Rangers In The Win Column

October 31, 2010

The Rangers won their first game of the series last night, 4-2, making it a 2-1 San Francisco lead going into Game Four tonight at 5:00.

Texas received a fantastic starting pitching performance from Colby Lewis, who pitched into the eighth inning and allowed only two runs. Lewis is a great story – he was essentially a “Four-A” pitcher: too good for Triple-A, but unable to have success in the majors – when he went to Japan to pitch in 2008. He had two excellent seasons for the Hiroshima Carp, and then the Rangers brought him back this year and he’s had the best season of his career.

This is a crucial Game Four tonight for Texas. If they win, we’re tied up 2-2 and anything can happen. If Texas loses, they’re down 3-1 and are forced to win three straight games.

It’s going to be Madison Bumgarner for the Giants, and Tommy Hunter for Texas. Nothing against Hunter, but…. I can’t believe the Rangers aren’t starting Cliff Lee three times in the series. Yes it would be on short rest (three days off instead of four between starts), but it’s the World Series – its time to do that.

Last year the Phillies started Lee in the first game and won. They didn’t start him in Game Four and lost, going down 3-1 in the series – the exact same situation the Rangers risk today. Lee started and won Game Five, but the Phillies lost the series in six.

Could it be an exact repeat?

A couple of links:

  • Rookie Mitch Moreland – who played at Cheney Stadium as a member of the Oklahoma City RedHawks in May – had the big hit for Texas, a three-run homer.
  • Is Lee capable of pitching on three days rest? We don’t know – he’s never done it before.
  • Scott Ostler had a bit of culture shock, traveling from San Francisco to Arlington.
  • Pat Burrell has been at the top, and he’s been at the bottom. He sounds like a stand-up guy.
  • Game Four starters at Cheney: Madison Bumgarner has never pitched against Tacoma. The Giants rookie was heavily hyped on his way to the majors, and I was hoping we’d get to see him with Fresno once, but it didn’t happen. As for Tommy Hunter, well… the first time he faced Tacoma, it was in Oklahoma City in 2009 – and the Rainiers put a massive beating on Hunter. How does nine earned runs sound? Hunter made his only appearance at Cheney Stadium in a May 26 doubleheader this year, allowing a Matt Mangini solo home run in four innings.

Happy Halloween!


Giants Up 2-0

October 29, 2010

Our chances of a dramatic six- or seven-game World Series took a hit last night, when the Giants took a 2-0 lead with a closer-than-the-score-indicates 9-0 win.

The Series is off today, and resumes Saturday in Texas.

The big story on the internet last night was about Ron Washington’s bullpen usage. The prevailing thought among baseball analysts was, when it was 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth and the Giants put a couple of runners on base, why didn’t Texas go to top reliever Neftali Feliz? Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but the bigger issue questions the role of closers in the World Series.

I am a firm believer that in the World Series, there is no need to conserve your top reliever for “save situations” like managers often do during the regular season. There is no point in saving Feliz so that he can defend a lead you may never get. Save stats don’t matter; giving your team a chance to win is what matters – and when you only have one or two reliable relief pitchers, you need to get them in the game to preserve a two-run deficit. This became more magnified by the fact that today is an off-day, so there was no need to save any reliever for game three.

At any rate, Feliz didn’t get in the game, the rest of the Rangers bullpen allowed seven runs, and the score became lopsided.*

Kudos to Matt Cain, who pitched so well that this whole bullpen-usage subject really didn’t matter, anyway. Cain has been one of the heroes of the Giants post-season run, pitching 21.1 playoff innings without allowing an earned run.

Some links:

