Smoak Moves On; Game Seven Tonight

October 29, 2014

Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Justin Smoak on a waiver claim, ending Smoak’s time with the Seattle Mariners.

We saw quite a bit of Smoak over the last few years at Cheney Stadium, and he always provided a solid bat in the middle of the Tacoma Rainiers lineup. Smoak appeared in games for the Rainiers each of the last five seasons, including a 56-game stay in 2014.

Adding up the total numbers, you get just about one full PCL season’s worth of plate appearances. Here is how Smoak hit for Tacoma over the last five years:

  • Games: 120
  • At-Bats: 436
  • Hits: 126
  • Doubles: 28
  • Triple: 1
  • Home Runs: 14
  • Runs Batted In: 70
  • Walks: 75
  • Strikeouts: 95
  • Stolen Base: 1
  • Batting Average: .289
  • On-Base Percentage: .396
  • Slugging Percentage: .454

Those are pretty good numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to approach this level of production in Seattle, and now he’s a Blue Jay.

I enjoyed having Justin on the club. He’s a likable guy and I wish him the best with his new team.

Justin Smoak 2014

Here is some good news: we won the baseball lottery!

We’re getting a World Series Game Seven tonight, and it should be awesome. I know I’ll be stationed directly in front of the television starting at 5 pm.

Do you have a favorite Game Seven?

In recent years, 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees stands out as a thriller, but my favorite of the last 20 years is 1997 Marlins-Indians. That game saw the Marlins rally to tie in the bottom of the ninth before winning in the 11th. The Indians were loaded with hitting talent and somehow the Marlins won the series. Here is the box score.

Links:

  • Roger Angell is 94 years old, a Hall Of Fame baseball writer, and he’s seen more Game Sevens than we have, so let’s start with his musings on tonight’s contest. His thoughts on the players reaction to last night’s blowout are spot-on.
  • It’s a free week at Baseball Prospectus, and their stats have the Giants as a 59% favorite tonight. However, Rob Neyer says you can throw the stats out the window for tonight.
  • Jonah Keri has a Game Seven preview over at Grantland, with four key factors.
  • The road team is a big underdog in Game Seven, Grant Brisbee writes. This story also serves as a quick review of the Game Sevens of the past 35 years.
  • Ryan Divish has the news story on the end of the Justin Smoak era.
  • John McGrath rehashed the trade that brought Smoak to the Mariners.
  • As usual you can find some good tidbits in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Congratulations to Salt Lake Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke, who won an award!
  • If you were forced to guess which former Tacoma Tigers player shot himself while cleaning his gun, there is one obvious answer, isn’t there?

OK that’s enough for today. I need four hours to prepare for Game Seven.


The Local Angle

October 17, 2014

The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants advanced to the World Series, and each team was spurred by a player with local ties.

Kansas City completed a four-game sweep of Baltimore on Wednesday, with former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas earning the win in the deciding game. Vargas pitched 5.1 innings and allowed just two hits and one run in the Royals 2-1 victory.

Later on Wednesday, San Francisco reliever and 2010 Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit tossed three scoreless innings and earned the win in a Game Four victory over St. Louis.

The Giants polished off the Cardinals on Thursday night, 6-3. Former Rainiers and Mariners infielder/outfielder Mike Morse hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 3-3.

Then in the bottom of the ninth inning, Federal Way High School (Class of 2002) product Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off three-run homer to give the Giants a 6-3 victory.

Ishikawa played at Cheney Stadium this year, as a visitor for the Fresno Grizzlies in a series July 11-13. A longtime off-the-bench player in the majors, he opened the season with the Pirates, was released in late April, signed by the Giants to a Triple-A deal, and then promoted to San Francisco in August. He’s played all or parts of seven years in the majors, and 11 years in the minors.

Today Ishikawa’s name is on an impressive list (source: Lee Sinins ATM Reports):

WALKOFF HOMERUN TO CLINCH A POSTSEASON SERIES

Bill Mazeroski      World Series  1960  Pirates
Chris Chambliss     ALCS          1976  Yankees
Joe Carter          World Series  1993  Blue Jays
Todd Pratt            NLDS          1999  Mets
Aaron Boone        ALCS          2003  Yankees
David Ortiz           ALDS          2004  Red Sox
Chris Burke          NLDS          2005  Astros
Magglio Ordonez   ALCS         2006  Tigers
Travis Ishikawa     NLCS          2014  Giants

I must admit, I forgot about Todd Pratt.

