The 1969 Tacoma Cubs – PCL Champions

December 22, 2010

When the Tacoma Rainiers won the 2010 Pacific Coast League championship on September 17 in Memphis, it was Tacoma’s first outright PCL title since 1969.

To clarify, Tacoma had teams that were named “Co-Champions” in 1978 and 2001, when the championship series was unable to be played due to rain (1978) and the 9/11 attacks (2001).

But Tacoma had not celebrated a championship on the field since the Tacoma Cubs defeated the Eugene Emeralds in a best-of-five PCL Championship Series in 1969. I decided to spend some time researching the 1969 team, and learn how they won the title. Little did I know how dramatic the series was, with accusations of cheating and a stunning Tacoma comeback after dropping the first two games.

The T-Cubs Shoot To The Moon

First, a bit about Tacoma’s opponent, the Eugene Emeralds. Aren’t they a short-season team in the Class-A Northwest League? Yes, they are today – but from 1969 to 1973, Eugene played as a Triple-A team, and in 1969 they were a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate operating out of Civic Stadium.

The PCL was a league in transition in 1969, having just lost several teams (Denver, Indianapolis, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City) to the American Association. The league added Eugene and Tucson in 1969, for an eight-team circuit divided into two four-team divisions. The two division champions would play for the league title.

Tacoma and Eugene each ran away with its division:

Final Standings from the official, hand-typed league stats (Bill Weiss FTW)

The best-of-five series opened with the first two games to be played in Eugene. The series would move to Tacoma for Games 3 and 4, and then back to Eugene for Game 5.

It didn’t even take one inning for the series to get interesting.

After Tacoma did not score in the top of the first inning of Game One, Eugene came to the plate in the bottom of the first against T-Cubs starter Archie Reynolds. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Tacoma manager Whitey Lockman called time out, and pointed out to the umpires that the man working the hand-operated scoreboard in center field was using binoculars to steal the signals of Tacoma catcher Randy Bobb, and relay the pitch-type by sending his own signal to the batter.

Second base umpire Paul Runge went out to center field and confiscated the binoculars from the scoreboard operator.

In the newspaper account the following day, Tacoma News Tribune writer Ed Honeywell stirred the pot:

“Did a ‘spy in the sky’ have something to do with the Emeralds’ amazing 52-21 home record this season?… Did Cal Emery get a little “extra” help in compiling that even .400 batting average? (ed: Emery hit .400 in 260 at-bats)… Discoveries of field glasses at certain vantage points in a couple of major league ballparks within the last 25 years have led to drastic action from the commissioner’s office.”

In the end, nothing came of the binoculars incident – and Eugene didn’t need them, anyway. The Emeralds won the first game of the series, 6-1. Emeralds top prospect Larry Bowa hit a leadoff home run on the second pitch in the first inning, and pitcher Gary Wagner went the distance, tossing a seven-hitter.

Reynolds was knocked out in the fifth inning, when Eugene took a 6-0 lead, and it was all over.

Game Two the next day (September 3) was a drama-filled contest – the first of four straight games to be decided by two runs or less.

Tacoma’s Jim Colborn won the regular-season ERA title, and he was tabbed for the start in Game Two against Eugene’s Jeff James. The T-Cubs played some shoddy defense and allowed a pair of unearned runs to score, with two more coming home on a misplayed fly ball that fell for a hit.

“We played bad baseball in this one,” Lockman told the News Tribune. “Such bad baseball that they shouldn’t have had any of their first four runs.”

Still, the T-Cubs tied the game 4-4 with a couple of runs in the top of the eighth. But Eugene’s Scott Reid ended the game with one swing – a leadoff home run to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning off Tacoma reliever Dick LeMay, giving Eugene a 5-4 win.

Eugene led the series, two games to none, and was just one win away from the PCL crown. After the game, the soothsayer Lockman asked the reporter Honeywell a question: “Won’t they be surprised to drop three in a row after taking the first two?”

Theater of the Mind, with Tacoma Hall of Famer Don Hill

The series came to Cheney Stadium for Game Three on September 4, 1969 – the first PCL Championship Series game ever held at Cheney. The Cubs needed a win, or else they were going home.

