World Series Opens With Tacoma Ties

October 25, 2016

Game One of the World Series is tonight at 5:00 (Fox), and this promises to be a thrilling series. Someone new is going to win it.

The Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. The Cleveland Indians last won in 1948.

The Cubs haven’t even played in a World Series during my lifetime – and probably yours, too: they last reached the Fall Classic in 1945.

Cleveland’s last World Series appearance came in 1997, and it ended with one of the greatest Game Sevens in the sport’s history. The Florida Marlins tied the game in the ninth against Jose Mesa, and won in the 11th inning on Edgar Renteria‘s hit.

We’re a little short on ex-Rainiers in the World Series this year. In fact, there is only one: Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery made 11 starts for Tacoma in 2015. He went back-and-forth between Tacoma and Seattle that year, and then was traded to the Cubs this summer.

Montgomery pitched very well for the Cubs, but it is far too early to determine who “won” that trade. The prospects the Mariners received (Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn) have not reached the majors yet, and both are quite young and have a good chance to help Seattle in the future.

The Cubs have a local player in Jon Lester, who was raised in Puyallup and played high school baseball here in Tacoma at Bellarmine Prep. He pitched at Cheney Stadium as an amateur.

For longtime Tacoma fans and Pacific Coast League followers, the Cubs third base coach is a familiar name. Gary Jones was an infielder who played for the Tacoma Tigers from 1987 through 1989, when they were an Oakland A’s affiliate. He became a highly successful minor league manager and won back-to-back PCL Championships as Edmonton’s skipper in 1996 and 1997.

Cleveland does not have any former Tacoma players on its active roster or coaching staff. Ex-Rainiers outfielder Abraham Almonte is ineligible for the postseason; I’m not sure if he gets to sit in the dugout and watch.

Both teams are loaded with former PCL players who came through Tacoma on the visiting side during their Triple-A days. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is the last player to make a serious run at Cheney Stadium’s giant wall in center field, driving a ball halfway up it in August of 2014.

Now for some really ancient history.

The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, when they beat the Detroit Tigers in five games.

Orval Overall was the starting pitcher in Game Five, and he went the distance in a 2-0 series-clinching shutout.

Overall – a U.C. Berkeley grad and college football All-American – started his professional baseball career four years earlier, with the 1904 Tacoma Tigers.

His record for Tacoma in 1904? 32-25, 2.78 in 510.2 innings pitched.

Baseball was a little different back then.


  • The News Tribune reported late Friday that Pat Listach has been offered a contract to return as Tacoma manager. This jives with what Pat told me “off the record” at the end of the Rainiers season. If he can’t score a major league managing or coaching job, he’ll be back.
  • In a Mariners Notebook from the end of last week, Bob Dutton tells us that Rainiers outfielder Boog Powell returned from his suspension and has begun playing in the Dominican Winter League.
  • Dutton talked to Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto about the changing relief roles, a hot topic during the postseason mostly because of Terry Francona‘s unique and highly successful handling of Indians relief ace Andrew Miller.

O’Neill Hot In Arizona; Brosius Promoted

October 20, 2016

The Arizona Fall League is underway, and the Mariners have seven players performing in the prospect-centric circuit.

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill is one I’m keeping an eye on, as he projects to open the 2017 season with Tacoma.

O’Neill is a muscle-bound outfielder who has the ability to hit a baseball a long way. He made big strides at Double-A Jackson in 2016, cutting down his strikeouts, increasing his walks, and hitting for both average and power while winning the Southern League MVP award.

We’re just a little more than a week into the Arizona Fall League schedule, but the 21-year-old O’Neill already leads the loop in home runs. He’s played in five games and hit three home runs, including dingers in the last two games he has played in.

Word is that O’Neill can really launch some long ones – which should be a lot of fun in the PCL next season. He hit one on Tuesday which the “Trackman” computer system estimated at 443 feet.

The Mariners have announced an addition to their major league coaching staff: Scott Brosius has been promoted to be the Assistant Coach.

Brosius served as Tacoma’s hitting coach in 2016, and was promoted to Seattle in September. He must have shown some value during his September call-up to earn this promotion.

While the Mariners have made it clear that Brosius is an “Assistant Coach,” it makes sense to think that part of his responsibilities will be assisting hitting coach Edgar Martinez.

I’d guess about half of the major league teams now have two hitting coaches, with one titled “assistant hitting coach.” The Mariners haven’t had (and still don’t have) anyone with that title.