Now we have a long wait for the World Series. Game One is on Tuesday in Kansas City. We’ll have some sort of preview for you on Monday.

Links:

  • The folks at MiLB.com have their Mariners minor league all-stars, with lots of commentary from Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn. There is some good stuff in here.
  • Bob Dutton has an overview of where Mariners landed on the various Baseball America league top prospect lists.
  • Here’s how Mike Morse prepared for the biggest hit of his career.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit is gaining a lot of respect in San Francisco.
  • 2005 Pacific Coast League MVP Andy Green (who was with the Tucson Sidewinders) was named third base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks. New Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale was the Tucson manager when Green won the MVP.
  • John McGrath recalls his experience covering the 1989 Earthquake Series.
  • The Rainiers Team Store received a brand new shipment of those retro hats you guys love so much – including a new Tacoma Cubs model. Here’s the direct link.

Playoffs Continue With Former Tacoma Players

October 13, 2014

Former Tacoma Rainiers players continue to make an impact in the MLB playoffs, which have been particularly exciting so far.

In the American League Championship Series, Baltimore’s Adam Jones has finally come alive at the plate. Jones had two hits in Game Two on Saturday, including a game-tying two-run homer. However, his Orioles have lost the first two games of the series to Kansas City (who looks like they may never lose again).

The former Rainiers player on the Royals – Jason Vargas – has not pitched yet, but his day is coming. Vargas gets the start in Game Four on Tuesday night. The way the Royals are playing, Vargas could be trying to finish off a sweep on Tuesday.

The NLCS between St. Louis and San Francisco is tied 1-1, with Game Three set for Tuesday night. The Giants activated former Tacoma infielder/outfielder Mike Morse from the disabled list prior to the series, and he came off the bench for a pinch-hit single last night.

Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit has not worked yet for the Giants in this series. He’s serving as a long reliever because teams don’t need five starters in the playoffs.

The NLCS had a real thriller on Sunday night, with the Cardinals getting huge home runs – including a walk-off shot – from rookies Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong. St. Louis also suffered a crucial injury, losing star catcher Yadier Molina.

Links:

  • In order to get ready for the NLCS, Mike Morse went back to where it all started.
  • As baseball looks to pick up the pace of play, many purists are opposed to the idea of a pitch clock because baseball has no clocks. John McGrath has a good idea: use a traffic light system.
  • What does a recently retired major league star who made over $100 million in the game do with himself? Lance Berkman went back to school.

 


Former Rainiers Factoring In MLB Playoffs

October 6, 2014

The playoffs have been great so far, haven’t they? So many close games, and we already have two fun-to-root-for teams moving ahead into the American League Championship Series.

Kansas City and Baltimore each swept their division series, and they will play in the ALCS starting on Friday night. It has been a long time since either team advanced this far in the playoffs.

Both National League Division Series are still going, and that’s where the ex-Rainiers were in the spotlight this weekend.

San Francisco has a 2-0 lead on Washington and will go for a sweep today at 2:05 (Pacific). Washington will start former Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister in a must-win game.

The Giants took the 2-0 lead by prevailing in an 18-inning marathon on Saturday, 2-1. Former Rainiers pitcher Yusmeiro Petit was an unexpected star for the Giants, delivering six shutout innings of one-hit relief. Normally the Giants No. 5 starting pitcher, Petit was summoned from the bullpen in the 12th inning and pitched scoreless ball through the 17th. Brandon Belt homered in the top of the 18th, and Petit was credited with the win.

Washington Nationals infielder Asdrubal Cabrera has had an eventful series against the Giants. He homered in the first game on Friday, and then was ejected on a controversial call in the 18-inning game on Saturday. Cabrera was ahead in the count 3-1, and the umpire called two straight high strikes which Cabrera thought were balls. Very frustrated, Cabrera tossed his helmet and was ejected (as was Nationals manager Matt Williams). It’ll be interesting to see how Cabrera responds today.

The other NL Division Series is Dodgers-Cardinals, and that one is tied 1-1 with Game Three tonight at 6. This is the series with no Tacoma ties and this blog has no opinion on it. However, both games have been thrillers.