Tacoma starter Joe Decker got into a pitcher’s duel with Eugene’s Barry Lersch, and the score was 1-1 at the 7th inning stretch. T-Cubs right fielder Jim Dunegan – who had struck out in each of his two prior at-bats – led off the inning. After falling behind in the count one ball, two strikes, Dunegan launched a slider “far into the north parking lot” for a home run, giving Tacoma a 2-1 lead.

Eugene managed two base runners and had two out in the top of the eighth, but LeMay entered from the Tacoma bullpen and got Joe Lis to ground out to end the threat. LeMay then worked a scoreless ninth for his 15th consecutive save, and Tacoma had its first win of the series.

The win set off a bit of a stampede, according to the News Tribune:

“The exciting finish touched off a rush for the ticket office by fans anxious to reserve seats for (Game Four).”

Archie Reynolds got his revenge in Game Four. Working on two days rest after being roughed up in the opening game of the series, Reynolds pitched a complete-game, two-hit shutout as Tacoma evened the series with a 2-0 win.

Amazingly, not a single Emeralds runner reached second base against Reynolds. Reynolds walked one and struck out six, facing just three batters over the minimum.

Catcher Randy Bobb hit a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the first inning off Eugene starter Larry Colton – and that was all of the scoring in the game.

After the game, Tacoma first baseman Roe Skidmore was told he would report to the Chicago Cubs – but only after the completion of the series.

Game Five was played at Civic Stadium in Eugene, in front of a robust crowd of 6,135. Tacoma’s Jim Colborn started on two days rest against Eugene’s Gary Wagner – who had started and won Game One, and was working on a normal (for 1969) three days rest.

Tacoma took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Skidmore reached on an infield single and took second on a throwing error, before eventually scoring on Bobb’s long sacrifice fly.

Colborn battled through five tough innings without allowing a run. He was lifted after giving up a leadoff single in the sixth – the seventh hit he had allowed, but he didn’t walk anyone and six of the hits were singles, so he escaped.

Tacoma relievers Dave Lemonds and Len Church teamed up to get out of the sixth inning with the Cubs unscathed.

Tacoma added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, when third baseman John Lung doubled to the left field corner and eventually scored on an error after Roger Metzger’s single. Tacoma led at the stretch, 2-0.

Lockman decided to go to ace reliever Dick LeMay for the good old-fashioned, championship-clinching three-inning save. LeMay went nine-up, nine-down over three perfect innings to secure the game – and the trophy – for Tacoma.

Apparently, the celebration was a bit wild:

“Some of the champagne was used in lieu of shampoo,” wrote Honeywell, who made sure to note “a tour of the shower room several players conducted for club president Bobby Adams, who wasn’t ideally attired for the occasion.”

Some things never change. Too bad newspaper headline writers have changed:

Bag PCL Flag? Really?

The championship was big news in Tacoma – how about the front page of the paper, at the top?

Above the Fold

 Some additional notes on the series:

  • Eugene had only been shut out three times in the regular season – and Tacoma shut them out in Game Four and Game Five.
  • The time of game in each of the 2-0 games was a brisk 1:50.
  • Tacoma starting shortstop Roger Metzger had turned pro just two months earlier after the Cubs signed him out of St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. Metzger had a solid major league career which was cut short by… wait for it… a chainsaw accident.
  • Tacoma manager Whitey Lockman is most famous for having been on base when Bobby Thomson hit his “Shot Heard Round The World.” Lockman was Tacoma’s all-time winningest manager for 30 years until Dave Myers passed him in 1999.
  • Jim Dunegan – who hit the game-winning home run in Game Three – converted to pitching in 1970 and briefly reached the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs.
  • Joe Decker – the Game Three winner – pitched parts of nine seasons in the major leagues, including an end-of-career stint with the 1979 Seattle Mariners.
  • Game Five winner Jim Colborn would enjoy a fine major league career, and then leave a lasting impact on Seattle baseball: he was one of the men instrumental in the Mariners acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki.
  • Relief ace Dick LeMay was in his second go-around with Tacoma. He had pitched for the Tacoma Giants in 1960 and 1962, eventually earning three major league seasons, and then he pitched many Triple-A campaigns – including 1969 and 1970 for the Tacoma Cubs.
  • Game Four hero Archie Reynolds would pitch in 37 major league games over parts of five seasons, but he never earned a big league win. His career was over by 1974.
  • Eugene shortstop Larry Bowa broke into the majors the following season, finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, went on to play 16 seasons in the majors, and eventually served as a Mariners coach.
  • Eugene pitcher Larry Colton reached the majors for one game, and then went on to success in literary circles – I enjoyed his book Goat Brothers, which is an entertaining memoir of being a jock (read: outcast) at Berkeley in the turbulant 1960s.
  • Ed Honeywell covered Tacoma baseball for decades for the News Tribune. Another regular Tacoma baseball writer at the time was Stan Farber – but he missed the 1969 T-Cubs season, because he was travelling with the Seattle Pilots during their only season of existance. Farber was covering a Pilots road trip to the east coast during the PCL series – the Pilots were mired in a stretch where they lost 16 out of 17 games, while on the homefront they were threatened with eviction from Sicks Stadium.
  • At the end of the season in the 1960s and 1970s, in the year-end wrap-up, the News Tribune would list what the players were planning to do in the off-season. It was a different era – most players went and got jobs, such as at the post office, or in a warehouse. Others would work on college courses, and a few would play winter baseball in Latin American countries.
  • The big non-sports story during this week was the death of North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh. Political experts at the time predicted that his death would not mean the end of the war – or any real change in strategy.

