Sunday, April 29, 2007

I can die a happy man

This is not Mariner related in any way, by the way.

Yesterday, a baseball team won its game 10-9. The author of the winning hit? My 7 year old daughter.

She is not the best player on the team by any means. She is not the strongest, or the fastest, and she is actually one of the smallest. But she has a high "Baseball IQ," natch, and she is solid in every phase of the game. She runs pretty well, she hits pretty well, she is pretty solid in the field, and when she is not distracted by the other teams chants or the patterns she makes in the dirt with her toe, she is slightly above average in terms of her focus. She is, if you will, the Mark McLemore of the Mill Creek Little League Purple Stallions.

So Saturday, she steps to the plate in a 9-9 tie, bases loaded, two outs. She, and the rest of the girls, are blissfully unaware of the situation, but all of the parents are. "No pressure," one of the other dads teases me.

They get 7 coach thrown pitches, no balls, no strikes, just 7 pitches to put something in play. Our pitcher (one of the moms) does a great job, but she sometimes has problems getting the ball down for the smaller girls. After 5 pitches Katie has only had one pitch that she could handle, which she fouled hard up the third base line. Just two pitches left. I am visibly pacing and sweating on the sidelines.

Pitch 6 is perfect, right in her zone, and she raps it hard towards the hole between first and second. Out of almost nowhere, the opposing pitcher reaches out and knocks it down! She picks it up tosses it towards first. The first sacker is way off the bag at this point though, because she was probably going to field the ball if the pitcher hadn't improbably made the play!

The throw is bobbled slightly and by the time it is picked up, the first baseman is facing the bag, maybe two or three steps closer to it than Katie. But she is at a standing start and Katie has a full head of steam going. I try and pick one thing before each game for Katie to focus on and no lie, this week our focus point was run hard all the way through first base. In prior games she (and most of the girls) has had a tendency to pull up as she reached the bag.

But not this day! My little girl lunges hard at the bag, beating the first baseman by a good half a step, and hurtling past 5 or 6 steps. Just like we talked about! She listened!!

The runner from third crosses the plate. The parents go wild. Again, Katie is unaware of the whole situation, but she is fully aware that everyone is cheering for her and that she just barely beat that one out. Her grin is as big as I have ever seen it. It is an amazing, amazing moment and I am not sure how it can be topped.

I hope that she continues to play sports, that they continue to bring both of us much joy for many, many years. But now, right now? I am as happy as one parent can be.

Friday, April 27, 2007

3 in a row the good way

Everyone's job appears to be safe for now, at least until the next 6 game losing streak.

I wouldn't get too excited about the performance of the pitching staff in Oakland. Especially with Bradley and Swisher out, that is a pretty weak lineup. Washburn did a fine job, but that's the kind of pitcher he is. The pitch to contact, rely on your defense guys can turn in some really great performances when all the balls find gloves.

Remember this line? 8.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 5H, 1K, 2BB. It was a three hit shutout through 8 innings and everyone went crazy for it. That was Ryan Franklin, April 11, 2005. And we all know how that turned out.

Or this one? 9 IP, 9H, 2R, 2ER, 0 BB, 0 K. That was Joel Piniero, enroute to winning AL Pitcher of the Week in 2006. And we all know how that turned out.

To be clear, it was nice to get some wins and Washburn in particular looked very good. But most guys who don't get at least passable strikeout numbers can get starts like this if everything goes right, but they can also have some doozies.

Still with KC coming into town we could get back to .500 over the weekend. We're only a game and a half behind the Angels. Felix could be back next week. What a difference 4 days make!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our long regional nightmare is over!

The losing streak is stopped at 6, and everyone's jobs are safe for another 24 hours at least! Thank goodness!

I was on the fence about keeping Morrow on the big club this season and I still wonder if we wouldn't be better of teaching him how to start in the minors, but DAMN! I repeat, DAMN! He was seriously bringing it last night. Seriously.

And props to Grover for bringing Putz in in the eighth! That was absoultely the right move and it paid off. He's actually managing like his job is on the line. How bout that.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

4 and Counting

The Mariners looked pathetic tonight losing 7-6 to the Angels, but getting 5 of those runs in the 8th trailing 7-1. I guess the late rallies are making the games respectable but the offense looked terrible for 6 innings at least. Colon needed only 77 pitches to go 7 because the Mariners swung at everything he threw up there.

First start of the year for Colon and we help him to throw 55 strikes against only 22 balls! I say help him because there were a lot of swings at crap nowhere near the strike zone. 5-8, in last place. Right where we belong.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Continue Holding Your Breath!

The news is relatively good on the King in the PI Notebook.

Apparently it is just a strain. A "flexor pronator strain" to be exact. The Mariner team physician said he would be out 10 to 20 days. My guess is that it'll be longer than that but its just a guess. And not to be relentlessly negative but do you trust the M's medical staff to deal with this? They don't exactly have the best track record...

Still it could be worse, no mention of Uncle TJ, nothing about a rotator cuff and no surgery required at this time. Keep thinking happy thoughts M's fans. A bleak season could get a lot bleaker.


