Message in a bottle… May Day May Day….

Hello Shipmates, I am writing this post from the vessel SS Queen Mary here in Long Beach which like the good ship Mariners, is marooned at the Dock with the bilge pumps running to keep her afloat.

  I got on the plane just as the game with Boston was starting in rainy Seattle, by the time I got to my stateroom the Mariners had sunk 5-1 for their 7th loss in a row. So rather than go into the whole tracking down information and stats routine, I decided to tune into the Tacoma Rainiers game on my laptop.

  Judging from how few fans showed-up for the Rainiers games last weekend at Safeco, I would venture to guess I am the only individual in the whole So. Calif. metropolis who was tuned into the calming voice of Mike Curto the voice of the Rainiers. I caught the last few innings and got to hear the recap of the 11-7 slugfest in Memphis that the Rainiers won. Our AAA guys hit 5 homers tonight and now lead this series 2-0, Sweet!

Speaking of homers, Todd Tulowitzki the shortstop for the surging Rockies hit a couple more today as the Rockies beat the Padres to pull within 2 1/2 of the lead in the NL West. Tulowitzki now has 11 home runs for the month of September alone. I haven’t checked but I would be surprised if the Mariners have 11 homers as a team for the whole month! Boy do we need to bring-up some of those sluggers from Tacoma as soon as they win their play-offs……

  One of the pitfalls of being a Mariners fan is I often spend the whole season focused on our club and miss all the great baseball going on around the country. I am trying to ween myself from the Mariners now as we head to the bitter end, and so following the Rainiers is part of my Mariners detox program.

   Lots of great races still going on in the majors as well and have narrowed down my bandwagon team to either the Padres/ Rockies or the Yankees, though I’d love to see Mike Sweeney get a clutch-hit in a World Series game to cap-off his career. So there you have it , a virtual post on the Mariners or a message in a bottle, take your pick!

Mariners win 3-1,Felix lets out another long Cyyy

Cy Young considered the greatest pitcher in MLB history

  The Mariners rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning tonight scoring three runs to beat the Angels 3-1. That’s the good news, the bad news is that despite going seven innings of 3-hit shutout ball Felix Hernandez was once again denied a victory.

   Manager Daren Brown decided to pull Felix after he had thrown only 103 pitches tonight bringing in Brandon League in a strategy that looked for a minute like it would backfire as League was tagged for a pair of doubles that resulted in a run for the Angels. Fortunately League was able to get out of the inning without further damage thanks to a double-play.

  The Mariners put together a sweet little rally of their own in the bottom half of the eighth thanks to hits by Lopez, Moore and Josh Wilson combined with a walk to Branyan to lead-off the frame and a nice sac-fly by Michael Saunders that also drove-in a run. This 3-run outburst came a few innings too late once again for Felix Hernandez who desperately needs to add a few more wins to his total of 10 in order to have a shot at the Cy Young award this year.Full Box Score

   I don’t usually subscribe to players playing for stats or awards in lost seasons like this, but Felix is having a heck of a year and it would be nice to salvage something in the way of hometown bragging rights if Felix continues to blow teams away and somehow gets the votes to win the Cy Young award.

    Believe it or not tomorrow is September 1st which usually means it is time to expand the roster and bring-up some of the AAA guys to get a taste of “The Show”. However due to the fact that the Rainiers have a good shot at making the play-offs, it looks like the Mariners will be holding-off on bringing guys up till the Rainiers are done with their run at glory. Once again like the decision to pull Felix after only allowing him to throw 103 pitches, the decision to let the AAA guys finish out their season is the right thing to do, but it sure doesn’t seem fair to us fans who have suffered so much in 2010.

