Baseball Returns Tuesday

October 20, 2014

We survived a baseball-free weekend (and for most of us a bad football weekend) and now we look forward to the World Series, which gets underway in Kansas City on Tuesday night (5:00 Pacific on Fox – all games will start at 5 and are on basic Fox).

The main story of the series is that both teams qualified as wild cards. Kansas City finished behind Detroit in the AL Central, and the San Francisco Giants were runners-up to the Dodgers in the NL West. Each team had to survive a one-game wild card play-in game, and then win two full series to advance to the title round.

This is exactly the opposite of what MLB was shooting for when they switched to the one-game wild card playoff last year. The goal was to create an easier path to the World Series for the division winners, and make it tougher for the wild card teams to advance.

They succeeded in the goal – it is definitely tougher for wild card teams to advance now – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. This year’s World Series is Exhibit A.

Both teams have played exciting ball throughout the postseason, and I think we can count on that to continue in the Series. What I am hoping for is something that has not yet happened in the 2014 MLB postseason: a series stretched out to full length.

No losing team has won more than one game in a series yet in this postseason. It’s time for that to change: I’m hoping we get to at least six games. And if we can get to a Game Seven, well, that’s the best our sport has to offer.

Quick refresher, your ex-Rainiers and other locals:

KANSAS CITY: pitcher Jason Vargas is scheduled to start Game Four on Friday night. Raul Ibanez is with the team but is probably not going to be on the active roster.

SAN FRANCISCO: infielder/outfielder Mike Morse is probably going to get starts as the DH in the games played at Kansas City. Yusmeiro Petit is the long man in the bullpen. The Giants also have state of Washington natives Tim Lincecum and Travis Ishikawa, though neither of them played for Tacoma.

Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker has left the Arizona Fall League after just two starts, rather than the four or five that the team was hoping he would make.

Fortunately this is not injury related. Walker reportedly feels great and is 100% healthy; he just had a need to go home to California according to the report linked below.

I’m hearing that this is no big deal and Walker will be ready to go for spring training.

Links:

If I could time travel to see a World Series, I would go to 1926. Cardinals – Yankees. Sportsman’s Park, Yankee Stadium. St. Louis wins in seven. The Grover Alexander vs. Tony Lazzeri battle in the 7th inning of Game Seven remains one of the most famous moments in World Series history. Rogers Hornsby. Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Miller Huggins. Waite Hoyt. Herb Pennock. Urban Shocker. Branch Rickey. And the whole thing ends when Ruth gets caught stealing second while representing the tying run.

I would convince Graham McNamee to hire me as help in the broadcast booth during the games. I would spend all of the money I made on cigarettes – not to smoke, just to try to get mint condition Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby baseball cards. I’ll smuggle the cards back to the current day, sell them, and buy an island to spend my winters on. Pretty good plan, eh?


Cards Turn To Rookie – Again

October 30, 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals are in do-or-die mode, trailing the World Series 3-2 going into Game Six at Fenway Park (5:00 tonight, FOX). Once again, they are turning to rookie pitcher Michael Wacha to keep them alive.

The rookie has been unbelievable in the playoffs for the Cardinals. He’s made four starts, and he is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He’s given up only 11 hits in 27 innings, for crying out loud.

Rainiers fans saw a bit of this in person back in May.

Wacha pitched at Cheney Stadium on May 16, and he shut down the Rainiers for seven innings. This game occurred during a period when the Rainiers were really good – Tacoma went 11-5 over the next 16 games.

Rainiers starting lineup:
Nick Franklin (SS), Franklin Gutierrez (DH), Alex Liddi (3B), Carlos Peguero (RF), Stefen Romero (LF), Mike Zunino (C), Nate Tenbrink (2B), Rich Poythress (1B), Corey Patterson (CF)

Wacha allowed just two hits: a single to Romero in the fifth inning, and a solo home run to Poythress in the sixth. He struck out eight and walked only one.

Perhaps you were there? The crowd was 4,127 – not bad for a Thursday in mid-May.

I’m pulling for Wacha tonight, for one simple reason: there is nothing better in baseball than a World Series Game Seven. We’re one Wacha win away from getting that thrill.