  •  Matt Cain got some love from the San Francisco paper. Bruce Jenkins wrote about him, too.
  • Jayson Stark writes that everything is going right for the Giants. Scott Ostler concocted a Curse of Candlestick.
  • In Dallas, they report that Neftali Feliz was not injured. Josh Hamilton says the team is “tight.”
  • It does seem like an act of desperation when the Rangers are hoping Justin Bieber can help turn around the series.**
  • With the series moving to Texas, the Giants have to decide who will be the DH.
  • Only one of the Game Three starters has ever pitched at Cheney Stadium: Colby Lewis made his first Cheney appearance as a 22-year-old reliever on July 23, 2002 – giving up a run in 1.1 innings (no web-based box available). We didn’t see Lewis again until he made two terrific starts at Cheney in 2007 for Sacramento, but got no run support and no decision on both April 13 and August 20 – he locked horns with Justin Lehr and Robert Rohrbaugh. Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez faced Tacoma one time in his career – a 2007 game in Fresno.
  • Former Mariners Jamie Moyer and Greg Dobbs (also a former Rainier) were granted free agency by the Phillies. It will be interesting to see if anyone takes a chance on the 47-year-old Moyer. Dobbs will probably have to sign a minor league deal with someone, and then try to hit his way onto an opening day roster.
  • Here’s an interview with (current? former?) Mariners bullpen coach John Wetteland.

Have a great Halloween weekend – somebody dress up as the PCL Championship trophy, and send me a picture!

* this whole conundrum has led to some hilarious Twitter messages along the “Where’s Neftali Feliz?” theme, and appropriate Halloween costumes. Are people really going to dress up as a milk carton with Feliz’s picture on it?

** I half-expected MLB to turn to the 16-year-old Canadian for the Seventh Inning Blessing.


From Underdog To Favorite

October 28, 2010

In one game – and one shockingly unexpected bludgeoning of Cliff Lee – the San Francisco Giants went from slight underdog to heavy favorite to win the World Series.

The Giants needed to get one victory against Lee, who presumably is going to start three games in the series if it goes seven*. The Giants got it done in game one, and now have the on-paper advantage in the pitching matchups in games two and three.

The Giants rag-tag offense has been subject of much discussion, and one of their unexpected heroes had the big hit yesterday: Juan Uribe, a right-handed batter, lifted a three-run homer to left off submarine-style righty Darren O’Day. That was the game-breaking hit, making the score 8-2 in the fifth.

It brought to mind something that happened to me about a month ago: I was in San Francisco while the Giants were home, so I went and sat in the left-field bleachers for a night game against Arizona. I was surprised to discover that Uribe had become a fan favorite, and I was in the process of typing a twitter message about how ridiculous that was, when Uribe homered right at me – the ball was caught by a guy sitting two rows in front of me. OK, Uribe, you win – I deleted the message.

And now, here he is getting key hits in the World Series.

Some links:

  • Here’s the Associated Press story on Game One, and here’s the AP story on Tim Lincecum’s performance.
  • San Francisco Chronicle baseball writer John Shea wrote about the Giants big fifth inning.
  • Beloved in one city in America, and despised in seemingly all others, Barry Bonds was at the game.
  • The Dallas Morning-News was heavy on the sensationalism today: a columnist called to get Vladimir Guerrero out of right field, Cliff Lee was compared to Chan Ho Park, and some classic San Francisco hippie behavior got to Josh Hamilton
  • The Mariners have a handful of prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League, and the Everett Herald’s Kirby Arnold filed this report, which includes an amusing story about one of the infielders acquired in the Cliff Lee trade.
  • The box scores were popular yesterday, so here are the two Matt Cain starts at Cheney Stadium in 2005: a CG in the first game of an April doubleheader, and a shutout performance near the end of the season that turned out to be his final minor league start. C.J. Wilson has never pitched at Cheney.

Game Two tonight at 5:00 – is it a must-win for the Rangers?

* yes, I am fully aware that if the series goes seven games, the Giants will now have to beat Lee a second time.


And The Winner Will Be…

October 27, 2010

… well… uh… I dunno.

Texas is the slight favorite according to the people who are paid to determine such things – specifically, Nevada bookmakers.

Texas clearly has the better lineup – this is not open to debate; there is no need to even discuss it.

San Francisco clearly has the better starting rotation depth, but Texas has Mr. Lee at the top.

San Francisco has the better bullpen. Texas closer Neftali Feliz has electric stuff, but he can be very erratic – as you might expect from a 22-year-old. The Giants bullpen is older and more reliable, and we all saw how Brian Wilson was lights out in the NLCS, even nailing down five-out saves like Mariano.

So who’s going to win?

In my mind, it’s all going to come down to this: can the Giants – and namely, Tim Lincecum – beat Mr. Lee one time in this series? If I’m Ron Washington, I’m going to start Lee in games 1, 4, and 7 – with those last two starts on three days rest. This is the World Series, and this is the time to do that. If Mr. Lee goes 3-0, then Texas needs just one other win. But if the Giants can get Lee one time, everything shifts in favor of SF.

