Closed For Holidays

December 20, 2013
Cheney Stadium on Friday morning

Cheney Stadium on Friday. I don’t think it’s playable.

It’s that time of the year again, when the baseball news crawls to a stop.

Most minor league baseball teams close the office for the Christmas-to-New Year stretch, and the major league moves will slow down as well.

As a result, this blog will slow down over the next two weeks. I’ll post if anything Mariners or Rainiers-related comes up, but I don’t expect much to happen during this down time. We’ll start gearing up for the 2014 season in January.

Of note, the Mariners told us they will be announcing the minor league coaching staffs in January. So we’re going to have to wait a little longer for that.


  • The Mariners removed Rainiers pitcher Chance Ruffin from the 40-man roster when they signed Franklin Gutierrez yesterday. Ruffin can be claimed off waivers by any other team – but if nobody claims him, he’ll (almost certainly) be back in Tacoma this season.
  • The 49ers are playing the final game at Candlestick Park this weekend, and then the stadium will be empty. The San Francisco Chronicle is running a series of “Candlestick Memories” and I have to link to this one: September 14, 1986, forever known as the Bob Brenly Game. It’s a great baseball tale: Brenly made four errors in one inning, putting his team in a massive hole, and then hit the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth.
  • In the PCL, the Iowa Cubs announced their coaching staff. Marty Pevey returns as manager, and longtime Tacoma Tigers reliever Bruce Walton will be his pitching coach.
  • Special memo to Washington State Cougars fans: you can watch the bowl game in the Summit Club at Cheney Stadium. Details right here. And yes, we’ll be open for the Huskies bowl game next week, too.

Happy holidays!


December 18, 2013

The Mariners quietly made a move to help the Tacoma outfield, signing minor league free agent Cole Gillespie to a deal that presumably includes a major league spring training invitation.

Gillespie is no stranger to PCL fans. He’s spent the majority of the last five years playing in the PCL, appearing in 523 Triple-A games with a career .290 average, and .386 OBP.

He played for Nashville in 2009, and was moved to Reno mid-season that year. Gillespie hit over .300 for Reno in 2011 and 2012 (winning a PCL title), and he finished second in the league with 16 triples in 2011.

Last year Gillespie opened the season with Fresno, was called up by San Francisco, and then claimed off waivers by the Cubs. He played in 28 major league games last year between the two teams.

Gillespie will probably open 2013 in the Tacoma outfield, although you never know – the Mariners major league outfield still has some question marks.

I’m guessing that the 29-year-old Gillespie was probably pretty happy to sign with the Mariners – not only due to the possibilities with the major league outfield in flux. One figures that Gillespie may have grown up an M’s fan: he’s from West Linn, Oregon and played three years at Oregon State University.

In another move that figures to involve the Rainiers, the Mariners have reportedly agreed to sign Franklin Gutierrez to a cheap, one-year, incentive-laden contract.

The oft-injured outfielder has had five rehab appearances in Tacoma over the last three seasons, including a believed-to-be-PCL-record three rehabs in 2013 alone. The guy played in 47 games for the Rainiers last year, without ever counting against the roster!

Hopefully he’ll stay healthy in 2014, but let’s be honest: Guti will probably roam the pasture at Cheney Stadium some time this season.

The Mariners drew some media attention with one other minor league move yesterday, signing outfielder Burt Reynolds to a contract. Reynolds is a cousin of Robinson Cano – that, plus his famous name, caused the media attention.

Reynolds played in the independent Atlantic League last year, hitting .247 with six homers for Camden. Just from looking at the stats, Reynolds appears to be more of a Double-A player for 2014.


Weekend Links

December 16, 2013

All was quiet on the Mariners and Rainiers front over the weekend.

We could have some news this week – I’m hearing some rumblings that the Mariners are about ready to announce the minor league coaching staffs, so maybe that will happen soon.

In the meantime, here’s a collection of articles I found interesting from over the weekend:

  • Longtime Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard was officially announced as new Fresno Grizzlies pitching coach today. He’ll work with manager Bob Mariano and hitting coach Andy Skeels. We wish Dwight the best with his new organization.
  • Larry Stone’s Sunday column for the Seattle Times focuses on Robinson Cano‘s background. This is good stuff.
  • On Friday, Stone wrote a column on the anatomy of the Cano deal.
  • John McGrath wrote about the scene at Cano’s press conference with Jay Z in the room.
  • New Mariners pitching coach Rick Waits did a Fangraphs Q&A.
  • Former Portland Beavers skipper Rick Sweet will manage the Nashville Sounds this year. Sweet played for the Mariners back in the early 1980s.
  • Reno’s all-star third baseman Matt Davidson got traded to the White Sox today.
  • Our own Rhubarb is probably jealous of his fellow reindeer Rudolph, who got his own Baseball Reference page.

