Mariners Season Ends, Manager Search Begins

September 30, 2013

The Mariners lost the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a record of 71-91. It was the last game of the three-year tenure of manager Eric Wedge.

Wedge walked away from the job saying that he did not agree with Mariners upper management on their plans moving forward. This was a surprise, after GM Jack Zduriencik had stated that he and Wedge were in agreement on everything baseball-related.

Wedge quitting isn’t an unusual move in the normal working world: he didn’t like the direction his job was going, so he quit. But for a Major League Baseball manager? That’s really unusual.

The Mariners didn’t emerge from this situation looking very good. They may have trouble drawing interest from experienced managerial candidates, so we could be looking at a rookie manager next year.

Personally, I’m hoping Daren Brown is a candidate. I’d like to see him get another shot – a full season, this time.

Three other names I’ve seen thrown out there by respected baseball writers on Twitter: ex-Mariners infielder Joey Cora, former pitching coach Bryan Price, and A’s third base coach Chip Hale. You may remember Hale: he managed Tucson to the PCL Championship in 2006.

Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of the MLB regular season, but no! Texas and Tampa finished in a tie for the final wild card spot in the American League, so they will play a rare Game 163 tonight to break the tie and see who advances to the playoffs.

Tonight’s game is at 5:00 (Pacific, televised on TBS) and the winner will fly to Cleveland and face the Indians in the do-or-die AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

In the NL Wild Card Game, it will be Cincinnati at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

So, we have three days of win-or-go-home baseball. This will be fun to watch.

Links:

  • We’ll start with Ryan Divish’s season wrap-up.
  • Geoff Baker’s news story for the Seattle Times has all of the surprising quotes from Eric Wedge.
  • Larry Stone wrote that the Mariners manager position is something of a joke.
  • Jerry Brewer has a column about the disconnect in the Mariners front office.
  • It’s hard to disagree with Dave Cameron’s assessment of the Mariners season.
  • The Mariners will have the No. 6 pick in the June draft. That’s a protected slot, so they can sign free agents without losing their first round pick.
  • In case you missed it amid all of the Seahawks mania, Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez tossed one of baseball’s oddest no-hitters on Sunday. He was standing in the on-deck circle when he finished his no-no.
  • Nashville manager Mike Guerrero has been promoted to major league coach for 2014 by the Milwaukee Brewers.

I’m pulling for the Rays tonight.

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Mariners Awards Announced

September 27, 2013

The Seattle Mariners Minor League Awards were announced yesterday – here are the winners:

Player Of The Year: shortstop Chris Taylor, who started the season at Class-A High Desert and was promoted mid-season to Double-A Jackson. Combined, Taylor hit.314 with eight home runs and 60 RBI. Taylor drew 84 walks, stole 38 bases, and scored 108 runs – a total which ranked third in all of minor league baseball. I expect to see Taylor in Tacoma next year – if not on Opening Day, then at some point midway through the season.

Pitcher Of The Year: no surprise here, it’s Taijuan Walker all the way. Walker made 25 minor league starts between Jackson and Tacoma, posting a 2.93 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 141.1 innings pitched. Walker will compete for a spot in the Mariners starting rotation next spring.

Relief Pitcher Of The Year: Jackson right-hander Carson Smith gets the nod, posting a 1.80 ERA with 15 saves in 44 games. I thought we might see him in Tacoma during the 2013 season, but he got off to a slow start before really clicking in the second half, so the Mariners decided to leave him in Jackson and let him have a successful season. We’ll see him in 2014.

Heart and Soul Award: Tacoma’s Abraham Almonte receives the honor for “exemplary play and leadership.” Almonte hit .300 with 15 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 123 games between Jackson and Tacoma. He played 93 of those games for Tacoma, ranking fourth in the PCL with a .403 on-base percentage. He’s in the big leagues right now.

Broadcaster Of The Year: Tacoma’s own ok that one doesn’t exist.

Links:

Enjoy the weekend!


Paxton Pushes For 2014

September 25, 2013

I went to the Mariners game on Tuesday night, and watched James Paxton dominate the Kansas City Royals for seven shutout innings – virtually wiping out the Royals playoff hopes.

Paxton allowed just four hits and struck out ten batters. Most impressively, Paxton did not walk anybody.

The big lefty has now started four games for the Mariners, and he’s had three excellent starts. His one so-so outing came at Detroit, against (arguably) the best lineup in the majors – and even that outing wasn’t real bad (five innings, three runs).

