Category: All-stars

Ego Moves

Ego Moves

On the last day team’s could acquire players that could be active on playoff rosters, there was plenty of movement.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are four games over .500 and sit 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. They bolstered their lineup by adding Justin Upton and Brandon Philips. Upton was an all-star this season, slashing .279/.362/542. Philips has been great for a very bad Atlanta Braves team. He’s hitting .291, with an on base of .329 while slugging .423. Both players are veterans, and make the Angels significantly better.

According to their record, the Houston Astros are the best team in the American League. They had a glaring hole in the starting pitching rotation. They addressed that by adding six-time all-star Justin Verlander from the Tigers. His best years are behind him, but with a 3.82 earned run average over 172 innings this season, he makes the Astros significantly better.

Jerry DiPoto loves making trades. It isn’t confirmed, but it probably started in elementary school. He’d make deals at lunch, hoping to improve his lunch both for now and the future. What was he up to today?

He gave up Leony’s Martin, an outfielder he had already given up on twice this season. In return the M’s will get cash, or a player to be named later.

You can’t blame him for being dormant. The M’s are two games under .500, making the gap between the team and the playoff’s 4.5 games wide. With less than 30 games left in the season, its most likely too large to cross.

It’s frustrating. The playoff drought will continue. DiPoto had chances throughout the season to add pitching to a team that has needed it since spring training. He added players like Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Rameriez and Andrew Albers.

Who?

A bunch of four A guys. Players who are solid in triple A, but aren’t ready, or may never be ready for the Major Leagues.

They are strange moves in hindsight.

Even at the time they were strange.

The Mariners had a chance to land proven starters in Sonny Gray and Verlander. Did they have the prospects, and in Verlanders case, the cash to acquire those players. Pundits said no, but you can always offer more.

The type of moves DiPoto makes are becoming more questionable with the more moves he makes. They feel like ego moves. If the players he brings in pan out, they make DiPoto look like a genius.

Gonzales was a first round draft pick by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He’s also coming off Tommy John surgery. If he becomes a successful Major Leaguer, Dipoto stole one. If he doesn’t, he was damaged goods when he got here. It’s such a nothing move.

Not to mention, the Mariners gave up one of their best prospects to do it. Their farm system is nothing special, but Tyler O’neill could have been a piece in a trade for Verlander or Gray.

DiPoto was the general manager of the Angels a few seasons ago. He got into an argument with Mike Scioscia that became fatal. After management sided with the tenured Scioscia, he left. Literally packed up his office and walked out.

Ego moves?

Ego moves.

As contenders add proven veterans that make their team significantly better, the Mariners watch from below. Below .500. Below playoff spots. DiPoto continues to add players who, if they pan out, make him look like a genius. He’s starting to look stupid. For Mariners fans, these ego moves need start paying off, or the movement should take place with DiPoto himself.

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Rebuild for What?

Rebuild for What?

Time to start over.

The Seattle Mariners are 41-45 with three games left before the all-star break. Currently, they trail the Oakland Athletics, who are 38-47, 7-1 in the top of the sixth. My buddy’s are clambering for the team to rebuild.

The team is on a frustrating run. They haven’t won a home game since June 23rd. They are 17 games out of first place in the west, and four games out of the second wild card spot. With a little less than half of the season left to play, should they already be thinking about next season?

No.

There is no significant player that makes sense to begin the selling process with. The Mariners infield is top-tier. It’s led by Robinson Cano, who has seven years left on his 10-year, 240 million dollar contract. Number 22 will play his final game as a Seattle Mariner.

A similar story can be told for Kyle Seager. He’s got four years left on a seven-year, 100 million dollar contract. His numbers are consistent and he’s been a durable asset for the team throughout his career. He’s finished inside the top 20 of most valuable player voting twice. He isn’t a player you get rid of.

Jean Segura was added to the M’s least offseason. He came to the team as the National League hits leader, checking in with 203 knocks last season. The Mariners felt Sagura would continue to produce, so they added five years to his contract in June. He’s not leaving the Northwest.

In the outfield, there is nothing to get rid of either. Mitch Haniger is a player the organization is incredibly high on. Early in the season, it was easy to understand why. He led rookies in nearly every category before being sidelined with an oblique injury. Haniger won’t become a free agent until 2023. He’s your right fielder of now, and the future.

In the opposite corner, Ben Gamel has been outstanding for the club. Acquired from the New York Yankees, the lefty is leading the league in batting average. Like Haniger, Gamel doesn’t become a free agent until 2023. That’s fine by me. Eventually, Guillermo Heredia will join the group as a part of the full-time outfield.