Thursday, April 19, 2007


Fuck, Fuck, Fuckity Fuck-Fuck.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tatonka's Favorite Mariners Series #3: Randy Johnson

Now, you’ll have to bear with me on this one, because it’s not the “traditional” best memory of the third man in Tatonka’s Favorite Mariners series. THAT memory is probably either his 1995 complete-game victory over Mark Langston (the man traded to get him some six years prior) on 2 October to claim the first-ever AL West title for Seattle, or else his even more impressive outing six days later, when Randy Johnson (who had started two games in the preceding six days) came out of the bullpen with none out and two Yankees on in the top of the ninth and held New York scoreless for two innings before tiring in the 11th and surrendering a single run…which wouldn’t matter due to the efforts of Favorite Mariners #s 1 and 2.

No, my favorite memory of the Big Unit came two years earlier. It might well be my favorite baseball moment ever, and it occurred on 16 August, 1993, at the Kingdome. I was in the cheap left field bleachers behind the plexiglass, watching Dave Fleming spin a fine quality game against the visiting Baltimore Orioles. Our closer that season, the Sheriff (Norm Charlton), was hurt and had pitched his last game of the season a little over a week before. The M's had signed ancient Ted Power to close in his stead, but this plan didn't inspire a great deal of confidence. Keep in mind that the Mariners had yet to experience any manner of success, so despite having Junior and Randy Johnson on the team, we were still a bit giddy over little things.

The Orioles, down 8-3 in a blowout, came back in the top of the 8th. Jeff Nelson had started the inning after relieving Fleming in the 7th, but couldn't get the O's out. Neither could Erik Plantenberg. Neither could Ted Power. The nightmare 8th inning dragged on and on, and it seemed certain that the M's would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Again.

Then it happened. The Kingdome had no "bullpens," in the traditional sense, but instead the relievers warmed up right along the side of the field in left- and right-field foul ground. No one in the stadium missed the unusual sight of our tall lefthanded ace, Randy Johnson, walking down from the dugout to the bullpen mound, where he proceeded to warm up. The man had pitched two days before, and everyone in the park knew something odd was happening. Indeed, there was an electrifying buzz throughout the crowd for the rest of the inning. While the Oriole uprising continued, the Big Unit just kept throwing pitches. Finally, with the Mariners clinging to an 8-6 lead with two outs in the top of the 8th, Lou Piniella waddled out of the Mariner dugout and signaled for the lefty...but RJ was the only one left throwing in the couldn't be! The buzz of the crowd erupted into outright audible glee for the remainder of the game. That day, I witnessed one of a precious few times that then-selfless Randy Johnson had volunteered to bail out the pitching staff (exhausted from previous games, compounding the recent Charlton injury), offering to close out the game if needed.

He certainly was needed. Although he gave up a walk and a hit, he struck out four batters to end the game and preserve the win. Oh, sure, the M’s didn’t go on to anything spectacular that year (82-80 that season, our second winning season ever), but that one extended electric Kingdome crowd still stands as one of the handful of best sports memories ever for me.

Oh, and that Johnson guy turned out to be pretty good. Today, his career (which will soon continue with a second tour of duty for the Arizona Diamondbacks) stands at 280 wins, a 3.22 ERA (compiled mostly in the AL), 4,544 strikeouts, four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002, plus his 1995 AL Cy Young with that historic M’s team. This is the resume of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

More than his well-deserved accolades and place in baseball history, though, RJ is everything that is good about baseball as entertainment. Of course, we would be remiss in remembering the Unit as a Mariner without mentioning his absolutely hilarious moments in the All-Star Games. For instance, in his first inning pitched in the 1993 game in Baltimore, the Unit faced Phillies first baseman John Kruk. With two outs (Johnson had retired some guys named Bonds and Sheffield for the first two outs), the first pitch to the left-handed Kruk sailed several feet over his head at about Mach 6, reminiscent of nothing so much as the scene in Bull Durham when Nuke LaLoosh fires his first pitch at Durham into the press box at 95 MPH.

Kruk, terrified of having a baseball-sized hole blasted through his skull on a subsequent pitch, stood as far from the plate as he could for the next three pitches, waving his bat weakly at each one while falling backwards, happy to strike out just to get away from the situation. (We should note that this was before interleague play, so NL batting stars had often never faced Randy before.)

Four years later, with Randy starting the All-Star Game for the American League, his first pitch to lefty Larry Walker also sailed over the batter’s head at high velocity, and Walker responded by turning his batting helmet around and batting right-handed for the next pitch.


We could go on, but this gives you a sense of what makes RJ third on the list of Tatonka’s Favorite Mariners. Have a great season with the D-Backs, RJ. We still love ya.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson: A Hero For Our Time

Despite all the hype that usually kills an event of this nature, Major League Baseball has managed to do a very nice job honoring the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in one tiny little corner of American society.

It is also the case that we can tip our caps to The Kid, since it was Griffey who asked Commisioner Selig (Selig is Latin for "evil car salesman") for permission to wear Robinson's number 42 today. As you have seen (if you watched any baseball at all today, including the Dodgers-Pads tilt right now that is the center of attention of Jackie Robinson Day), a plethora of players have donned the symbolic number.

