About Those Minor League Releases

May 29, 2020

Social media presents a platform for immediate overreaction, and that was the case when word got out this week that major league teams were releasing dozens of their minor league players. Included is the Mariners, who released somewhere between 30 and 50 players, according to various reports. A complete list of players released by all teams is expected to be available publicly in a week or two.

Not to spoil the indignation of the keyboard warriors claiming this portends the end of minor league baseball, but releasing players is standard operational procedure for teams at the end of spring training. Most teams didn’t do their annual minor league cuts before the coronavirus halted the camps. The Mariners released just one minor league player before the abrupt end of spring training.

Last year the Mariners released 38 minor league players at the end of spring training, and in 2018 that number was 22. The other major league organizations made similar numbers of cuts.

Baseball player is a brutal profession. It’s really, really hard to make it to the major leagues. It’s really hard to make it to Triple-A. The players we see at Cheney Stadium have overcome a lot to reach that level, and are so close to achieving their goal. Tacoma’s players have proven themselves at five lower levels on the minor league ladder. Many hopeful big leaguers never reach Triple-A.

During a normal spring training, at the end of March the Mariners decide who is going to fill out the rosters at each of their four full-season minor league teams, and then they identify some other players they are going to keep in Arizona at “extended spring training” until their two short-season teams begin play after the draft in June. If a player doesn’t make a full-season roster and isn’t held in extended to wait for the short-season leagues to start, he is released.

Now the Mariners have made their cuts that they would have made at the end of spring training, and while that’s always tough it is also normal. Where it gets particularly bad this year is that the players who were released cannot latch on with another team right away, because nobody is playing.

Take former Rainiers reliever Darin Gillies, who announced on Twitter that he was one of the players released by the Mariners. In a normal season, Gillies would get an opportunity with another organization. He might have to wait a bit for injuries to create an opening somewhere, but eventually he would get a chance to pitch for another organization at the Double-A level at least. But this year, with no minor league baseball going at the moment, his future is cloudy.

We’ll post the released players when the names come out publicly. Typically the spring training releases are mostly lower-level players, and that will probably be the case here. It’s going to be tougher than usual for all of them, without an opportunity to get another baseball job quickly.

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Rainiers Update, News Round-Up

May 19, 2020

The News Tribune had a story today on the Tacoma Rainiers and Defiance today, including information from team president Aaron Artman. The story is right here.

Among the subjects covered is the immediate, currently delayed seasons for both teams and hopes of playing in the future.

The video portion of the online article includes a picture of the field at Cheney Stadium right now – when it looks kind of stuck between a baseball and football configuration. The last game at Cheney was a Defiance soccer match, and with nobody knowing what the next event at the park will be, the grounds crew left the soccer turf in place – but the field markings have long since grown out, so we have a completely grass-covered surface in a stadium built for baseball. Check it out at about the 25-second mark of the video.

As for actual news, we’re still in a waiting game. The story mentions some of the possibilities, which we are all ready for, but there is an overwhelming sense of simply not knowing when Triple-A Baseball can return.

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Get Your Baseball Fix Internationally

May 7, 2020

You may have noticed we have baseball on TV again. The live games begin at 2:30 AM, there are no fans, and they are being played in Korea, but it’s baseball nonetheless.

ESPN decided to start carrying KBO games because, why not? There is nothing else on. It’s good programming.

You can catch some former Rainiers in action, too.

Pitcher Mike Wright was with both Tacoma and Seattle last year, and he signed to pitch for the NC Dinos in 2020. He made his first start on Wednesday morning (our time), getting a win against the Samsung Lions. His team is off to a 3-0 start.

Ex-Rainiers and Mariners utility man Taylor Motter is the Kiwoom Heroes, getting his first KBO hit earlier this week. Motter is in his first season playing in Asia after spending time in the independent Atlantic League last year.

Skyline High School graduate Adrian Sampson pitched for Tacoma in 2016, and spent nearly all of 2019 in the major leagues with the Texas Rangers. He signed to pitch for the Lotte Giants this year, but left the team before opening day to deal with a family matter at home. Should he return to Korea, he’ll have to go into a two week quarantine before being allowed to join his team.

Each KBO team is allowed three foreign players, and most of them played in Triple-A or the Majors. Notably, Albuquerque first baseman and natural born Rainiers killer Roberto Ramos signed to play in Korea this year – in 14 games against Tacoma in 2019 he hit .389 with four homers and had 21 RBI. Former PCL star Jamie Romak (Memphis, Albuquerque, Reno) is one of the top sluggers in Korea, as is Round Rock’s career home run leader Jared Hoying.

The best place to go for English language KBO standings, schedule, and stats is the MyKBO website.

You can also find a former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher playing in the professional league in Taiwan, which is called the CPBL. Left-hander Ariel Miranda is with the CTB Brothers franchise, and he gained a moment of infamy when he allowed the first home run in 2020 pro baseball last month.

The CPBL does not have an American TV deal, but they do stream some of the games online. The CPBL has one terrific team name: the Rakuten Monkeys. But another team is called the 7-Eleven Lions, so you win some and you lose some.

English language reports from the CPBL with links to live streams are right here.

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  • There are increasing reports that MLB players are going to try to return to spring training camps in mid-June with the hope of starting play in early July.
  • PCL president Branch Rickey told the Austin Statesman the league will not play without fans. This is a good story on the state of the league.
  • How good are the leagues in Korea and Taiwan? Baseball America ranks them compared to the US minor leagues.
  • In Taiwan they are about to start letting fans into the games.
  • Seattle Times baseball writer Ryan Divish has a Mariners Mailbag (note that it took a pandemic for him to stay on topic).
  • The loss of the high school baseball season was felt by players all around the country, including Curtis High School senior Kyle Russell who is considered the top prep draft prospect in the state.
  • Dodgers teenage catching prospect Diego Cartaya couldn’t return to Venezuela, so he moved in with Oklahoma City manager Travis Barbary and his kids.
  • The Omaha Storm Chasers have found a hit: drive-in fireworks.
  • It’s been tough in Sacramento, where the River Cats have laid off much of the front office staff.