
Is it to late to start believing in this team? I actually am feeling a slight twinge of confidence in our club after tonight. Yes I know the season is long over as far as the playoffs, but this is fun anyway.
The last time anything like this occurred was when we swept the Reds before losing Cliff Lee two months ago.
It has been a long time since I’ve been able to look forward to watching the ESPN highlights for more than one or two nights a week. Anyway I’m in Vancouver Washington with an early softball game so I won’t be giving you the usual 700 word post tonight. I just wanted to say great game Mariners and good for you Felix and Russell you are representing us well on the Eastern Seaboard so far! http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Felix Hernandez, Mariners took care of the Mariners, Russell the Muscle Branyan
The Chicago White Sox beat the Mariners 6-1 behind the great starting pitching of John Danks who moves to 11-7 on the year. Felix Hernandez picked up the loss and his record now stands at 7-7 on the year which pretty much removes the Mariners Ace from any more discussion of him being in the running for the Cy-Young award. This game was lop-sided from the beginning as the Mariners offense never really got rolling and we were even spared the agony of watching base-runners stranded at third as has become customary this season. No this was just a flat-out beating by a superior team in late July of a season we all wish would just go-away.
Casey Kotchman was show-cased tonight at first and proved he has a golden glove with a beautiful leaping catch that he turned into an unassisted double-play in the bottom of the second. And my new hero Jack Wilson did manage to bring Michael Saunders in to score in the top half of the third giving the Mariners a short-lived lead. Saunders has moved his average up to .242 after tonight, and is indeed looking like he has earned his spot in the outfield as of late.
But mostly this was just a dumb, boring game that was difficult to focus on unless of course you are Dave Sims who has a way of rooting for the other team in a not so subtle way these days which is dumb but surprisingly not as irritating as it was earlier in the year. Speaking of irritating has anyone else heard the radio commercial with Cliff Lee in it where he starts out saying “I know I have moved but”…. Now this is irritating. Can we just move on and let it go already, I mean it is one thing to read about Jamie Moyer in the local papers 5 years after he is gone, but Cliff Lee was here for only half a season and we don’t need anymore painful reminders that we suck.
Ok so I am a little grumpy tonight, maybe I have just used a hyphen too many times in my post and it’s starting to drive me crazy along with my loyal viewers, many of which are probably placing bets to see if Jeff will make it through his Rookie Year as a Mariners Blogger without giving up or completely losing it….
Well I have written every day since the end of March on our Mariners and have actually enjoyed writing most of my posts. This is perhaps the first one after tonight’s Yawner, where it actually felt like work so I think I’m going to call it a night and hope for a better game tomorrow in the Windy City……http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Chicago White Sox, Felix Hernandez, John Danks, Mariners, Mariners Blogger, Yawner