As great as Jackie's efforts were in 1946 (in AAA Montreal) and 1947 (with Brooklyn)--when he agreed with Branch Rickey to refuse to retaliate for any racial taunts, threats, or violence that came his way--and as wonderful a symbol that he has become for the progress of democracy in America from Jim Crow apartheid to where we're at in 2007, he was, sadly, also a symbol for how resistant we humans are to change, even toward a more just society that aligns more closely with our stated ideals. After Robinson in 1947, Larry Doby began the process of integration in the American League with the Indians, and he and Satchel Paige both contributed to Cleveland's 1948 pennant winner. In 1949, two more black players entered the majors (both with Leo Durocher's New York Giants), and the big league clubs were gradually breaking the color line in their minor leagues.

But even with stars like Robinson and Willie Mays playing in the newly integrated major leagues by 1951, more than half the teams remained all white until late 1953. It took until 1959 before every one of the sixteen major league teams followed the trail that Jackie Robinson blazed. (The Red Sox joined the rest of the league by adding infielder Pumpsie Green to the roster.) By that point, America was on the cusp of the civil rights activism of the 1960s, and had already seen such landmarks as the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case (1954) that ordered desegregation of the nation's schools, the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1956) that demonstrated the power of grass-roots activists protesting Jim Crow in the South, and the reluctant intervention of Eisenhower's administration at Central High School in Little Rock in the fall of 1957.

To be sure, it takes a very long time to change cultural habits--even thoroughly unjust ones--and in this sense, Jackie Robinson was a hero regardless of the outcome for baseball, the United States, or equality in general. But sadly, he is a symbol equally of heroic struggle against injustice, and the relentless tide of resistance against such heroes.

Bittersweet as your legacy therefore is, we at Tatonka salute you, Jackie Robinson. Few baseball players can truly lay claim to the title of "hero," and you were one of them.

There is a fabulous Library of Congress site on Robinson and the color line in baseball here, if you'd like to read a bit more about Jackie Robinson.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hype it up!

Since the pitching matchup was, well pretty good (have you heard Matsuzaka is from Japan? Pretty cool!) I decided to keep a Sports Guy style running diary as I watched. Since I was about half an hour behind though, I won't be time stamping the entries, just inning and batter.


So the hype for this game has been tremendous, with Dice-K making his first start in Fenway and facing Ichiro to boot. And of course if you live in Seattle you’ve heard “don’t forget about Felix” hype from every sportswriter, talk show host and blogger in town. Usually I get very cranky about things being over-hyped, but I am really, really excited about this game! Whats ths chance it lives up to the billing?

Neihaus: The weather is a little on the cool side.
Uh Dave, its not snowing. Its positively balmy compared to Cleveland.

I’ve never seen the “Double Play Twins” commercial before. The look on Beltre’s face is awesome.

Top 1st
Sign in the stands: “The Dice-man cometh” with a picture of Andrew Dice Clay. That would be the downside of the Matsuzaka Era: references to Andrew Dice Clay.

Ichiro at bat. Dice-K gets Ichiro to tap out to the mound. 6 pitches, 5 on the inside part of the plate or even farther in, 5 breaking balls. I think I’ve got an idea how he wants to pitch to Ichiro.

Grounder from Beltre, single from Vidro (I Know!) and we finally hear from the crowd on the 2-2 pitch to Ibanez. Maybe it’s the FSN mikes but I’ve certainly heard louder crowds before. Lots louder.

Ibanez grounds to third, inning over.

Bottom 1st.
Lugo at bat. Where’s the radar gun? What the hell. We’re going to go all night without knowing what these guys are throwing? Are we in the 20th century or something? Why did I tape the FSN telecast instead of ESPN. I know its hip to throw stones at ESPN right now, but the production values on an ESPN telecast put Fox to shame.

Youkilis at bat. Shallow fly to center that Lopez runs down. It took him two batters to get as many fly balls as he had in his last start. Hope that doesn’t mean anything.

Ortiz at bat. Felix has started every hitter with ball one. Hasn’t seemed to hurt him as we go 1-2-3.

Top 2nd.
We’re already replaying Ichiro’s at-bat from a whole inning ago? We just saw it! Grrrr.

Guillen at bat. The boos for Jose were louder than the cheers for Dice-K earlier! I thought the Fenway crowd was supposed to be into this? The hell?

Blowers, on the bad blood between Guillen and Donnelly: I don’t know what the issue is, but… Neihaus then relates the pine tar incident from 2005. Way to do your homework there Blow.

Guillen spanks it off the wall. Man that was really crushed. In Fenway though, its just a long single.

Johjima up. Is that a small animal around his neck? Jesus how cold is it? In any event Zsa Zsa cranks a double of Dice-K, that’s two really hard hit balls in a row.

Yuni at bat. Shallow fly to left, Manny gets off a weak throw. Guillen beats it home and he also knocks the ball out of Varitek’s glove. Neihaus and Blowers both refer to it as a “decent” throw from Manny and because the play is close it does look okay. But we just scored on a shallow fly to left that the LF caught coming in with all of his momentum going towards the plate. Name another guy that you could score on like that. Okay, besides Randy Winn.

