Round-Up

January 13, 2012

A few notes heading into the weekend:

  • The Mariners have re-signed minor league free agent designated hitter Luis Jimenez, and you can add him to the list of likely 2012 Tacoma Rainiers. We’ll go through the potential roster here on the blog in February.
  • Larry Stone writes that the Mariners should not sign Manny Ramirez. Larry Stone is wise.
  • I find this amazing: Dan Johnson, who has hit two of the biggest home runs in Tampa Bay Rays history – including one on the final day of the season last year –  needs a job.
  • In the PCL, our division rival Salt Lake is bringing back the same coaching staff they had last year.
  • The Colorado Rockies and Colorado Springs Sky Sox extended their player development contract through the 2014 season.

Less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training!


Street Name

January 11, 2012

Today we get word that the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Committee is moving forward with plans to try to get the street that leads into Cheney Stadium to be named after recently departed civic leader and baseball man Clay Huntington.

I am in favor of this, and I hope it happens. As we discussed when he passed away, Clay was one of the men responsible for the building of Cheney Stadium, and bringing Triple-A baseball to Tacoma. He supported youth and professional athletics in the Tacoma area his entire lifetime.

Fellow broadcaster Bob Robertson tipped me off that he was part of a citizen’s group trying to get the idea off the ground, and now we have confirmation in John McGrath’s column.

The street – currently named South Cheyenne Street – is the one that winds around the outfield wall, past the Foss High School parking lots, and intersects at S. 19th St.

It would be a fitting honor for Clay.

Links:

  • The Mariners signed veteran relief pitcher Aaron Heilman to a minor league contract. Heilman will go to spring training and fight for a big league bullpen job. He was a solid major league reliever for several years, but he struggled in 2011. At age 33, can he bounce back? We’ll find out soon enough.
  • In his post on Heilman, Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing has a list of the Mariners bullpen candidates. Many of the “Legitimate Competitors” will make up the pitching staff of your 2012 Tacoma Rainiers.
  • Larry LaRue writes that Ken Griffey Jr. is being a dad.
  • Next year’s Hall of Fame ballot is going to be a never-ending story, as many known or suspected PED users will be on it. With Barry Bonds at the head of the class, the heart of this story is going to be in San Francisco – where lead baseball columnist John Shea is already conflicted about his ballot.

Still waiting for this Prince Fielder saga to play out. Is anyone else getting impatient?


So Long & Thanks For All The Jokes

January 10, 2012

One of the funnier members of the Tacoma Rainiers has moved on, and we’re going to miss him.

Left-handed pitcher Chris Seddon was a free agent after the completion of the 2011 season, and he has signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians. It’s a minor league contract, but Seddon was invited to major league spring training.

Seddon spent three seasons with the Rainiers, and they went like this: one average season, one fantastic season, and one rocky season.

The fantastic season was 2010. Seddon went 10-4 with a 3.39 ERA after 15 starts, made the Pacific Coast League All-Star team, and then got promoted to the big leagues for the second half. His work in the first half of the season helped Tacoma build a big lead in the division, and the club held on and eventually won the PCL title.

Off the field, Seddon is known for his dry wit and off-the-grid sense of humor. You can always count of Chris for some sort of caustic, hilarious remark to help lighten up a dreary PCL travel day.

We’ll miss Chris in Tacoma, and wish him nothing but the best with the Indians organization.

Links:

  • Barry Larkin was voted into the Hall of Fame. Larry Stone has the story, along with reaction from Edgar Martinez on his increased vote total.
  • Mariners manager Eric Wedge did an interview with his home town newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  • Former Rainiers infielder Sean Kazmar signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets.
  • We need a rainout on Monday, April 9th.
  • The dean of PCL managers Mike Jirschele is returning to Omaha for his 13th season.
  • The Memphis Redbirds are installing a massive video board at Autozone Park.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher R.A. Dickey is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and blogging about it for the New York Times. You can access the index of blogs right here.

Has Prince Fielder signed yet?


Hall Of Fame Monday

January 9, 2012

The results of the Hall of Fame ballot will be announced later today – and that’s about the only baseball news expected.

It appears that Barry Larkin has the best chance of being elected this time.

For us Mariners fans, we’ll be looking at Edgar Martinez’s results. Although he does not have a chance to be enshrined this year, it will be important to see if he can increase his percentage of votes. If his numbers start trending upwards, it bodes well for future ballots.

That’s all I’ve got for now – things are eerily quiet in terms of baseball news. Even Buster Olney took the day off from writing at ESPN.com.

I think I’m going to write a sentence that includes the words Tim Tebow just because I need the blog hits. Or perhaps predict an LSU win in an excruciatingly boring 9-6 contest tonight – yawn.