Links:

  • On Sunday The News Tribune published a large Mariners off-season primer. The main article looks at the Mariners needs and possible free agent acquisitions. There is an analysis of the Mariners current 40-man roster. Also, John McGrath has a column in which he suggest the Mariners need to make a daring trade.
  • Ryan Divish has some notes on the Mariners 2014 payroll, which will increase in 2015.
  • The Mariners biggest problem attracting free agents is travel, Shannon Drayer writes.
  • The Arizona Fall League begins on Tuesday and Taijuan Walker will be the opening day starter for Surprise. More here from Bob Dutton.
  • Was Clayton Kershaw tipping his pitches in Game One of the NLDS against St. Louis? What does that even mean? This article by a former MLB pitcher is the best I have read on the subject.
  • He never played in the PCL or for the Mariners, but I must link to this outstanding “goodbye” column Hal McCoy wrote about the newly retired Adam Dunn.
  • Billy Butler of the Royals is having a nice postseason, and he’s (probably) a free agent the Mariners will look at in the off-season. The stats say he once pitched in the minor leagues but that never actually happened. It was a clerical error, Tim Hagerty writes.
  • This has nothing to do with baseball, but the Seattle Times ran a surprising sports business story regarding Key Arena.
  • Lookout Landing posted a selective history of the Tacoma Rainiers.

We’ll be back with a blog update on Wednesday.


Former Rainiers Dot Playoff Rosters

October 2, 2014

Now that the one-game Wild Cards are over, we are ready for the real Major League Baseball playoffs to begin. And as always, there are several former Tacoma Rainiers players who hope to factor into a World Series run for their teams. Let’s take a look:

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (best-of-five)

Detroit vs. Baltimore (Game One starts at 2:30 Pacific on Thursday)

Detroit Tigers: when the Tigers traded Austin Jackson to Seattle at the deadline, they needed a center fielder. At that point they called up former Rainiers outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Toledo, and he has gone on to make the Tigers postseason roster. Carrera opened the 2010 season with Tacoma before being traded to the Cleveland Indians in late June for Russell Branyan.

Baltimore Orioles: the Orioles have one former Tacoma player, but he is arguably the most popular ex-Rainiers star who is not a current Mariner. That would be center fielder Adam Jones, who has found a real home in Baltimore and has been a key cog in the turnaround of the organization. Jones played for the Rainiers in 2006 and 2007, and he represented Tacoma in the Triple-A All-Star Game in 2007.

Kansas City vs. Los Angeles Angels (Game One at 6:00 Thursday)

Kansas City Royals: the Royals will not be represented by a former Rainiers player in the division series. In a move made earlier today, they announced that ex-Rainiers star Raul Ibanez will not be active for the opening series against the Angels. Ibanez will be with the team and they could activate him for the next series if they advance. Kansas City also has starting pitcher Jason Vargas, who opened the 2009 season with the Rainiers.

Los Angeles Angels: the Angels have no former Rainiers on their roster. This makes it really easy for us to root against them.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (best-of-five)

San Francisco vs. Washington (Game One at noon Friday)

San Francisco Giants: the NLDS final 25-man rosters aren’t set yet, but the Giants are likely to carry two former Rainiers: pitcher Yusmeiro Petit won a PCL title with Tacoma in 2010, and catcher Guillermo Quiroz played parts of four seasons with Tacoma (2006, 2009-2010, 2012). While not former Rainiers, the Giants also have Washingtonians Tim Lincecum and Travis Ishikawa.

Washington Nationals: the Nats are loaded with former Tacoma Rainiers. Doug Fister (2009-2010) is a key cog in their rotation, and Rafael Soriano (2003-2005) is an important component in the bullpen (although he was removed from the closer role mid-season). They added Matt Thornton (2003-2004) on a waiver claim in August and he’ll be used against left-handed hitters. Another mid-season acquisition was infielder Asdrubal Cabrera (2005-2006), who has been playing second base.

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Game One at 3:30 Friday)

This series doesn’t exist, as far as Tacoma is concerned. Both teams are completely void of ex-Rainiers.

OK, so who are we rooting for here?