1-0 Mariners. That’s one more run than I thought we’d get.

Lopez at-bat. Fox’s little diamond graphic shows Johjima at third, while their cameras clearly show him standing at second. They have a director for these telecasts right?

Bottom 2.

ManRam up. Niehaus: The first pitch misses outside.
Only the pitch was actually low and in. To be clear, I love Niehaus and I am completely willing to put up with the occaisional inaccuracy from him. So when I point them out, its just because they are amusing. I’ve picked on Blowers a couple of times too, but in general I consider him an upgrade over Valle and Hendu. Sims is a little rough at this point, you can tell he hasn’t done a lot of baseball, but I also think he’s an upgrade over Captain Obvious, Ron Fairly. When I see stuff during the broadcast, I’m going to point it out, but I really like the broadcast crew this year. Fox Sports on the other hand….

Uh-oh. Manny lines the ball off of Felix. Hard. Again, uh-oh. Its not clear whether it got him on the calf or the ankle. And we are treated to a replay of…Manny running to first. No replay at all of the ball hitting Felix. Thankfully I have Tivo. I think it got him in the leg.

JD Drew up. 3 pitch Strikeout. Awesome. Still no replay of the ball hitting Felix.

Lowell up. Grounds to Yuni.
Still. No. Replay.

Top 3.
Ichiro gets two fastballs and pops up to center. Dice-K has looked good so far, not great. Except when he pitches to Ichiro. Then he's awesome.

Vidro at bat. 0-2 on him and apparently two people behind the plate decide to start clapping. You can hear them very distinctly. Matsuzaka strikes him out for his first K and his first 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 3
Varitek up. Its still hard to watch Varitek play without cursing Woody Woodward. Urban legend has it that the Red Sox asked Woody for EITHER Varitek or Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Woody misunderstood and thought they wanted them both and after looking around for another deal, pulled the trigger. Its probably not true, but I love the story anyway. Varitek strikes out on a wicked curve. Wow.

Crisp up. I know the Coco jokes are mostly played out, but really, he could end them by just going by Covelli.

Pedroia up. Neihaus refers to him as “Justin.” Its Dustin. The 2-1 pitch is a slider that starts in on his hands and then breaks over the plate as Pedroia spins out of the way. There isn’t a right hander batter in the league that can hit that pitch in that location. None.
“Justin” stays patient and works a walk. There goes the perfect game.

Top of 4.
Sims and Blowers talk about how electric the crowd is. If they are, FSN sure is doing a crappy job of capturing it. As they are talking we get crowd shots of people talking to their neighbors, getting up to go to the bathroom, staring silently at the field. Its electric!

Sexson,at bat. The 0-2 pitch is right in the middle of the plate, somehow called a ball. I can’t imagine what was wrong with that pitch. Sexson then swings at a weird breaking ball that’s up and in. I don’t know if that was the famed gyroball or not, but it did break in on the right handed batter.

Guillen up. And he’s drilled in the elbow. Dice-K sticking up for his teammates. Nice. Guillen goes to first pretty quietly. Surprising. Sims repeats the pine tar story and adds the story about Guillen getting on Donnelly for not retaliating when they were with the Angels. Blowers is officially the only guy who doesn’t know why Guillen and Donnelly don’t like each other.

Bottom 4.
Youkilis up. 4 pitch walk. Blowers says that Felix looks gimpy and Sims says “He took one off, I believe, the ankle earlier.” He has to say “I believe,” because he hasn’t seen a replay either!

Finally! A replay of the Ramirez grounder. Only it’s the same angle, shown in the same speed as the original shot. So we still don’t know where it hit Felix.

Ortiz. Groundball to second. Because of the shift, Yuni fields the ball on the right side of 2nd and flips to Beltre at the bag. AB has to jump over a sliding Youkilis to complete the double play. Awesome! If Betancourt gets hurt, I think we have our new shortstop!

Ramirez. He’s really disgusting isn’t he? The hair, the pine tarred helmet, yuk. Great hitter, but I’m not letting him within 100 feet of my daughter. Ever. Weak grounder to short.

Top 5.

Lopez up. Dice-K makes another fabulous 0-2 pitch, again no call. I guess it was inside, but it looked awfully good. Lopez eventually singles.

Ichiro. Inside, inside, fastball away for ball 1, back inside for ball 2, then strike 3 swinging, low and away. I know Ichiro struck out 3 times against Beckett, but I’ve never seen him look this lost at the plate.

Beltre with an RBI double, then Vidro singles home AB. That’s a professional hitter right there. That’s the 6th hit of Dice-K and the first cheap one. Everything else has been hit hard.

Bottom 5
Drew up, hits it hard to second, nice dive by Lopez to snag it. The throw makes Richie jump and he gets his foot down just as Drew gets there. It’s a bang-bang play, you wouldn’t really fault the umpire either way, but Sims and Blowers assure us that Sexson got him. Okayyy.

