Category: Triple A

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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Myself as a Mascot

Myself as a Mascot

If you ever have the opportunity to be a mascot, take it.

In the fall, I’ll be a senior at Pacific Lutheran University. I’m an assistant in the sports information office. Work is slow during the summer months. My bosses dangled extra hours above my head. I’m fairly money motivated, so the hours were tempting.

The only way I was going to make that money was by being Lance-A-Lute, the PLU mascot at the Triple A Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. I was leaning towards doing it. Once they told me I’d be ‘competing’ in a mascot home run derby, I was all in.

The competition was going to be stiff. Blitz from the Seattle Seahawks was on hand. Cool Bird from the Thunderbirds was there. Rhubarb of the Rainiers was kind enough to host us. These guys were professionals, and I most certainly am not.

Before the derby started, Blitz made a remark on his 704 appearances he was scheduled to make this year. That’s insane. He also looked like he spent as much time in the gym as he had on appearances. Dude was buff.

As I got closer to my debut as a mascot, I continued to remind myself that no one could see who I was. They didn’t even know who I was to begin with. It was going to be fun to pretend to be something I’m not.

Our first assignment of the night was to go ‘shag’ baseballs in the outfield during the first round. The moment we left the locker room in costume, Blitz became Blitz. He walked with bounce, energy and enthusiasm. He clapped his hands, nodded his head and waved at every fan he saw. It was awesome.

I stumbled out of the locker room, adjusting to the goofy shoes I had to wear. It’s tough to see the ground while in the suit, which is a problem. Little kids love mascots. I had no idea they were underneath me at first.

It didn’t get real until a little boy approached me a pen and a baseball. He wanted Lance-A-Lute to sign his baseball.

What?

My mouth got dry as I nervously signed his ball. This kid had no clue who, or even what PLU is. It didn’t matter. He wanted autographs. He got them.

Shagging balls was an interesting experience. Professional baseball players were taking their best cuts while I stood with limited visibility in the possible path of the ball.

One ball was popped sky high. I followed the ball as it went up, but looked away. The ball dropped three inches to the left of me. I turned to some of the kids behind me and threw my hands out at them.

I was a little upset that no one had warned me that I was about to get drilled. Realistically, they probably would have told me heads up if they knew the name of the mascot costume I was in.

For the remainder of the first round, I spent my time getting out of the way of every ball I could. Blitz and Rhubarb were diving all over the field, attempting to make plays. There was no chance I was committing as much as they were.

The mascot home run derby happened just before the finals. It was explained that we would hit tennis balls off a tee from behind the pitchers mound. It was ruled a home run if the ball cleared the dirt on the infield.

Blitz was upset that we weren’t hitting from home plate. He went on to show video of how he hit legitimate homer at Safeco Field during Richard Sherman’s charity softball game.

I beat Blitz.

Blitz led off, trying crush tennis balls. It didn’t go well for him. I went second, taking a more relaxed approach to the plate. I did well and it felt good. I bat flipped after my round, because why not.

By the time our appearance was over, I was walking with a little bit of bounce. I got used to seeing the tops of little kids heads and waving in their direction. I had adjusted to the roll I was playing.

Before Monday night, I was weary of wearing the mascot suit. When Monday was done, I was thankful for the opportunity to do it. Technically, I competed at a Triple A home run derby. It was a fun night.

 

 

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Mike Zunino doesn’t fit into the brand of baseball the Seattle Mariners would like to put on the field, but they can live with it?

On June 7, 2017, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino hit two home runs. The first happened in the third inning, getting the Mariners on the scoreboard. The second, was a two-run walk-off shot that gave the M’s a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Zunino was drafted by the Oakland Athletes in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB draft. He chose to go to the University of Florida, where he improved his stalk. In 2012, se was drafted third overall by the Mariners. He made his Major League debut in 2013.

Throughout his career, Zunino has posted numbers that make you ask if he swings with his eyes close. He’s played 388 games, hitting .197 in 1246 at bats. He’s hit 54 home runs, but has struck out 457 times. He’s drove in 150 runs, but has only walked 85 times.

In each of the last two seasons, Zunino has spent time in Triple A Tacoma, working on his swing. The results haven’t changed much. He strikes out a ton and hits home runs on occasion. This is what Mike Zunino is.

As a team, the M’s have an on base percentage of .335, good enough for fifth best in the Majors. They’ve driven in 175 runs, good enough for ninth best. They don’t do it with the long ball, only hitting 65 homers through the first 61 games of the year.

Zunino doubled his 2017 home run total on June 7. If he runs into one every couple of games, it should be considered success for him.

Only time will tell if the M’s can live with Mike Zunino

DiPoto Guys Wanted

DiPoto Guys Wanted

Sound the alarm, the Mariners have made the their first move nearing the trade deadline. Jerry DiPoto struck a deal that sent Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries to the Cubs in exchange for Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn. Montgomery being traded could be an indication of the players who could be on the move before the trade deadline.

The Mariners have picked up a first baseman and a relief pitcher. Vogelbach is a large, large man. The 23-year-old stands at six feet tall, and weighs 250 pounds, with 78 pound forearms. Vogelbach’s numbers are as impressive as his stature. The left-handed hitting first basemen is hitting .318 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 64 runs batted in in triple A Iowa. Scouts say Vogelbach is ready to contribute to the big league club right now. It will be interesting to see how soon that happens.