Links:

  • Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom blogged about pitching on opening day in the Venezuelan Winter League. Good stuff.
  • Sorry ladies – the third-most-famous* ex-Rainiers player in the Major Leagues is now engaged. Congratulations, Adam!
  • Add former Albuquerque Isotopes manager (and former NL All-Star) Tim Wallach to the list of Mariners manager candidates. It sounds like Jack Z is holed up in an Arizona hotel room, interviewing people.
  • In The New Yorker, former Sacramento and Iowa second baseman Adrian Cardenas writes beautifully about quitting baseball.
  • Want to be a Major League broadcaster? All you need to do is get the Pawtucket radio job and you’ll be in the big leagues in no time!
  • I take back anything even remotely negative I may have said, written, or thought about the El Paso Chihuahuas. They’re off the hook, because we now have the Akron RubberDucks. (yes, one word, with a capital letter in the middle of course). My condolences to Eastern League broadcasters.
  • People often ask me what minor league baseball team employees do during the off-season. This Facebook post answers that question.**

When we next update the blog on Friday we’ll have a World Series champion and the “Hot Stove League” will be underway.

* I rank the two most famous ex-Rainiers in the big leagues as A-Rod and Felix. Note that I wrote famous, not best or popular.

** Sarcasm alert! The majority of the Rainiers Front Office is sales people, who actually work harder in the off-season than during the season!


Series Tied

October 28, 2013

This is shaping up to be a memorable World Series, if not the most well-played one.

In case you missed it over the weekend, Game Three ended on a rare baserunner obstruction play (the diving third baseman accidentally tripped the runner trying to score), and then Game Four ended with a runner picked off first base with the tying run at the plate.

Add to that a lot of sloppy infield defense along the way, and this hasn’t been the most aesthetically pleasing World Series. However, it has been tense – and it is lining up for a potential thrilling finish.

Our lone ex-Rainiers contributor has had a slim role so far. Boston’s Mike Carp is 0-for-2 in the World Series, with an RBI.

Game Five is tonight at 5:00.

Links:


Giants Sweep Series

October 29, 2012

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who swept the Detroit Tigers to claim their second World Series championship in the last three years.

The Giants have done it with a mix of home-grown superstars and deft additions via trade and free agency to round out the roster.

The nucleus of the team was signed and developed within the Giants farm system. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo (and the 2010 closer Brian Wilson) are all products of the Giants scouting and player development process.

The Giants have been highly successful adding key role players through a variety of means. In particular, the Giants had huge contributions this season from Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias – and both players were signed prior to the season as minor league free agents.

The Giants have also been astute traders. Who knew that picking up Marco Scutaro would be such a season-changing event? Brian Sabean, I guess.

(After Scutaro had the game-winner last night, Dave Cameron posted on Twitter “Today’s youth are going to remember Marco Scutaro the same way I remember Mark Lemke.” Us fans of a certain age know exactly what he is talking about).

As long as that core group of homegrown starting pitchers stays healthy – along with Posey – the Giants appear set up for playoff contention for another few years.

Posey might be the absolute key. The two years he has been healthy, they won it all. The one year he was injured, they did not reach the playoffs.

We are now officially into the off-season – the first thing you will hear about is players declaring free agency. The awards will start to be announced, beginning with the Gold Gloves on Tuesday. We’ll check out the off-season schedule on Wednesday.

Links from the weekend:

  • World Series articles from the San Francisco newspaper: the game story, and Pablo Sandoval was named World Series MVP.
  • Dave Cameron writes that the Giants won with depth, not star power.
  • Mariners infielders Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan are Gold Glove Award finalists.
  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times speculates that the Mariners may trade pitching prospect James Paxton for offensive help.
  • Baker – who apparently is in Arizona attending the Fall League – also has a piece on hopeful catcher-of-the-future Mike Zunino.
  • Larry LaRue, the former Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune, has a new job with the paper. It’s a non-sports job, but here are the details if you are curious.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Mariners have hired a new Director of International Scouting.
  • Former Tacoma Tigers shortstop Walt Weiss was interviewed for the Colorado Rockies manager job.
  • Here is the newspaper story on Sacramento manager Darren Bush getting moved up to the big leagues as a bullpen coach. No word yet on who will be the new Sacramento manager.
  • Susan Slusser – the excellent Oakland A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle – became the first woman president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Only three-and-a-half months until spring training!