1-2-3 again for Felix. Nothing out of the infield (except maybe the shallow fly from Youk), 3 K’s and a no-hitter through 5. Typical Felix outing. Yawn.

Top 6.

Johjima doubles again. All the hype was over Dice-K and Ichiro, turns out Johjima’s got a little history with Matsuzaka as well. Okay .273 with 5 dingers in 100 some at-bats isn’t exactly owning a guy, but two doubles in three at-bats is pretty nice.

Yuni up. Sims is counting Betancourt’s sac fly as a two-out run. And I guess technically two outs were recorded before the run scored. But I think there has to be two outs before the at-bat for it to be a two out run.

Bottom 6.
Crisp up. 1-1 change to Coco, filthy. Best change-up of the night. Then a slider low and in for a swinging strike 3. First K since the third inning. Crisp had no chance.

1-2-3 again! 8 in a row, no hitter through 6! Hoo-boy!

Top 7
Lopez gets the 8th hit of off Dice-K. He’s made some nice pitches tonight, but the M’s aren’t exactly the 29 Yankees and they've got 8 hits and 3 runs.

Matsuzaka knocks down Ichiro. Sweet! I love a good rivalry! 95 pitches so far for Dice-K. Grounder to second, no chance to double up Ichiro. He’s fast.

Beltre up. Matsuzaka looks tired, but he’s also definitely pitching around Beltre. I think that might happen a lot with Vidro in the 3 hole. Blowers thinks he may have quickened his delivery with Ichiro at first. That’s one of those things that is hard to quantify, but I’m sure it does happen.

Vidro up. 105 pitches for Dice-K. Beautiful 3-6-1 double play. Dice-K hustles over so well he actually stretches for the throw from first. One little problem though, Vidro beat the throw. FSN goes to commercial so I’m sure we’ll never see the replay, but I just watched it 4 times and he is absolutely safe. I think they are giving Dice-K bonus points for his hustle there.

Bottom 7
Youkilis up. 75 pitches for Felix. Raul misplays a liner moving first left, then in, then finally diving to his right to make the catch. Blowers calls it a tricky play, but its Raul. It would have really sucked to lose a no-no on that play.

Oritz. 1-2 fastball popped up to left.

ManRam. 2-2 fastball, strike 3 called. 5 pitches, no swings. Ramirez just turns and heads for the dugout.

NO. HITTER. THROUGH. 7!!!!!!!!

Top 8
Romero in for Dice-K. 7 IP, 3 runs, 4 K’s, 1 walk. He was solid, but unspectacular. He made some nice pitches at times, but there were a lot of hard hit balls.

Romero and Jo-el Piniero in the pen? What do they call those two guys? Fire and Gasoline?

At two outs, here comes Jo-el! Sims butchers both his first and last names. I know Sims wasn’t here last year, but couldn’t someone have helped him out with the names?

Guillen hammers Piniero’s second pitch for a single. That’s our Jo-el!

4 pitch walk to Johjima, two of them in the dirt. This might get ugly here.

Pitching coach out to talk to Piniero. What can you say to Jo-el at this point? “Well, at least if you throw strikes, they might miss!”

Whatever he said worked! Flyball to center, inning over.

Bottom 8
Six outs away, I am officially biting my fingernails now, in homage to my mother. Also pacing a little bit.

Drew hits the first pitch sharply for a single. Dammit! That was a clean hit, but Felix had a shot at it, as did Lopez. An inch or two here or there.

Lowell up. Again an 0-2 pitch that looks pretty good, not called. You certainly can’t look at the two pitching performances and say the umps were helping them out. There is no Eric Gregg thing happening here. In fact, I think they both are getting it done despite getting squeezed a little bit.

Varitek up. 0-2 to Tek, he backed away from both pitches. I think he may actually have hurt himself getting out of the way of strike two. Weeeee!

Crisp checks his swing and the ball hits his bat about eye high, right to Yuni to end the inning!

Top 9
Jo-el gets thru the 9th mostly unscathed. Putz has been throwing all inning so I assume he’s coming in. Normally I am all about keeping Felix’s pitch count down, but he’s on 9 days rest, they have an off day before his next start, and Putz was a little shaky on Opening Day, I’d let the kid finish it out.

He’s coming out for the 9th! Woot!

Bottom 9
“Justin” Pedroia up. Fastball, strike one. Curveball high. Fastball swinging, strike two. Breaking ball, 2-2. Slider hit foul, fastball tapped back to Felix. Nice sequence.

Lugo. 3 fastballs, wish I knew the speed! Ground ball to second.

Youkilis. Another great sequence here. Fast ball for called strike. Curve, high. Fastball called strike, fastball out of the zone for a swinging strike three.

Felix’s final line: 9 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 6 strikeouts 17 groundballs. He was absolutely dominant. Hope he Tivo’d Sportscenter cause I’m thinking we just found our lead story. Unless TO did something of course, then all bets are off.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Felix IS our King!!

THAT, my friends, is WHY we are fans of baseball.

How about the solid hitting against Dice-K in the mentally challenging first-ever-Fenway-start? How about the poise of young King Felix?

