Romero Moves Up All-Time Lists

September 29, 2016

Stefen Romero had another strong season for the Tacoma Rainiers in 2016, putting up big batting numbers that were just a tier below Pacific Coast League MVP-level.

Romero hit .304 with 21 home runs and 85 RBI. He added 24 doubles and six triples, while drawing 36 walks and striking out only 67 times in 418 at-bats. His OPS was .902, with a .361 on-base percentage and .541 slugging.

In the counting stats, Romero made some serious gains on Tacoma’s all-time lists. He’s been here for a long time, and he’s produced since his first Triple-A season in 2013.

The key to climbing up these lists is to play in a lot of games for Tacoma, and to play well. Romero has appeared in 351 career games for Tacoma, which ranks as the 15th-most by a position player since Tacoma joined the Pacific Coast League in 1960.

Here are some of Romero’s better rankings:

Runs Batted In

Romero has 274 RBI in his Tacoma career, which ranks second on the all-time list. He passed former Tacoma Twins slugger Randy Bass (273 from 1975-77) to take second place. Danny Goodwin of the Tacoma Tigers (1982-85) is the all-time leader with 301.

Home Runs

The 2016 season was Romero’s second-best of his career in terms of dingers. He hit 21 home runs, bumping his Tacoma career total up to 61. That’s good for sixth-best all-time, and is just 11 away from Tacoma home run king Rick Renick (72 for the Tacoma Twins, 1972-75).

Hits

With 127 hits this season, Romero now has 424 while wearing a Tacoma jersey. He became the fifth player in franchise history to reach 400 career hits, although he has a long way to go to catch all-time leader Gil Garrido. Garrido banged out 663 hits for the Tacoma Giants from 1961 to 1965.

Doubles

The top of the Tacoma all-time doubles list is all players of recent vintage, from the Rainiers era (1995 to present). Romero has hit 91 two-baggers for Tacoma, which is fourth in franchise history. Bryan LaHair (2006-09) is the leader with 110, while Jeff Clement (95, 2006-09) and Dan Rohrmeier (94, 1997-98) are also ahead of Romero.

Triples

Romero isn’t a burner on the basepaths, but he ain’t slow either. Romero has hit 16 triples for Tacoma, which believe it or not ranks fourth-best in franchise history. The numbers are low, because Cheney Stadium is not and has never been a triples-friendly ballpark. Garrido is the all-time leader with 24, while Tacoma Giants outfielder Bob Perry (1960-63) is second with 21. Tacoma Tigers star Eric Fox (1990-94) ranks third with 18 triples.

What’s next for Romero? Good question.

For the second season in a row, Romero did not get called up by Seattle in September after the Rainiers season ended. It’s hard to see how he fits into the Mariners plans for 2017, considering they didn’t recall him in September.

He’s still on the Mariners 40-man roster, but 2016 was his third and final option year. He can’t be optioned to Tacoma next year without clearing waivers first. But if he cleared waivers (say, at the end of spring training) he would be outrighted to Tacoma – so it is possible he could come back for one more season.

For the Rainiers sake, I would love to have him back next year. For Romero’s sake, I would love to see him get a chance with another major league club, or maybe overseas in Japan where he could potentially make some big bucks.

Romero’s future will be one of the stories of the offseason.

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  • Many of you readers attended one of the final home games of the season and received a team photo with the 2017 home schedule on the reverse, getting a sneak preview. On Tuesday, the Rainiers officially released next year’s home schedule. When the entire schedule is released with all of the road games, I’ll write about it in depth – the PCL is going from 144 games to 142 this year, causing an unbalanced schedule.
  • The Mariners had their annual rookie dress-up day, and Dan Vogelbach‘s resemblance to Chris Farley gained the attention of TMZ.
  • Seattle blasted Houston on Wednesday, 12-4, and finished the final road trip of the season with a solid 4-2 record – but they didn’t gain any ground in the standings. The M’s are two games behind Baltimore with four games remaining. Other games this week: defensive misplays cost the Mariners dearly in an 8-4 loss at Houston on Tuesday… the Mariners won the first game in Houston on Monday night when Robinson Cano homered in the eleventh inning.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook today discusses Vogelbach’s need to improve his defense at first base… on Tuesday, he wrote that relievers Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner are making positive impressions which could carry forward to next season… Monday’s edition tells us that Rainiers manager Pat Listach was summoned to be an extra coach during the three-game series at Houston.
  • Robinson Cano‘s ramped-up offseason workout program led to his big 2016 season.
  • Well-traveled former Rainiers infielder/outfielder Patrick Kivlehan was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds, and he’ll join the big league club for the final weekend. Kivlehan’s 2016 season: Round Rock>Tacoma>El Paso>San Diego>El Paso>Cincinnati.
  • Nothing to do with the Mariners or Rainiers, but I was interested by this article on the Washington Nationals post-homer helmet removal ritual.