Brian Moran Selected In Rule 5 Draft

December 12, 2013

The Mariners and Rainiers lost left-handed reliever Brian Moran today, as he was drafted away from the organization. Moran spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with Tacoma, and he represented the Rainiers in the Triple-A All-Star Game in July.

Moran could return to the Rainiers next year – this gets kind of confusing, but let me explain…

This morning at the Winter Meetings, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Moran with the fifth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The Jays then traded Moran to the Los Angeles Angels (in exchange for about $250,00 in additional international free agent spending cap room – not actual money, but the ability to spend money on Latin American teenagers).

The Angels added Moran to their 40-man major league roster, and he will go to spring training with them. But here’s the kicker on the Rule 5 Draft: Moran must make the Angels opening day roster, and stay in the major leagues (on the 25-man roster) all season long. They can put him on the disabled list if he’s injured, otherwise he must stay in the majors, on the active roster, for the entire 2014 season.

If Moran pitches poorly and the Angels decide they can no longer keep him in the majors, they have to put him on waivers. Any of the 28 other teams (all but Seattle) can claim him off waivers, but the claiming team must continue to follow the rules and keep him in the major leagues. If no team is willing to do that, Moran clears waivers and is offered back to the Mariners – and the Mariners would have the freedom to send him to Tacoma.

This is a huge opportunity for Brian. It’s the major league shot that the Mariners have not yet given him, and this will be the most important season of his career so far. We wish him the best – hopefully he’ll stick in the big leagues. But hey, if he doesn’t – we’ll take him back!


  • Here is the Angels report on acquiring Brian Moran, which includes a scouting description from General Manager Jerry Dipoto.
  • The Mariners did not draft anybody in the major or minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft. Here is the complete draft list – ex-Rainiers infielder Vinnie Catricala was one of the player selected in the minor league phase, he’s now with the Brewers organization.
  • The Rangers made waves in the minor league section of the Rule 5 Draft by selecting Rockies “second baseman” Russell Wilson. Yup, the Seahawks Russell Wilson. This story explains why, and over at Sports Illustrated Jay Jaffe had some fun with it.
  • The Mariners announced a press conference for 3:00 today in which they will officially introduce new second baseman Robinson Cano.
  • Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer tried to find the meaning of the Cano signing.
  • Ryan Divish has a story on the Mariners pending acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Keith Law shares his opinions on those deals (ESPN Insider). Jeff Sullivan wrote about them, too, and it’s free.
  • In the TNT, Bob Dutton has a winter meetings day three notebook.
  • Former Mariners and Rainiers slugger Mike Morse signed a one-year deal with San Francisco. He was a free agent.

Starting to hear some strong rumors on the identity of the next Rainiers manager – we should have this news officially quite soon.

M’s Grab Hitters In Orlando

December 11, 2013

Today is the last full day of the Winter Meetings, which wrap up mid-day on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mariners are still heavily involved in most of the rumors coming out of Orlando. There is no question they are being very active trying to land additional players. There is word out there that the team has signed Corey Hart to a one-year deal, pending a physical later this week. A Carter Capps for Logan Morrison trade appears to be done, too.

On the minor league side, there are still no reports of the team signing any six-year (minor league) free agents. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t signed any – it’s just that no word has gotten out yet. There will be a few for sure.

The minor league coaching staffs are still not set. One of the Rainiers front office executives at the meetings asked Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn about Tacoma’s coaching staff, and he said he was working to finalize it now. My gut feeling is that we are going to have a trio of new faces running the Rainiers.

There was some huge news in the PCL last night: the City of Nashville gave final approval for a brand new ballpark to be built for the Nashville Sounds. This is great news for the league, and especially for the fans in Nashville.

They have been working towards a new ballpark in Nashville for about a decade. It will be great to see it happen – opening day, 2015!


  • Here is Ryan Divish’s Winter Meetings Day Three rolling blog post.
  • Notes on today’s Mariners moves.
  • The Mariners don’t have to trade Nick Franklin, Bob Dutton writes.
  • New Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has already had talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The solution to the Mariners off-field problems is to win, Larry Stone writes.
  • The new ballpark in Nashville is on the way.
  • You can add former Rainiers slugger Luis Jimenez to the list of players signing with teams in Korea. Jimenez will play for Lotte Giants, I’ve been told.
  • The Salt Lake Bees announced their coaching staff – no changes.
  • I am linking to this story on 1950 PCL MVP winner Catfish Metkovich simply because I wanted to type Catfish Metkovich. Twice. It’s actually a quirky old baseball story.

