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.


World Series Set

October 23, 2012

It’s the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, starting Wednesday night in San Francisco.

Let’s try something new… a poll!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Earthquake! option, please google “1989 World Series.”

We’ve already covered the ex-Rainiers in the series: two, both with Detroit, in Doug Fister and Ramon Santiago. However, Cheney Stadium regulars have seen many of the key World Series players as visitors over the years.

Because their Triple-A affiliate (Fresno) plays in the PCL, we have seen many more Giants players than Tigers at Cheney Stadium.

San Francisco homegrown superstars Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Tim Lincecum all played at Cheney Stadium while with Fresno. Posey even hit his first Triple-A home run at Cheney, a massive drive to right-center on August 4, 2009 (serving it up: Justin Thomas).

Unlikely Giants NLCS star Barry Zito pitched several times against Tacoma when he was coming up through the Oakland A’s system.

Other Giants players who played against Tacoma include Xavier Nady, Brandon Belt, Joaquin Arias, Hector Sanchez, Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez, George Kontos, and Santiago Casilla.

There are two homegrown Giants stars who never appeared against the Rainiers: Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner. The Panda has only played for Fresno on rehabilitation assignments, while Bumgarner never pitched against Tacoma in a weird bit of starting rotation randomness: he was with Fresno when they played Tacoma, but his turn in the rotation missed us.

On the Detroit side, we saw a young Prince Fielder blast a couple of doubles off the old tall walls when he was with Nashville during a series May 19-22, 2005. I vividly recall one drive that would be a homer with the new shorter fences.

Beleaguered Tigers closer Jose Valverde pitched at Cheney during his many stops with Triple-A Tucson while he was working to get established in the majors. I don’t remember him performing any crazy antics on the mound back then.

Other Tigers who played against Tacoma as minor leaguers include Joaquin Benoit, Don Kelly, and Gerald Laird.

What about the greatest Tiger of all, Mr. Triple Crown himself, Miguel Cabrera? He falls into the rare “too good for Triple-A” category: Cabrera has never played in a Triple-A game. In fact, he played just a half-season in Double-A, batting .365 with 42 extra-base hits in 69 games, and went straight to the majors at age 20. Cabrera was a hitting prodigy.

I think this is going to be an excellent, close series. Obviously the Tigers will have the advantage in every game Justin Verlander pitches, but the Giants may end up with the starting pitching edge in all of the other games. There is also a good chance that we will be seeing each league’s MVP award winner in Cabrera and Posey.

I’m picking Giants in six games, based on the experience factor: there is a core group on this team that won it all just two years ago.

Links:

  • The Mariners made their hitting coach hire, and it’s Dave Hansen, who was once one of the top pinch-hitters in the game. Just for fun, here is his Baseball Reference page. Hansen has 35 more major league home runs than all of us, combined!
  • For Baseball America subscribers, here is their Mariners “Draft Report Card.” I put that in quotes because no grades were given. Why is it a report card?
  • We’re going to be hearing a lot about Doug Fister during this World Series. Jason Churchill recently revisited the Fister trade.
  • Yesterday on Grantland, the esteemed Jonah Keri wrote a long piece on Tigers reliever Phil Coke (who never played at Cheney Stadium). Aside from being an excellent piece, this story is link-worthy because it details the hardship that low-round draft picks endure in the minor leagues.
  • Say what you want about Joe Buck, but I certainly believe him when he tells Giants fans he is not biased. He can’t be biased on the air in his current position; he would lose his job.
  • If public stadium debt is your cup of tea, then you might enjoy this long story from the Reno newspaper about the stadium debt issues there. Time for me to come clean: I didn’t make it halfway through the first page.

Enjoy the Series!


Great Series Ends Tonight

October 28, 2011

How was that game?

Game Six of the World Series was one of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen. Note that I did not say World Series game – let’s include all of those regular season games, too.

The Cardinals were down to their last strike and needed heroics in both the ninth and tenth innings, and they got them. And then they won it on a homer in the 11th.

Hopefully you were watching this game; I’m incapable of writing any sort of quality ode to it here.

But one thought kept crossing my mind in the late innings: I was totally jealous of Joe Buck – and this is not a thought that I’ve had often. Buck got to broadcast one of the greatest World Series games, ever – it would have been so much fun to call.

Furthermore, one would presume that Buck is a Cardinals fan at heart. It was his team pulling off all of those miracles!

That must have been the greatest day of his career. Unless he likes football better than baseball; he’s called several Super Bowls.

A few items:

  • Larry Stone says that last night’s game is why we love baseball. He also says Texas will probably not recover from that one.
  • Joe Buck honored his father Jack with his call of the game-winning home run.