I’m out of town for the weekend and our next update will come on Tuesday. Keeping my fingers crossed I’ll be blogging about a Mariners Wild Card game!


M’s Still In Chase, But Running Low On Time

September 26, 2016

The Mariners won a road series at Minnesota over the weekend, taking two out of three from the Twins, but fell a half-game farther back in the American League wild card chase.

Baltimore was the big winner over the weekend, sweeping an interleague series from the Arizona Diamondbacks and taking command of the No. 2 wild card spot. Toronto holds the top spot.

Seattle is 2.5 games behind Baltimore, and the Mariners also need to pass Detroit which is a game closer to the O’s. The final week of the season is upon us.

A do-or-almost-die three-game series at Houston starts tonight. Like the M’s, the Astros are also running short on time and they need to start reeling off wins to have a chance.

Both Detroit (vs. Cleveland) and Baltimore (at Toronto) start tough series tonight. For the remainder of the schedules, scroll down to Friday’s post.

Baseball woke up to shocking and sad news on Sunday morning: Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez had died in a boating accident.

This was terrible news. Just 24-years-old, Fernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He played with visible joy, and was also one of the most talented players in the game.

The tragedy affects everyone in the game. His family, friends and teammates feel the biggest loss. The Marlins lost their franchise player – a Cuban immigrant who they expected to have at the top of their rotation for years to come.

We never saw Fernandez at Cheney Stadium – or in the PCL, for that matter. He made the incredible jump from Class-A to the majors in the spring of 2013, and proved he belonged right away. When he was recovering from ‘Tommy John’ surgery in 2015, he did all five of his rehabilitation starts at lower levels of the minors.

A pair of Tacoma Rainiers players from 2016 previously played with Fernandez.

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Check back later this week for a closer look at a Rainiers player who will go down as one of Tacoma’s all-time greats. Coming Wednesday or Thursday.


Wild Card Weekend

September 23, 2016

The American League wild card chase has been an interesting follow, to say the least. Just when you think the Mariners are out of it, they’re back in it.

After the Mariners lost the first two games to Toronto on Monday and Tuesday, it appeared that all was lost.

But then they won on Wednesday afternoon, and nearly everything that could happen to help Seattle did happen on Wednesday and Thursday nights (with the exception of Detroit sweeping the Twins in a DH yesterday).

Heading into the weekend, here are the AL Wild Card standings:

TOR (83-69) +1

DET (82-70)  —

BAL (82-71)  0.5

HOU (81-71) 1.5

SEA (80-72)    2

NYY (79-73)    3

The schedules for the six teams:

Toronto: vs. NYY (4), vs. BAL (3), @BOS (3)

Detroit: vs. KC (3), vs. CLE (4), @ATL (3)

Baltimore: vs. AZ (3), @TOR (3), @NYY (3)

Houston: vs. LAA (3), vs. SEA (3), @LAA (3)

Seattle: @MIN (3), @HOU (3), vs. OAK (4)

New York: @TOR (4), vs. BOS (3), vs. BAL (3)

It looks like Toronto and New York have the toughest schedules, while the Astros and Mariners have the easiest.

You can pinpoint series in which teams need to clean up against poor opponents. Seattle starts one tonight at Minnesota, the Orioles have to get some wins against Arizona before running the gauntlet to the finish line, and Detroit ends the year with three games against the hapless Braves.