Mike Zunino continues to be a project for Edgar Martinez and Scott Brosius. Zunino is praised for his defensive ability behind the plate, while his offense finally seems to be getting closer.

Offensively, every other player on the roster is a guy.

The true problems stem from the pitching staff. It starts with Felix Hernendez. The King isnt what he once was, and it’s painfully obvious. He’s another guy with a huge contract attatched to him, that no team will be willing to take on, especially with his ability deminishing.

Hisashi Iwakuma was shut down last week after suffering a setback with his shoulder injry. It’s often forgotten that Iwakuma failed a physical with the Los Angeles Dodgers two years ago. Drew Smyly looked phenominal in the world baseball classic. In June, the M’s realized he need Tommy John Surgery, and will miss anywhere between 12-15 months of aciton.

All three of those guys are worthless in any trade market.

The Mariners staff has been made up of young arms who are holding their own. The bullpen, when used properly, is solid.

We’re midway through the eighth, and the M’s still trail Athletics 7-1. They’ll likely fall to 41-46, with three games remaining before the allstar break. However, the Seattle Mariners don’t need to, and are incabable of rebuilding their roster.

For the Seattle Mariners, it is time to start over.

That starts tomorrow.

 

Sanchez vs. Morrison

Sanchez vs. Morrison

We knew it was coming. At some point, Gary Sanchez was going to have to make a comment about the criticism given by Logan Morrison. Morrison, who has hit 11 more home runs than Sanchez was upset that he isn’t in the home run derby and Sanchez is. What Sanchez had to say was disappointing.

“They gave me an invitation,” Sanchez said. “That’s something I have no control over. It’s not my fault he didn’t get selected.”

That’s it? Really?

Sanchez did his best to wash his hands of the situation, but he didn’t have to. Professional athletes all have egos. The next time Sanchez hits a homer against the Rays, he’ll say something as he rounds first base. Morrison will do the same when he touches home plate after a tater against the Yankees.

Talk about it off the field please.

The National Basketball Association is showcasing how to take advantage of players having problems with each other. Draymond Green and Lebron James have been in a petty shirt war since the Golden State Warriors championship parade. Kevin Durant wore a hat with a cupcake on it to a charity softball event, taking a jab at Oklahoma City Thunder fans who called him a cupcake for leaving the team. That’s entertaining.

Politically, Sanchez did the right thing, but that isn’t the arena he is in. Emotion is cool. People become invested when they feel a certain way. With a chance to draw fans in to pay attention to baseball, Sanchez disappointed.

 

Talk That S***

Talk That S***

Sports thrive on rivalries. In most cases, it’s team verses team. North Carolina verses Duke, Celtics verses Lakers and Red Sox verses Yankees. The Sox and Yanks have the most historic rivalry in baseball. When is the last time baseball had a rivalry that was focused on player verses player? McGwire verses Sosa? Logan Morrison could be igniting the newest Major League Baseball player feud.

We are at the all-star break, and with that comes the home run derby. The league’s best sluggers meet the night before the all-star game to see who can swat the most baseballs over the wall. According to Morrison, one of the league’s best sluggers got robbed.

It’s him.

Morrison has hit 24 dingers this season, good enough to tie him for second most this season. Allstar weekend is held in Miami this year, and the former Marlin, now Tampa Bay Ray believes he deserves to be there, especially when compared to someone who did get the nod.

Gary Sanchez is in the home run derby. He’s hit 13 home runs this season, tying him for the 72nd on the home run list this season. By the numbers, Morrison has a point.

“I remember when I had 14 home runs,” Morrison said. “That was a month and a half ago.”

LOL

To be fair, Sanchez missed a month to a biceps strain. The majority of people will see the home run totals and side with LoMo. Morrison is creating beef between two American League East teams.

If some heat between the squads is generated because of Morrison’s comments, it’s good for baseball. The average fan loves a story they can sink their teeth into and root for either side.

Morrison has been healthy and raking. The argument can be made the if Sanchez didn’t miss a month, he’d have as many homers as anybody in the league. Regardless, rivalries are good for sports. Hopefully Lomo has created something to keep an eye on throughout the second half of the Major League Baseball season.

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

It’s hard to say goodbye in most cases. It wasn’t for me in 2015 when the Seattle Mariners finally parted ways with Justin Smoak. Smoak was an extremely average, switch-hitting first basemen in his time as a Mariner. It’s 2017, and Smoak is starting the all-star game for the American League as a Blue Jay. It’s tough to believe.

