Mariners Name Dipoto General Manager

September 29, 2015

The Seattle Mariners introduced Jerry Dipoto as the team’s new General Manager in a press conference on Tuesday.

Dipoto, 47, is a former major league reliever who immediately started working in the front office when his career ended. He’s been a scout, a farm director, and a GM previously in his carer. He was the Los Angeles Angels GM from October 2011 until earlier this season, presiding over some winning Angels clubs.

Of course his No. 1 priority is to put a winning team on the field in Seattle, but he did say a few things about the minor leagues yesterday.

Early in the press conference, he said the team “wants to have a steady stream of minor league players coming through the system”

He spoke of acquiring players internationally – not just through the draft. He wants to tap into Cuban and Far East markets – areas where the Mariners have been only mildly (but successfully!) active in recent years.

When Dipoto was GM of the Angels, his Triple-A Salt Lake clubs posted the following records:

  • 2012: 73-71, third place.
  • 2013: 78-66, lost in PCL Championship Series.
  • 2014: 60-84, last place.
  • 2015: 58-86, last place.

A mixed bag, eh?

At the major league level, his Angels teams (including this year – he might be gone, but he built the club) had winning records in three of his four seasons, including a division title in 2014.

Most of the talk at the press conference was about major league goals, the status of Lloyd McClendon, and his background. He did make a comment of interest in a side interview which Larry Stone tweeted.

“I was a little disheartened at the overall strikeout rate in the minor leagues.” Dipoto indicated that improving contact will be a developmental priority.

Well, that would be a big change for the Rainiers from recent years – but not 2015. Tacoma was 11th in team strikeouts in the PCL this season – or stated another way, they were the sixth-toughest team to strike out among the 16 teams in the league. Dipoto was talking about the lower levels, where Advanced-A Bakersfield easily K’d the most in the California League, and Low-A Clinton had the second-most strikeouts in the Midwest League.

I find myself wondering how Dipoto’s hiring will impact a single player: Shawn O’Malley. Last year, O’Malley played for Salt Lake and was a September call-up (by Dipoto). He played sparingly as the Angels were busy winning 98 games, and then after the season Dipoto designated him for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. That’s when O’Malley became a free agent, ultimately signing with the Mariners.

Now here O’Malley is again, having played his way into another September call-up. But this time O’Malley is seeing more action, he’s played pretty well, and he appears to be a viable option to be the utility player in 2016. Will Dipoto give him that chance?

Dipoto spent a season pitching in the PCL. He went 9-9, 4.94 in 50 appearances (nine starts) for the 1992 Colorado Springs Sky Sox. That was the final year that the Cleveland Indians had their affiliate in the Springs – the Rockies came into existence and moved in the following season.

So even if he never scouted at Cheney Stadium, we know he’s pitched here before.

Links:

We’ll be back with a fresh post on Friday.

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Montero’s Club Record

September 28, 2015

It occurred to me over the weekend – while watching Jesus Montero get robbed of a three-run homer by Mike Trout in what is probably the catch of the year – that we hadn’t properly credited Montero’s new team record here on the blog.

On the final day of the PCL season, Montero went 2-for-2 with a homer and was pulled from the game, leaving his final batting average at .355. He had entered the game with an average of .352.

Montero’s final, official batting average of .355 is the highest in Tacoma franchise history (dating to 1960) for a batter who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders. He broke Brian Raabe‘s mark of .352, set in 1997.

Here’s a look at the updates Top Ten Batting Averages in Tacoma franchise history:

AVERAGE
Montero, Jesus 2015 .355
Raabe, Brian 1997 .352
Neel, Troy 1992 .351
Gray, Gary 1980 .335
Bostock, Lyman 1974 .333
Holt, Jim 1972 .333
Davis, Brock 1970 .332
Moore, Kelvin 1981 .327
Fanzone, Carmen 1971 .327
Powell, Hosken 1977 .326

Troy Neel in 1992 remains the only Tacoma player to ever win a PCL batting title. Montero finished second this year, to Omaha’s Jose Martinez (Carmelo’s kid) who set a modern-era PCL record by hitting .384.

Raabe had a 17-year run in the top spot on the list. I wonder how long Montero will hold the No. 1 position.

(Quick shout-out to No. 4 Gary Gray, who has one of those rare names that is a total breeze for broadcasters but a nightmare for newspaper writers and editors!)

Apparently the Mariners search for a new General Manager is about over, with most of the rumors this morning focused on former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. We’ll wait for an official announcement, which could come later today or tomorrow.

Links:

If this GM situation gets resolved later today, we’ll have a fresh post with all of the pertinent links tomorrow. Otherwise, our next post will come on Wednesday.


On Clinching

September 25, 2015

Yesterday the Kansas City Royals clinched the AL Central division title with a win over the Mariners. This means the Mariners players had to watch while they all celebrated on the field.

It has been my experience that players and managers of opposing teams do not want to watch the other team celebrate – no matter how bad the season has been. A team can be 30 games under .500 and mathematically eliminated since May, and they don’t want to see the other team celebrate when they clinch a title.

Many years ago – I can’t recall the exact details; and this is the type of thing that is tough to look up – the Rainiers saw two teams clinch against them in less than a week. Tacoma was playing one team, they clinched the division with a win, and then a couple of days later was playing another team that clinched. I do recall the Rainiers manager being quite peeved about this.

You know who else doesn’t like clinching celebrations? The home team’s stadium operations crew, when the road team clinches.