This will be fun to follow the next few days. For starters, let’s see if the M’s can win the series at Minnesota.

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It’s going to be a fun weekend to follow the pennant race.


Minor League Season Ends

September 21, 2016

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre knocked off El Paso in the Triple-A National Championship Game last night, 3-1, at AutoZone Park in Memphis. And with that, the 2016 minor league season came to an end.

El Paso starter Walker Lockett‘s bottom of the first inning went like this: base hit, base hit, three-run homer… and then three outs, and neither he nor any El Paso relievers gave up any runs the rest of the way.

But Chris Parmelee‘s three-run tater was enough for the Yankees Triple-A club to win the single-game cross-league title. Yankees prospect Jordan Montgomery made the lead hold up, allowing one run over five inning to earn the win.

After the game, the San Diego Padres called up the El Paso core: Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Austin Hedges, and Hunter Renfroe are heading to San Diego for the final 12 days of the major league season.

Congratulations to both teams. The Triple-A National Championship Game has the feel of an exhibition, played at a neutral site in front of uncaring fans. But the league championships are an entirely different matter, and both Scranton and El Paso had terrific, memorable seasons.

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Mariners Have New Double-A Affiliate

September 20, 2016

The Mariners made some minor league news today, announcing that they have switched their Double-A affiliate from Jackson (TN) of the Southern League over to the Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League.

Arkansas is based out of Little Rock. The Travelers play at a newer ballpark than Jackson: Dickey-Stephens Park was opened in 2007. They draw well by Double-A standards, averaging 4,716 per game this year for a total attendance of 306,570.

The ballpark in Arkansas is an extreme pitcher’s park, which is similar to Jackson. With the affiliation change in the California League (to Modesto), the Mariners will have all of the four full-season affiliates in pitcher-friendly parks.

The change in leagues should ease player movement. Jackson is a 75-minute drive from the nearest airport, while Little Rock has its own airport. On the whole, the Texas League is closer to all of the other Mariners affiliates than the Southern League.

Here’s a post from the Seattle Times on the affiliation change.

The farm system is now finalized:

  • AAA – Tacoma
  • AA – Arkansas
  • Hi-A – Modesto
  • Lo-A – Clinton
  • SS – Everett
  • Rookie – Arizona

The Triple-A National Championship Game is tonight at 5:05 (Pacific), televised on the NBC Sports Network.

El Paso plays International League champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

According to El Paso broadcaster Tim Hagerty, this is the first meeting between Triple-A affiliates of the Padres and Yankees since 1978 – the sole year of the Tacoma Yankees.

A reason to watch: there are some interesting prospects in the game.

You also get to see the Memphis ballpark, which is beautiful (other than the absolutely filthy visiting radio booth, but they probably won’t show that on TV).

Here is a preview from the El Paso Times, and another preview from Baseball America.

 


Chihuahuas Rule The Land

September 19, 2016

Congratulations to the El Paso Chihuahuas, your 2016 Pacific Coast League champions.

El Paso locked up the league title on Saturday night, winning a 4-3 decision in 11 innings at Bricktown Ballpark to take the series, three games to one.

The Chihuahuas won when Patrick Kivlehan singled, went first-to-third on a throwing error, and scored on an odd popped-up safety squeeze bunt by Jose Rondon. The pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla tried to make a diving catch of the bunt, but the ball came flying out of his glove – you can see it in the video with this game story.

It’s the first PCL Championship in the brief history of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who completed their third season of existence. It’s the first time a San Diego Padres affiliate has won the PCL crown since 1988, when the Las Vegas Stars won it all.

El Paso isn’t quite done yet. The Chihuahuas play the Triple-A National Championship Game against the International League champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders (Yankees) on Tuesday in Memphis. The game starts at 5:05 (Pacific) and is televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network.

The Mariners Low-A Clinton affiliate lost at Great Lakes in the Midwest League finals on Sunday, ending the minor league season for all M’s affiliates.