   On a couple other random notes it seems that Mike Sweeney is being well received by his new team the Phillies and their fans. I’m glad to see him get a chance to play for a contender and to be appreciated after all the snide comments tossed his way here in the local press and blogosphere. I also wanted to note that Milton Bradley who is out for the year with an injury, seems to be completely forgotten as a part of the various 2011 visions for the Mariners which are being thrown around. Milton may have been a disappointment this year but we are still on the hook for $12 million next year so look for his name to resurface in the offseason once the denial of his potential return fades away. If Jack Zduriencik wants to get his growing flock of doubters off his back in a hurry I can’t think of a better way than to somehow trade him away even if we have to eat most of his salary. Of course I have no idea who would take a chance on Bradley at this point in his bizarre career, so we may just have to give him a shot at a position next spring and if he doesn’t produce simply let him go… 

   Still trying to decide which game I’m going to attend in this homestand, I was trying to wait for the Indians but may just sneak down tomorrow for the rubber-match of this series with the Angels. Ciao……

Mike Sweeney Powers Rainiers over Aces 9-3

Mike Sweeney with fans in Tacoma

 The Tacoma Rainiers won the fourth game of the series with the Reno Aces today 9-3 thanks to the big bat of Mike Sweeney on a beautiful day at Cheney Stadium. What another great and fun game down in Tacoma watching the Rainiers clobber the Aces in front of 6,384 fans to give the Rainiers a split of this four game series before heading out on the road again. Unlike the apprehension I feel before the start of a Mariners game I felt confident as I headed down I-5 along with another long-suffering Mariners fan to watch this day game. My friend Eddie had never been to a game at Cheney Stadium and like myself was longing for an opportunity to watch a game under the sun where the home team was able to score some runs. We arrived at 11 am and were surrounded by happy young children arriving by the busload along with the regular Rainiers faithful as I continued my rehab assignment of fun, laughter and winning!

  Blake Beaven who came over in the Cliff Lee trade got his first start with Tacoma and went six innings giving up a couple of runs and looked pretty good in his debut. Of course when your team scores 8 runs for you in the first 4 innings it takes a lot of the pressure off of you. The Rainiers did not waste any time in scoring with Mike Sweeney belting a 2-run shot in the bottom of the first over the big blue wall in left. Sweeney got the start at first today as Justin Smoak slipped into the DH spot so he could focus on his hitting mechanics. Smoak did get a hit today as well as driving in a run in the 8th with a sacrifice fly.

  In the second inning the Rainiers loaded up the sacks for Mike Wilson who drove a ball that barely cleared the fence before rattling around and coming back onto the field. Initially Wilson stopped at second but was then waved in for the grand-slam making it 6-0 before we had even finished our hotdogs! As a Mariners fan I am out-of-shape when it comes to enjoying an early lead in a game, especially as the result of the long-ball. But the Rainiers were not finished yet and in the bottom of the fourth Mike Sweeney blasted another 2-run shot over the imposing fence to make it 8-0. It was a beautiful site to see Sweeney dig-in at the plate and take his customary full-swings today, and before the day was through Sweeney would go 3-4 moving his average up to .366. We were ready to throw Sweeney in the car and kidnap him so he could be in the Mariners lineup tonight where he belongs.

   Yes I know this season is over for the Mariners and it is all about the future so who needs a 37-year-old veteran guy who hits, knows the game, and provides leadership for the young players? Well as a fan I enjoy watching a guy who loves the game and plays with enthusiasm along with the ability to produce, which Sweeney has done all year since spring training( when he was healthy). It seems that there is a certain segment of the local media and fan base that just can’t stand a friendly decent guy succeeding. Perhaps Sweeney’s success isn’t measurable by the new sabermetrics whiz-kids and thus needs to be discounted to fill their need to be know-it-alls. I don’t know but today Mike Sweeney proved once again he can still produce and the fans in Tacoma including myself loved every minute of it. If indeed the Mariners are intentionally leaving Sweeney down in Tacoma to act as a mentor for the young players then that is one thing, but if they are just going to let him languish in AAA hoping he quits then that would be a travesty to not only Sweeney but to the game itself. Baseball is a game of traditions handed from father to son, generation to generation, full of history and mystique. The Mariners have angered the Baseball-Gods one too many times and I am hoping they do the right thing and bring Sweeney back-up to the Majors where he can finish his career in dignity for the rest of 2010.