This team has SO much potential. It's built on a number of gambles (can HoRam, Weaver, and Batista fill enough innings and keep us in the game? Can Guillen hit and stay healthy and out of jail? Can Beltre, Sexy, J-Lo, and YuBet perform with consistency at above-average levels?), so all methods of prediction (like my own) will tend to be gloomy.

But on nights like this one, you can't help but smile like Felix after the J.D. Drew seeing-eye single, and think "what if."

Thanks, King!

The King vs. Dice-K

One hundred years ago today, the Boston Americans opened at home against the Philadephia Athletics behind manager-starting pitcher Cy Young (who had just celebrated his 40th birthday two weeks earlier). Denton True Young defeated 24-year-old starter "Colby" Jack Coombs 8-4 at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. The original Cy would go on to post a 1.99 ERA in 343 1/3 innings that season, and then play through the 1911 season before hanging 'em up.

We're opening a bit earlier these days, so the home and season openers are both behind us, but we have an even more impressive pitching matchup today. Indeed, I can't think of any matchup I'd rather see just now...perhaps Christy Mathewson vs. Sandy Koufax? Nahh. Is there any Mariners' fan on the planet who will NOT be watching tonight? Just imagine both of these guys on the same Seattle pitching staff. Sure, sure, we'd have to bump pothead, er, Jeff Weaver from the team to make room, but I have this feeling that it MIGHT be worth it.

That Boston team, by the way, went 59-90 to finish 7th out of 8 American League teams that season, putting up one of only three losing records in the World Series era before THE CURSE. The lesson? Uh, don't bet against the Georgia Peach? (Detroit won that year's pennant with a small contribution from 20-year-old Ty Cobb.) Nope. How about 'pitchers with cool nicknames like Colby are natural champions?' No, I think it's "no one player makes a team good."

Crap. So our solitary star-quality player can't win it all for us?


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Real" baseball today

Tad earlier noted that we got a MLB game today, but unfortunately, nobody told the Mariners. What an embarrassment!

Well well, the M's have hit something of a rough patch. We've scored, let's run in a week (thanks, snow!), and our offseason acquisitions are making Bill Bavasi look, if anything, even more clueless than I thought he was.

Small sample size, right?

Nope. I fear it's far worse than just a bad day against a good opponent. Other folks might be willing to give Jeff Weaver a pass, but did anyone WATCH him all of last season? I mean, with the rather inexplicable exception of the World Series, only moving to the NL Central made him look like he might still be able to get major league hitters out. His ERA went down over a full run from his 16 AL starts (6.29 ERA, matching his perfectly respectable 6.3 K/9 rate in the AL) to his 15 NL starts (5.18 ERA, a limp 4.9 K/9). Sadly, this one-time first-round pick and young Tiger pitching phenom, only 30 years old right now, looks absolutely awful.

To be sure, he'll have better days than today. But what's his upside, really? This was one of the guys that Bavasi said he WANTED in the offseason. Sigh.

Labels: ,

Actual Baseball Today!

Yes! The Mariners will actually participate in a baseball game today. No more snow angels.

11:00 AM start for Patriots Day in Boston. We need a holiday of our own in Seattle. How bout Drizzle Day, Feb 8th. Or "What do you mean this lane is ending! I think I'll come to a complete stop and put my blinker on, Day" on July 26th? Maybe we could sell naming rights? Starbucks Day anyone?

The game of the week though is tomorrow. Dice-K versus El Rey. Nice. I'll do a running diary for that bad boy....


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tatonka's Favorite Mariners Series #2: Edgar

October 8, 1995.

Bottom of the eleventh, down 5-4, Joey Cora on second, Junior at first. Rookie Alex Rodriguez on deck and Jack McDowell on the mound. Ahead 0-1, Black Jack tries to go inside with a fastball. The pitch is jerked into left field. Gerald Williams races over, but can’t cut it off and plays it off the wall. Cora scores easily and Junior slides in ahead of Tony Fernandez’ relay. Mariners win 6-5.

Alex jumps on top of Junior and a huge pile forms around the plate as the M’s celebrate. You’ve seen that part on TV. But Cora runs out towards second base instead, and jumps in the arms of the batter and an equally large pile forms on him. The Mariners have won their first ever post-season series and that winter the Legislature would approve the funding package to build Safeco Field. It’s probably hyperbole to say that baseball was saved in Seattle that day, but it is unquestionably the biggest single hit in their history.

The man responsible for it all comes in at #2 in Tatonka’s Favorite Mariners, Edgar Martinez.

Edgar is so much more than just that one hit however. He was class personified and one of the few people who truly deserved the moniker “professional hitter.” In his prime he was widely considered, if not the best hitter in the game, at least the best right handed one. The numbers are special. Seven times an All-Star, Gar won 5 Silver Sluggers and two batting titles. His career OBP of .418 is 22nd all-time. His career SLG of .515 is 63rd all-time and his batting average of .312 is 89th. Despite a late start to his career (he didn’t become a full time player until he was 27) his 514 doubles are 36th all-time and garnered him the nickname Senor Double.