It makes sense if you think about it: a team has 13 position players, each needing time in the batting cage on a daily basis. Two hitting coaches to do that work makes a lot of sense, and it would be no surprise if Brosius spends a lot of time with Edgar working in the cage next year.

Regardless of his actual responsibilities, we’re happy for Scott, who played for Tacoma in the 1990s and returned as a coach last year. Hopefully he’ll be part of a great 2017 season in Seattle.

There have been online reports that the Mariners re-signed Triple-A starter Brad Mills to a minor league contract.

Mills made nine starts for Tacoma last year, going 3-3 with a 5.28 ERA. Shoulder problems caused him to start the season and finish the season on the disabled list.

The veteran lefty will be 32 next year. He’s had success in the PCL when healthy, and could be a boost to the Rainiers rotation if his arm is in good shape next spring.


Second AAA All-Star Game Highlighted By Starting Pitchers

October 18, 2016

It’s a slow news time in the Mariners world, as everyone working in baseball watches the major league playoffs unfold. The team did announce some injury updates, which you can read about in the link down below.

With nothing else going on, we’ll do another Triple-A All-Star Game Flashback.

Tacoma is hosting the 30th annual Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium on July 12. We’ll spend the winter looking back at the previous years, to give fans an idea what they can expect in Tacoma this summer.


Columbus, Ohio’s Cooper Stadium was the site of the second Triple-A All-Star Game. A crowd of 14,131 saw a game which featured a terrific starting pitcher match-up – but ended with a high-scoring game, and an 8-3 National League win.

Again, with three Triple-A leagues prior to the merger in 1998, the players were divided up by the major league affiliates. Tacoma Tigers (Oakland A’s) players were on the American League club – and we had just one all-star, pitcher Bryan Clark.

The big story going into this game was the starting pitchers.

Albuquerque’s Ramon Martinez started for the National League. He was a top prospect at the time, and would go on to have an all-star career in the major leagues. Martinez went 135-88 with a 3.67 ERA over 14 major league seasons –  although now he is mostly remembered for being Pedro Martinez‘s older brother.

Vancouver’s Tom Drees started for the AL, and he’s one of the PCL’s great stories: he pitched three no-hitters that year.

That’s not a typo: Drees pitched three no-hitters in the PCL in 1989, and of course he’s the only player in PCL history to do that in a single season. He had already thrown two of them (back-to-back!) when he got the all-star start in Columbus.

Drees had a no-hit outing in the All-Star Game, going three innings without giving up a base hit, but he did allow an unearned run.

1989 Triple-A All-Star Game Fun Facts:

  • The game was televised on ESPN, with young up-and-comer Joe Buck on the call. The national radio broadcast included Columbus announcer Terry Smith, who now handles radio for the Los Angeles Angels.
  • The managers were Columbus skipper Bucky Dent (AL) and Iowa’s Pete Mackanin (NL). Mackanin is currently the Philadelphia Phillies manager – so each of the first two Triple-A All-Star Games had managers who are now big league skippers (1988, Terry Collins – Mets).
  • Richmond second baseman Mark Lemke had two hits, scored two runs, and drove in two more to lead the NL to the win. Lemke started at second base for many of the great Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s, playing in four World Series.
  • ESPN held a telephone call-in poll (remember those?) to determine the game’s MVP, and Lemke won it.
  • Playing in his second straight Triple-A All-Star Game, Las Vegas catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. hit the only home run by a PCL player.
  • Oklahoma City third baseman Scott Coolbaugh also homered in the game. Oklahoma City played in the third Triple-A league, the American Association, before joining the PCL in 1998.
  • Tacoma’s Bryan Clark pitched the ninth inning, and gave up Alomar’s home run. Clark is the last Tacoma pitcher to win 15 games in one season: he went 15-7 with a 3.14 ERA in 1989, but did not get called up by Oakland that year. However, he was 33 in 1989 – he had logged plenty of big league time previously, with the Mariners, Blue Jays, Indians, and White Sox. The M’s brought him back to the majors for 12 games in 1990.
  • Current Albuquerque Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill played in the game, representing Syracuse.
  • Players who appeared in the game and then went on to have long major league careers include: Alomar, Hill, Las Vegas infielder Joey Cora, Buffalo shortstop Jay Bell, Columbus first baseman Hal Morris, Vancouver outfielder Lance Johnson, slugging Denver outfielder Greg Vaughn, Louisville third baseman Todd Zeile, Indianapolis pitcher Mark Gardner, and Columbus infielder Randy Velarde.
  • Columbus outfielder Kevin Maas went 1-for-4. The following year he became one of the biggest flash-in-the-pan baseball stars of the modern era.