Something to consider: the Giants don’t need to start Lincecum three times – especially if Timmy shocks the world and beats Lee tonight in Game One. Bruce Bochy was willing to start Madison Bumgarner in the fourth game of the NLCS, and I think he’d probably do it again in the Series – as long as the Giants aren’t down 3-0.

I think this has a chance to be a very tight, exciting series.

Some links:

  • Fun box scores: Cliff Lee’s one career start at Cheney Stadium, and Tim Lincecum’s one game at Cheney. Notice who took the loss in the Lincecum game – dude needed a beard back then.
  • In an entertaining column that includes gratuitous potshots at the Yankees, John McGrath picks the Giants.
  • In his preview column, Larry Stone decided to stick the knife into the belly of Mariners fans, and then twist it around some. Gee thanks, Larry, we really needed that.
  • Cliff Lee doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for the Giants lineup.
  • Did you like the Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were a kid? Well, why not choose your own path to the world series? I hope you do better than me – I got fired.
  • These are the coolest nuns ever.

I guess I have to make a pick, huh? OK. Giants in six, with all four wins by two runs or less.


World Series Opens Wednesday

October 26, 2010

Well, here we are: the final games of the season begin tomorrow, with unlikely league champions Texas and San Francisco facing off in the World Series.

Texas has never been to the Series before, and the Giants have not won it since moving to SF in 1958. Both facts are somewhat mind-boggling.

It all starts with Game One on Wednesday, at 5:00 Pacific (actual time is listed at 4:57 PM but that just sounds kind of random and dumb, doesn’t it?). Of course I’ll be watching, and I’ll have some commentary here as the series progresses.

I’d like to take a moment to promote friend-of-the-blog Pete Livengood’s charity event – a World Series Viewing Party with Edgar Martinez, Wednesday evening at the Elysian Fields Brewery (542 1st Avenue South in Seattle, right between Safeco and Quest). Pete, a Mariners and Rainiers fan who is on the board of the brewery, organized this event to raise money for The Martinez Foundation.

Check this out: it’s free. A portion of all food and beverage sales goes to the foundation, and you can make a cash donation ($25 I think) and get Edgar’s autograph. 

Some World Series links:

  • First, a Rainiers link: this requires a subscription, but Ryan Divish freelanced a rather massive Michael Pineda feature for Baseball America. This is the most thorough and in-depth piece I have seen on Pineda, with details on his family, his teenage move from third base to the mound, and his signing. Ryan did a great job with this story – if you’re not a subscriber, try to find the hard copy with Jason Heyward on the cover; they usually carry Baseball America at Borders.
  • Long-time San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins – he’s sort of the John McGrath of the Bay Area – has some entertaining World Series notes here.
  • Bengie Molina and Chris Ray will get rings regardless – the two players were traded for one another mid-season. This story has some good details from Molina, including his role scouting the opponent.
  • Geoff Baker says that the Mariners decided the ALCS – and he’s probably right.
  • Looking for more World Series links? Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald delivers, and he also has the funniest octopus joke that I have read (so far) today.
  • In the PCL, here’s more on the details of the former Portland franchise’s temporary relocation to Tucson, with the news that the team will play at the more modern, but poorly located, Tucson Electric Park.
  • In the Arizona Fall League, Dustin Ackley drew five walks last night. Yes, he did that in one game.
  • As you surely know, Mariners and Rainiers fans dominate the internet. So we might as well win this fan vote for Best Triple-A Team of 2010. Vote early, vote often!
  • This is a really, really bad idea. Take note of that, Bud. You are not the NBA or the NHL, and that is a good thing.

Here’s hoping for a close, dramatic series!


Cheney Stadium Destruction/Construction Photos

October 20, 2010

The Cheney Stadium renovation began immediately after the Rainiers last home game, and it is in full swing right now. The stadium is a hard-hat and protective-goggles zone, and right now only a few original elements remain: the seating bowl, the party decks, the scoreboards. and the right- and center-field fence.

I was on the road, first in Fresno and then in the PCL playoffs, when the tear-down began. The early photos were sent to me by our food-guy-turned-photographer, Corey.

