Great Pitching on deck for the postseason but what about hitting?

   There is a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about the great pitching talent that will be on display starting this weekend. Yes indeed we have Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay combined with Mariano Rivera, Roy Oswalt and a large second tier of starters and relievers.  

  To hear everyone go on you might think that everyone just loves to see 1-0 and 2-1 games. Well despite the fact that my Grandfather GordonDustyRhodes was a pitcher from 1929-36, I never pitched and in fact don’t care for them much!

You see  I love the  sound of the crack of the bat on the sweet spot as a line shot jumps off the bat, and I would venture to guess quite a few of you do too. Don’t get me wrong I love a great pitchers duel now and then but I am hoping to see some high scoring games in the next week or so. The question is will it happen? The cards are stacked against the hitters these days with speciality relief guys, pitchers hitting 100 on the radar and parks like Safeco built for pitchers.

  So it’s only logical that everyone is just talking about the pitchers who will be competing rather than wondering which team will score more runs and actually beat another team by putting runs across the plate.

   As I was thinking about all this it occurred to me that there really are only a small group of players at any give time who are great hitters. This has been true throughout baseball history. Most batters have good bat-speed, hand-eye coordination and the ability to watch endless films and graphs on opposing pitchers to try and get ready, yet still will look bad against modern pitching. There are a few players that have the ability to read a ball coming out of the pitchers hand and adjust their approach instantly and make contact, Ichiro is one of these fortunate few. There also is a small group like  Vladimir Guerrero who seem to be able to hit any ball pitched anywhere using some bizarre combination of luck and daring, but again these guys are few and far between.

  Sadly most of the rest are just up there guessing and in that case are totally at the mercy of guys like Lee and Lincecum and will look dumb trying.

   But alas there is one other group of hitters some of who are involved in the postseason ie A-Rod, Michael Young, Derick Jeter and a few others, who possess the rarest skill amongst hitters known as:” Anticipation”. Anticipation is not guessing or adapting to a pitch as it comes in. Anticipation is more of a feeling or sense that great hitters have bases on their ability to calculate everything that has happened prior to the incoming pitch, a look on the pitchers face, and basically just instinct. Anticipation is also used on defense, for example  like Willie Mays would often begin moving towards where the ball is going to be hit even before the swing!

  As a player I can remember being “in the zone” so to speak from time to time and being able to anticipate both at the plate and on defense. It is one of those things that you either have or you don’t. Barry Bonds had it, Ruth had it and maybe 1,000 guys who have passed through the majors over the years “had It” to some degree or the other. The rest were mostly just guessing and batting .250 or less.

  This years Mariners featured practically a whole lineup of guys guessing and missing night after night. I believe Mike Sweeney was in the “Zone” off and on this year and it showed with his OPS. Hopefully Sweeney will get a chance to come off the bench for the Phillies this year in a clutch situation and connect for some paydirt using his gut intinct to let him know what is coming. You see if you are up at the plate and your full of fear and your mind is racing trying to outguess a guy like  

  Now I know the sabermetrics crowd probably considers this sort of talk heresy. But the reality is that great players end up with great stats offensively when they can anticipate the next pitch and be ready to slam it when it comes in. There may be no logical explanation for this unique gift or skill but it exists and is what seperates good hitter from Great Hitters

   So I have a feeling, maybe a hunch or perhaps anticipation that the bats are going to come alive in the next few weeks along with the great pitching and we may be in for some great high scoring games!

Confession of an occasional Yankees fan

Gordon "Dusty" Rhodes with Babe Ruth and wife Leah


 The Seattle Mariners are in New York resting up on a travel day before embarking on a three game series with the New York Yankees. Over the years I have developed a love-hate relationship with the Yankees. On the one hand I can recall the intense rivalry of the 95-01 era highlighted by the play-off victory in 95. I was so excited by that series that I met the Mariners at Boeing field at 5 am after they had just dropped the first two games in New York. There were only a handful of fans there at that time of the morning and yet after going to every game they played at the dome from mid-August on, I felt compelled to be there. Those were the glory years of Mariners Baseball and the upcoming series pales in comparison to those days of lore.

  There is another part of me that has always been in awe of this franchise and their 27 World Championships. My grandfather GordonDustyRhodes  pitched for the Yankees from 1929-32 before being traded to the Red Sox in midseason missing out on going to the series with them that year. Dusty pictured above with his wife Leah (my grandmother) and Babe Ruth, though highly touted coming up had pretty much a mediocre career in the big leagues see stats:  . I need to confess that in recent years I have sort of been having a long-distance affair with the Yankees, culminating in me actually rooting for them last year as they went on to win it all. I know some of you may be shocked but after so many years of disappointment with the Mariners I sort of went back to my roots, partially to honor my Grandfather and partially because the Yankees play the game  the way it should be played.

  The Yankees in almost every era with the exception of the 80’s and early 90’s have always been the team to beat. This year’s team represents perhaps the end of an era as Jeter, Posada, Riviera, Pettitte and A-Rod try to repeat and go all the way. Now to be clear nothing would make me happier than to see the Mariners play respectable ball and win this series, but on paper we just don’t measure-up to this franchise. They just have too much talent, history and poise on the field. Sure Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez are throwing the first two games, but unlike the Mariners the Yankees have great pitching and hitting.

    I was thinking today about all the various players and teams the Mariners have put on the field since the endless re-building period of the post Lou Piniella era. Unlike the Yankees we always seem to have 2-3 weak spots in our lineup that good teams like the Yankees don’t seem to have. The recent addition of Russell Branyon will help but we still are huge underdogs going into Yankee stadium tomorrow night. One of the perks of starting this expansion blog this year is getting to say what I really feel knowing that only a few hundred people may actually read any given post. For the most part I have tried to stay positive about the Mariners with the exception of a few jabs at upper-management and players and coaches that were deserving of a little heat. Trust me many of the other bloggers and journalists have been less civil towards the club. So now you all know that under the right set of circumstances I too am capable of cheating on my home team.

