There was a flurry of trades and free agents signings, but lately it is quiet, too quiet, like the those old westerns where the cavalry is pinned down after an Indian attack and they are waiting for it to begin again. It is always quitter before the storm they say.
It could be teams are waiting to see who lands the 25 year old pitcher from Japan, Masahiro Tanaka, who was 24-0 with an ERA of 1.27 last season. Teams post $20 million then negotiate a deal with Tanaka and his agent Casey Close. The Mariners are rumored to be interested, but truthfully nearly every team is, and after spending $240 million on Robinson Cano, it is doubtful they are willing to overspend for a pitcher when they need more bats in the lineup. Tanaka could end up in New York with fellow countryman, Ichiro Suzuki, and the Yankees never let money stand in the way.
Teams have until January 24, 2014, to sign him. If his agent is smart he will delay as long as possible to make the bidding go higher. He is 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with 8.5 K’s per nine innings. He has given up 0.5 home runs in his career, but they have smaller stadiums in Japan and not many sluggers. Still he has won 28 straight games and puts up impressive numbers.
If Seattle is looking for a pitcher there are still quality starters available. Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, and A.J. Burnett, though the latters record in post season play, like the Titanic, is a disaster. Need a bat? Nelson Cruz is still out there. The Mariners should fill out the team with free agents and trades rather than paying what is sure to be an ungodly amount of money for one pitcher.
In recent statements Trader Jack, the Mariners intrepid GM, has hinted they might not be signing anymore free agents. Perhaps he is still working the trade lines. I can not believe they are done, but spring training is little more than six weeks away and if teams are waiting to see if they can land Tanaka, the window to sign any free agents still left will be small. So Jack, forget Tanaka, think Jimenez, think Cruz, think trades, think of something other than Tanaka bobble head night.
Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame Saturday night. During the festivities, Ichiro, in a video presentation, spoke English, something he never did with the media while in Seattle. Everyone in the northwest knew he spoke English, but he only spoke Japanese in interviews, using an interpreter to translate his answers. It was thought he did not trust his English, unsure he was saying the right words. Maybe he just was not crazy about Seattle media. Who knows?
But here is his video tribute to Junior on his induction to Mariner Hall of Fame. http://wapc.mlb.com/sea/play/?content_id=29604477&topic_id=8877490&c_id=sea
His personality comes through, at least the one we heard about. Ichiro is funny, especially at the end. But Junior will always be the most beloved Mariner. He was charismatic, gregarious, had the great smile, played with the joy of a kid. And of course there was no greater player during the 1990’s. Unbelievable catches, home runs, Junior was the five tool player, hitting for average, hitting for power, running the bases, catching the ball, and throwing the ball. He did everything.
Junior could get surly once in awhile with the press, but the reporters kept those outburst to themselves for the most part. But at least he spoke English. Maybe that was why Ichiro spoke Japanese to the media. It was a way of distancing himself, protecting himself, keeping the media a little bit at bay.
But thanks to Ichiro for his video. Nice to hear from you.
Going into play July 23rd, 2012, Seattle was 42-55, thirteen games below .500. Sounds like most Mariner teams of the past decade. But after that date they were 33-32, one game above .500. What happened on July 23rd was that Ichiro was traded to the Yankees. Seattle played better without him.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but consider that some players on the team felt Ichiro was not a team player. They don’t say so in public, but there have been interviews where players strongly hint that was the case. The old saw says veteran leadership is important, yet the two veterans that should supply leadership did not. Ichiro did not want to be the face of the franchise, went for individual numbers, did not want to bat lower in the order-until he was traded to the Yankees, and the other veteran Chone Figgins, was not only the biggest free agent flop, but sulked, and had the leadership of a lemming.
King Felix is the face of the franchise. He is approachable, smiles, and will lead the pitchers. And the Mariners have Michael Morse, a veteran who is approachable, likeable, wants to be a Mariner, wants to change the perception of the Mariners to other players in the league, and both he and Kendrys Morales can hit with power. They will provide protection for the still young Mariners, taking the pressure off Smoak, Ackley, et al.
The Mariner clubhouse will be more enjoyable because there is better chemistry. So says Brendan Ryan who thinks this years team will be more close-knit. When talking about last year, though not naming names, it was clear, the clubhouse and what happened when the press was not around was not a smooth sailing cruise.
Of course the Oakland A’s in the mid 1970s’s were contentious, often fought with each other in public and private, had a discordant clubhouse, a fractured team with more hate than love for each other. But they won and won and won. It was a different era. They could play between the lines. I don’t think in todays age that can happen.
But the fact Seattle played better without Ichiro; said goodbye to Figgins, and traded Vargas; while adding big bats, moving in the fences, signing their ace through the next seven years, and having young players either on the roster or in Tacoma ready to move forward, points the Good Ship Mariner in the right direction. They just need to follow their compass and not get lost.
Chone Figgins said in an interview last week he wants out of Seattle. If he is having as much trouble leaving as he did getting hits, there are plenty of Mariner fans who will gladly show him the southbound lanes of I5.
In his first year with the Mariners Figgins hit a meager .259, far below his career average as well as fans expectations. In 2011 he hit .188 and in 2012 .181. If hitting below .200 was below the Mendoza line, then hitting below .190 is hitting below the Figgins line. There are many pitchers who hit better than Chone.
It has been a waste of money, one of the worst Mariner free agent signings in their mediocre history. And he is still owed around $15 million. I never liked the signing for two reasons. He is the same type of hitter that Ichiro was. A singles hitter. Having them bat one-two in the order was proposed because they both had speed. But Chone never liked batting number two, he was a leadoff hitter-at least in his mind. He was given that chance this season and he failed. The second reason is that he was moved from 2nd base to 3rd base, a position that is a power position and Figgins has no power. He is-or was-a 2nd baseman, leadoff hitter. He did not fit with Seattle.
