Tacoma Rainiers beat the Reno Aces 8-2 and it was fun!

   Well I finally had enough of the Mariners and drove down to Tacoma to watch the Rainiers beat the Reno Aces 8-2 tonight and it was fun! Yes that is right watching baseball can be fun, especially if the team you are rooting for wins and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming like it was at Cheney Stadium tonight. I joined 7,571 other baseball fans on family night and got to see a great game featuring the first-place Rainiers who know how to score runs and even hit the long-ball.

   I have not been to Cheney Stadium since Carlos Guillen was down there in 1998 and as far as the stadium and fans attending, not much has changed. Cheney stadium is 50 years old and has seen many a young prospect as well as fading veteran play on its well manicured field. The crowd was primarily families and working-class, and they know how to have fun. The place was full of youngsters gathering autographs from the players and older fans actually laughing and having a good time. Sure the PA guy messed up a few names, and the electronic screen did not always match the correct numbers up with the right players but I felt I was in a time-warp putting me back into the 70’s.

  The Rainiers brought-up a young pitcher named Yoervis Medina to make his AAA debut tonight and he went 5 and 2/3 innings of 3-hit shutout ball while his offense unlike the Mariners gave him run support. As a matter of fact the Rainiers look like they could beat the Mariners as far as position players go. I got to see Greg Halman hit his 24th homer in the second inning along with home run #15 for right fielder Mike Wilson, and #13 from Matt Mangini who I would swap for Jose Lopez tomorrow. Of course the main event was watching young Justin Smoak recently demoted drive in a run with a screeching shot past third in the big eighth inning as part of a four run rally. All the while I was chatting with the friendly couple in front of me who have had season tickets since the 60’s and even gave me a couple of tickets for Tuesday’s game.

   Yes this was a different experience from fighting the traffic to get into Safeco and paying $65 for a box seat. In fact I paid $25 for a seat two rows back behind the Reno Aces and felt like I was sitting in the dugout. The food is a little cheaper though heavy on the carbs, but so what this team knows how to win games and the crowd was a lot friendlier and more into the game than I usual experience at Safeco. I sort of felt like I was skipping school while I was watching this game instead of painfully going over today’s 4-0 loss to Minnesota and trying to create another clever post for a team that has sucked my creative juices dry.

   It was interesting to watch Mike Sweeney dig-in at the plate like usual, Sweeney walked three times, stole a base, and delivered a clutch 2-out RBI in the 3rd. He looks healthy to me and I really am starting to believe that Jack Z. is leaving him down there to help groom some of the younger guys in a winning environment. I guess there is no point in bringing-up guys like Dustin Ackley into the toxic morass of the Mariners 2010 season so Jack Z. has his little incubator of baseball players project going on down in Tacoma. Actually most of the starters in the field either have been or should be up with the big club this year. So take my word for it and head down to Tacoma and enjoy the game of baseball in a fun, winning environment while it lasts….http://jeffsmariners

White Sox win 6-1 over Mariners

   The Chicago White Sox took the first game of a three game series against the Mariners tonight by a score of 6-1. The Chisox are the hottest team in baseball and have gone from being 10 out in the AL Central to first place where they are a game and a half up on Detroit. The White Sox feature a veteran squad that can go yard on you up and down the line-up. Tonight’s Mariners starter David Pauley gave-up a bomb to Alex Rios in the fifth with one aboard, and veteran reliever Jamie Wright got tagged by Andruw Jones for a solo-shot in the eighth. For Jones it was home run #401 in his long and successful career.

   The Mariners only run came in the first off the bat of Russell Branyan who drove in Chone Figgins with a double to left giving the Mariners a brief lead. The rest of the night our guys just could not pull the trigger when it counted, twice they had the sacks full and came-away with nothing late in the game. Nothing too shocking or surprising about this one or the results when you consider the two teams involved. It was nice to see the ex-Mariner Omar Vizquel over at third tonight though he did some damage against his old club with a couple of hits and a RBI.

  It is getting kind of odd as this season moves along to watch all of the players on the other teams and realize you are more familiar with many of the players on the opposing squads than our own team. While I still am loyal to whoever is wearing a Mariners jersey it all feels quite odd as guys come up and down, quit, get traded or sort of fade away. Most of the contending teams have a solid core of veteran players who have been together awhile and look and play like a team. With our squad the veterans outside of Ichiro don’t quite look like they belong here and the younger players seem to not quite know what their role is without a core group of veterans to set the tone.

   Last year Griffey and Sweeney were able to add that veteran feel to the club, and for the first half Cliff Lee was able to set the tone, but now there just seems like a big void. I have talked to a few other fans recently who agree however that this idea of dumping all the established players and playing only the young bucks is not fair to the fans. We still deserve to see a Big League club facing off with teams like the White Sox and Red Sox. If we want to see AAA ball we can drive to Tacoma. Yes we are out of the pennant race but we have some talented guys like Jack Wilson, Chone Figgins, Russell Branyan and even Milton Bradley who the Mariners have a lot of money invested in and are all Big Leaguers.