** NOTE: Click on photos to make them larger**

First, they picked apart the dugouts, and created some space for the roof to come down. I emailed this photo to the former Rainiers managers Dave Myers, Dan Rohn, and Daren Brown – each of whom desperately wanted new dugouts, because the old ones weren’t big enough to fit a baseball team. Replies were universally positive.

Goodbye, dugouts! May your replacements be large enough to hold a baseball team.

As you can see below, the seats that are closest to the field are being rebuilt – the rest of the seating bowl will remain the same.

New seats will be going in around the dugouts.

Tearing down the roof was a big part of the project – removing it without damaging the seats below was a difficult feat, and I was told it was a rather costly part of the renovation. First, however, they had to remove my office from the top.

Celebration time!

They actually lifted that off with the crane, and carried it to the ground and demolished it in the parking lot. I was on the road with the team in Sacramento when this happened – yeah, the playoffs were fun, but I had big plans for this event: Press Box Destruction Tailgate Party! I am fortunate to work with a true tailgate party expert, and I was going to enlist his services. We would set up in the parking lot, fire up the grill, break out some tunes, tap a leftover Gold Club keg, throw the football around – and then celebrate wildly when the press box was destroyed. I was going to invite all my friends. Instead, all I got was this lousy Pacific Coast League championship.

The Cheney Stadium Ticket Office suffered a similar fate:

The ticket office was actually one of the most modern parts of the ballpark - roughly 15 years old.

They used these giant cherry-pickers to take down the roof, piece by piece.

The stadium sure looks strange with no roof.

From the right field corner

Notice that they had to remove the light standard on the third base side. It will be back.

They took out the concrete support columns, and put in these (temporary?) metal supports to hold the seating bowl up. Those concrete columns always gave me the heebie-jeebies, because they tapered down to a tiny circumference at the base.

Missing from this photo, never to be seen again: the old Administrative Office.

A lot of the work being done now is in the concourse area, where they are excavating under the stadium and leveling the entire area. There will be no more slippery hill on the third base side of the concourse, and there will be more than one entrance tunnel for disabled fans – in fact, the stadium will finally be ADA compliant.

End of the third base concourse, at the old entrance to the party decks.

At the foreground is one of those "Group Express" concession stands, which will be moved to a different part of the concourse.

One thing that is not going away? The first-base locker room – although that will now be the visiting team’s home.

Jim Bouton ragged on this clubhouse in 1969's "Ball Four."

I wandered into the outfield and took some shots. The left-field fence is gone, but the legendary center field wall remains, as does the right-field fence. The team never had any intention of changing the deep center field dimensions, and now they are considering just leaving the original Giant Wall in place in center (as opposed to rebuilding it in the same spot). I would applaud this if that’s what they decide – that deep center field fence is a Cheney Stadium landmark, and when you hear the whack of a ball hitting the plywood out there, you know someone hit a rocket.

The scoreboards are state-of-the-art and only two years old - they're not going anywhere.

The left field visitor's clubhouse is about to get bulldozed.

This left field foul pole has seen better days.

I wonder if I could mount this on the roof of my townhouse?

After the final game, home plate was dug up and presented to the Cheney family. An orange cone marks the spot. Looks like our groundskeeper decided to use the home-plate cutout to preserve some turf.

Anyone know how much a new home plate costs?

Speaking of the Cheney family – ol’ Ben’s statue is staying in place – but he’s been boxed up for the winter.

Ben is in the cardboard box - DO NOT LET HIM OUT UNTIL OPENING DAY!

 It’s an amazing project. I’ll post more pictures as the construction progresses through the winter. Special thanks to my two co-workers who showed me around:

Two of the three "lucky" Rainiers staffers who are spending the winter working out of trailers at the construction site. The rest of the staff is over at the Union Street compound.


Mariners Manager News, Ex-Rainiers In Playoffs

October 18, 2010

Word leaked out on Friday, and today the Mariners made it official: Eric Wedge is the new manager. He signed a three-year contract.

Wedge has seven years of major league managing experience, all with Cleveland from 2003-2009. I’ve never met him, but he gets high marks for character and integrity.

When he was in Cleveland, Wedge helped nurture a young team into a winner. Clearly, this is part of what intrigues the Mariners.

