The numbers are not spectacular, in fact are average if not mediocre. Since being traded to Seattle Austin Jackson is batting .259 in 35 games with 11 rbis and 7 stolen bases. Chris Denorfia in 23 games is batting .206 with a homer and 4 rbis. The Mariners got the right handed bats they wanted to balance the lineup, but these numbers would not seem to translate to wins, but they do.
Since the trades the Mariners are 23-12 and have outscored the opposition 157-103. Maybe it is that elusive magic called chemistry; maybe it is the leadership of Robinson Cano and a few others; maybe it is a team that believes in itself; maybe it can’t be explained.
The Mariners have gotten lucky with hot bats at the right time. Consider Brad Miller who was flirting with the Mendoza line for most of the season. Chris Taylor came up and was red hot. Then the scouting reports caught up to him and he was pitched to differently, his average trailed off; then Brad Miller got hot. There has always been a few hot bats. Dustin Ackley who in the first half appeared to be playing himself out of Seattle, but since the all-star break has been the player everyone hoped he would be. Seager started cold then has been one of the best hitters in the game since May, made the all-star team, and has proven you can hit at Safeco with a .319 average, 16 homers, 53 rbis.
Since the all-star break the Mariners batting average is .251, 14th in baseball. Forget the early season. What is important is how they are playing now. They have 19 games left and one day off, that comes Thursday. I am betting Seattle will either grab second place from Oakland, or at worst be the second wild card. Detroit and Oakland are struggling, but in the baseball world that can change faster than a Lloyd McClendon trip to the mound.
However, Seattle has the best pitching in baseball, a better defense than Oakland or Detroit, and Jackson and Denorfia, and whatever that means.
With the season roughly one quarter over Cano hit his second home run of the season. This time last year he was in double figures. But there is one number indicating he will start hitting more home runs.
Other than inside the park home runs created primarily from line drives and speed of the hitter, home runs are created by long fly balls.
Taking a close look at Robinson Cano’s ground ball outs going back to 2010 we find that 56.2% of his outs were ground ball outs. In 2011 61.2, in 2012 64.7 and in 2013 60.6. About ten days ago Cano was 4th in groundball outs, his percentage in the mid 80’s. That is not Cano’s track record. Beginning play today, he has dropped to 71.9%. That means he his hitting more fly balls.
And consider May is coming to an end. The summer brings warmer weather, hot days more conducive to home runs. That is especially true in Seattle where April and May has a chill in the air, the air is more heavy, slowing the ball down. Not so in summer where Safeco becomes a fair park for power and home run numbers increase.
So with Cano’s ground ball outs declining, his fly ball outs increasing as summer is knocking on Safeco’s door, we will see more dingers off Cano’s bat.
More good news is that 25 of the next 36 games are at home. With Seattle one game below .500 they have the opportunity to keep in the division race. Both James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are on the way back, both being available in early June. If they remain healthy, if they can get back into rhythm and be effective as the weather heats up, Seattle just needs James Jones and Michael Saunders batting in front of Cano to get on base to see more home runs and more W’s in the win column.
The one drawback is that Corey Hart, who was batting behind Cano, will be out four to six weeks. Now Seattle needs a cleanup hitter. In baseball it is hard to get everything working at the same time, some problem always lingers to resolve. For the Mariners it is the number four hitter and who will play shortstop this summer.
In the meantime, put on the shades, head to Safeco, and begin the Cano home run watch.
I have to say at the beginning the biggest difference between football and baseball is that football is an aggressive, physical game and baseball is a passive, reflective game. That means football fans are rowdy and baseball fans congenial. As a Seahawk ticket season holder for a decade I can testify to the rowdiness, fights in stands, drinking, swagger, loudness, yelling, and fear of ones life. Having gone to hundreds of Mariner games I can testify to the friendly, quiet, sober, clapping-not yelling, civilized folk . If the fans were rated like movies, Seahawk fans are rated R and Mariner fans are rated G, unless Boston or New York is in town, then it is PG.