The M’s also picked up a reliever. Blackburn has pitched 102.1 innings in double A, giving up a 3.17 earned run average. The righty can get the punch out, accumulating 72 k’s to his 26 walks. If that doesn’t scream “DiPoto guy” I’m not sure what does.

The Mariners gave up a do-it-all pitcher in Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA with 54 strike outs and 18 walks. Montgomery had been solid for the Mariners and will be an asset for the Cubs. Pries was pitching well in triple A Tacoma. Pries had recorded a 3.65 era in 24.2 innings pitched.

The trade makes sense for the Mariners. The M’s had a surplus in left-handed pitchers in James Paxton, Wade Miley, Wade LeBlanc and Montgomery. Of the four lefty’s Montgomery had performed the best. The Cubs may have only been listening to deals involving Montgomery, but there could be more to it.

DiPoto retooled the roster over the offseason. When the M’s hit the field in spring training, 31 of the 60 players in camp where new to the organization. Montgomery was a player who was brought in by the old regime, and isn’t a Dipoto guy. From a performance standpoint, it makes more sense to give up both Miley and LeBlanc, but both of those players were brought in by DiPoto.

DiPoto has traded Mark Trumbo away from team’s he’s ran twice. Trumbo is the league leader for home runs in 2016. If you ain’t a DiPoto guy, you’re gone.

The return sees a left-handed hitting first basemen come to the ball club. Adam Lind becomes a free agent at the end of 2016. Apart, from his 15 home runs, two being walk-off’s, Lind’s .231 batting average hasn’t been stellar. This move could have been made for 2017. Lind could also be another piece that’s moved before the trade deadline.

Montgomery has pitched well all season long. Numbers show he’s been better than all other left-handed starting pitchers the Mariners have. The Cubs may have only been listening to offers involving Montgomery. History also shows that you have to fit the mold the Mariners General Manager wants. If you don’t, you may need a real estate agent soon.

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

With a couple weeks left in July, the sports world is focused on the Major League Baseball trade deadline. At this point in the 162 game season, teams determine whether they are in a playoff race, or if they are completely out of it. The labels teams are given are buyers, or sellers. Buyers are acquiring valuable assets from losing teams. Sellers are trading assets for prospects. Personally, I can’t buy into the terms buy or sell.

There are returns on both sides of any trade. Throughout history, we have seen trades where the seller gets a better return than the team that bought. In 2008, the Mariners bought Erik Bedard for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and three other minor league players. Bedard had an earned run average that was just over three in 2007 and finished in the top five in cy young voting. In Seattle, Bedard never piched more than 83 innings in two short seasons. Adam Jones has blossomed into an all-star outfielder, batting .277 on his career while hitting double-digit home runs in all but one of his nine years of Baltimore. Chris Tillman was the Mariners minor league pitcher of the year in 07, before turning into an all-star with the Orioles.

In this example, the Mariner’s bought, but lost everything. The Orioles sold, and it could be one of the greatest trades in their franchises history with what they got in return. Connotatively, buy and sell promotes the idea that the team that is buying will always win the trade.

Teams are facing the decision to play for right now, or for the future. Similar to a draft, you can’t truly tell how a trade will affect a franchise until two or three years after the fact. The only way of knowing is if the instant gratification of a championship is won by the team playing for now.

If your team is selling this trade deadline, it isn’t a reason to be down on the franchise. Those getting rid of valuable assets, may be doing what is best long term. The MLB trade deadline is usually the most exciting of the four major sports in the United States. I’m not buying into buyers and sellers. I am excited to see who will be wearing a different uniform in August.

Bartender, Fill Me Up

It takes patience to be a Seattle Mariners fan and right now, I’m running on empty. As of May 26, the Mariners were leading the American League west, with a record of 28-18. Since that day, the Mariners are 8-17 and have fallen 9.5 games out of first place. A potential roster move has me irritated with a pattern that is becoming far too familiar for baseball fans in the pacific northwest.

Rumors are swirling about the Mariner’s potential acquisition of right handed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen spent five seasons with the Mariners from 2011-2015. Wilhelmsen was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers after posting a 10.55 earned run average in 21.1 innings, allowing 38 hits, 25 earned runs, with 11 strikeouts and nine walks. The 32-year-old pitcher opted to test free agency rather than going to triple A Round Rock. A part from Wilhelmsen being atrocious this season, why does this potential move have me so upset?

 

Almost a year ago to the date, the Mariner’s hired an an all-time great in Edgar Martinez to be the teams new hitting coach. Martinez spent 19 years in a Mariner uniform, batting .312, with 514 doubles and 309 home runs. Martinez hiring came when the Mariners were 32-37, sitting 7.5 games out of first place. The argument can be made that Martinez did help the Mariner offense, but the move did not lead to more wins. The move was an attempt to distract fans from the terrible product that the organization was putting on the field.

The same thing will happen with Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen is a familiar name, that the casual fan will be happy to see play for the Mariners again. The acquisition of ‘the Bartender’ will be a move that distracts the fans from the incredible dive the Mariners have taken.

The Mariners will need to go on an insane tear to reach the top of the AL West. At this point, the team is playing for the second wild card and is sitting 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Don’t be fooled, Tom Wilhelmsen isn’t the Mariners answer. A nice run from the Mariners is desperately needed to refuel my tank for the remaining four months of the 2016 regular season.