Will Luis Jimenez Return To Tacoma Next Year?

October 26, 2012

Prior to World Series Game Two last night, the Seattle Mariners announced that slugging designated hitter Luis Jimenez has been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma.

What this means is that the Mariners removed Jimenez from their 40-man Major League roster, and he cleared waivers and was assigned to the Tacoma roster. Yes, there is a Tacoma roster, even in the off-season, for organizational purposes (we never get to see it).

This does  not mean, yet, that Luis will return to the Rainiers next season. Because he has over six full seasons of minor league time, Jimenez is allowed to declare himself a minor league free agent after the World Series is complete. He’ll probably do this, to keep his options open.

Then it is up to the Mariners and Luis. The Mariners could offer him a Triple-A contract with a decent salary, plus an invitation to big league spring training, and Luis might go for it. Or, Luis could accept an offer from another team – I’m sure he’ll get a few offers, he has value as a Triple-A slugger for an American League affiliate.

With no “inside” information, I think that if the Mariners offer Luis a decent contract, he’ll come back. Three big reasons why:

  • the Mariners were the first team to ever give him a major league opportunity.
  • the Mariners have strong ties to the Cardinales de Lara, Jimenez’s Venezuelan Winter League team. Luis is the superstar of this team.
  • stability, which could be a key for Jimenez, who prior to signing with Seattle two seasons ago was a true baseball nomad.

On the other side of the coin, why would the Mariners re-sign Luis? Point #2 up above, the relationship with Lara, would be the biggest reason other than simply providing Tacoma with a good DH. We just don’t know if the Mariners are interested in keeping him in the organization.

There’s nothing we can do now except wait and see how it plays out.

The Giants went up on Detroit last night, 2-0 in the series. Coincidentally, they won Game Two by a score of 2-0.

Madison Bumgarner silenced all critics with about as strong of an outing as anyone could have asked for, going seven shutout innings to earn the win.

Former Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister took a tough loss for Detroit, surrendering one run over six innings. Fister also got knocked in the head by a line drive, yet he shook it off and kept on pitching. I couldn’t believe he stayed in the game after that, but he appeared unshaken.

The series moves to Detroit for Game Three on Saturday at 5:07 (Fox), and then Game Four on Sunday also at 5:07 (also on Fox). It’s Ryan Vogelsong vs. Anibal Sanchez in Game Three, and Matt Cain vs. Max Scherzer in Game Four. This brings us to today’s poll:

Links:

  • We start with the AP news story on Game Two, with all of the details revealed in AP Style.
  • Doug Fister took a hit and kept on going.
  • At the back-in-action Mariners blog at The News Tribune, there is a brief post with a quality photo of Luis Jimenez.
  • Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan won a Fielding Bible award, which is awarded to one player at each position in the majors for defensive excellence. Link includes a highlight reel video.
  • Unsurprising fact: after you hit three home runs in one World Series game, it’s easy to convince your favorite restaurant to re-open its kitchen.
  • From Baseball America’s minor league transactions and other sources, two former Rainiers catchers were designated for assignment by MLB teams this week: Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson. You know what’s funny? The Rainiers could use Rob Johnson in 2013 – they need a veteran catcher.
  • In the PCL, the New York Mets front office brass made their first visit to new Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas. If I was Sandy Alderson I would make monthly trips to “evaluate the Triple-A club.”
  • On twitter, Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser reported that Sacramento manager Darren Bush has been promoted to A’s bullpen coach. That is the first time I have ever heard of a Triple-A manager becoming a Major League bullpen coach. A weird one, for sure, but congrats to Bush.

Have a great weekend!


Panda Powers Giants

October 25, 2012

A wild panda chews on the leaves of the verlander tree.

Who saw that one coming? Not me, that’s for sure!