Average is the kindest way to describe Smoak as a Mariner. He spent 2010 through 2014 in  Seattle. In 2011, he had career highs in runs batted in with 55, and doubles with 24. In 2013, he hit 20 home runs, and hit .238, also career highs as a Mariner. The combined numbers of Adam Lind and Dae Ho Lee, the 2016 M’s platoon, blow him out of the water.

It’s strange. Last season, with Edwin Encarnacion in front of him, Smoak was a .217 hitter, who smacked 14 homers and 10 doubles on the year.  With a chance to play everyday, Smoak is batting .302 with 22 home runs and 12 doubles. He’s responsible for 52 runs the Blue Jays have scored.

Random.

Admittedly, Smoak is worthy of an all-star game appearance.

Something similar happened with another Blue Jay that was a Mariner previously.

Michael Saunders earned an all-star appearance in 2016 with what many thought to be a breakout year. His most significant time on the field came in 2012. A season in which he played 139 games and batted .247 with 19 homers and 31 doubles. The Canadian was incapable of staying healthy throughout his career.

Saunders earned a nod as an all-star in 2016, batting .298 while hitting 25 doubles and 16 home runs. Legitimately, those are all-star numbers. Saunders skidded hard in the second half of the season, finishing with a .253 batting average, 32 doubles and 24 dingers.

By the start of the 2017 season, Saunders signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. By the end of June, Saunders had been designated for assignment. He could be the most random all-star of all time.

Both Smoak and Saunders are former Mariners. Both were not anything special in their time in Seattle. The majority of Mariner fans weren’t upset to see either leave Seattle. The duo had somewhat random all-star nods. Saunders fell off hard. Will Smoak do the same? I mean, if history is a thing, probably.

Both of these guys appeared in an all-star game and it’s just as random now as it will be in the future.

Pitchers Not Pitches

To die hard fans, the beauty in baseball is that games take time. Average fans attending a Tuesday night game, may not have all night to watch a game. Commissioner Rob Manfred has used Minor League Baseball as a test lab to find out what would work in the Majors. Those changes in the Minor Leagues are having a minor effect on the intended goal.  

Six rule changes were implemented to the Arizona Fall league in 2014 to speed up the pace of play. The year prior, The average game with 77 plate appearances took 2:52 minutes. With new rules in place, the average game lasted 2:39 minutes. A whopping 13 minutes was shaved off. Worth it.

Fast forward to late 2016, when MLB voted one of those six rules to be adopted at the Major League level. The rule removed pitchers from physically throwing four balls in an intentional walks. In the 2016 season, there were 932 intentional walks. Amongst all games for all teams, that averages out to intentional walk every other game. Throwing four wide ones during an intentional walk takes one minute. That’s it.

In 1990, there were 1,384 intentional base on balls. That’s 452 less free passes on purpose than in 2016. There were 26 teams in 1990, four less than there are now. With fewer intentional walks happening every year, the timing of this rule change is odd. It’s change for change’s sake.

It’s not the pitching that’s holding up games, but the pitching changes. In 2016, the average team used 3.2 relief pitchers per game. That’s six pitching changes per game, counting both teams. With the 2:30 second limit to complete a pitching change, that’s nearly 15 minutes worth of empty time wasted. Add the 13 fewer minutes from 2014 AFL games, and a half an hour could be removed from baseball games. Now we’re talking.

Commissioner Manfred will never be able to limit the amount of pitchers team’s use in a game. The new intentional walk rule won’t do what it’s intended for. If baseball needs to move faster, the amount of pitchers needs to be limited, not pitches.

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks. It’s an exciting time of year, no matter what team your root for. Everybody is full of hope and optimism that their team can reach whatever goal they feel fair. Pacific Northwest baseball fans are anxious to see new additions to the Seattle Mariners. In 2017, Mariner’s fans should be praying for pitching.

In 2016, the starting pitching is what caused the Mariners to miss the post season by a two and a half games. The rotation was never healthy. The team was forced to use 13 starting pitchers. The woes started when Felix Hernendez went to the 15-day disabled list. Wade Miley followed suit. Nate Karns hit the shelf in July. Taijuan Walker was sent to Tacoma in August.

The Mariner offense was one of the best in baseball last season. The team hit the third most home runs in the league, swatting 223 balls over the wall. They drove in 735 runs (sixth), and had 768 runners (sixth) cross the plate.