Looking up the old stories was fun – I have to share this with you, from September of 1969:

King 5 was on to something!

Which part is better – the beer ad, or the fact that even in 1969, Channel 5 knew that an O.J. Simpson special would be a big ratings hit?


Baldwin Moves On

December 20, 2010

Today we say goodbye to one of the mainstays of the Tacoma Rainiers for the last three years: pitcher Andy Baldwin.

Andy took timeout from dominating the Venezuelan Winter League (4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 11 starts for Caribes) to let me know that he has signed a minor league free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins.

Baldwin is a  perfect match for the Twins organizational philosophy of developing pitchers who might not light up the radar gun, but who throw consistent strikes. Hopefully Baldwin will get a chance to open some eyes in spring training with his new employers.

With Tacoma the last three years, the rubber-armed Baldwin pitched often. Baldwin started games, he pitched in long relief, he did set-up work. He was constantly moved in-and-out of the starting rotation, preventing him from getting into any sort of routine, but he never publicly complained about it. He was the go-to guy when the Rainiers needed a pitcher due to an injury or a call-up: he started games on short rest, and he started games in doubleheaders when he had pitched in relief two days prior. A product of his Hood River High School and Oregon State University, Baldwin excelled in rainy and muddy conditions – obviously a key for the Rainiers in the early season. In three years with Tacoma, Baldwin never landed on the disabled list.

Baldwin left a pretty big mark on the Rainiers record book: he ranks in the Top-20 in most career pitching categories. His 25 Tacoma wins ranks 17th all-time (since 1960), and he ranks third in the Rainiers era – only Ryan Franklin (27) and Cha-Seung Baek (26) have more Tacoma wins since 1995.

Off the field, Baldwin enjoyed living in Tacoma, and made attempts to help his teammates embrace the city. Instead of living in an apartment complex off I-5, Baldwin chose to rent in downtown Tacoma, where he would explore the city. It’s too bad the Twins Triple-A affiliate plays in the International League, because I’m sure he’s curious to see what the new Cheney Stadium is going to look like.

Andy Baldwin

On another subject, over at the Tacoma Rainiers main website we have debuted a new feature that I think is pretty cool.

You can now look up the final official team stats for every Tacoma team since the franchise joined the Pacific Coast League in 1960. It’s right there, under the “stats” tab. The links take you to PDF files that are grouped by decade.

Looking for a particular player? Maybe you have a crazy uncle who claims he played for the 1973 Tacoma Twins? First, go to the “roster” tab, and hit the All-Time Tacoma Roster to get the years(s) the player played – every player who ever appeared in a PCL game for Tacoma is listed here. Then you can head over to the “stats” tab and check out the statistics.

I’m proud that we now have this information available for the public. It’s a project I started working on ten years ago, but I lost momentum on it. Special thanks to Ben Spradling for reviving the project, entering the last ten years of stats, formatting it, and getting it online.

And finally, on Sunday I watched the recently unearthed telecast of Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. It truly is one of the greatest games ever played, and the MLB Network did a wonderful job with the presentation – which Larry Stone detailed at the Seattle Times.