Pablo “Panda” Sandoval became the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to hit three home runs in a single World Series game, and San Francisco won the opener last night, 8-3. He joined Babe Ruth (who did it twice), Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. That’s three upper-echelon Hall Of Famers (well, Pujols will be one when he retires).

Amazingly, he hit two homers off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. If you were watching, the first one was absolutely mind-blowing – Sandoval took a nearly neck-high fastball at 95+ mph and launched it to center field. It was a pitch he shouldn’t have even swung at, let alone make contact with.

Tonight in Game Two (5:07 PM, Fox), former Rainiers right-hander Doug Fister makes the most important start of his career. The Tigers need a quality outing from Fister to get a win tonight and move the series to Detroit with a 1-1 tie.

With the ace Verlander failing to win his first start, there is added pressure on the other members of the Tigers rotation. Here’s hoping Fister steps up and get it done tonight.*

The Giants will counter with Madison Bumgarner, who was one of their top starters this season – until the stretch run, when he reportedly suffered a loss of velocity leading some to speculate he might be injured. However, the Giants decided to give him this start over Tim Lincecum, who they used out of the bullpen last night. I suspect Giants fans are quite nervous about Bumgarner this evening.

Links:

  • The Game One news story in the Seattle Times includes a box score, and it also describes the star as a “roly-poly happy specimen.”
  • Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron breaks down exactly how Justin Verlander got lit up.
  • At Grantland, Jonah Keri has a nice rundown of Game One, with numerous insightful notes.
  • The Mariners said goodbye to catcher Miguel Olivo and utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki. Look for the M’s to bring in a veteran catcher with MLB experience on a Triple-A contract.
  • From a website my life’s goal is to never have my name appear on, we find out that Tim McCarver‘s strange Barry Manilow reference wasn’t actually totally off-base.
  • Quick reminder: time is running out if you want to enter the contest to have Rainiers mascot Rhubarb The Reindeer trick-or-treat with your kids. All of the information is right here.

Game Two tonight!

* pro tip for baseball fans with no rooting interest in the World Series: always root for seven games!


Game One Preview Stories

October 24, 2012

Game One of the World Series starts tonight at 5:07 (Fox), with Justin Verlander facing Barry Zito. Here are a few World Series preview articles I enjoyed today while doing my usual tour of baseball websites:

  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone writes that the story is all about the team that is rested (Detroit) against the team that had to play all seven in the NLCS (San Francisco). Note: this link includes the complete World Series schedule and pitching match-ups tacked on at the bottom.
  • Stone also has a blog post that is supposedly about ex-Mariners in the World Series, but is really just a vehicle to post the amazing Hunter Pence gif.
  • Here in Tacoma, John McGrath thinks that Detroit will look a little off-kilter due to their long layoff, so he’s picking the Giants to win the whole thing.
  • The series opens in the National League’s ballpark, so the pitchers will hit. This presents a problem for Justin Verlander, who is still looking for his first Major League hit. He’s 0-for-33 in his career.
  • Longtime San Francisco sports columnist Bruce Jenkins recalls the previous four World Series in San Francisco – dating back to 1962.
  • The Tigers have reached the Series more times than the San Francisco Giants, so their World Series history requires a Part One and a Part Two. I enjoyed the US history notes in these reviews.
  • ESPN’s David Schoenfield has dubbed this “The Darrell Evans World Series” in his list of ten reasons to watch. Evans, who I believe is one of the most underrated players in recent history, starred for both teams.
  • One of the biggest questions of the Series is, who will be the Tigers closer? Dave Cameron tried to get to the bottom of it.
  • We actually have some on-field PCL news to report today: former Arizona State University head coach Pat Murphy will manage the Tucson Padres this season, and his pitching coach will be former Tacoma Tigers right-hander Bronswell Patrick. Terry Kennedy, the Tucson manager last year and a former Rainiers hitting coach, was hired by the Cubs to be a pro scout.
  • A Class-A team has publicly offered its radio job to Bob Costas. Good luck with that one.

I can’t wait to watch – is it five o’clock yet? I think the Tigers will win Game One behind Verlander, but I stand behind my pick of the Giants to take the series.


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