Tag: Tacoma

They Traded Him For Who?

They Traded Him For Who?

It started yesterday, but it got weird today.

The Seattle Mariners traded Tyler O’Neil, their third best prospect, to the St. Louis Cardinals for left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales. Gonzales was slated to be the next big thing in 2014 before he had surgery in 2015 to repair a torn left pectoral muscle. It got worse when he missed 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.

So Jerry DiPoto really just traded the third best prospect in the organization for a broken down pitcher?

What?

Gonzales was a the 19th overall pick in 2013. He attended Gonzaga, and lives in Seattle during the offseason. He’s spent this year in Triple A Memphis. The lefty has made 11 starts, going 6-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He’s struck out 57 batters while allowing 17 walks. Gonzales is controllable through the 2023 season.

It doesn’t get much more DiPoto than this trade. He’s getting what he wants out of a pitcher, a strike thrower that doesn’t walk guys. He’s also controllable for a long, long time.

Mariners fans had hoped that O’Neil was going to be the key piece in a major trade that landed a significant asset to this team. Realistically this team is floating around .500 and is playing for a shot at a wild card. A three month rental, especially with a player who pitches every five games doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s something Dipoto has made obvious that he believes in.

The trade boils down to two teams needing something. The Mariners have become incredibly deep in the outfield. Jarrod Dyson, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia have combined to prevent the most runs of any outfield in baseball. Gamel, Haniger and Heredia are guys who are controllable through the early 2020’s. There’s not a lot of room for any additional outfielders.

On the mound, the M’s need help. They’ve stitched together a starting rotation that has kept them in the hunt. Marco Gonzales isn’t the big name fans were hoping for, but he’s certainly a big gamble.

O’Neil was the Mariners third best prospect, but it doesn’t mean the Mariners organization is that great. The Mariners added depth to an area they desperately needed it, and took it away from a position where they didn’t. At the time of the trade, O’Neil for Gonzales is simply, weird.

Advertisements
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.

 

 

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.

Football is Here, but Don’t Forget About Baseball

Football is Here, but Don’t Forget About Baseball

Football is back. The Seattle Seahawks play their first preseason game of the year this afternoon. So many questions surround the team. How will the Seahawks perform without Marshawn Lynch? Is Jimmy Graham healthy? Will they remain a run-first offense, or will Russell Wilson be allowed to throw the ball often?  In a month from now, the games in the Seattle will count for real. But games in Seattle already count, and haven’t been more important than right now. Football is exciting, but please don’t forget about baseball.

On July 31, the M’s were 52-51, good enough for third in the American League West, eight and a half games away from first place in the division and five games out of a wild card spot. Momentum swung as the team had one of the best home stands all season. The Mariners went 8-2, while sweeping both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers. Manager Scott Servais credited Ken Griffey Jr. weekend, and the message he sent to the 2016 team.

“Keep fighting,” Junior said. “because we’re all rooting for you.”

Fight is what they did. On August second, the M’s trailed the Red Sox 4-0 with their Win Expectancy at a mere 3.2 percent in the eighth. Robinson Cano capped a five-run bottom of the eighth with a three-run home run, proving to be the game winner. The team won 5-4, and a tone was set from the Mariners superstar.

On August fifth, Felix Hernandez gave up a three run homer to Mike Trout in the top of the first inning (W.E. 21.6%). The M’s answered with six runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. With the game tied at three, Mike Zunino smashed a three-run dinger over the left field wall to give his team the lead. A couple days later, Seattle saw another comeback win, as the M’s won 6-4.

August sixth was Ken Griffey Jr. night, as the number 24 was officially retired in the Mariners organization. That game saw the exact same start as the previous night. Trout hit another three-run home run, putting the Mariners in an early 3-0 hole. Win Expectancy sat at 8.7 percent after four innings. The Mariners chipped away at the lead until the bottom of the seventh. Shawn O’Malley smacked a go-ahead three-run home run to put the team up 8-6. Another gritty, come from behind win.

August ninth was the middle game of the three-game series with the Tigers. The M’s trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the eighth (W.E. 4.7%). Kyle Seager hit a clutch, three-run home run to the tie game. The two teams put up zero’s until the 15th inning, when Victor Martinez hit a home run putting the tigers up 5-4 (W.E. 10%). Seager answered with an RBI single. Runners took advantage of a fielding error, moving to second and third with one out. Zunino supplied a sacrifice fly to win the marathon of a game. The M’s won again.