   While I was at the game today I suddenly realized that the Reno Aces manager was Brett Butler the former player I had watched in the 80’s and 90’s. Butler had a great career and was considered the best bunter of his era along with a lifetime .290 average and 2375 career hits. Perhaps more impressive about Butler is that he overcame throat cancer and came back to finish playing in the Majors till he was 40. Butler is working his way up as a manager through the Arizona system and seemed to have the respect of the umpires as well as his players. It was nice to see the crusty old veteran doing double-duty both as the team’s manager and 3rd base coach. Here are his impressive lifetime stats:   

  So the Mariners are back in town tonight playing the Rangers and I will be back on the beat tomorrow following the big club till the end of the season. I feel a whole lot better having gone down to Cheney Stadium a couple of times during this last home stand and watching the scrappy Tacoma Rainiers win twice. For whatever reason Cheney Stadium provides an environment where time seems  to have stopped somewhere 20  years ago and baseball was still  indeed our national pastime and guys like Sweeney, Butler and perhaps myself could still play this game with the joy and passion it deserves……

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

Mariners sink to Davey Jones’ locker 12-3

The Seattle Mariners dropped the third game of this four game series tonight by a score of 12-3 and find themselves 10 games back in the AL West after being mauled by the first place Texas Rangers. Ryan Smith lost his right to having two last names with his performance tonight and will probably get heaped into the bullpen or perhaps over the side of the good ship Mariners. Brandon League got slammed around the deck as well by the Rangers and the whole team is starting to look like F-troop. If I never have to see Vladimir Guerrero hitting another line drive off his shoe-strings, or their pitching coach Mike Maddux going out to talk to his pitchers even when leading by 7 runs, I will be a happy man.

   Going down to Texas everyone kind of knew this was going to be a make or break series for the struggling Mariners, and all the finger-pointing and hand wringing in the world won’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. We now are faced with a long summer, or perhaps maybe it will just keep raining all year in solidarity with our washed up Seafarers.

    I should have known when I saw first hand down at spring training this year the way the veterans were disrespecting  Don Wakamatsu that we were heading for trouble this year. Here are a couple of examples: One day I was watching the veterans taking BP and Wak asked some of them to play catch while they were waiting to hit. In this instance it was Sweeney, Jack Wilson, Griffey and Figgins,and a few others. The veterans just kept  doing their usual shucking and jiving ritual while they ignored the skipper. So then Wak  trying to lead by example grabbed a glove and started playing catch with one of the younger players, and I overheard Mike Sweeney say “Its overrated” meaning staying active and playing catch, instead of hovering around the cage while all the rookies were busting their butts is overrated. It struck me as odd and disrespectful and more importantly that Wak did not have respect of the veterans.

   In addition I saw Ken Griffey barely going through the motions during sprints and drills always being the instigator and trying to always get some of the guys to go along with him. I remember thinking what was Ted Williams or Ty Cobb like during their  final spring training and knew in my heart that guys like that would have worked just as hard as the rookies to set an example.

    You may be wondering why I’m saying this now after all the times I came to the defense of both Griffey and Sweeney on this Blog when everyone else in town was calling for them to go. Well to be honest I was hoping it was no big deal and we were going to kick butt this year, and some things are best left alone. So there it is, as an ex-player and long time fan who has reverence for the great game of Baseball, I knew in my gut that this team was lacking in discipline and leadership from the gate. And now my worst nightmare has come true……

Sweeney sparks Mariners comeback over Tigers 5-4

Today I joined 22,422 of my closest friends down at the Safe to enjoy an indoor matinée played out on a grass field between white lines on another gloomy Seattle late May afternoon. In the first 8 innings it looked like the visiting gladiators from Motown were toying with our Mariners from the soggy Northwest before finally unloading their lethal bats on us. But for some reason the Detroit Tigers were unable to put the hurt on our boys despite hitting line drives all over the park that were just playable by our crafty sailors.