Blog shout-out to 1989 Nashville all-star Skeeter Barnes. Any time you can get the name Skeeter Barnes out there, you take advantage.


  • For more on Tom Drees, the three no-hitters, and a rare payroll-related PCL forfeit check out this story. Despite the three no-hitters, Drees pitched in just four major league games and is now a financial analyst in Minnesota.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook covers the surgeries recently performed on Taijuan Walker, Steve Cishek, and Tony Zych.
  • Mariners top pitching prospect Luiz Gohara is not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, thank goodness. Here’s an explanation how the rules applied to him in an interesting article from Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.
  • The M’s PR Department puts out an annual Season Review for the major league team and the minor league organization. Ryan Divish used some valuable Seattle Times webspace to post PDF versions of both the major league and minor league versions.

Check back Thursday for a new post!

First Triple-A All-Star Game Featured A Tacoma MVP

October 13, 2016

Tacoma is hosting the 30th annual Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium on July 12. We’ll spend the winter looking back at the previous years, to give fans an idea what they can expect in Tacoma this summer.


The first Triple-A All-Star Game was played in front of a crowd of 19,500 at Buffalo’s Pilot Field.

For the first ten Triple-A All-Star Games, there was a little bit of trouble dividing up the teams: there were three Triple-A leagues, so we had players from the Pacific Coast League, the International League, and the American Association selected for the game. For the game, the players were divided up by major league affiliates: National League affiliates versus American League affiliates.

Tacoma was the Oakland A’s affiliate in 1988. The Tacoma Tigers all-stars were infielders Lance Blankenship and Ed Jurak. Blankenship started for the American League, batting eighth in the lineup, and went 1-for-3. Jurak replaced him, hitting a triple in the ninth inning and scoring a run.

Jurak’s run was the game winner as the AL won it, 2-1, and he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

The huge crowd – Pilot Field is now named Coca-Cola Field and remains home of the Buffalo Bisons, with a current capacity over 20,000 – helped make the event a success, as did the national TV audience on the up-and-coming cable channel ESPN.

Quick Hits from the first Triple-A All-Star Game:

  • The only run the NL scored came on a home run by Gregg Jeffries, who at the time was the biggest prospect in baseball. Jeffries had a long major league career, but never attained the superstardom which some projected.
  • The Mariners affiliate was in Calgary in 1988. Calgary manager Bill Plummer served as a coach, and the lone all-star player was Phil Ouellette.
  • While not yet representing the Mariners, Joey Cora started at second base for the NL. Cora was a San Diego Padres prospect at the time; their affiliate was the Las Vegas Stars. Cora would eventually play for Seattle from 1995 to 1998.
  • Nearly everybody in the game appeared in the major leagues. A few players who would have long MLB careers: Jeffries, Cora, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., and outfielder Steve Finley.
  • Two years later, Sandy Alomar Jr. became the first alumnus of the Triple-A All-Star Game to play in the Major League All-Star Game.
  • The Albuquerque Dukes were represented by outfielder Chris Gwynn. Gwynn was a fixture at Cheney Stadium the last few seasons, while working as Jack Zduriencik’s Director of Player Development.
  • Managers were Ed Nottle (Pawtucket) for the AL, and Terry Collins (Albuquerque) for the NL. Collins is currently managing the New York Mets, while Nottle had been a previous Tacoma manager (1981-82, 1984). Has anyone written a book on Nottle yet? He managed in the minors from 1978 through 2008!
  • The home plate umpire was Pam Postema, who was bidding to become the major league’s first woman umpire.
  • Columbus catcher Bob Geren won the first-ever Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby.

That was fun to research. We’ll do another installment next week.

Two key players from the 2016 Rainiers have declared free agency.

Outfielder/second baseman Daniel Robertson and pitcher Jarrett Grube each elected to become free agents. Each player has over six years of minor league experience and is not on the Mariners 40-man roster, which makes them eligible to become free agents.

Robertson played in 114 games for the Rainiers, hitting .287 while providing energy at the top of the lineup and leadership in the clubhouse.

Grube made 15 appearances for the Rainiers, posting a 3.62 ERA.

Each player spent a little bit of time in the majors with Seattle this year, although Grube did not appear in a big league game.