  Of course Michael Saunders should get playing time along with Justin Smoak but unless another team is ready to give us some Major League ready players in trade, any talk of just dumping guys because they are not part of the future is folly. We have already given some of our best AAA guys a chance and they proved they were not ready. When and if Dustin Ackley or Michael Pineda are ready then of course bring them up, otherwise let them continue to develop so when they are called up they are ready to compete at the higher level.

I want to give a special thanks to Helen up in Alaska who is a regular reader and sent me a message because my font was too small for her to read. As you can see I changed it and I am open to any suggestions to help make this Blog user-friendly in keeping with my motto of “Where the fans call the plays”. This site is not affiliated with any blog network, has no advertising and is an open and free forum for frank discussion about the Mariners. I am not planning on selling out so that I have to watch what I say, as I love this game too much.

  In closing tonight I want to remind you that I will be doing a live Podcast with another member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance on August 10 at 7pm PST. The BBA is a group of bloggers from around the country like me who are passionate about baseball and do this for free; I will be doing the show with a blogger for the Dodgers. There will be a call-in number and I’d love to hear from some of you loyal readers. The web address is: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/baseball-bloggers-alliance  till we meet again…..http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners 2010….Part II

The Mariners are set to resume play after the AllStar break tomorrow down in Anaheim with a three game series against the second place Angels. Rather than doing a review of the first-half of the season I am just going to talk a little bit about the rest of the year. It seems as if this team is in the midst of an odd time period where we are not quite rebuilding and yet not in the race. Players like Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson complicate matter as they are probably not part of the long-term future of this team but they are under contract through next year and probably not high on other team’s trade list. Bradley has not played up to expectations but is not really that much worse than Michael Saunders as the everyday left fielder for the rest of the year. Saunders is young, has hit for some power and is definitely fast on the bases and in the field. Most people are saying Saunders will improve with more playing time, though we have heard the same about Rob Johnson. Traditionally players came up from AAA because they were obviously better than the other minor leaguers and once they came up they either produced or were sent down. In the case of both Saunders and Johnson they seem to have been good but not great in the minors and in the majors neither is really proving to be getting better, yet they stay on with the big club.

   I have a whole separate post entitled “Who’s on first” that I wrote a few days ago so I won’t go into that debacle again except to say that the Mariners would love to trade Casey Kotchman but probably won’t get to many offers. Jose Lopez could go in a trade as well though I think his bat will improve in the second half. Gutierrez who started off hot has been fading for the last six weeks or so at the plate but he is definitely a part of the Mariners future plans. Ichiro is a fixture in right and is untouchable unless he and the mystery owner Hiroshi Yamauchi decide it is time to go. Actually if the Mariners were really rebuilding for the future rather than this in between phase, trading Ichiro and using his huge salary for younger players would be a smart move, but I just don’t see it happening.

  The catcher position is goofy as well with Rob Johnson having another bad year at the plate and defensively but still seems to be another of these gray area type of guys on this club. Of course then there is Mike Sweeney due to come back from his latest DL to a team that sorely lacks veteran leadership yet has no real room for him. It is funny to read about Mike Sweeney in the media or in the blogosphere to see how even his biggest detractors have come to admit he indeed can still hit after realizing that all the youngsters that supposedly he and Griffey were blocking didn’t quite measure-up. Speaking of Ken Griffey Jr. it has occurred to me that he really has been quiet since retiring as I expected to either here him blast the Mariners and the local press on some TV show or we would have heard by now of his grand farewell day at Safeco.

    The starting rotation is a bit vague as well besides Hernandez, Vargas and Fister. After that you have the ongoing Ryan Rowland-Smith saga and the ever popular guessing game over the return of Eric Bedard. And the bullpen will probably continue being shaky no matter how you juggle it. There has been rumors that some teams were interested in David Aardsma but I doubt any team in contention would be willing to part with much for him in light of his performance thus far. I will predict that another young gun will be brought into the mix soon possibly Danny Cortez who we picked-up in the Betancourt trade. Other than that I hope Brian Sweeney is given some sort of role and is not forced to languish in uncertainty like so many players on this club who seem to be moved around daily on a whim by manager Don Wakamatsu. While I understand Wak has been forced to be creative in the first half of the season, having 7 or 8 players on a team not knowing where they stand at any given time is a sure recipe for unrest on any team and is a reflection on the managers ability to be decisive.

   Lots of little things tend to get swept under the carpet here in Seattle as the top management knows by now that the local media and most of the fans will forget about things with time and a few good days of NW summer weather. I have been trying to block-out most of the first half of this season myself over the break as it was all just a little overwhelming on the negative side. I look for the second half of the season to be slightly better, and am hoping to get a glimpse of Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda both at AAA now, before it’s all said and done. Other than that my expectations are not too high, though I would love to see Justin Smoak produce at the plate and watch Felix kick some butt every 5 days……http://jeffsmariners.com

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