A few links:

  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone has more on the process of Edgar Martinez reaching the Hall of Fame. Stone, who has a vote, also included his ballot in this story.
  • Larry LaRue thinks that the Mariners still have a chunk of cash to spend on player payroll.
  • Alvin Dark never played in Tacoma, but he managed exhibition games at Cheney Stadium. Dark managed many Tacoma Giants during his tumultuous time as San Francisco Giants skipper. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday and the SF Chronicle caught up with him.
  • The Las Vegas 51s expect to have the top two Toronto Blue Jays prospects on their opening day roster: catcher Travis d’Arnaud and outfielder Anthony Gose.
  • The Mariners are slowly releasing the names of the players who will be appearing at their annual FanFest later this month. One of the minor leaguers will be Vinnie Catricala, a hitting prospect who I expect to see on the Rainiers this year.

We’ll start looking at the potential Rainiers opening day roster at the end of the month.


On Player Names

January 5, 2012

Yesterday afternoon I updated the Tacoma all-time roster, filling in all of the names of players who appeared in at least one game in 2011. It’s on the Rainiers website – you can see the complete alphabetical list of every player to appear in a game for Tacoma, since 1960, right here.

The first name to go in was David Aardsma, who is now the very first player on our list.

This is no surprise. When Aardsma reached the major leagues in 2004, he jumped ahead of Henry Aaron as the first player listed in the all-time alphabetical list of Major League Baseball players.

Why would anybody know this?

Well, let’s go back in time a little bit… to a long-ago era, a dark age of few computers and no cell phones and no internet. Yes, I said no internet - I know, I’m old.

Back then to get your baseball stats you needed get The Book. That would be the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia. It was a huge, huge book – you could go on a workout plan doing curls with it.

I rummaged up my old copy and took a photo for you. That’s a standard-size coffee mug in the foreground.

Try lugging one of these around the PCL in your carry-on bag!

The encyclopedia lists every player in MLB history, and all of their career statistics, in alphabetical order. It was a bit of a story when Aardsma ousted Aaron from the leadoff spot – if I recall correctly, the esteemed John McGrath even wrote a column about it.

So now, on our Tacoma roster, we lead off with the same player that MLB does.

There is one thing we have on the Tacoma all-time roster that MLB does not have: a player whose last name begins with the letter “x.”

Joe Xavier played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1988, and he had a pretty solid season and appeared to be on the verge of a call-up to Oakland.

In all of the 100+ years of Major League Baseball, there has never been a player with a last name starting with the letter “x.” Xavier was poised to be the first.

This was actually somewhat newsy at the time – Baseball America ran a bi-weekly “Joe Xavier Watch” updating his progress, and Sports Illustrated even made a note of him.

Alas, it did not happen. Joe never got the call, and Major League Baseball remains X-free.

Here’s some more on Joe Xavier, from a blog with a very unique idea.

When I got to Chaz Roe on the roster, I wondered if he had the shortest name in Tacoma baseball history. I had to check it out.

Sorry, Chaz. Tacoma has a five-way tie for shortest name, between Bo Diaz (1979), Joe Law (1987-1990), Ron Law (1972), Don Lee (1967), and Al Rico (1972).

I eliminated initial-names from the competition. My apologies to T.J. Bohn, J.J. Putz, and A.J. Zapp – you guys don’t count.

Too bad we never had Ed Ott or Ed Hug, who have the shortest names in MLB history.

The longest name on the Tacoma all-time roster belongs to Tommy Johannesen-Ellis, checking in at 20 letters.

Tommy pitched in one game for Tacoma, in 2007. I believe he is out of baseball now.

If he had reached the majors, Tommy Johannesen-Ellis would have tied such mouthfuls as William Van Landingham and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for longest name (first + last) in MLB history.

Links:

  • At The News Tribune, Larry LaRue recaps a media session Ichiro had in Japan.
  • The well-connected Jon Heyman ranks the Prince Fielder suitors. The Mariners are #2.
  • Former Cheney Stadium groundskeeper Bob Christofferson (a strong 17 letters) helped select the initial members of the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame.

We really need Prince to sign soon. See what we were reduced to today? If he doesn’t sign tomorrow I might have to write about something even nerdier, like radio equipment.


Coaching Staff Set

January 4, 2012

The Rainiers announced their 2012 coaching staff this morning.

We already knew that manager Daren Brown and pitching coach Dwight Bernard were returning. Now we can add hitting coach Jeff Pentland to the mix.

It’s a bit of a surprise to see Pentland coaching in the Triple-A ranks. He’s been a major league hitting coach for 13 years, including last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a return to the Mariners organization for Pentland – he was the Mariners major league hitting coach under Mike Hargrove from 2005-2008.

Pentland is known for his work with Sammy Sosa, who became a more refined hitter with Pentland’s help.  An old Baseball Digest article details that.