The broadcaster in me loved hearing Bob Prince and Mel Allen on the call, yet I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of internet firestorm Allen would be subjected to in today’s world – first with the foul ball call on Berra’s 3-run homer (a call that may have been affected by the sight lines at Forbes Field), and then missing the run that scored on Clemente’s infield hit (can’t even speculate what happened here). Broadcast mistakes happen*, and of course Allen had the fantastic delivery and was deservingly honored by the Hall of Fame.

As for Bob Prince, that may have been the greatest post-game show in the history of post-game shows.

A few links for you:

  • Ichiro did an interview in Japan in which he said a few interesting things – here’s the new writer Greg Johns with a summary.
  • Everett Herald write Kirby Arnold cracks a bunch of Mariners-related Christmas jokes on his blog. Warning: I make no guarantees as to the quality of said jokes.
  • From Albuquerque, we have a feature on new Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy.
  • It’s that time of the year when the Rainiers front office staff plans promotions for 2011. Hopefully they won’t have a disaster like this one.

Things may slow down here at the blog until the new year. I will have that long-promised historical post on the 1969 Tacoma Cubs later this week, but next week could be very quiet – most team offices in baseball close the week between Christmas and New Year’s, including the Rainiers. And then everyone re-opens on the first Monday in January, looks at the calendar, and yells “Holy smokes spring training is in six weeks!” Panic ensues. It’s a baseball tradition.

* In my very first broadcast, in college, I called a foul ball a home run – I got that one out of the way early. But just this past season I had an “It’s back, and… it’s gone! No it’s not!” I’m blown away by technically perfect broadcasters who never mis-speak or stumble, like Bob Costas and Rick Rizzs – I don’t know how they do it.

Big Step For Escondido

December 16, 2010

The city of Escondido, California council voted late Wednesday night in favor of building a new $50 million ballpark to house the former Portland Beavers. The plan is to open the stadium in April 2013, and the team will temporarily play in Tucson in 2011 and 2012.

Escondido is located within easy driving range of San Diego. The team will be a Padres affiliate, and the reports are that the team’s prospective owner, Jeff Moorad, would sign a 30-year lease. Moorad’s purchase of the Beavers is not yet complete, but is anticipated.

Here’s the story from San Diego. Ballpark Digest also weighed in with some of the details in easy bullet points.

Escondido will be one of a growing number of Triple-A teams playing in the same market as its major league affiliate – just like the Rainiers. In fact, one reporter interviewed Rainiers president Aaron Artman for insight.

Meanwhile, it looks like the interim Tucson franchise will be called the Tucson Padres – but I think they should be called the Tucson Temps. They could be sponsored by Kelly Services, and their uniforms could be designed to look like casual business attire, and the logo would involve a time-card…

More links, different subjects:

  • Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, died on Wednesday at age 92. That’s a long life – a person would need to be about 70 years old today just to have seen Feller pitch at the end of his career. Feller was a very public person and there are some great columns written about him. I like Joe Posnanski’s remembrance, and here is one from John Sickels, who wrote a Feller biography.
  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone decided to entertain us all by floating the idea of offering to trade Felix Hernandez to the Yankees, just to see if the Yankees would ridiculously overpay. His orignal post is here, and then his one-day-later summary of the firestorm is here.
  • The list kings at Baseball America put out their Top 10 Baseball Books of 2010. I’ve read #2 and enjoyed it, and I have #3 and #7 sitting here, ready to go, but my spot in the library queue came up (after waiting nearly three months!) so I’m reading this right now.
  • The Reno Aces will still have Brett Butler as manager in 2011.
  • The Iowa Cubs will have a new skipper: Bill Dancy, who has managed in the minor leagues for 22 years.
  • A shift in the Carolina League for 2012: Class-A Kinston (NC) is moving out-of-town, to Pensacola, Florida. That’s the end result, although the actual deal is far more confusing.

Yesterday I completed my research for an upcoming blog post on the last (pre-2010) true PCL champions from Tacoma, the 1969 Tacoma Cubs. I had to look through microfilm of old newspaper stories at the library. It’s so easy to get sidetracked – some of the non-sports stories can really suck you in. My advice to you: newspaper stories from 1969 that have the word “hippies” in the headline are always good for a laugh.