Game Seven tonight. This is as good as it gets in baseball – I can’t wait for 5:00. I always keep score of Game 7 (yup, I’m a total baseball geek, I know). My favorite Game 7s are: the 1-0 ten inning Jack Morris masterpiece of 1991, and the Edgar Renteria game-winner for Florida in the 11th inning in 1997.


The Giants Are Champs

November 2, 2010

San Francisco won its first ever World Series Championship last night with a 3-1 victory over Texas, taking the series in five games.

It was Renton native Tim Lincecum who starred yesterday, out-dueling Cliff Lee over eight nearly flawless innings.

In the end, the Giants pitching was just too much for the Rangers. In a five-game series, San Francisco tossed two shutouts and had another game allowing just one run.

It’s a special day in San Francisco – a city that has never had a World Series winner, despite having a team since 1958.

I enjoyed this series. I always like it when a new team wins, and this year that was a guarantee regardless who won it. I also enjoy it when young players are key components, and again that was the case with both teams. And on top of all of that, it’s great to see a local player shine. The only thing missing was a former Rainiers player in the mix.

San Francisco needed 52 years to win a World Series. Seattle has had a team for 34 years without winning it all. Hopefully we can win one without having to wait as long as San Francisco did!

Lots of links today:

  • Tim Lincecum was The Man yesterday, and he was the subject of a national piece from ESPN.
  • For the second time in his career, Edgar Renteria had the World Series-winning hit.
  • The Giants think that their young pitching will give them a chance to return to the World Series soon.
  • Talented writers working on deadline amaze me. Jim Caple turned out this gem following last night’s game. At the end of the story, Caple provides a look at how sports journalists sort of – but not really – stop being fans.
  • Hey, there’s Mariners news, too! Geoff Baker has an update on the Mariners coaching staff.
  • Dustin Ackley is putting up big numbers in the Arizona Fall League, but he hasn’t been stealing bases like the M’s want him to. Kirby Arnold has the story.
  • The second-best pitcher in Japan is coming to the USA. Larry Stone doubts that the Mariners will be interested.
  • Former Tacoma Rainiers pitching coach Ron Romanick got the Oakland job.
  • Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame member Artie Wilson passed away Sunday at age 90. Wilson is an interesting story on many levels – Larry Stone wrote about how he mentored Willie Mays, and his obit in The Oregonian focused on Wilson’s life in Portland.
  • Speaking of Mays, here is his reaction to the Giants win.
  • Baseball Prospectus has a free Q&A with Toronto Blue Jays radio announcer Jerry Howarth. Howarth talks about the two seasons he called games for the Tacoma Twins (1974-75), and how it was his Triple-A manager who helped him break into the major leagues.

Only three and a half months until pitchers and catchers report to spring training!


Mad Bum Gives SF A 3-1 Lead

November 1, 2010

The San Francisco Giants 21-year-old rookie Madison Bumgarner tossed eight shutout innings in Game Four, giving the Giants a 3-1 World Series lead.

Renton, WA native Tim Lincecum will be on the mound tonight in Game Five with a chance to clinch it – but he’ll have to best Cliff Lee to do it.

Bumgarner – who is nicknamed “Mad-Bum” in a shortening of his name, not a nod to a long-standing San Francisco civic problem – changed speeds and kept Rangers hitters off-balance all game. In the parts of the game that I watched, Bumgarner had a particularly nasty change-up, and he had Rangers hitters out in front of it.

As the Series moves on, it’s becoming more clear what the Giants are: a group of three young stud starting pitchers (Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner) and a rookie catcher oozing superstar talent in Buster Posey, surrounded by a rag-tag group of free agents and cast-offs who are having the time of their lives. It’s a fun team to watch.

Game Five is tonight at 5:00 (OK, 4:57. Whatever.). Cliff Lee will be asked to carry the Rangers on his shoulders, and get the Series back to San Francisco. As fun as it would be to see Lincecum win the final game, I think that tonight will belong to Lee and the Rangers. 

Here are the links:

  • The Associated Press story covers all the pertinent details of Game Four.
  • In San Francisco, Bruce Jenkins wrote about Madison Bumgarner.
  • This Dallas columnist is looking for Josh Hamilton to step up.
  • I’m not the only one who thinks Cliff Lee will be in command tonight.
  • Away from the World Series, young players are honing their skills down in Arizona. This is an excellent story about one-time “can’t-miss” prospect Brandon Wood, who is trying to get it together down in the Arizona Fall League. It’s a reminder that, in its heart, baseball is a game of failure.

No Mariners or Rainiers news right now. Look for the Mariners to announce their major league coaching staff soon after the end of the World Series – all we know right now is that the pitching coach will be Carl Willis.


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