Taylor Leads Dodgers Into World Series

October 20, 2017

Former Rainiers shortstop Chris Taylor was named Co-MVP of the National League Championship Series (along with Justin Turner) after the Los Angeles Dodgers eliminated the Chicago Cubs last night.

Taylor hit .316 (6-for-19) in the five-game series, with four of his six hits going for extra bases. He homered twice, while adding a double and a triple. Taylor also drew five walks for a .458 on-base percentage as the Dodgers clinched their first World Series appearance in 29 years.

Congratulations to Chris, who has really made the most of this opportunity. The first link below tells how it happened.

We have a chance for the first Dodgers-Yankees World Series since 1981, which to those of us of a certain age is kind of mind-boggling. When I was a kid it was pretty much expected that the Dodgers would play the Yankees in the World Series every year.

The Yankees need to win one of the next two games in Houston to make it happen – but it’s not going to be easy.

The home team has won each of the first five games in the ALCS. Houston is at home for the final two.

Houston has superstar Justin Verlander starting tonight, against the Yankees talented yet erratic youngster Luis Severino. A Game Seven appears likely – and then anything can happen.

And that is my desired result as a baseball fan: more Game Sevens, please!

Links:

  • We have previously linked to a different version of this story, but Chris Taylor‘s playoff surge has caused it to be retold: how a 71-year-old Dodgers hitting consultant completely remade Taylor’s swing after the trade.
  • Chris Taylor is getting on John McGrath’s nerves.
  • Here’s news of another PCL manager change, though we don’t know who the new guy is yet. Oakland has promoted Triple-A Nashville manager Ryan Christenson to the major league coaching staff, creating a job opening. Send your resume to Billy Beane, Oakland, CA.

 

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Playoffs, Possibilities, and Portland?

October 17, 2017

Clearing my desk of couple of recent items, as we get ready for a pair of huge playoff games later today.

  • Former Rainiers shortstop (and now Dodgers centerfielder) Chris Taylor talked a bit about his first playoff experience. The Dodgers lead the Cubs 2-0 in the best-of-seven NLCS.
  • 97-year-old hall of fame baseball writer Roger Angell sums up the playoffs so far, for The New Yorker.
  • Mariners bench coach Manny Acta is getting a chance to interview for the New York Mets manager opening, according to the New York Post.
  • Baseball America contributor and longtime ballwriter Tracy Ringolsby submitted an article discussing Major League Baseball’s intention to expand by two cities, making a 32-team league. He suggests Montreal and Portland as expansion cities. I have a lot of difficulty imagining Portland pushing for it, since the city already dumped Triple-A Baseball by converting its perfectly fine ballpark into a soccer-only facility.
  • The Arizona Fall League is underway. Mariners top prospect Kyle Lewis is scheduled to play in the league, but he has not yet appeared. Apparently this is because the outfielder is continuing to rehabilitate from the serious knee injury he had in 2016. Greg Johns reports that Lewis will start playing in the AFL soon.

We’ll have more on Mariners and Rainiers players in the Arizona Fall League and other winter leagues once they get a little deeper into the season.


Tacoma Ties To MLB League Championship Series

October 13, 2017

And we are down to four teams. It’s the Astros against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and the Dodgers versus the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

As usual, my pick to win the World Series (Cleveland) is already golfing. Standard.

Also as usual, we have a few former Tacoma Rainiers players to root for in the playoffs. This year the ex-Rainiers are all in the National League.

The Chicago Cubs have outfielder Leonys Martin on the playoff roster, and he was with Tacoma for over half of the 2017 season. Also on the Cubs roster is left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, who pitched for the Rainiers in 2015.

Tacoma native Jon Lester is also on the Cubs. To my knowledge Lester has not pitched at Cheney Stadium since (probably) high school.

Former Mariners pitcher and long-ago (2001) Rainiers pitching coach Chris Bosio serves as the Cubs pitching coach. The Cubs third base coach is Gary Jones, who played for the Tacoma Tigers from 1987 to 1989.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a pair of ex-Rainiers in the bullpen, and another in the outfield.

Chris Taylor has been starting in center field and hitting near the top of the Dodgers lineup. He played for Tacoma for parts of three years, 2014-2016.

In the bullpen the Dodgers use right-handers Brandon Morrow (with Tacoma in 2008 and 2009) and Josh Fields (a brief stint with the Rainiers in 2011).

The Dodgers have Kyle’s brother Corey Seager in the lineup at shortstop, if you want to root for the Seager family. Their third base coach is ex-Rainiers shortstop Chris Woodward.

The ALCS is free of former Tacoma players. Houston does have quite a few players who appeared at Cheney Stadium in recent years, thanks to their Triple-A affiliate Fresno being a frequent visitor. Former Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach and all-around-good-dude Alonzo Powell is the Astros assistant hitting coach.