The New Cheney Stadium Is Rising

December 14, 2010
Last week I went to the construction site and snapped some photos. Remember, you can blow up the pictures by clicking on them.

There is a ton of activity over there right now. The parking lot is crammed full of equipment, beams, mounds of dirt, bulldozers… it’s amazing to think that there will be games in four months.

They are building the new structure which will surround the previously existing seating bowl. They started directly behind home plate, and will build down the baselines.

Here is a view from the parking lot:

The beams that will hold the new roof will fit into the slots at the top

The stairway on the left will be one of the new interior stairwells. The one on the right is scaffolding. Here’s a closer look:

See that wood fencing at ground level to the right of the stairs? That surrounds the hole that is the base of the elevator shaft.

You can start to see the two new interior levels, which will hold the suites, the Summit Club, the press box, and the team offices – those are the top two quadrants in the photo below; the general concourse will have a higher ceiling at roughly the height of the second horizontal beam of the structure.

It's going to be a lot taller than before


View from the left (third base) side

They have started to turn the corner down the first base line:

On the right the new concessions area is going up

This is going to be the new concessions area on the first base side of the concourse:

Not quite ready to start serving Mountain Dogs

Our Food and Beverage director will have a unique office:

Great view of the parking lot, Corey!

They built the concrete that surrounds the berm – or grassy hill – that will be available for general admission seating down the right field line. For now, you’re going to need to use your imagination here.

You gotta trust me - this will be a nice place to sit, especially on a sunny day.

It's going to be a grassy hill, not a mud pit - really!

Here’s a look from standing in right field:

This is the longest and most unruly I have ever seen the Cheney Stadium grass

"When am I going to get to work on my field?"

Here is the new tunnel on the third base side, which will go from the dugout to the new, under-the-seats home locker room.

The Rainiers are switching to the third base dugout

My new broadcast booth will be right at this corner, right above the top row of seats – but right now, it’s just empty sky.

At least, they tell me it will be here. But there's nothing... wait, is this a not-so-subtle message?

Remember last time, when I said the old visitor’s clubhouse was about to get bulldozed? It’s still there! That thing is like a cockroach, you just can’t kill it.

Actually, I think they are going to transport and use it somewhere else in the city.

It’s awesome seeing the project start to take shape. I’ll go back and take more pictures in a few weeks!

Four More Potential Rainiers

December 14, 2010

I’m working on that Cheney Stadium post, but the Mariners just announced the signing of four minor league veterans. Each player is being invited to major league spring training and will compete for a Mariners roster spot – with Tacoma as the fall-back option.

Right-handed reliever Denny Bautista throws really hard and has trouble with his command. He’s a long-legged 30-year-old Dominican who has pitched against Tacoma in the past – last year he split his time between Fresno and San Francisco.

Catcher/Outfielder Chris Gimenez is a first-time free agent who spent his whole career in the Indians system – until now. I’ve never seen him play. He’s known for robbing Michael Saunders of a home run in one of Saunders first major league games. Gimenez hit .276 with nine home runs for Columbus last year – he did not play against Tacoma in the Triple-A Championship Game, as he was in the major leagues at the time.

Outfielder Ryan Langerhans is a familiar name for Mariners fans. He also played in a dozen games for Tacoma last year. It wouldn’t surprise me – and I have no inside information – if Langerhans had one of those contract options where he can elect free agency at the end of spring training if he doesn’t make the major league team. Corey Patterson had one of those last spring, and Langerhans is in a similar position.

Left-handed reliever Royce Ring has been one of the best pitchers in Triple-A for years now, and I’ve always been mystified as to why he hasn’t pitched much in the major leagues. Perhaps we’ll find out why this year – or maybe he’ll make the Mariners roster, which certainly seems like a possibility given the lack of left-handed relievers in the upper levels of the system.

The stadium photos are coming later today…

Monday Notebook

December 13, 2010

A few items of interest today. I’ll be back with a Cheney Stadium Construction Photo Blog tomorrow afternoon.