Lots of action, following these meetings. It’s fun to have the Mariners in on almost everybody.

Hey, We Got A Hall-Of-Famer!

December 9, 2013

Baseball’s Winter Meetings began this morning, and one of the first announcements came from the Hall of Fame, which will induct three managers this summer: Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox.

Tacoma can lay claim to one* of the three: Bobby Cox played for the Tacoma Cubs at the start of the 1966 season.

Cox was a third baseman as a player, and he spent the entire 1965 season in the PCL with the Cubs affiliate in Salt Lake City. Affiliations changed after the 1965 season, with Tacoma losing the Giants and signing on with the Cubs – and Tacoma inherited their Triple-A third baseman, Cox.

Cox played in ten games for Tacoma at the start of the 1966 season – struggling mightily, going 4-for-34 at the plate. On April 28 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Billy Cowan (who would play for Tacoma and also five major league teams). The Braves assigned Cox to their Double-A team in Austin.

Cox would kick around the minors for a few more seasons, and also get a year-and-a-half in the big leagues before going into managing. He managed four years for Triple-A Syracuse before the Braves would once again come calling – this time to start his Hall of Fame managerial career.

At this point in a blog post like this, I would insert a photo of Bobby Cox in his Tacoma Cubs uniform. However, I am sad to say that we don’t have that photo in our archive. If you have any leads on where to find one, please shoot me a message.

We’ll have lots of links this week as the meetings are on.


Current plan is to be back with a fresh post on Wednesday, but if any big news breaks from Orlando I’ll chime in on Tuesday.

* I believe Tony LaRussa appeared at Cheney Stadium managing Oakland in exhibition games in the late-1980’s/early 1990s, and he certainly played here with visiting Vancouver in 1968.

Mariners Reportedly Make Much-Needed Move

December 6, 2013

What a crazy morning in baseball news today. When I woke up, the news said that the talks between the Mariners and Robinson Cano had fallen apart. Less than an hour later, seemingly every news outlet in baseball was reporting that the two sides had agreed to a ten-year contract.

The Mariners are not saying anything until the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered. However, the consensus is that it is all but done.

I think it’s a great play for the Mariners, who needed to do something. This certainly qualifies as something.

The status quo was not working. The farm system was unlikely to churn out an average- or above-average player at each of the nine positions, plus a pitching staff, all during a six-year (pre-free agency) window. They were never going to get a group of 3-4 key, hand-picked cheaper free agents to sign all at once and supplement the team, unless they somehow got them all together in the same room for a Powerpoint presentation explaining how they could join forces to make it work. That’s just not realistic.

Cano changes that. Now there is a superstar offensive player to build around, plus of course Felix is still here. The other players – the complimentary players, the middle-tier free agents – they will now have a reason to come to Seattle.

Naysayers will cry, “What about the budget?” to which I reply “Who cares? I certainly don’t.” It’s not our money. The team knows its revenues and cash flow and future projections. The team also knows that if it starts winning, it will make more money. When it comes to their own finances, the Mariners know what they are doing – and if they don’t, that’s their problem. “But if they get saddled with bad contracts in the future, they’ll be unable to win!” OK, yeah, so how is that different from the last ten years?

Cano is just the start. There are plenty of reports saying this is just the beginning for the Mariners – they have more money budgeted to spend on payroll, and they will be active in trades. The Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and the rumors are going to be flowing.


What a Friday. Have a great weekend!

‘Hot Stove League’ Overheats, Melts

December 4, 2013

Baseball’s Winter Meetings start on Monday, but they might be very quiet this year in terms of player moves. That is because the new trend appears to be to get the jump on other teams by making moves early.

Yesterday was one of the biggest days for off-season transactions I have ever seen. It was like the July trade deadline day of past years – it seemed like every fifteen minutes, another deal was announced or confirmed by MLB reporters.

In terms of actual results, the Mariners were quiet yesterday. However, one of the biggest stories was a report out of New York saying the M’s are prepared to offer huge dollars to second baseman Robinson Cano. That story is linked below.

If the Mariners were to sign Cano – a premise that many, including Keith Olbermann, find preposterous – that would block second base from guys like Nick Franklin and Dustin Ackley. At least one would certainly be traded.