So, who to root for? I’ve never been a fan of any of these teams. I’ll root for good baseball and the ex-Rainiers to have some moments.

Links:


Ex-Rainiers Battle In Playoffs; PCL News From Vegas

October 10, 2017

The playoff series with the most ex-Rainiers on the field came to an end last night, when the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If you watched just an inning or two of one of these games, chances are that you saw a former Tacoma player.

The Dodgers advance to the National League Championship Series, where they will face either the Washington Nationals or the Chicago Cubs. That means one-time Rainiers players Chris Taylor and Brandon Morrow will continue their playoff experiences.

Taylor has been batting leadoff for the Dodgers, and starting in center. Last night he doubled and scored a run in the series-clinching 3-1 victory.

Watching on TV, you can really see the swing change that Taylor implemented after being traded to the Dodgers by the Mariners during the 2016 season. He has a big uppercut now, and it seems to really be working for him.

Morrow was originally a Mariners draft pick back in 2006, and Seattle had a tough time determining if he was a starter or a reliever. After many role changes the M’s eventually traded him away, and he has kicked around from team to team while dealing with several injury issues. He’s now 33 years old, healthy, and throwing gas out of the Dodgers bullpen.

On the Arizona side, Ketel Marte played very well in the Diamondbacks four playoff games. He hit two triples in the NL Wild Card victory over Colorado, and then he was 4-for-12 with a homer in the three games against the Dodgers.

No such luck for Taijuan Walker, though. The former Rainiers and Mariners hurler started the opening game of the Division Series and survived just one inning, allowing four runs and taking the loss. He did throw very well down the stretch for the Diamondbacks and had a good season overall.

There are a few other former Tacoma players scattered around the remaining playoff teams. We’ll get to all of them later this week, once we are down to four teams.

We’ve got some PCL news, and it all involves Las Vegas.

The 51s are apparently getting closer to building a new ballpark in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin. They are close enough that they are negotiating to sell the stadium naming rights, as reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The article suggests the stadium will be done in 2019.

New stadium or not, the Las Vegas 51s will not be a New York Mets affiliate in 2019. The Mets announced that they are buying the Syracuse franchise of the International League, and they will make it their Triple-A affiliate in 2019. That means that Las Vegas will be one of several PCL teams expected to be looking for a new MLB affiliate after the 2018 season. If they get the stadium deal done, Vegas will suddenly be a very attractive option for the western MLB teams. The A’s and Padres immediately jump to mind as strong Vegas affiliation candidates.

The 2018 season will be the final year that the Mets will feed a team in the Pacific Coast League, and they have hired a PCL stalwart to manage the team. Tony DeFrancesco will skipper the Las Vegas 51s this coming season, and he’ll add to his totals as the PCL’s winningest manager in history. Tony D piloted the PCL to a win on the Triple-A All-Star Game at Cheney Stadium back in July.


Fearless Predictions

October 5, 2017

Time for my annual public display of stupidity, in which I share my MLB playoff predictions.

You may recall the Boston Red Sox celebrating their World Series Championship last Fall, just a few weeks after I predicted it. That’s what I remember, and I’m sticking with it.

Looking back, I once picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win a World Series. And the Reds! I picked Cincinnati in 2012!

I’m terrible at this.

So here are some wrong picks:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Houston beats Boston in four games, 3-1.

Indians sweep the Yankees, 3-0.

Cleveland needs all seven games to dispatch Houston in an epic series, 4-3

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Cubs edge the Nationals in five games, 3-2.

Diamondbacks top Dodgers in five games, 3-2 (series includes several bench-clearing incidents)

Cubs barrel past Diamondbacks, 4-1

WORLD SERIES

Second verse, same as the first verse: the Cubs repeat as World Series Champions, beating Cleveland in six games.

So, that’s not going to happen. Sorry Cubs fans!

Links:


M’s Shuffle Coaching Staff

October 3, 2017

Today the Mariners announced some changes to the major league coaching staff, which could have a trickle-down effect in Tacoma. Or maybe not – it’s hard to tell.

Seattle announced that bench coach Tim Bogar and first base coach Casey Candaele will not return for 2018, and they reassigned bullpen coach Nasusel Cabrera. They are shifting Manny Acta to bench coach, Scott Brosius to third base coach, and announced Chris Prieto as first base coach.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto said today they will hire an assistant coach and a bullpen coach. I would think that both of those positions could potentially go to current Mariners minor league managers or pitching coaches, so maybe Tacoma’s Pat Listach or Lance Painter has a shot here. We’ll have to wait and see.

The playoffs start today!

The American League Wild Card Game is at 5:00 this evening, with the Minnesota Twins facing the New York Yankees in a win-or-go-home battle. The National League game is tomorrow, Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks, also at 5:00.