The final totals:

  • All seven teams reached the playoffs
  • Two won league titles (AA-Jackson and R-Arizona)
  • Two reached league finals and lost (Low-A Clinton and SS-Everett)
  • The seven teams combined to go 451-314, for a .590 wining percentage which led all 30 MLB organizations.

It was a great year on the Mariners farm!

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Oklahoma City Stays Alive

September 17, 2016

Cornered by yipping chihuahuas, Oklahoma City dodged elimination by beating El Paso on Friday night, 4-2.

(I will not apologize for that awful sentence)

The Dodgers stayed alive for a couple of reasons. They got a strong rehabilitation start by lefty Brett Anderson, who allowed one run over five innings. And they were able to do something which has been very difficult to do in the PCL playoffs: they rallied against the El Paso bullpen.

Trailing 2-1 at the seventh inning stretch, Oklahoma City scored three runs against relievers Daniel Moskos and Kyle McGrath. Veteran outfielder Will Venable had the key hit, a go-ahead two-run single.

There will be no sweep. El Paso leads the best-of-five series, two games to one.

Here’s the game story from The Oklahoman, and a notebook which tells us that O’Koyea Dickson is out for the series with an injury – he’s been one of Oklahoma City’s top hitters.

Game Four is tonight at 5:05 (Pacific), with El Paso starting Shea Simmons against Oklahoma City’s Alfredo Figaro. Follow along here.

Scranton-Wilkes/Barre won the Governor’s Cup, which is the trophy presented to the International League champion. The Yankees affiliate will play the PCL Champion in the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday in Memphis.

The Mariners Low-A Clinton affiliate is still playing. They play Game Three of the Midwest League Championship Series against Great Lakes tonight at 4:05 (Pacific), with that series tied 1-1. Kevin Gadea draws the start for the Mariners affiliate. The live scoreboard is here.

Links:

  • The Mariners eight-game win streak ended with a “clunker” – a 6-0 loss to natural born Mariners killer Collin McHugh and the Astros.
  • Manager Scott Servais shows faith in his players, Larry Stone writes.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook informs us the Rainiers outfielder Boog Powell is going to return from his suspension and play for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League. That’s a tough country for a guy coming off a PED suspension to play in.
  • Venerable San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins has some good ideas regarding Vin Scully‘s final broadcast in his column today.

Big sports day today – lots of great college football games, a huge Mariners game, PCL Finals… I’ll be watching TV all day.


Double-A Jackson Wins Title

September 16, 2016

The Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate swept its way to the Southern League championship with an 11-3 win over the Mississippi Braves last night.

The Generals won the series, three games to none, and the celebration was on.

Congratulations to all of the Jackson players and coaches. In particular, it’s nice to see former Rainiers and Mariners manager Daren Brown get a league championship, and lead the celebration.

This is good news for the Mariners organization and the Tacoma Rainiers moving forward. We will see many of this year’s Jackson players in Tacoma next year, whether it be on opening day or later in the season.

Outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill was named Most Valuable Player of the Southern League playoffs. He hit .448 during the postseason, going 13-for-29 with three homers and nine RBI in seven games. That came on the heels of his regular-season MVP award, and a near Triple Crown.

Barring a trade – hey, if there is one thing we’ve learned in ten months of Jerry Dipoto as GM, he really likes to make trades – we can expect to have O’Neill in Tacoma’s outfield on April 6. It will be fun to have a 21-year-old power hitting prospect in the lineup.

The PCL Championship Series resumes tonight after Thursday’s travel day.

El Paso at Oklahoma City, 5:05 (Pacific). El Paso starts Bryan Rodriguez against Oklahoma City’s Alfredo Figaro.

The Chihuahuas lead the series, 2-0, and are going for the sweep and the title tonight.

You can follow along in various ways (gamecast, either team’s radio, etc…) right here.

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Check back over the weekend, I’ll have a new post daily until the PCL Championship gets settled.


Chihuahuas In Charge

September 15, 2016

El Paso took command of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series by winning Game Two with ease last night, 10-4.