But it’s more than the numbers too. Edgar was a true gentleman and to young Latin ballplayers, he was Papi long before David Ortiz. Always willing to laugh at himself he was the often the star of the famous “You gotta love these guys” ad campaigns and his Eagle Hardware spots were instant classics: “Eeeeets a light bat!” He was always willing to stand up and be counted and gladly took on the role of face of the franchise after Junior left town.

We loved the chant where one person would yell “ED!” and the other growl “GRRRRR!” Indeed, some in the group claim authorship of that chant, but of course proving that is impossible. In any case, it was especially fun to ask the 8 year old sitting behind you, “Hey kid, say ‘Ed.’” If he obliged you could scare the pants off him with a quick, “Grrrrrrrrr!” It made a lot of blowouts go by quicker.

Edgar is the one guy who spans the transition of the Mariners from bad to good. Depending on whether you think Gaylord Perry’s 48 starts make him a Mariner or not, Edgar has a good chance of being the first Mariner in the Hall of Fame. I don’t know if he’ll get in or not, but for us, he defines the term.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

News flash

This just in...

The dream of going 162-0 is over.

How about that Miguel Batista pickup, eh? When was the last time that you saw a pitcher called for two balks in one game? I mean, it's not 1988...and Miguel Batista is no Gene Walter, so this was pretty unusual.

Kind of like starting 2-0 against the A's unusual?

Well, we can't lose today. (Yep, the optimism is slowly receding, like Jose Vidro running in terror away from naked celery.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

2-0, Baybee!

Bavasi is shrewd, Hargrove is a genius, Washburn is a Cy Young candidate and Richie Sexson is on pace to hit 162 homers!

It is a good morning to be a Mariners fan!

Monday, April 02, 2007


What a fantastic opening to the season!

All hail the King, as he struck out 12 Athletics, induced 12 more groundouts (13 if you count the YuBet error), and ZERO fly outs.

That's the kind of performance we like to see.

(Oh, and Richie's homer was nice too.)

80 more wins to .500....

Labels: ,

Tatonka's Favorite Mariners Series #1: Junior

Monday, April 10th, 1989. The home opener that was one in a string of openers that many of us at Tatonka got to enjoy in person. This one would be special, entirely because of a teenager who is far and away the consensus all-time Tatonka’s Favorite Mariner.

Oh, it wasn’t Ken Griffey Jr.’s MLB debut. That had occurred precisely one week earlier in Alameda County Coliseum, where the Kid roped the second pitch he saw from Dave Stewart to the wall in left-center, for a solid double.

Really, even that event, which we watched with great anticipation and much cheering, was not Griffey’s major league inauguration. Instead, that was on Saturday, April 1st, when pitcher Mark Langston and new manager Jim LeFebvre had taken part in an annual rookie-hazing, April Fools joke in which LeFebvre informed Junior that he was going to be sent out to triple-A Calgary as the team broke Spring camp and headed north.

I honestly can’t recall with certainty WHERE in the Kingdome Tad and I sat as we watched the game. It almost seems like it was the seats right behind home plate, but since I was still a very poor college student then, that seems unlikely. My favorite haunt, at the time, was in the first two or three rows of the upper deck seats behind home plate on the third-base side. So perhaps we were sitting there. The records say that there were 33,864 other paying fans in the dome as well.

But all eyes were on young Ken Griffey Jr. as he walked to the plate in the evening of 10 April against Pale Hose starter Eric King. King had just dispatched of Harold Reynolds with the ol’ backwards K, and now it was Griffey Time.

There will never be another Opening Day like it. Honestly, whatever has happened with Junior since 1989, with the unhappy ending to his Mariners’ career with the trade before the 2000 season, and the injuries that have robbed baseball fans of seeing a Hall of Fame career—no one will be able to top the 1989 opener. We were, finally, foolhardy enough to BELIEVE in the ability of our beloved but inept team. We were LeFebvre Belebvres. And the Kid was going to lead us.
He’s gone on to 12 All-Star games, launching 563 HR (and counting). And WE KNEW HE WOULD. Indeed, there was little doubt watching the young man that he would be a legitimate superstar. When el Caballo, Ivan Calderon (once a promising Mariner, now toiling profitably for an opponent, one of a long string of such stories), put the White Sox ahead in the top of the first by doubling in Dave Gallagher, it merely served to remind us of all of the lost opportunities in the Seattle Mariners past.

The Kid would erase it all. He would lead us. He would take us to respectability. Two years later, we were a winning team for the first time in 15 years. 4 years after that, we erased 19 seasons of heartbreak by winning our first division title.

So, as Junior strode up to the Kingdome plate for the first time ever in a game that counted, waving his black beauty (as Dave Niehaus would say thousands of times going forward), Eric King hurled a pitch to the rookie.

Swung on and BELTED…deep to left field…to the warning track…to the wall…FLY AWAY!

Have a great Opening Day, Kid.

Labels: ,

The Optimist Preview of the 2007 Mariners

I get a lot of "Wow. You are really down on the M's this year." Yes I am. So in honor of Opening Day, I submit to you a season preview written as if I weren't.