At this point I think you have to consider Paxton a strong candidate to earn a spot at the back of the Mariners starting rotation coming out of spring training next year. Why not? He’ll be 25 years old, he’s a workhorse, and he’s shown that he can dominate a quality major league lineup when he has his good command. If he gets wild and starts walking everybody, send him back to Tacoma to work it out.

There have been a number of prospect analysts who think that Paxton profiles better as a reliever, but I am staunchly opposed to that. This is a left-hander who can reach 97 MPH on his 100th pitch of the game – that is a rare thing; you don’t shift a talent like that to the bullpen unless he absolutely proves that he cannot start.

I believe that Paxton should start every fifth day in the majors in 2014, and be given the opportunity to succeed. If he doesn’t succeed, then send him down – he’s got three option years remaining.

There was quite a bit of Mariners news yesterday, so let’s hit the links:

  • We start with Ryan Divish’s game story on James Paxton‘s dominating effort last night.
  • Mariners upper management confirmed that they are committed to General Manager Jack Z through the off-season and into 2014. The story includes some speculation regarding Eric Wedge and Daren Brown.
  • We have bad news today, too: Danny Hultzen‘s shoulder problems have continued, and he’s going to see Dr. James Andrews. If he needs surgery, he should have it immediately and begin the rehabilitation process.
  • St. Louis Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha came one out away from a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals last night. Perhaps you were one of the 4,127 people who saw the Rainiers get two hits off Wacha (over seven innings) on May 16 at Cheney Stadium. Rich Poythress was there – he took Wacha deep for the Rainiers only run against the right-hander.

There are only four more Mariners games left this season – but it looks like we’re going to have some fun MLB playoffs this year, with new teams like the Pirates and the Indians in there.


Ibanez Hits 300

September 23, 2013

Raul Ibanez connected for his 300th career home run on Saturday night, going deep off Ernesto Frieri of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Only 135 other players in baseball history have hit 300 homers in the big leagues.

Ibanez became the eighth former Tacoma player to reach 300 home runs in the major leagues. Or the seventh player, depending upon if you want to count Griffey, who did not come up through Tacoma but did play in one Rainiers game on a rehabilitation assignment in 1995.

Here is the All-Time Major League Home Run list for former Tacoma players, through Sunday’s games:

  1. Alex Rodriguez – 654
  2. Ken Griffey Jr. – 630
  3. Mark McGwire – 583
  4. Willie McCovey – 521
  5. Jose Canseco – 462
  6. Jason Giambi – 437
  7. Jay Buhner – 310
  8. Raul Ibanez – 300
  9. Tony Batista – 221
  10. Mike Sweeney – 215

I can never decide how to include rehabbers on lists like this. Griffey played in one game – it feels like cheating to me when we count him as an ex-Rainiers player. But Buhner also only rehabbed here, yet he was with the team for almost an entire month in 2001, and people all around town remember him as a Rainiers player that season. So, I included both of them.

I wonder if Tacoma can claim more 500 Home Run Club members than any other minor league team? Seems like a strong possibility.

Links:

  • The Mariners closed out their final road trip of the season with a 3-2 win at Anaheim yesterday. The season-ending six-game homestand starts tonight.
  • A swarm of bees delayed the game in Anaheim yesterday. This was clearly an attempt by the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees to overpower their parent club, but alas, the coup failed.
  • In case you missed it, the Sunday feature story in The News Tribune remembered President Kennedy‘s speech at Cheney Stadium 50 years ago. The article has some great photos – check out the secret service sniper on the roof of the stadium in the background of the Kennedy-at-the-podium shot.
  • Howard Lincoln stated the Nintendo of America has no plans to sell its majority share of the Seattle Mariners.
  • As you can see from this photo, everybody – and I mean everybody – got involved in the Oakland A’s clinching party.
  • Jonah Keri’s weekly MLB column for Grantland got around to the Mariners today.
  • Former Iowa Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg was named “permanent” manager of the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday. He worked hard to get this job, managing six years in the minors – which is not a common thing for a Hall Of Famer.
  • Cost overruns are becoming an issue with the construction of the new downtown ballpark in El Paso.

This week, I’m looking forward to the Mariners games against Kansas City. The M’s have a chance to play spoiler and knock the Royals out of the wild card race.