  • Star 2010 Tacoma Rainiers outfielder David Winfree told me he signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Winfree was one of the instrumental players in the Rainiers PCL championship and was a candidate for the team MVP award that went to Matt Mangini. Winfree will go to spring training with a chance to make the D-backs roster, and if he is sent to Triple-A it will be with Reno.
  • The Mariners traded Class-A pitcher Maikel Cleto to the St. Louis Cardinals for middle infielder Brendan Ryan, who will compete for a major league starting job. This has an effect on the 2011 Rainiers – it increases the chances that Luis Rodriguez and Mangini will be in Tacoma on opening day. It looks like Josh Wilson and Rodriguez will battle for the Mariners utility infielder job, with the “loser” coming to Tacoma. Of course, there could be more trades…
  • Ryan Divish wrote an interesting winter meetings review column, in which he talks quite a bit about the attitude that Mariners GM Jack Z wants to see from his young players.
  • Is every baseball fan alive waiting to see where Cliff Lee signs? (I’m hoping he signs with Mystery Team). He’s going to get a huge contract, but it won’t be as long as Dave Steib’s 11-year deal with Toronto. Larry Stone takes us down memory lane.
  • Baseball America released the Philadelphia Phillies Top-10 Prospects. It’s interesting that none of the three players the Mariners traded to the Phillies for Lee appear on the list. Of the players the Mariners acquired when they traded Lee away, none appear in their Top-10 – but Justin Smoak was not eligible for the list; he clearly would be ranked very high (top three for sure) if he was eligible.
  • In the PCL, the Albuquerque Isotopes named their new manager and coaching staff. Special thanks to the Dodgers organization from all of the PCL RGs, who get to say the name “Lorenzo Bundy” many, many fun-filled times in 2011!
  • The stadium planning in Escondido, CA is moving forward with a new targeted opening date of April 2013 – so Tucson is gearing up for a two-year run as a “temporary” PCL city.
  • For the first time ever – well, not really ever, but for the first time since it aired live – we can watch Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. The orignal tape – thought to be lost, but recently discovered in Bing Crosby’s basement – will air on Wednesday at 5:00 Pacific on the MLB Network. Spoiler alert for the kiddies: this game has one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. My DVR is set. Is yours?

Check back late Tuesday for my second Cheney Stadium “photojournalism” post!

Winter Meetings Round-Up

December 10, 2010

In the end, it was a rather quiet Winter Meetings for the Mariners. The team added three players – two who are expected to start in the majors next year, and one question mark.

It doesn’t appear that any of the moves will have an impact on the 2011 Tacoma Rainiers.

The Mariners signed two free agents: designated hitter Jack Cust, and former Tacoma catcher Miguel Olivo. Both are short-term contracts without a whole lot of budget tied up in them.

Cust, the longtime PCL slugger who finally broke through with Oakland a few years ago, is likely to be the starting DH for the Mariners this coming season. Cust should represent a slight upgrade over last year’s DH, Russell Branyan. Cust typically posts a higher on-base percentage and spends less time on the disabled list than Branyan.

Olivo seems to be a bit of a controversial signing in some corners of the internet, as he really struggled in his previous time with the Mariners (2004). But keep in mind that the Mariners had serious catching problems last year; Olivo should be able to improve on that.

The third player added is a real mystery: the Mariners selected Class-A pitcher Josh Flores in the Rule 5 Draft. This is the draft where the player must stay in the major leagues the entire season, or else be offered back to his original organization (in this case, the Cleveland Indians).

Flores is a 21-year-old Venezuelan who had impressive numbers in the low-A Midwest League last year, but asking him to make the jump all the way to the majors is a tall order. It will be tough for him to make the Mariners roster, and don’t be surprised if he’s back with the Indians by the end of spring training.

The Mariners will take a long look at Flores during spring training, and they will use that time to decide what to do with him.


  • From Orlando, Ryan Divish of The News Tribune has a story on Miguel Olivo, and another on how his signing effects Adam Moore. Also, these moves seem to indicate that Rob Johnson will be back with the Rainiers – although a trade would change that.
  • The Seattle Times also has the story on Olivo, Flores, and Moore. Larry Stone writes about the Mariners long search for the “catcher of the future.”
  • Hmm. Minor League expert John Sickles is giving Jose Flores a better chance of making the Mariners roster that I just did.
  • Jason Churchill has a fun, free, rumor-filled, Mariners-centric Winter Meetings Wrap at his website.
  • In the PCL, the Sacramento Bee caught up with new RiverCats manager Darren Bush, and old skipper Tony D.
  • Different city, different Bee: Marek at the Fresno Bee has a brief update on the Grizzlies winter roster changes.