Tacoma has a clubhouse manager who takes care of the visiting team at Cheney Stadium. If the Rainiers are playing Las Vegas, and Vegas can clinch the Pac-South with a win, the clubhouse manager has to get the champagne ready, he has to hang up plastic in front of the lockers, and worst of all… he has to clean up the mess later. Every visiting-side clubbie in the league would just as soon see a team clinch in some other city.

These aren’t problems when the home team clinches – that’s what everyone has been pulling for all season. But when it’s the road team, the general thought is “not in my backyard.”

Links:

Have a great weekend, and we’ll have a fresh post for you on Monday afternoon.


Fresno Takes It All

September 23, 2015

The Fresno Grizzlies won the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night in El Paso, shutting out International League champion Columbus, 7-0.

Fresno starter Chris Devenski tossed seven scoreless innings – and he didn’t allow a baserunner until the sixth inning. He struck out nine while allowing only one hit.

Meanwhile, Fresno scored three runs in the first inning and kept piling on early to coast to the win.

And with that, minor league baseball is done for 2015. Congratulations to Fresno for winning the whole ball of wax all of the marbles just plain everything.

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra passed away late last night, at age 90. So much has been made of his famous quotes that people forget how good he was. He won three American League MVP awards – receiving at least one MVP vote every year from 1947 to 1961 – and was an 18-time All-Star. Before becoming a Yankees star, Berra was in the D-Day invasion in World War II.

I read a great biography of Berra last offseason: “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee” by Allen Barra. If you enjoy biographies of interesting Americans, check it out.

Links:

There are going to be a lot of really good remembrances of Yogi Berra written by elite-level baseball scribes in the next few days. I’ll link to some that come across my desk, starting with these today:

With the minor league season coming to an end, we’ll continue updating the blog but on a more regimented schedule. Look for new posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through the end of the World Series.


Triple-A National Championship Game Tonight

September 22, 2015

The final game of the Minor League Baseball season is tonight, when PCL champion Fresno faces International League winner Columbus in the Triple-A National Championship Game.

The game is played at rotating sites, and this year the El Paso Chihuahuas are hosting the event.

NBC Sports Network is televising the game nationally. It starts at 5:00 (Pacific).

This is an opportunity for you to check out the beautiful new downtown ballpark in El Paso – it really is a unique stadium. Let’s face the facts: you’re probably never going to visit El Paso, so this is your best chance to see what their cool ballpark looks like.

Columbus is starting lefty Ryan Merritt, who pitched the opening game of both series in the IL playoffs.

Fresno’s No. 1 starter Dan Straily got called up by the Astros, who are desperately trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the American League wild card chase. So the Grizzlies are going to start RHP Chris Devenski, a prospect of some regard who will be making his first Triple-A start.

There is money on the line: MiLB pays the players extra for this game (player salaries are paid by their major league teams, not MiLB), and the winning team gets more than the losing team. It’s a nice little bonus, especially for the players who haven’t reached the big leagues yet.

Links:


Fresno Wins Title

September 21, 2015

The Fresno Grizzlies won the first PCL Championship in franchise history on Sunday afternoon, defeating Round Rock 7-3 to win the best-of-five series, three games to two.

Fresno was down in the series 2-1 but won the final two games: a 2-1 nail biter on Saturday, and then Sunday’s final.

Mark Appel starred for Fresno on Sunday, tying his career high with ten strikeouts over 5.2 innings pitched.

Fresno had a two-run homer from Tyler White, three hits by Tony Kemp, and two hits and two RBI from Robbie Grossman.

Kemp was named MVP of the playoffs, hitting .405 with nine RBI during Fresno’s nine postseason games.

It was the fourth PCL Championship for Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco, who guided Sacramento to the title in 2003, 2004 and 2007.

There is one game left: the final game of the minor league season is the Triple-A National Championship Game, pitting Fresno against International League champion Columbus. This one-off game plays at rotating sites; this year El Paso is the host. The game is Tuesday night.

Congratulations to the fans in Fresno – they had to wait 18 years to get their first PCL title.

In the big picture, I think Fresno’s win falls under the category of “Good For The PCL.” Fresno lost its affiliation with the SF Giants after the 2014 season – and that was a really natural fit for them, marketing wise. They kind of got stuck with Houston in the affiliation shuffle, and then the Astros provided Fresno with its first-ever championship club – and the fans got into it down the stretch in Fresno. This definitely helped the overall future outlook in Fresno.

Links:

  • The Fresno Bee story includes lots of reaction and embedded photos and videos of the celebration. PCL people: don’t miss the photo of Fresno team president Chris Cummings getting a beer shower.
  • Fresno columnist Marek W. was on hand and filed this report.
  • Here’s the PCL Championship recap from MiLB.com.
  • The Mariners pounded Texas on Sunday, 9-2, and remain hot right now: the M’s are 12-6 over the last 18 games, and are only four games under .500.
  • After the game, the Mariners had their annual “rookie dress-up day” and Ryan Divish provides us with amusing commentary.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook catches us up on Stefen Romero‘s first-ever start in center field, and the never-ending fun of Felix Hernandez facing Adrian Beltre.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Triple-A National Championship Game.


Game Five Today

September 20, 2015

Fresno edged Round Rock on Saturday night, 2-1, forcing a fifth and final game of the PCL Championship Series today at 1:05.

To follow today’s game, go here.

Round Rock will start Anthony Ranaudo against Fresno’s Mark Appel. That’s a really good pitching matchup by PCL standards and is fitting for a Game Five.

Last night, Fresno starter Asher Wojciechowski walked a tightrope through the first six innings, escaping jam after jam while allowing just one run. Jon Singleton hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth.

Whoever wins today will face International League champion Columbus in the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night in El Paso.

Links:

When the series began I picked Fresno in five games – so let’s go Grizzlies!