You can read about Wedge from Larry Stone of the Seattle Times (here, here, and here); John McGrath (here) and Ryan Divish (here) of The News Tribune.

What does this mean for former Rainiers manager Daren Brown? Good question. I talked to Brown over the weekend – he’s disappointed he did not get the job, but he said the Mariners treated him fairly and honestly throughout the process.

Brown is not commenting publicly on his 2011 job situation until it gets settled. My personal opinion is that he will either end up on Wedge’s coaching staff, or he’ll be back managing in Tacoma.

Also, Brown told me that his three-day old daughter Chloe was wearing a pink Oklahoma beanie for her first college football Saturday. The brainwashing has begun.

MLB Playoffs

With the League Championship Series underway, let’s check the active playoff rosters for players with Tacoma backgrounds:

New York Yankees (one former Rainiers player)

The only former Tacoma player on the Yankees is… you guessed it… Alex Rodriguez (1995 and 1996 Rainiers). 

Only a few Yankees played at Cheney Stadium as visiting players: Nick Swisher (Sacramento), Lance Berkman (New Orleans), Dustin Moseley (Salt Lake), and Sergio Mitre (Iowa).

Texas Rangers (one former Tacoma Rainiers pitcher-for-a-day)

That would be Cliff Lee, who made an injury rehabilitation start for the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium this year. In official club records, we don’t count this as an “ex-Rainiers player” but we’ll make an exception for today’s blog.

Due to their long relationship with Oklahoma City, many Rangers players appeared at Cheney as visitors over the years: Nelson Cruz (almost single-handedly beat the Rainiers in the 2005 PCL Championship Series), Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Andres Blanco, Matt Treanor, Bengie Molina (with Edmonton; got into a rather infamous bench-clearing brawl at Cheney – although he didn’t start it; one of my all-time favorite Rainiers did), CJ Wilson, Clay Rapada, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter. Michael Kirkman was the PCL Pitcher of the Year this year, but he did not face the Rainiers.

Philadelphia Phillies (three former Rainiers on the active roster)

The ex-Rainiers on the Phillies active roster are Raul Ibanez (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), Mike Sweeney (rehabbing this season), and Wilson Valdez (released after one game for Tacoma in 2005). The Phils also have Greg Dobbs (2004, 2005, 2006) in the dugout, but he is inactive for the NLCS although he might be activated if they advance to the World Series.

Over the years Rainiers fans have seen appearances by Shane Victorino (Portland), Ross Gload (Colorado Springs), JC Romero (Edmonton and Salt Lake), Brad Lidge (as a starter for New Orleans at Cheney in August of 2002), Chad Durbin (Omaha and New Orleans) and Joe Blanton (Sacramento).

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel played for the 1973 Tacoma Twins and had a good season (.274-16-68 in 105 games).

San Francisco Giants (zero former Rainiers)

Not a single Giant played for Tacoma.

However, almost the entire San Francisco roster played at Cheney Stadium as a visiting player – I’m not going to list them all; but here are a few: Tim Lincecum dominated the Rainiers for Fresno in April 2007 – he had a huge cheering section. Travis Ishikawa is from Federal Way High School, class of 2002. The Rainiers were fortunate to never face Madison Bumgarner, but Matt Cain dominated Tacoma for Fresno three times in 2005. A beardless Brian Wilson pitched at Cheney for Fresno in 2006 and 2007. Buster Posey hit his first career Triple-A home run at Cheney on August 4, 2009. We’ve seen more than enough of Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross (with Las Vegas), and Andres Torres over the years.

You know who has never played at Cheney? The Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval. If he doesn’t get in shape, we might see him next year.

A couple of additional links:

  • Here’s an AP story on Cliff Lee, who starts tonight against the Yankees in Game Three of the ALCS.
  • In the NLCS, Cody Ross has been the surprise star. He reminds Bruce Jenkins of Gene Tenace in 1972.
  • People who work for minor league baseball teams always get asked “What do you do in the off-season?” Here is a story about that.

As for my off-season, well… I bought this the other day, so I won’t be leaving the house for a while. Don’t worry – there will be no gaming until all blog-related responsibilites are complete for the day.

Speaking of which, the stadium construction photos are coming this week!


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