The Offense:
The Mariners were 13th in the AL last year with 756 Runs scored, ahead of only Tampa Bay. They've got to better this year right?
Carl Everett was the second worst DH in the AL last year, only Rondell White was worse. This preview is not optimistic enough to endorse the Vidro trade, but he still should be better than Jurassic Carl. Everett hit just .227, had enough walks to push his OBP to .297 and slugged a pathetic .360. Baseball Prospectus forecasts Vidro at 266/330/368, which would certainly be a step up. If he could approach his career averages of 301/363/459 that would be a big upgrade.

What the M's got out of Reed/Bloomquist/Jones in the center was not a whole lot either. Among CF who got 200 PA, only the White Sox Brian Anderson was worse in the AL than Reed. So again, its not a stretch to think Jose Guillen is a big upgrade. BP is not real high on Guillen, projecting a 260/310/431 line, but even that would be an improvement over Reed and company. Assuming that he channels his rage against the Angels for good, he has a lot of upside.

There is room for optimism on the returners also, Betancourt and Lopez are young and could be reasonably expected to improve. Beltre had flashes last year of MVP Beltre and if we got just a little more of that guy and a little less of "Swinging at balls in the dirt" Beltre, that would help. Ibanez just had his best season ever at 34, why not have an even better one at 35? MVP Ichiro could come back also. Not all of these things are going to happen, but if enough of them did, the M's could have a pretty solid offense.

Ichiro takes his Gold Glove to center, where he can have more of an impact. If Guillen's arm is fine, then at least he and Raul can throw. If our eyes are better than most advanced statistics on Yuni, then I'd stack our left side against anybody. The M's certainly seem to think so, as they went all groundball this year on their pitching acquisitions. If Lopez' ankle is fine, and Sexson manages not to kill us at first (optimist view of Sexson's defense: He's tall!), the defense is pretty sound. Sorry, outside of Ichiro, Yuni and Beltre, I can't really be that optimistic about the D.

Most of the room for optimism is carried by the strong right arm of Young Felix Hernandez (1$, Ron Fairly). The King could absolutely throw up some Cy Young numbers this year, say 200 innings, 210 strikeouts, 2.80 ERA. That would be sweet. As for the rest of the rotation, well, if Felix wins the Cy Young, and two of the Four HomerMen pitch say league average or a little better and the other two are somewhere between replacement level and league average, that could be a damn fine rotation.

Optimist view: JJ is not hurt and continues to dominate. Morrow takes to the big leagues like a duck to water and dominates. Arthur Lee Rhodes finds a little Sodo Mojo and pitches like 2001 Arthur Lee. Sherrill finds his groove and continues to dominate lefties. Lowe comes back healthy at the All Star break and thats all we really need because the rotation has 3 guys over 200 innings!

The improved offense really takes off, the non-Felix rotation doesn't kill us and the kid dominates every 5th day. The Angels and A's scuffle and Texas hangs with us through July, but fade in the heat of a Texas summer. Guillen keeps his head straight, but plays like every team is the Angels. Ichiro signs a contract extension before the trade deadline and the M's flip Adam Jones and Morrow to the Cubbies for Zambrano. World Series here we come!


Let the Mike Hargrove Death Watch Begin!

As we arrive at Opening Day, its worth mentioning that 5 of 13 Baseball Prospectus authors believe The Human Brain Delay will be the first manager to be fired, making him the odds on favorite. Buddy Bell's two votes made him the only other manager to receive multiple thumbs down.

Does that put you in the mood for Opening Day? I thought so!

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Opening Day!

I am still convinced that this should be a national holiday.

I'm also still a bit angry that the Reds no longer get what used to be the traditional midday opening game of the season on the first Monday in April, but I guess it's OK watching the defending World Series champ battle it out with the powerful Mets team on Opening Day-eve.

But if you're gonna schedule things that way, is there ANY chance that we could wrap up the exhibition schedule BEFORE the fake-pre-Opening Day-eve-thingy? That Bay Bridge Cactus League finale irritated me.

Well, I'm still pretty morose regarding the M's. Some bold forecasters have them as high as 3rd, and others are so optimistic to note that the entire division blows, so...who knows? Maybe Seattle could luck into a completely unforeseeable string of timely run scoring and squeeze past the other limp teams in the division to win it.

And I could suddenly gain 40 MPH on my fastball.

(That still, by the way, wouldn't qualify me for a shot in the majors. Just sayin'.)

Well, happily, we have Mariners past to remember. Beginning tomorrow, and every couple of days after that until we're tired of doing it, Tatonka will introduce our favorite Mariners. We'll start with those whom we collectively love the most, and work our way down.

As you peruse these, keep in mind that we're NOT selecting the "best" Mariners ever. Not by any stretch. Oh, sure, some of the names are familiar, and would also belong on a franchise best list. But since the current organization causes me to retch violently just thinking about it, I'd rather talk about those members of the org, past and present, that I have loved to watch. We'll probably throw out some stats in most of these, but the heart of each short piece will be our own, collective, visual memories of those who've inspired our loyalty enough to be called Tatonka's Favorite Mariners.

I'm sure that by May, the bile will come.