When it was a game

Gordon "Dusty" Rhodes with 1933 Red Sox staff clowning for the camera

I thought I would try to cheer some of you [as well as myself] up with this odd photo taken from my collection of photos that I inherited from my grandfather GordonDustyRhodes taken in 1933 during the height of the great depression. In that time period the game of Baseball was indeed America’s pastime and was a great diversion from the realities of day-to-day life. Owners used all sorts of gimmicks such as this elephant ride photo to get fans out to the ballpark to part with their hard-earned money, if they had any. Otherwise the games were broadcast over the radio and families would sit around on the front porch on hot summers nights listening to their favorite teams. My grandfather pictured at the head of the elephant anchored the pitching staff of the Boston Red Sox in 1933-34 pitching a total of 451 innings and going 24-27 in that two-year span for a  mediocre team, and were his best years in the majors. It was a different era before the players Union was formed and many players had to work other jobs in the offseason or “Barnstorm” with pick-up teams to make ends meet. But as hard as life was for a player they all knew they were lucky to be playing Baseball for a living and as this photo shows they had some fun as well. Unlike todays teams like the Mariners the owners of the teams played a much larger role in the day-to-day affairs of the ball clubs and represented the upper-class of America. This was around the time of the major upheavals by the working class that came to fruition with events such as the West Coast Maritime strike in 1934 that gave birth to the American Labor movement.

   Sadly most of the players like my grandfather were not represented by a Union and were basically the property of the owners forced to negotiate every year for a new contract and had no pension to fall back on when they retired from baseball. Of course one could argue that todays player have gone to far with their salaries and rights under the collective bargaining agreement, and that they aren’t as tough as the old-timers before them. I do think that in light of the current malaise being cast over the NW with this years Mariners collapse it is good to remember how lucky we are to have a Major League team and maybe take time to remember that baseball is indeed a game and that it is supposed to be fun!

Slow News Day for Mariners

Yesterday I took a nasty tumble at second base while I was playing softball,  after I shook it off the first thing that came to my mind was I’m to old at 52 to be playing shortstop. Jack Wilson is 20 years younger and he is thinking the same thing, Ken Griffey is 40 and looking at the end, and Milton Bradley is taking a deeper look at life himself for perhaps the first time. Americans have always loved to compete, and we seem to derive a little to much of our identity based on what we do for a living in comparison to other people around the world. You could make the case that our will to win is what made this country great. But at what cost to ourselves, our planet, and those we care about do we need to keep pushing the envelope?

  In my case it is a no-brainer, this will be my last season. Jack Wilson sounds like he is ready to give it up. Ken Griffey will probably finish the year in some capacity. And perhaps Milton Bradley has hit some sort of bottom spiritually and emotionally and may surprise us all by evolving into a more well-rounded human being. Of course no one much cares about my baseball career, but it is a slow news day and I thought I would break things up with a feel-good story.

  Baseball is a bit different from most sports with all the history, metaphors, and parallels to real life. When I look through my scrap-book of old players that my grandfather GordonDusty”  Rhodes played with in the majors, and look at the faces, I see people like us in their timeless poses. Somehow when I put on my cleats or head down to the Safe I get lost in to a time-warp. For the players who are actually in the dug-outs it must be even more surreal and difficult to let go of. Chone Figgins must somehow still be holding on to his confidence, Griffey to his faith in his swing, Rob Johnson to the time when he was a top prospect. In reality it is our higher nature that has to intercede and tell us when it is time to move-on, if we listen. If not the game of baseball can be a cruel Mistress indeed.

Jeff’s Mariners Expansion Blog

Scan_Doc0009 click to open 1995 World Series ticket

In August 1995 I got back to Seattle after a 60 day voyage on a Sea-Going tug just in time to witness first hand the miracle of Seattle’s first pennant race . From August 24th all the way till the bitter end of the AL Championship Series with the Cleveland Indians, I went down to the old Kingdome and bought a ticket to watch the game every day.  But there is still one ticket I never got to use, a World Series ticket like the one above that I bought in advance. I’m hoping this is the year, and am excited to be a part of it with my small contribution.

I don’t sail anymore so I took vacation time to go to Spring Training this year in Peoria and loved every minute of it. Right before I left I decided I was going to put my own Mariners Blog together this year, an Expansion Blog so to speak. As you may have noticed by now my Blog is pretty basic and non-commercial. However even getting it up and running for this Old salt has been quite an ordeal. But with the help of a couple techies and reading a book called “Create your own Blog” I have come this far. I appreciate the fact the Seattle PI has lended a hand and allowed me to post my Blogs in their Readers Blogs section, as well as to all of you who have come by now and then for a look.

  Just like the early season Mariners, I’m still working the bugs out and hope to add some bells and whistles by the All-Star Game ie podcasting, photos,and  historical pieces. Not since that sad October Day in 95 have I allowed myself to get my hopes up, but I think this year has the makings of something special. As you may have read in my profile my Grandfather GordonDustyRhodes pitched in the major leagues from 1929-36, this Blog is also a tribute to him for the Love of the game that is in my blood.

  So there it is in case anyone was wondering who this Jeff guy is and what compels him to put together these posts together everyday. By the way I’ll be sitting in Section 147 row 17 seat 1 tomorrow and sending live tweets when our boys come back to the Safe, stop by and lets talk Baseball!

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