The Chihuahuas now hold a 2-0 lead over Oklahoma City in the best-of-five series. The teams are off for travel today, and then resume the series in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

It was a full-scale Chihuahua attack last night. El Paso’s top four in the lineup – the core of Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges – each had multiple hits. Hedges even had multiple homers, blasting two solo shots, and Asuaje also went deep. Margot, the regular season PCL triples leader, had a pair of three-base hits.

The game was tied 2-2 when El Paso scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then backed it up with three more runs in the sixth to make it 9-2. In total, El Paso had 14 hits.

Somehow the Chihuahuas won while making five errors. I wonder when the last time was that a team made five errors in one game of the PCL Championship Series (let alone win that game).

The newspaper story from the El Paso Times includes the line “and that’s when the Chihuahuas bombed this puppy open.”

In the Mariners organizations, Double-A Jackson resumes the Southern League Championship Series with Game Three tonight at Mississippi. Jackson leads the best-of-five series, 2-0.

Low-A Clinton was trailing Great Lakes, 5-3, before scoring eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in the opening game of the Midwest League Championship Series. They didn’t stop there, either, eventually winning Game One by a score of 16-6. Leadoff man Chris Mariscal reached base five times with three hits and two walks, scoring three runs and driving in three. Shortstop Rayder Ascanio hit a single, double, and triple while driving in four runs.

The Mariners traded Rainiers pitcher Joe Wieland to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later.

Wieland went 14-6 with a 5.43 ERA for Tacoma, becoming the team’s first 14-game winner since Denny Stark went 14-2 in 2001.

This trade was interesting to me. The Braves Triple-A club Gwinnett is still in the International League playoffs, so he could help them if allowed by IL rules. The Braves major league team has had some starting rotation injuries and needs a little help getting to the finish line, so maybe he is going (or will go) up.

On top of all of that, Wieland is a free agent at the end of the season. We weren’t going to get him back in Tacoma next year unless the Mariners made him a strong offer for 2017 – which is something that could still happen.

Links:

  • The Mariners are making things interesting, winning their eighth in a row last night at Anaheim, 2-1. The M’s passed a third team in the wild card chase (the Yankees), and need to move past two more to be in a qualifying spot. They are 1.5 games out of the second wild card position. The standings are at the bottom of Ryan Divish’s game story.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook starts with a glimpse of the team’s 2017 schedule.
  • Looks like ESPN is now posting a daily Wild Card Watch, so we might as well link to it.
  • In the PCL, the much-discussed move of the Colorado Springs franchise to San Antonio appears to have been pushed back at least a year, to 2020 (and counting).

 

 

 


Chihuahuas, Generals Hold Leads

September 14, 2016

Game One of the PCL Championship Series went to El Paso, in a 7-5 thriller over visiting Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City took a 5-0 lead in the second inning against El Paso starter Walker Lockett, but they did not tack on any additional runs… and El Paso began its comeback.

Carlos Asuaje hit a three-run double in the third inning, and it was 5-4. It stayed 5-4 for a long time, but the Chihuahuas rallied for three unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the 7-5 lead. An error by shortstop Chris Taylor opened the door, and Diego Goris had a key hit.

El Paso’s bullpen was a strength in the semifinals win over Tacoma, and yesterday was more of the same: 3.2 shutout, no-hit innings.

Here is the game story from the El Paso Times.

Game Two is tonight at 5:35 (Pacific), with Oklahoma City starting Chase De Jong against El Paso’s Frank Garces. Follow along live here.

In the Mariners minor leagues, Double-A Jackson is one win away from a Southern League Championship.

The Generals beat the Mississippi Braves last night, 2-0, to take control of the best-pf-five series. Jackson leads the series, 2-0, but has to go on the road for the remainder.

Starting pitcher Brett Ash tossed seven shutout innings to earn the win. He gave up five hits, no walks, and struck out four. Third baseman Adam Law homered in the fifth inning to snap a scoreless tie.

The news wasn’t as good on in the short-season Northwest League, where the Everett affiliate lost the league championship series to Eugene. Game Three of the best-of-three series went to the Emeralds, 2-1. Everett actually out-hit them, 9-6, but left eight on base and managed just the one run.

Low-A Clinton was off, as they await the start of the Midwest League Championship Series against Great Lakes (Dodgers).

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