Pentland is a member of the Hall of Fame at Arizona State University, where he played baseball. If he’s a big Sun Devils fan, he better be prepared to take a whole lot of grief from the skipper.

Links:

  • From the Rainiers website, we have the official press release on the coaching staff.
  • At the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker has an overview of the Prince Fielder pursuit. Lots of information but no answers yet.
  • Larry Stone returned from vacation* to write a column on Fielder’s agent Scott Boras and his knack for landing big contracts in January.
  • There have been many reports that the Mariners might roll the dice on Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • Several ex-Rainiers are in the news: Greg Dobbs got a two-year deal from the Florida Marlins, Brad Nelson re-signed a Triple-A contract with Texas (Round Rock), infielder Nick Green signed with Florida (New Orleans).
  • Relief pitcher Dan Cortes, who spent time with the Rainiers and Mariners last year, signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. Remember, he’s injured and not expected to contribute until mid-season.
  • Also from last year’s Tacoma squad, lefty pitcher Fabio Castro signed with Oakland (Sacramento).
  • The Oklahoma City RedHawks announced their coaching staff, with Tony D returning as manager and Tacoma Hall of Famer Burt Hooten back as pitching coach.
  • Marek Warszawski at the Fresno Bee notes that five of the San Francisco Giants top prospects could land on the Fresno Grizzlies opening day roster.

There are several free agents from last year’s Tacoma team that I have not heard about. I’m curious to see where Chris Seddon, Luke French, Sean Kazmar, and Matt Tuiasosopo will play in 2012.

* the elephant seals at Sam Simeon! We took a field trip there when I was a kid. Elephant seals just lounge in the sand and make obnoxious noises. I could totally do that – talk about living the good life.


39 Days

January 3, 2012

We’re back!

We had a nice week off to close the 2011 calendar year, and now it’s time to gear up for the 2012 Pacific Coast League season.

Spring training starts in six weeks, with Mariners pitchers and catchers reporting to Peoria, Arizona on February 11. That’s just 39 days from today.

The big story in baseball remains the same: where will Prince Fielder sign? The latest rumors have the Washington Nationals as a big player in the market. I’m confidant that the Mariners will make – or perhaps already have made – a strong offer. All we can do is wait and see.

I’m a bit surprised the Fielder situation has dragged out this long. The teams in the running are going to need an answer soon, in order to move forward with their additional off-season plans. Look for a resolution soon.

Last week wasn’t entirely quiet. I compiled a bunch of links for you, starting with some unfortunate news for the PCL:

  • The politicians in Escondido, California are saying that their ballpark proposal is dead. The Tucson Padres were hoping to move there for 2013. Now owner Jeff Moorad is looking to sell the team – and according to this story, three unnamed cities have already approached him.
  • If you have some time to kill, here is a highly entertaining feature from SB Nation on 25 great and terrible sports announcing moments of 2011. I enjoyed the write-up, but especially the introduction – because the author gets it. When you talk non-stop for 2.5 hours, you can’t help but say something ridiculously stupid at some point. I do it every night!
  • I swear I didn’t make this up: former Mariners and Rainiers infielder Luis Ugueto stole home in the 12th inning to put his Venezuelan team in the playoffs. 
  • I put up my list of favorite baseball books two weeks ago, and it was all older books. For a more current list, here is Baseball America’s Top Ten Baseball Books of 2011. I’ve only read one of these so far, but have two others on my to-read list.
  • Fellow literary nerds, enter here: it’s William Faulkner‘s Hall Of Fame ballot. (Just read it for the Edgar Martinez entry alone).
  • Super-smart Rob Neyer weighs in on the Hall of Fame debate, as it pertains to the steroids era.
  • In the PCL, here’s an interesting story out of Tucson for you prospect watchers: the Padres recent trades should result in an absolutely loaded roster for Tucson. They make their first visit to Cheney over Memorial Day weekend.
  • We have a new RG: the Nashville Sounds hired Jeff Hem to be their play-by-play announcer. He had been working at Class-A Kane County, which is one of the biggest minor league franchises in terms of attendance and market size. Congratulations, Jeff – and don’t worry, we won’t haze you too badly.*
  • The Las Vegas 51s are bringing back manager Marty “Don’t Call Him Daren” Brown, but they have a new pitching coach in Bob Stanley.**
  • Former Tacoma Giants star and Tacoma Hall of Famer Ron Herbel gets his usual ranking on this list of Worst Hitting Pitchers in Baseball History.
  • Former Mariners and Rainiers infielder Jack Wilson likes kicking balls – perhaps more than hitting them. Check out this killer 30-second video of Jack on vacation, kicking a football into a moving jet ski. 
  • IMPORTANT: kick off 2012 by learning your 19th century Baltimore Orioles nickname.

Check back later this week – I’ll be updating frequently again.

* Yeah, right.

** Last year, Vegas finished 3rd in the PCL in wild pitches.


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