I’m pulling for Adam Jones and the Orioles, Kansas City and the spirit of Raul Ibanez, the Nationals Tacoma quartet, and who cares. One thing we definitely don’t want is a Freeway World Series – that is the only possible zero-Rainiers outcome.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton goes over several off-season issues facing the Mariners in today’s installment of the Mariners notebook.
  • Ryan Divish listed the contract status of every Mariners player.
  • Larry Stone writes that the Mariners could solve a big problem by signing the No. 1 free agent of the winter, Detroit’s Victor Martinez. I agree, but there is going to be a lot of competition for him. Martinez turns 36 this winter so it will be a short but expensive contract.
  • Baseball America actually had a reporter at a Mariners-Indians instructional league game the other day, and it makes for an interesting read.
  • Maybe the M’s will take a shot on the latest Cuban defector, outfielder Yasmany Tomas. The video makes him look like a Cuban Kirby Puckett.
  • Lookout Landing suggests that Justin Smoak‘s time with the Mariners is over. I must reluctantly agree – if you know Justin a little bit, you can’t help but root for him.
  • Fangraphs has an extraordinarily detailed look at the American League Cy Young Award competition.
  • John McGrath has a column on the criticism of Royals manager Ned Yost after their wild 9-8 victory over Oakland.
  • If you are interested in how an affiliation change affects a Triple-A broadcaster, or how Triple-A broadcasters have little connection to their major league affiliate, read this story by Albuquerque Isotopes broadcaster Josh Suchon.
  • Must watch: the Library of Congress has released a four-minute newsreel of Game Seven of the 1924 World Series between the Washington Senators and New York Giants. It includes footage of Walter Johnson, a home run by Bucky Harris, Goose Goslin diving into first base, and of course the walk-off hit.

Two games today, and then Friday… uh, you might want to call in sick. We have playoff baseball on TV from 9:00 AM until 10:00 PM on Friday. It’s like March Madness in October.


A Few Ex-Rainiers In The MLB Playoffs

October 4, 2013

The one-game Wild Card playoffs are over, and now the real MLB playoffs are underway.

It’s that time of the year, when we find the ex-Tacoma players who are on playoff rosters. Let’s take a look:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Pittsburgh Pirates: no players, but first base coach Rick Sofield played for the 1977 Tacoma Twins.

St. Louis Cardinals: no players. Hitting coach John Mabry is a former Mariners player who appeared with Tacoma on rehab assignments in 2000 and 2003. Bench coach Mike Aldrete was a Tacoma Tiger in 1993.

Los Angeles Dodgers: no players. Hitting coach Mark McGwire played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1986,

Atlanta Braves: one player. Freddy Garcia pitched for Tacoma in 1998 and 2000. Two former Tacoma relievers are not on the playoff roster: Eric O’Flaherty (2006-2008 Rainiers) is injured, and Anthony Varvaro (2010 Rainiers) was not activated for the first round of the playoffs (even though he pitched in 62 regular season games with a 2.82 ERA).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Detroit Tigers: two players. Pitcher Doug Fister (2009-2010) and infielder Ramon Santiago (2004-2005) are both former Rainiers players. The Tigers left ex-Rainiers star Matt Tuiasosopo off the playoff roster for the first round – he lost his spot when Jhonny Peralta came off the suspended list. Jeremy Bonderman was also left off the post-season roster. Pitching coach Jeff Jones was with the Tacoma Tigers from 1982 to 1984.

Oakland A’s: no players, but check this out: 20 of the 25 players on their playoff roster played in the PCL recently, most with Sacramento. Pitching coach Curt Young and third base coach Mike Gallego were both long-time Tacoma Tigers in the 1980s.

Boston Red Sox: one player. Outfielder Mike Carp has had an excellent season for Boston; he played for Tacoma from 2009 to 2012 and ranks second on the Tacoma All-Time Home Run list with 67. Also, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn appeared in a few Tacoma games in 2003.

Tampa Bay Rays: no players. No coaches. No nothin’.

Well, this was surprising: only four former Tacoma Rainiers players are on active post-season rosters for the Division Series. We usually have more than that!

Yes, the playoffs started yesterday, I’m a day late with this, and you can call me out on that if you want. That being said, my World Series pick is the Detroit Tigers over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has an update on the Mariners manager search, with some rumored names, in today’s News Tribune.
  • Talk about coincidence: Wednesday’s post was about Danny Hultzen‘s shoulder surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews. Then that night I finally read my current edition of ESPN The Magazine, and there was… a feature on Dr. Andrews. It’s good reading.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones is set to appear as a guest analyst on the TBS pregame/postgame shows.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting post running down the free agent class and judging how they fit in with the Mariners.

It’s a weekend full of baseball and football on TV – have a great one!


Wilson Era Ends; Felix Era Extends

February 8, 2013

Wow, we have a lot of Mariners news today, but we’re going to start with some ex-Rainiers news. Outfielder Mike Wilson – a mainstay on the Tacoma Rainiers since the end of the 2009 season – signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets yesterday. It’s safe to assume that we will see him with the Mets new Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas this season.

Wilson made his Tacoma debut on July 27, 2009, finally reaching Triple-A after parts of three seasons in Jackson, Tennessee. In fact, Wilson is the Jackson career home run leader: he hit 50 dingers for them.