We’ve got a big NLDS Game Five tonight!

Let’s Check On Those Predictions…

October 11, 2016

Good morning! I hope you are having a nice day. Let’s check in on my Major League Baseball playoff predictions and see how they are doing:


The team I picked to win the World Series – the Boston Red Sox – got swept by the injury-wrecked Cleveland Indians. The team that I picked to advance to the World Series before losing to Boston was the SF Giants – and they are on the ropes; they needed a 13th inning win last night to avoid being swept by the Cubs.

The most impressive team in the postseason has been Toronto – and I picked them to lose in the first round to Texas. Whoops!

Thanks goodness you don’t read this blog for the predictions. Um, right?

On Thursday we’ll begin one of our main offseason blog projects: a look back at the previous Triple-A All-Star Games, as we gear up for Cheney Stadium to be the host of the 30th annual event.

The future stars and even Hall of Famers to play in this event make it fun to glance into the past at the previous games. On Thursday we’ll take a peek at the first Triple-A All-Star Game in 1988.


The all-star game history is going to be a fun project. Check back on Thursday for the first installment.

Ex-Rainiers In MLB Playoffs (and bad predictions)

October 6, 2016

The Wild Card games are over – they were both fantastic games – and we are ready for the “real” playoffs to begin. The four Division Series start today – well, the American League starts today, with the NL beginning on Friday.

As always, there are a handful of former Tacoma Rainiers players in the MLB playoffs. We’ll start with a look at who those guys are.

San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs

When the Giants beat the Mets last night, it cost us the chance to see several former Rainiers in the playoffs. San Francisco didn’t have any former Rainiers on its roster for the Wild Card Game last night. The Mets had infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Ty Kelly, and catcher Rene Rivera.

The Cubs don’t have any ex-Rainiers players, but they do have two products of local high schools. Jon Lester graduated from Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, and Jason Hammel is an alum of South Kitsap High in Port Orchard.

LA Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals

Washington has a pair of veteran relievers who once pitched for Tacoma in Yusmeiro Petit and Oliver Perez.

The Dodgers don’t have any ex-Rainiers on their active playoff roster. Chris Taylor was closest but didn’t make the cut. They do have Kyle Seager‘s little brother Corey, who is going to win the National League Rookie of the Year award once the season ends.

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers

The Blue Jays lead the playoffs in ex-Rainiers players: Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and Ezequiel Carrera.

Texas has one, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox

The Indians finished the regular season with three ex-Tacoma players on the roster, but I’m not sure any will make the playoff roster. Veteran catcher Chris Gimenez has the best chance, I suspect. Fellow catcher Adam Moore is unlikely to make the active roster but might go along for the ride and help in the bullpen. Outfielder Abraham Almonte is ineligible for the playoffs as a result of the PED suspension he served earlier this season.

The Red Sox do not have any former Rainiers.

Ok, now on to the picks.

The Chicago Cubs are odds-on favorites to win the World Series, and this is patently ridiculous.

These guys haven’t won the World Series since 1908, and everyone thinks this is suddenly going to change?

I’m not buying it.

So for the NL picks, who is going to knock out the Cubbies: the Giants, the Nationals, or the Red Sox?

It’s an even-numbered year. Let’s go with the Giants.


Giants beat Cubs

Washington beats Dodgers

Giants defeat Nationals


Texas beats Toronto

Red Sox over Cleveland

Red Sox take down Texas

World Series

Red Sox over Giants in six games

I’m always terrible at these predictions, so I advise picking exact opposites.


MLB Playoffs Start Today

October 4, 2016

The Major League Baseball postseason begins tonight, and the very first game is going to hurt a little.

The playoffs open with the American League Wild Card Game tonight at 5, and this is the game we were hoping the Mariners would be in. Instead, we have the Baltimore Orioles at the Toronto Blue Jays, with the winner advancing to the Division Series at Texas on Thursday. Boston plays Cleveland in the other AL Division Series, which also starts on Thursday.

In the National League, the Wild Card Game is Wednesday at 5. San Francisco plays the Mets in New York with the winner advancing to the NL Division Series against the Cubs on Friday. The other NL Division Series also starts Friday, with the Dodgers facing the Nationals.

Friday is going to be a great day for coach potatoes: playoff baseball from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

Let’s enjoy these wild card games, and on Thursday I’ll post my annual sure-to-be-wrong Playoff Predictions.


Coming Thursday: playoff predictions which will certainly be wrong!