I stopped by Cheney Stadium on Wednesday and took some pictures of the construction project. I’ll put them up next week!

Waiting For Something To Happen Wednesday

December 8, 2010

It’s been a quiet Winter Meetings so far – at least, it’s been quiet as far as the Mariners are concerned.

There have been rumors that the Mariners have shown interest in a number of lower-tier free agents, such as catchers Greg Zaun and Miguel Olivo,  and DH Jack Cust, but nothing big yet.

Edit: we are now hearing that the Mariners have agreed to a one-year deal with Cust, but it won’t be announced until after the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. We’ll see.

But we have learned in the past that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik does not tip his hand. It seems like nearly every trade he has ever made was a surprise when it was announced. We can only imagine what kind of discussions he’s been having with other teams this week.


  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times is in Orlando – here is his Wednesday morning round-up, and he posts the most current news on his blog.
  • The News Tribune has Ryan Divish in Florida – here is his story from Wednesday’s paper, and his updates are here. He also did a very long live chat in which he covered Mariners moves, bad TV shows, some Rainiers questions, and his sandwich preferences while taking pot-shots at fellow area scribes. Here’s the transcript.
  • This is behind a subscriber wall, but Baseball Prospectus has a Q&A with Michael Saunders. Don’t worry if you’re not a subscriber – you’re not missing much on this one (which is rare for a BP interview).
  • In the PCL, Rainiers rivals Salt Lake announced their manager and coaching staff. New skipper Keith Johnson played for Salt Lake in 2002 and 2003.
  • The Sacramento RiverCats are embracing gadgetry.
  • Longtime Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins broadcaster Dave Van Horne will be honored by the Hall of Fame as winner of the Frick Award. A fan reminisces.

It’s a nice day here in Tacoma – a perfect day for a Cheney Stadium Construction Site photo shoot. I’m on my way over right now; I’ll post the results soon.

Mariners Top Prospects; Winter Meetings Underway

December 6, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Baseball Prospectus list of the Mariners Top-11 Prospects was one of the three prospect lists I really look forward to each off-season.

Well, the second of the three came out today: Baseball America’s Top-10 list was revealed on its website. Here is the list and accompanying article (free), and here are the subscriber-only scouting reports. There is also a subscriber-only live chat, with Q’s and A’s, here.

The list looks like this:

  1. Dustin Ackley, 2b
  2. Michael Pineda, rhp
  3. Nick Franklin, ss/2b
  4. Taijuan Walker, rhp
  5. Guillermo Pimentel, of
  6. Mauricio Robles, lhp
  7. Johermyn Chavez, of
  8. Marcus Littlewood, ss
  9. Kyle Seager, inf
  10. Dan Cortes, rhp

It’s an interesting mix – we have four players already in Tacoma, and on the cusp of reaching the majors (Ackley, Pineda, Robles, Cortes); three players coming off monster seasons at the Class-A level who could be wearing Tacoma hats in late 2011 or 2012 (Franklin, Chavez, Seager); and three recently signed teenagers who are a long ways away from the majors or Triple-A (Walker, Pimentel, Littlewood).

The Baseball Winter Meetings are underway, and already the news – and cash – is flying around in Orlando, Florida. Jayson Werth at seven years, $18 million per? It’s going to be a crazy week.

Both area newspapers have sent beat writers to cover the proceedings, and I’ll just direct you there if you want Mariners-related coverage of the event: Ryan Divish is all over it on The News Tribune’s Mariners Insider, and over at the Seattle Times Mariners Blog, Geoff Baker is typing up a storm – and he also is posting video of some of his interviews.

As for the national coverage, if you are an ESPN Insider, its times like this when analyst Keith Law really shines. His column is here.

More links:

  • Congratulations to former Mariners General Manager Pat Gillick, who was elected into the Baseball Hall Of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee today. Larry Stone has more on the vote. Gillick’s best work came with Toronto and Philadelphia, but he was also the architect behind the Mariners 116-win team in 2001.
  • Former Tacoma Rainiers relievers JJ Putz and Brian Fuentes are both free agents going into the meetings – I’m hearing Putz to Arizona, nothing yet on Fuentes.
  • In the PCL, the Escondido ballpark project continues – the latest update is here.
  • Also, the 2011 PCL schedule is complete, with all game times announced – you can see the Rainiers full schedule.*

This is always one of the most entertaining weeks of the baseball off-season. Stay tuned!