Mike struggled in his first Triple-A experience, although he had a big sac fly to drive in a crucial run in the final game of the 2009 season, when Tacoma beat Colorado Springs to advance to the playoffs (shortly after Wilson’s sac fly gave Tacoma a 4-2 lead, the Rainiers erupted for seven runs in the eighth inning and turned the game into a blowout).

The 2010 season was Wilson’s first big year in Tacoma. He was forced to go back to Double-A for a while, but he hit .273 with 17 homers for the Rainiers before starring in the Rainiers championship run. Wilson homered in all three games of the PCL Championship Series sweep of Memphis, and he was named MVP of the series. In the locker room after the Rainiers won it all, PCL president Branch Rickey told the team that Wilson won the award.

Wilson hit .331 with 16 home runs during the 2011 campaign, which included his first call-up to the majors. Wilson was not expected to get the call, he wasn’t being talked about for a promotion publicly at all. It was an emotional moment when the organizational soldier got the call to the big leagues – Wilson has been playing in the Mariners minor league system since 2002.

He got his first big league hit on May 10, 2011 – a 13th inning RBI single off Baltimore reliever Jeremy Accardo at Camden Yards. He ended up going 4-for-27 in eight games as a bench player, and was sent back to Tacoma.

Last year, Wilson hit .239 but with 12 homers and 34 walks in 230 at-bats. All told, Wilson hit 50 home runs for Tacoma (the exact same number he hit in Jackson), which ranks him tied for tenth place (with Bob Perry) on the all-time Tacoma home run list.

We wish Mike the best with his new team, and hopefully he’ll get another taste of the major leagues.

Mike Wilson swinging

That ball is GONE

Lots of Mariners news yesterday, and you can read all about it in the links below. A quick recap:

  • There are many reports from highly reliable news outlets (USA Today broke the story) that the Mariners and Felix Hernandez agreed to a 7-year contract that makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball. The Mariners have yet to confirm this story.
  • Also, there are many media reports that the Mariners have signed veteran left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to fill out their starting rotation.
  • Finally, the team announced the signing of catcher Kelly Shoppach. They made room for him on the roster by designating Shawn Kelley for assignment – a curious move, one that leads many to believe that they are going to trade Kelley to another club.

Links:

  • The News Tribune has a news story on all of the Mariners stuff, including reported salary information on the Felix deal.
  • John McGrath writes that the Felix deal serves as a message to baseball that the Mariners are willing to spend money.
  • Larry Stone has a column on the Felix extension.
  • Dave Cameron wrote that the Felix deal was a gamble the Mariners had to make.
  • John Sickels looked back at Felix Hernandez’s minor league progression.
  • Ryan Divish has a brief blog post on the Joe Saunders report.
  • The TNT continued its position-by-position spring training advance look at the Mariners with first base and the enigmatic Justin Smoak.
  • At his Seattle Times blog, Larry Stone compiled a grouping of several different Mariners top prospects lists.
  • The Times was able to speak with Jesus Montero, who said he has no idea how his name came up in the Biogenesis investigation. A thorough read of this story reveals how little news there actually is – at this time there is no connection to PEDs, no evidence of anything at all – yet Montero’s name is being dragged through the mud. Then again, if a “smoking gun” were to emerge…
  • Greg Johns posted a Mariners spring training primer looking at the various story lines heading into camp.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions we learn the fate of some ex-Rainiers. All are minor league contracts: Joel Pineiro signed with the Orioles, Miguel Olivo to the Reds, and Scott Atchison to the Mets.
  • Also from the above link, we learn that the Mariners re-signed Felix‘s older brother Moises Hernandez. Moises spent the last two years with the Jackson Generals, pitching in middle relief. While you never know what might happen, it will be a struggle for him to crack the Tacoma bullpen which – as we outlined on Wednesday – is stacked.
  • The Caribbean Series championship game was crazy last night: Mexico won the title in the 18th inning, on a home run by former Fresno Grizzlies outfielder Doug Clark.
  • College baseball gets underway real soon. Here is Baseball America’s preview of the Pac-12 Conference – it includes notes on both Washington and Washington State.
  • Big news on the PCL radio front: Albuquerque broadcaster Robert Portnoy switched jobs, and the Isotopes are hiring a new radio guy. Send in your demos!
  • Broadcasting news: here’s a round-up of crazy things ESPN announcer Bill Walton said during college basketball games this week.

Spring training starts next week!


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