Fans can’t help but fantasize about what could have been with healthy arms. Jerry DiPoto has retooled the pitching staff for 2017. Karns, Miley and most notably, Walker will wear different uniforms this season. He’s added Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to go along with Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

The King was dethroned by injury for the first time in his career in 2016. Hernandez went to the DL on June 1 with a calf injury. He missed a month and a half before returning to the Mariners. The King made 25 starts, posting an 11-8 record. He had a 3.82 earned run average over 153.1 innings. It was his highest ERA since his second full year in the bigs in 2007. He missed throwing 200 innings for the first time since he threw 190 innings in both of his first two seasons as a Mariner.

Fan’s are hopeful for a second coming worthy of praise.

Iwakuma was Seattle’s best starter last season. In 33 starts, Kuma was 16-12 with a 4.12 era. He threw 199 innings, striking out 147 betters while walking 46. Kuma’s ERA jumped .6 points from his last full season in 2014. He gave up  51 more hits in 2016 than he did in 2014.

Signs are showing that Kuma is on the downslope of his career as well. His health was crucial to the M’s being in a playoff race towards the end of 2016. That same consistency is the desired outcome for Iwakuma.

Paxton may have turned the corner in 2016. Between Triple A and the Majors, the Lefty pitched the most innings of his career, throwing 171 frames. Mariner coaches tweaked Paxton’s arm slot, and the results were great. He had a 3.79 ERA, throwing 117 strikeouts while walking 24 batters. The M’s need his fifth season in the bigs to be his best.

Smyly is searching for a second chance in Seattle. The left handed pitcher threw 175.1 innings, giving up a 4.88 ERA while going 7-12 for the Tampa Bay Rays. The guy throws strikes, punching out 552 batters while walking 161 in his big league career.

He’s been labeled as a fly ball pitcher, which should benefit him in spacious Safeco Field. Well, not exactly. Safeco was the best home run producing ball park last season. An average of 2.89 baseballs left the yard as 234 total dingers were hit. If Smyly can keep the ball low, he could be a useful addition to the club.

Gallardo rounds on the opening day starting five for the Mariners. At one point in his career, Gallardo was a Cy Young candidate. Before 2016, Gallardo consisted made more than 30 starts every year since 2009. Last season as an Oriole, he started 23 games, lasting just 118 innings.

Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have been mainstays in the Mariner offense the past two seasons. The team added the National League hits leader in Jean Segura over the offseason. They also added speed in Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger. The only questions fans should have is starting pitching.

So God, please help King Felix return to form. Help Iwakuma maintain the the level he’s pitched at. Please let Paxton continue to improve and perform all season long. Help Smyly keep the ball low in the zone, and let Gallardo have a bounce back season.

In Your name I pray, amen.

 

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taijaun’s taking a walk; he isn’t coming back.

On Wednesday, November 23, Mariners General Manager Jerry DiPoto sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis. I’m not sad to see Walker leave.

For years, Walker was dubbed the Prince of Seattle. The right hander was supposed to be the protege to King Felix Hernandez. He played like a dunce.

Walker was drafted 43rd overall in 2010 amature draft out of Yupaica High School. He made a start in 2013, five more in 2014 before becoming a part of the rotation in 2015. In his first full seasons in the majors, Walker hasn’t had an earned run average under four.

How long does a player have unlimited potential, until they don’t? Walker showed above average velocity while working his way to the majors. Last season, he lost it. The fastball went from 95 miles per hour, down to 93. Hitters took advantage of it, as Walker gave up 129 knocks in just 25 starts. Over his career, He’s allowed more hits than strikeouts. Is he really capable of being a team’s ace? Doesn’t look like it.

Mariners fans should be rejoicing in this move made by DiPoto. Walker hasn’t shown signs of becoming the guy the pundits thought he could be. He spent time on the disabled list in June last season. He spent time in Triple-A last season. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was always tweaking his delivery. 

Walker is only 24 years old, and will be when takes the mound in a Diamondback uniform next year. There is time for him to figure it out, but will he in Arizona?  I doubt it.

According to ESPN’s park factors, Arizona is the second best baseball stadium for hitters in the Major Leagues. Chase Field in Arizona featured a plus rating for hitters in home runs, singles, doubles, triples and walks. Almost every outcome a hitter can have, is in their favor in the Grand Canyon State.

With the core of the Seattle Mariner’s being in the prime of their career, Taijuan Walker doesn’t belong on a team. He can not help a team right now, and that’s what the M’s need to do.

There will be times when Mariners fance grimace when they see that he struck out 12 over eight innings of shutout ball. The bad far outweighs the good. Until then, Taijuan’s taking a walk and he’s leaving for good.