  Jason Vargas managed to keep this game close by going 5 full innings and giving up only 2 runs despite not having his best stuff. On the other hand Jason Bonderman pitching for the Tigers only got touched for a single run in the second and it looked like he would coast to an easy victory. The Tigers have a tough line-up and got a long ball from Ordonez and added two more in the sixth off of Ryan Rowland-Smith, who should have gotten out of the inning were it not for the error by Jose Lopez.

 But then came the bottom of the 8th…. Franklin Gutierrez lashed a lead-off single to right, followed by a strikeout from Milton Bradley. This brought up Mike Sweeney who has been on a tear lately and played an awkward first base today. Mike Sweeney has a knack for the dramatic and today was no different as he unloaded for a 2-run bomb that suddenly made it 4-3. Jose Lopez managed to get on with a single to bring up Rob Johnson who replaced Josh Bard who came out with an injury earlier in the game. Johnson is sometimes difficult to watch at the plate and he knows he is on the bubble with the Mariners. However today Johnson managed to drive a double off the wall in left and we had runners at second and third with the “Paper Boy” Josh Wilson coming to bat. Josh Wilson continued to make us forget about ailing Jack Wilson with a clutch 2-run RBI single that put the Mariners up for good at 5-4.

  With the 2-game sweep the Mariners pulled to 7 1/2  games back of the Texas Rangers who lost today. But more importantly the last 2 games have shown everyone that the Mariners, though still ten games under .500 have not given up on the season and in fact are starting to gel. We now have a day off  before heading to Anaheim for a 3-game series with the Angels. This was a decent home stand where we went 4-3 and could well be the turning point of the season. Between now and the All-Star break the Mariners have a chance to get back in the race slowly but surely with the formula of good pitching and timely hitting. Jose Lopez and Chone Figgins will be a key component of any comeback and they both are overdue to break-out and start producing like they are capable of.  It looks like our ship hasn’t sunk yet so remember: Hope Floats!

Padres edge Mariners 2-1

The San Diego Padres managed to squeak by the Mariners tonight in a classic Pitchers duel. The Padres starter Clayton Richard went 7 full innings, and had the edge on Mariners starter Ian Snell who pitched 5 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits. The one run Snell gave up came at the hands of 42 year-old veteran Matt Stairs in the 4th. Stairs who is best remembered for his dramatic home-run for the Phillies against the Dodgers in game four of the 2008 play-offs, crushed home-run # 260 to right field with his patent full swing.

 Ian Snell pitched well and got out of several jams early in the game. Kanekoa Texeira gave up the other run in the 6th inning on a breaking ball in the dirt that allowed Headley to score from third on a wild pitch. Offensively for the Mariners they had runners on first and third with one out in the first but could not get the sac-fly or base hit needed from either Sweeney or the slumping Lopez. Mike Sweeney did manage to drive in our only run in the 6th with a two-out single and had a 0ne-out double in the 9th to continue his hot hitting. The Mariners once again had runners at the corners with one-out in the bottom of the 9th, before Milton Bradley fanned and Casey Kotchman grounded out with Ken Griffey on deck, to end this tight match-up of West Coast teams.

 With the win the Padres managed to stay tied for first in the NL West, and the Mariners stay 8 1/2 back of  Texas who lost to the Cubs today in Interleague play. 28,670 were on hand tonight and they were treated to the complete opposite of  the slugfest on Friday with this low-scoring affair. The series is now even at 1-1 and I like our chances of winning this series when Felix Hernandez takes the mound for the Mariners in the rubber-game tomorrow afternoon.

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