* when it comes to the schedule, I look at it very differently than fans. How are the road trips? Mostly good, except for that 12-game, 13-day jaunt in June. Do we get off-days at home? Not this year. What will be the worst travel day? I’m guessing August 7. Single-series road trips where you leave home and come back after just three or four games really wear you out – how many are there? Only three, which is a nice low number. Do we get a day-game-followed-by-night-game situation in Las Vegas? Yes, June 26-27! Is there an opening where I am likely to get myself into trouble? Uh-oh, the night of May 15 looks potentially troublesome for your loyal RG. Do we have any bus trips? Yes, we have two easy Fresno-to-Sacramento bus trips. Will I be able to attend the Mariners home opener? Not this year – that’s two years in a row. Do we finish the season at home? YES!

Mariners Busy Day Nets Rainiers A Pitcher

December 3, 2010

The Mariners made several lower-level roster moves yesterday, due to the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

One of the moves was a surprise: instead of letting Jose Lopez walk as a free agent, the team traded him to the Colorado Rockies for Triple-A pitcher Chaz Roe.

Roe pitched for Colorado Springs last year, and he is likely to be on the Rainiers – and in the starting rotation – in 2011.

The Rainiers saw a lot of Roe last year (his first Triple-A season) – he started four times against Tacoma, and he beat the Rainiers in three of those starts. Roe was a first-round draft pick in 2005, he’s a 24-year-old right-hander with a low-90s fastball and a pretty good curve.

Roe also has some really bad 2010 statistics, but I urge you to not pay attention to that. Colorado Springs is a terrible place to pitch – the high elevation causes curveballs to flatten out, and it makes fly balls fly farther. He’s a workhorse with a good arm – that is something that Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard can work with.

As for the other moves, Ryan Rowland-Smith decided to turn down a non-guaranteed contract with the Mariners, and explore options elsewhere. I really like Ryan and I hope he gets a deal that he’s happy with, but after posting a 1-10 record with a 6.75 ERA for a 101-loss team, I’m concerned that he’s only going to receive minor league offers with spring training invites.

RRS shared his feelings on the situation with Geoff Baker at the Times. Regardless where he lands, Rowland-Smith will have a lot to prove this season.

Also yesterday, the Mariners signed Erik Bedard to a non-guaranteed contract – apparently, Bedard only gets paid if he pitches, which seems like a smart deal seeing how he has been injured for over a year.*

A few more links:

  • Here are the stories from the Seattle Times and The News Tribune about yesterday’s Mariners roster moves. Ryan Divish’s blog has additional quotes from Jack Z.
  • Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing has a good post about the off-field ramifications of Ryan Rowland-Smith’s departure.
  • Seattle native Ron Santo passed away at age 70. A long time Cubs third baseman and broadcaster, Santo – along with Bert Blyleven – has been on the cusp of Hall of Fame induction seemingly forever. Larry Stone writes that Santo is the greatest player ever from Seattle. Rob Neyer has a column about Santo and The Hall.
  • Erik Bedard isn’t the only Erik Bedard. Dustin McGowan is Erik Bedard, too.
  • Baseball America ran its Oakland A’s Top-10 Prospects today. I think this means the Mariners list is coming on Monday.
  • The Round Rock Express have new uniforms and new logos.
  • For broadcasting geeks only: ever wonder about the guy with the booming voice who does all of the poker shows on ESPN? Me, too. Here’s his story.

Next week should be a very busy week. We’ve got the Mariners Top-10 prospects list coming out, and the Baseball Winter Meetings open Monday in Orlando. Plus, I’m due for another Cheney Stadium construction photo-blog post. There will be plenty of news, and I’ll be following it right here from the Tacoma Rainiers North End Satellite Office.

* the Mariners paid Bedard $1.5 million last year – and he pitched in one game, a Tacoma 2-1 win over Portland on July 1. Not exactly what the Mariners had in mind, but at least we got something from their investment!