Day One in Cooperstown

Day One in Cooperstown

In January, I was asked if I would be willing to go to Cooperstown New York, to umpire in a youth baseball tournament. Without hesitating, I took advantage of the opportunity. The first thing that needed to take place, was getting to Cooperstown Dreams Park.

I am 21 years old, so I can’t rent a car. My age means that I would have had to make the trip with somebody. I asked my dad to come with me. Dad has made the trip. We won’t be staying together during the week, but traveling across the country with him has been enjoyable so far.

We took off from Seattle at 6 p.m. on Thursday night. Our flight took off for Salt Lake City, Utah. Having live TV in the headrest of the seat in front of you is a luxury I was happy to have. The toughest part of the trip, was the landing. I believe the ground snuck up on the pilot, as the wheels hit the pavement aggressively. The plane landed in Utah at 9 p.m. local time.

After a two hour layover, we took off towards Boston. The plane went wheels up at 11:50. The ride was turbulent, so much so that in flight service was hardly provided. Sleeping wasn’t an option, so I struggled through a USC documentary, sports center, and other tv shows. The plane landed at 6 a.m. eastern time.

The journey wasn’t complete, as our final destination was in New York. We rented a car, and pointed the car west. I was excited to see the city of Boston but our route took use on Ted Williams Tunnel. As you can imagine, the Tunnel took us under the city. I caught a glimpse of Fenway Park, but it wasn’t much.

Tolls. The only toll I’m used to paying is the Tacoma Narrows toll. On interstate  93, we encountered several tolls. The fee wasn’t much, but it happened often enough to annoy a pair of tourist such as ourselves.

Four hours after landing in Boston, we arrived at my dads hotel. It didn’t have the same name as was listed previous, which was a little nerve racking. Dad committed to staying here for the week. The hotel is about 40 minutes out from the facilities.

After a nap, or sleeping, however you would categorize it, we went to check in at the park. On arrival, we were awe struck at the sight of it all. The park features 22 ball fields, dorms for players and umpires and a cafeteria. We were allowed to drive down to the umpire bunks, and get all of my equipment in a living space.

We met a handful of the other umpires. Most of my peers are retired and make CDP their home for the summer. The facility holds a tournament for 13 straight weeks.

While signing in, I learned a little bit about what I would be doing for the week. Umpires work with the same people, on the same field all week long. They gave me tow umpire shirts, a jacket, an undershirt, a hat, a water bottle, two baseballs and a bag full of pins.

Pins. Each team brings their own pins, and the kids trade, trade, trade and trade. As I was moving in, thousands of kids were asking other kids to trade their pins. It’s a sight to behold.

The first two days of the trip are complete. Work begins tomorrow, but I’m ready for it. I’m happy to be here, and can’t wait to see what the week has in store.

Winning is a Privilege

Winning is a Privilege

It’s tough to lose privileges. Having something taken away from you isn’t a good feeling. On Saturday, Chris Sale lost several privileges. Sale lost the privilege to pick what uniform his team wore. Sale lost the privilege to start in a Major League Baseball game. Sale lost the privilege of trying to help his team win. In the process, Sale became a hypocrite.

Sale was scratched from his start Saturday Night. The ace was removed from the lineup for a “clubhouse incident… which was non-physical in nature.” Not only was Sale scratched, he was also sent home from the ballpark. How the White Sox ace earned expulsion for the night was still in question.

“Really Silly”

That’s how a source described what had took place. Throughout the season, White Sox starters are allowed to pick the uniform that the team wears on the games they pitch. Saturday was not one of those nights, as the team was set to wear a throwback uniform. Sale insisted that the team not wear the uniforms the night of his start, saying the uniforms were not comfortable. The White Sox were having none of it.

During batting practice, Sale went inside the clubhouse and cut the throwback uni’s. He really did that. Sale’s frustration was because he felt the organization was more concerned with public relations and jersey sales being more important than winning.

This is where the all-star game starter becomes hypocritical. Rather than competing though the discomfort of the uniform to help his team win, he threw a fit. Power and privilege were taken away from Sale. The lefty reacted in one of the strangest ways I’ve ever heard of.

The White Sox are 1-7 since the all-star break. The Sox sit 46-50, and are 10 games out of first place in the American League Central. Sale is 14-3 with a 3.18 earned run average in 19 starts. A solid outing from Sale could have been what the team needed to get off the snide. We’ll never know.

Losing privileges is never a good feeling. Sale lost privilege, and reacted in a bizarre way. With motives rooted in winning, Sale’s actions lessened his team’s chance to win. All Chris Sale wants to do is win… as long as he does in the clothes he wants to wear.