Friday Reading

September 20, 2013

A few notes for Friday afternoon:

  • Former Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away on Thursday. He deserves credit for saving the franchise.
  • John McGrath has a column on Yamauchi.
  • While in Detroit, Ryan Divish caught up with former Rainiers infielder/outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo.
  • The fastest man in the minors has reached the majors – and Billy Hamilton is nearly impossible to throw out stealing. Great piece from Baseball America.
  • Tucson General Manager Mike Feder was named PCL Executive Of The Year.
  • The New York Times ran a scathing take-down of Yankees announcer John Sterling. Yikes!

Enjoy the weekend!


Omaha Wins It All

September 18, 2013

The Triple-A season came to a finish last night, as the Omaha Storm Chasers defeated the Durham Bulls in the Triple-A National Championship Game, 2-1.

Omaha starting pitcher Chris Dwyer had a perfect game through six innings, and ended up tossing seven innings of one-hit ball.

Omaha missed some early scoring opportunities, and things got dicey in the ninth before Zach Jackson closed it out.

Even though it’s just an exhibition game, I’m glad the PCL team won it.

The Rainiers posted their 2014 schedule today – it’s right here.

Right now it’s just the dates; the game times and promotions will be added later.

A few things immediately stick out:

  1. It sure looks weird with all of those El Pasos and Albuquerques. The realignment certainly changed thing up!
  2. We’ll be done playing division rivals Sacramento and Reno in July, with only head-to-head games against Fresno in August.
  3. Cross-conference play is very late, wrapping up with the second-to-last series of the year. No idea why they did that, but it certainly detracts from the division races.
  4. It’s nice to see the regular season finish right on September 1 – I wish it could be like that every year.

The game times and promotions will come out some time this winter.

Links:

  • We start with the game story from the Omaha newspaper. In this notebook, we learn that Chris Dwyer was rewarded with his first-ever big league call-up.
  • MiLB.com has a game story, and a one-pager with links to video highlights from the Triple-A National Championship Game.
  • The Mariners lost in Detroit, 6-2. The positive was a decent start by Brandon Maurer.
  • In Ryan Divish’s notebook, he reports that Rainiers reliever Forrest Snow was suspended 50 games for “drugs of abuse.” He’ll serve his suspension next season.*
  • Presented without comment, this awkward slide.

The off-season is almost upon us. The Mariners have two weeks left, and then we’ll have the MLB Playoffs which should be a lot of fun. The American League pennant race – particularly the wild card chase – is a lot of fun to follow right now.

* While I have no idea what Snow was caught with, and I’m definitely not condoning anything, I will point out that MLB’s list of “drugs of abuse” includes substances that are legal in the state of Washington. Still, everybody knows what they are being tested for.


Omaha Wins PCL, Plays In Triple-A Championship Game Tonight

September 17, 2013

Congratulations to the Omaha Storm Chasers, who won the PCL Championship by defeating Salt Lake in a best-of-five series over the weekend.

It’s the second PCL title in the last three years for the Kansas City Royals Triple-A club, which also won it all in 2011.

The result is more proof that anything can happen in the baseball postseason. Omaha entered the playoffs with a losing record (70-74), but that was good enough to win its division. In the playoffs, Omaha got red-hot, winning six of seven postseason games.

It was a stunning result. Not only was Omaha a mediocre team all season, but their parent club is in the wild card hunt – so they called up a half-dozen Omaha players before the PCL playoffs even started. Many of Omaha’s playoff heroes spent the majority of the season with the Royals Double-A team.

Tonight Omaha meets the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) in the Triple-A National Championship Game. It’s a one-game exhibition between the champions of the Pacific Coast League and the International League.

The game starts at 4:00 (Pacific) and will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). The game is played at a neutral site: this year it is being hosted by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who have a nice new stadium in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Durham starts RHP Jake Odorizzi – who actually pitched for Omaha last year; he was traded to Tampa over the winter in the James Shields / Wil Myers blockbuster. Omaha starts LHP Chris Dwyer.

I’ve scoured the rosters of both teams, finding just one former Tacoma Rainiers contributor: Durham Bulls hitting coach Dave Myers managed Tacoma from 1997 to 2000, before serving as Mariners third base coach for four years. Dave still lives here in Gig Harbor.

Links:

I’ll be watching the Triple-A game tonight – it’s the last minor league baseball game of the year.