I’m not making predictions on these games, due to the randomness of a one-game playoff, but I’ll tell you who I’m rooting for. The Twins, of course, because only Yankees fans root for the Yankees (and TV executives, I suppose). And I’m pulling for the Diamondbacks tomorrow, because that would set up an Arizona-Dodgers series next – and those two teams despise each other so it would be a lot of fun to watch.

There is one former Rainiers player on the active rosters for tonight’s American League game: Twins catcher Chris Gimenez.

The rosters for the NL Wild Card game aren’t set yet, but Arizona has ex-Rainiers Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. Both the Diamondbacks and the Rockies have many players we have seen on opposing teams at Cheney Stadium the past few seasons.

The blog post you all have been waiting for will come on Thursday: my annual Guaranteed To Be Wrong Playoff Predictions. It’s a tradition like no other.

Links:


Twenty-Nine Players From Tacoma’s Triple-A All-Star Game Currently In The Majors

September 28, 2017

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the 2017 season at Cheney Stadium was the Triple-A All-Star Game back on July 12th.

The game has a history of showcasing future major league stars, and I’m sure our game will stand up to many previous editions in that regard.

A total of 29 players who appeared in that game have been called up to the major leagues. Several appear to be making a statement for long-term major league employment.

Here’s a list of the players who appeared in the Triple-A All-Star Game and are currently in the major leagues:

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

  • Amed Rosario – New York Mets (Las Vegas)
  • Derek Fisher – Houston Astros (Fresno)
  • Christian Walker – Arizona Diamondbacks (Reno)
  • Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers (was Oklahoma City in the game, then traded)
  • Ildemaro Vargas – Arizona Diamondbacks (Reno)
  • Garrett Cooper – New York Yankees (Colorado Springs in game, traded)
  • Dan Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners (Tacoma)
  • Colin Moran – Houston Astros (Fresno)
  • Renato Nunez – Oakland A’s (Nashville)
  • Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers (Oklahoma City)
  • Carson Kelly – St. Louis Cardinals (Memphis)
  • Max Stassi – Houston Astros (Fresno)
  • Tomas Telis – Miami Marlins (New Orleans)
  • Wilmer Font – Los Angeles Dodgers (Oklahoma City)
  • Troy Scribner – Los Angeles Angels (Salt Lake)
  • Jimmie Sherfy – Arizona Diamondbacks (Reno)
  • Ryan Sherriff – St. Louis Cardinals (Memphis)

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE

  • Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves (Gwinnett)
  • Chance Sisco – Baltimore Orioles (Norfolk)
  • Andrew Stevenson – Washington Nationals (Syracuse)
  • Chris Bostick – Pittsburgh Pirates (Indianapolis)
  • Mike Marjama – Seattle Mariners (Durham in game, traded)
  • Jorge Alfaro – Philadelphia Phillies (Lehigh Valley)
  • Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates (Indianapolis)
  • Caleb Smith – New York Yankees (Scranton)
  • Lucas Sims – Atlanta Braves (Gwinnett)
  • Andrew Kittredge – Tampa Bay Rays (Durham)
  • Kevin Shackelford – Cincinnati Reds (Louisville)
  • Jimmy Yacabonis – Baltimore Orioles (Norfolk)

I did not include players who had major league experience prior the Triple-A All-Star Game and did not get called up after it, such as Pawtucket’s Rusney Castillo and Bryce Brentz. This list is just players in the big leagues right now.

Some players of note:

Two of the starting middle infielders in the Triple-A All-Star Game have locked up jobs in the majors: Amed Rosario is the Mets starting shortstop of the present, and Ozzie Albies has taken the Braves everyday second base job.

The Phillies have made Jorge Alfaro their starting catcher and so far, so good. He’s hit .304 with four homers in his first 27 games.

Despite being playoff-bound, the Houston Astros are giving Derek Fisher a long look as a potential everyday outfielder for next year. He’s been kind of so-so in his MLB debut, hitting just .207 but with walks (16) and some power (five homers) in 135 at-bats.

Lights-out Reno closer Jimmie Sherfy has not allowed a run over his first 11 major league games for the Diamondbacks, and the playoff-bound team is has even used him in some key situations down the stretch. He’s eligible for the playoff roster.

Ex-Rainiers reliever Andrew Kittredge (grew up in Spokane –> University of Washington) has been outstanding in his first major league stint, posting a 1.93 ERA in 14 games out of Tampa’s bullpen.

Natural born hitter Willie Calhoun launched his first major league home run for Texas on Wednesday. He’s only had 19 at-bats.

Two highly regarded catching prospects are getting their first tastes of the big leagues right now, and they have different outlooks. Cardinals receiver Carson Kelly is generally considered to be ready for a starting job in the majors, but he is stuck behind Yadier Molina. Baltimore’s Chance Sisco has hit two homers in September and may have a clearer path to regular playing time.

It was a fun game, and those of us who attended will be reminded of it in years to come while watching MLB games.

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