When asked the other day about Figgin comments regarding his wanting out of Seattle, Jack Zduriencik, Seattle’s general manager, said, “that was not a smart thing to say.” I disagree. He should let everyone know his feelings, so the front office can be nudged to part ways with this lost cause.
Mariner fans want Figgins gone, and sooner, the better. Greenland would be a nice place. I have flown over that delightful place. It is a icy as Figgins character. Rumors are surfacing about Chone’s attitude, his personality, and that he is a cancer in the clubhouse. Whether true or not does not matter. The bottom line is Figgins must go.
Figgins is like that guy by the freeway exit with a sign asking for help. In Figgins case his sign reads: Out of hits. Please help. Anything will do.
The difference is that Chone has $15 million. But I will still pay his bus fare out of town. Or even the ferry.
Early this season I wrote the reason for the Mariners lack of offense at home was due to cold arctic air drifting down from the north. Blame it on global warming. The chilling air came from those infernal melting icebergs, the thick, damp, cold air freezing baseballs as they headed for the fence, never quite getting there, unable to navigate the icy air.
Okay I exaggerate for dramatic effect. But I did say, as has been proven in San Francisco as well, that cold air affects the baseball. The cold air is thicker, making it harder to hit home runs.
The Mariners leave on a road trip with an eight game home win streak, and have won 15 of the last 16 home games. In case you have not noticed, it has been much warmer, the Mariners offense as hot as the weather.
It seems Michael Saunders hit a home run every day this past week. Eric Thames hit home runs in back to back games and is batting over .400 at the Safe. Jesus Montero had a big 3-run blast.
It may be with Ichiro gone the team is more relaxed. It could be they are starting to come together as a team. The eight game win streak in their longest in years. But I still come back to the warm air. It is no accident that King Felix is pitching better in the summer than in the spring. Pitchers love the heat, so do batters.
Baseball is a summer sport, not one for the spring where you have to bundle up for both day games and night games. At night fans need a parka, gloves, a blanket, and a thermos, not mention a Saint Bernard. In the summer guys wear tees and shorts and girls wear short-shorts and halters. God Bless Summer-and not just for the girls in their shorts and halters, but for Mariner home runs.
Of course should the Mariners ever get to the World Series, they will be playing in November, probably near Thanksgiving the way Major League Baseball is going. And that means parkas, snow, cold air, and pitchers with dueling perfect games. We will never win.
In 1967 my mother and I were abducted by aliens. True story. There were no probes, nothing sinister that you hear about from so-called abductees. Those people are making bogus claims, looking for attention, nothing else.
The aliens told us not to listen to those reports. The thought of doing probes was unthinkable to them, it made them nauseous. No, they merely wanted to tell us about magnetic fields and vortexes and how to spot them, so we would know they were experimenting nearby and not to worry.
Here is what they told me. My mother fell asleep during this class as our alien teacher was boring, but I sat up when he mentioned baseball. He said if there was a baseball field with normal dimensions that looked to be a hitters park, but wasn’t , then be assured they were playing around with magnetic fields. The Mariners could not hit at Safeco, could not hit home runs, could not do much of anything.
So I knew what the aliens were up to. But the aliens have left, for they said if things changed and a team started to bang out base hits and score runs, then the experiment was over. Well the Mariners are doing that, having won seven of nine since Ichiro was traded. Coincidence? Whose to say.
But the aliens said there would be changes and with the hits and runs, I take that to mean they have left. The Mariners are now out of the twilight zone; they have been returned from the outer limits.
You are probably asking yourself why my mother and I were chosen. They told me I won a random drawing, that there was nothing special about me, just my number came up. My mother was chosen because when they snuck into our house to abduct me, they ate some of her chocolate chip cookies, loved them, and took her and the cookies.
The bottom line is, it was not the weather at Safeco, not the cold air, not the bad hitters. It was alien experiments. Now concluded, the Mariners will continue to thrive. By the way, aliens are not short and grey. They are round blubber balls with a burnt orange hue.
Monday night Ichiro Suzuki played his first game with the New York Yankees. It came against his team from the previous day, the team he played for since 2001, the Seattle Mariners. He singled in his first at bat and stole second base.
Though I wish him well, I could not help but feel he was Benedict Arnold. A Yankee uniform! I did not want him to beat my team, his real team, the Mariners. Beat someone else. What are you doing trying to beat the team you played for all season-in front of your fans. Where is you loyalty? Those guys are your buddies. Don’t let the name Yankees fool you-they are redcoat torries.
He did make the final putout of the game as the Mariners fell 4-1, but it was ex-Mariners who haunted the good ship Mariner. Alex (AFraud) Rodriquez doubled, homered, and scored two runs. Raul Ibanez had an rbi double, and Rafael Soriano closed out the game for his 25th save.
Ex-Mariners haunted Safeco Field and spooked the M’s. They were responsible for the win. Thanks Alex. Thanks Raul. Thanks Rafael.
And tonight, Tuesday, another ex-Mariner takes the mound in Freddy Garcia. It could be another night of the M’s getting haunted by players from Mariner Past. But the M’s could also seek revenge on these ghosts and send Garcia back to the crypt.
The Mariners are not the only team with ex-players on the roster of opponents; it is just that Mariner ghosts, which are plentiful, always seem to beat the M’s. The list is too long for this column. It deserves its own installment. I could mention Adam Jones, Mike Morse, Asdrubal Cabrera , Shin-Soo Choo, David Ortiz (Mariner minor leaguer), and Doug Fister, just to rattle off a few names from the top of my M’s cap. But I won’t.
It is time for the Mariners to take charge and go after these poltergeists. You know who you’re gonna call. Ghostbusters!