August 10 saw a classic pitchers duel between Justin Verlander and King Felix. The aces kept their opponents to just one run as the score was knotted at one entering the bottom of the eighth. Nelson Cruz hit a solo blast over the center field wall, giving his team the lead. Six straight for the M’s.

The Mariners lost the first game of a three game set with the Athletics. As of today, the team has moved into second place in the AL west. As the Mariners were streaking, the Rangers were too, winning five straight games. The M’s are seven and a half games out of the division lead. The Wild Card race is where Seattle should be focused. Five games out at the beginning of August, now the M’s are two games out of the second wild card spot.

The team took Juniors words to heart. A majority of the wins that came on this remarkable home stand were made in come from behind fashion. Junior also had words for the city of Seattle.

“To the fans, keep supporting these guys,” Griffey said. “They’re trying to support this city. When you have a friendly face in the stands, that means everything. When you’re going through a bad spell and some guy says, ‘Hey, keep your head up,’ that goes a long way. We’re out here playing, but we’re playing for this city.”

Football is exciting. The Seahawks have recently won a Super Bowl, and have been a good team since Pete Carroll’s arrival. Baseball has been here for a while in 2016, but it has never been more intense, or exciting as it is right now. One of the greatest athletes that has ever worn a uniform that belongs to Seattle, is asking fans not to forget about baseball. The M’s have a great shot at making the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years.  Seattle, please don’t forget about the Mariners.

W.E. – Win Expectancy

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.

 

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.

Bullpen Blowup

Bullpen Blowup

Wade Miley pitched well enough to pick up a win for the Mariners last night. The M’s would eventually fall 6-1 to the White Sox. The bullpen pitched well, until an explosion in the ninth inning.

Miley pitched 6.1 inning allowing three earned runs, with six hits and four strikeouts. Tom Wilhelmsen came in and pitched 0.2 of an inning keeping the sox scoreless. Edwin Diaz was remarkable, getting all three outs in the eighth by strikeout. The game was in reach entering the ninth inning with the score at 3-1.

Joaquin Beniot hasn’t been sharp all season long, and he continued that trend Tuesday night. Despite striking out two, Beniot gave up a two run homer, pushing the score to 5-1. Beniot left the game with a runner on first when David Rollins took over. Rollins gave up an RBI double, and the run was charged to Beniot.

A comeback was feasible entering the ninth inning with the game at 3-1. Beniot and Rollins put the game out of reach. The M’s look to rebound This afternoon when Felix Hernandez makes his return to the mound. The team can not afford another bullpen blowup.

Walk-Off Dingle Bingle

Walk-Off Dingle Bingle

I was irritated. I was frustrated. After watching the Mariners play the their worst game of the year on Sunday, the M’s were being shut out on Monday night. Chris Sale had done Chris Sale things against the M’s, pitching eight innings of one hit ball, with six strike outs. When I was ready to move on, the Mariners pulled me back in.

“It’s really easy to give up, say, ‘Ah this isn’t our night,’ and move on,” manager Scott Servais said. “And we don’t do that. This club doesn’t do that.”

Through 53 of the 54 outs of Monday’s White Sox vs. Mariners game, nothing was fun for M’s fans. The Mariners trailed 3-0 when the Sox brought in closer David Robertson. With two runners on and two out, Kyle Seager drove in a run to cut the lead to two. Adam Lind came to the plate in a pinch hit spot, and for the second time this season, Lind hit a walk-off three run home run when the team needed it the most.

It was an incredible piece of hitting by Lind. The pitch was practically in Lind’s armpits, but Lind was able to get the barrel of his bat to the ball, and drive it over the wall. I could hardly believe it.

Lost in the excitement of the walk-off dingle bingle, is Wade LeBlanc’s performance on the mound. LeBlanc turned in a quality start, going seven innings, striking out six, while giving up three earned runs. LeBlanc scattered nine hits throughout those seven innings, and did well in preventing the damage that could have been. The Sox went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and left seven runners on base.

The Mariner’s came from behind to win in dramatic fashion. Lind helped the Mariners walk off the Cardinals on June 24. The team went 7-3 in their next ten games including that night. The team needs this type of run to solidify themselves as a playoff contender, and to make moves for now at the trade deadline.

After 53 of the 54 outs of last nights game, I was ready to move on. Servais was right, its easy to give up. I’m not ready to move on, because the Mariners have pulled me back in.

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.