I know many Mariners fans were hoping that the team would sign free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. That’s not happening – the Oregon native signed a seven-year deal with the Yankees. It’s hard to say how hard – if at all – the Mariners tried to get him.

There are still impact moves the Mariners can make. Shin-Soo Choo is still available, David Price is reportedly on the trading block, and they may be heavy players for star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka once that process gets sorted out.

But sitting back and waiting does not appear to be the proper move this winter – teams are making their moves early.


  • Teams in the AL West have been very active, making moves leading up to next week’s Winter Meetings. Ryan Divish has a recap of the latest.
  • Here is the report out of New York City that the Mariners have had conversations with free agent star Robinson Cano.
  • For all of the moves yesterday – and there were many – try this post from ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield.
  • Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tried to make sense of all of the moves right here.
  • The Mariners weren’t totally silent yesterday. They named Dan Wilson roving catching instructor. He’s been doing that job on a very part-time basis for the last few years; now he’ll dive into it full-time. John Stearns held the job last year until he was named Rainiers interim manager, and then Mariners third base coach.
  • Triple-A baseball’s most prolific home run hitter will play in 2014. Mike Hessman signed a minor league deal with Detroit – and assuming he returns to Toledo, he’ll need just 11 home runs to become the eighth player to ever hit 400 career minor league homers.
  • Some manager news from the PCL: Wally Backman returns to the helm of the Las Vegas 51s, and Pat Murphy has the honor of being the first manager in El Paso Chihuahuas history. Murphy will be joined by some new coaches: hitting coach Jacque Jones and pitching coach Mike Cather.
  • They are one vote away from a new ballpark in Nashville. Go, Nashville, go!

Book Report: Class-A by Lucas Mann

December 2, 2013

Let’s change gears a little bit today and talk about a baseball book that came out earlier this year.

Class-A – Baseball In The Middle Of Everywhere is the first book by Lucas Mann, and it chronicles the day-to-day experiences of the author as he spent the 2010 season with the Seattle Mariners Low-A team in Clinton, Iowa.

Mann was granted near-total access by the Clinton team and manager John Tamargo. He was in the locker room, on the road with the team, and in the stands with the fans.

What makes this a unique book is that during the 2010 season, Mann was a 24-year-old academic at the University of Iowa. He was only a few years older than the players, and he was eventually accepted into their world.

It is his account of that world – the world of a group of 19-to-22 year-olds from all over the globe dropped into a small, economically failing midwestern town without friends, family or even cars – that makes the book.

Mann also spent a lot of time with the Clinton season ticketholders, the diehard fans who come to every game and have been doing so for years. Through this lens, he takes a depressing look at the city of Clinton and how its economy is dominated by one gigantic, smelly factory.

I read this book right after the Rainiers season ended, and I found it riveting. It is very different from your typical minor league baseball book. I think that the main reason it is different is that this isn’t just a book; this is literature. Mann is a talented young writer who can really turn a phrase.

Current Mariners Nick Franklin and Erasmo Ramirez both have prominent roles in the narrative – they were the stars of the team, and Munn correctly identified them as the top prospects on the club. I’m sure Nick and Erasmo would like to have some of the more personal passages deleted, but for us readers it is important to remember that they were both 19-years-old when that season started.*

This book is not for kids. I recommend the book for adult readers who at least occasionally dabble in literature. If you think that James Patterson is the modern John Steinbeck, or that Jose Canseco’s Juiced is a great baseball book, you should probably pass on it. However, if you like your reading a little more highbrow, you will enjoy it.


  • For more on Class-A, here’s a New York Times interview with the author.
  • Speaking of books, the is a new biography on Ted Williams coming out. This excerpt from the Boston Globe focuses on… Ted’s frozen head.
  • Lots of reports out there that the Mariners are going to sign ex-Rainiers infielder Willie Bloomquist to a two-year deal. Bloomquist’s role will be to back up Brad Miller and Nick Franklin/Dustin Ackley.
  • Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln has begun the process of replacing outgoing team president Chuck Armstrong.
  • All-star pitcher Lou Brissie is one of the most incredible stories in professional sports history. He passed away during the holidays – be amazed by his Times obituary.

Monday Night Football tonight – and of course it’s a big one with the Seahawks playing the Saints. The Rainiers are hosting a free viewing party in the Summit Club at Cheney Stadium – info is here, except this is a Special Monday Edition of Seahawks Sundays.

* I find the thought of somebody chronicling my actions when I was a 19-year-old to be absolutely terrifying. I suspect most of you older readers agree.