It will never happen because of the mind set of the two sports, but if Mariner fans took note of Seahawk fans and became the 26th man, it would scare visiting teams like what happens across the street at The Clink. Imagine 40,000 + at Safeco yelling at the top of their lungs, “SWING” at every pitch thrown by a Mariner pitcher. Batters would be on edge as they wait for the roar of “SWING” to resound through their ears. They would be tense, off balance, befuddled, discombobulated, swinging at pitches before the ball has left the pitchers hand. There is no point in yelling insults to opposing players, they have heard it all, so there is no point in trying to be funny. Fans are rarely funny and when they are, it is to those immediately around them.
Since half the attendance at Mariner games are kids 12 years of age and under, they must be trained, perhaps by the Moose, though having been around him he doesn’t talk. All kids should be seated around home plate and the dugouts so they can be heard. They can have instructions passed out before the game and if need be their parents-who must participate or be ejected by ushers- can read them for the reading impaired. The Moose can cue the kiddies by holding up the “SWING” sign at the appropriate time.
The Mariners can form a modern version of a knothole gang with certificates, discounts on candy and kid stuff at the team store, getting their picture taken with a player, and of course the knothole bobblehead, and most importantly a colorful tee-shirt, like King’s Court fans get.
It won’t happen because no one listens to me, especially the Mariners. They just don’t see good marketing when they see it.
For those unfamiliar with Hurricane Hazle, he was a baseball player who had a cup of coffee for Cincinnati in 1955. But in 1957 he had the whole pot of coffee. He was called up to the Braves where he tore up the league, hitting .403 in 41 games with 7 homers and 27 rbis. At the age of 26 his peak years were ahead of him, What could he hit in 1958? Not much. In 20 games with the Braves he hit .179, was traded to Detroit where he hit .241 in 43 games. He never saw the major leagues again. The problem for the outfielder, besides being the proverbial flash in the pan, was his defense. In 40 games in the outfield in 1957 he made six errors.
The above picture is not Bob Hazle, but Ensign Cottrell. He pitched five years, 1911-1915, playing for a different team each year. Twelve games in five years, a 1-2 record, 58 hits in 39 innings. He was not a hurricane, not even a breeze.
James Paxton is a pitcher, but in four starts he is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA. In 24 innings he has struck out 21 and allowed only 15 hits and 7 walks, 2 intentionally. In his start against Kansas City Tuesday night, he struck out 10 in 7 innings without allowing a walk.
But consider his season in Tacoma. In 28 games, 26 starts, he was 8-11 with a 4.45 ERA and he gave up more hits than innings pitched. Thus the question, is he for real or is this a hurricane passing through Seattle devastating opposing hitters in his wake.
I heard one rumor that Kansas City was his last start, but with normal rest he could pitch the last game of the season, the 29th, against Oakland at Safeco. While I would like to see one more start, I like that 3-0 record. Perhaps the Mariners are pondering one more start. Oakland would be a good test, a good hitting team, the division winner, but they might be resting starters for the upcoming playoffs.
Paxton will be 25 in November, so like Bob Hazle, his best years are ahead of him. As it turned out Hazle’s best years were behind him, or should I say his best brief summer. For now it is fun to enjoy Paxton dominating hitters. But teams will make adjustments, laying off certain pitches, finding a plan of attack, then Paxton will have to adjust to their adjustments. Tune in next season to see if the hurricane is still in full force and if you are a Mariner fan, hope the storm does not peter out.
The Mariners are planning month long discounts for all fans coming to games. It is their way of saying thank you. Being the cynic I am, I see promotional activities to get more fans to Safeco where they will spend money. Which is okay. With the Seahawks and the NFL going strong in September the Mariners must compete for dollars.
The Mariners have always been kid oriented, so much in fact, kiddies appear to be the demographic the Mariners target. During Saturday and Sunday in September every kid 14 and younger will receive a voucher for a hot dog and soda. Truthfully it is a good deal. Not many kids 14 and under have an allowance large enough to buy food at Safeco. The parents will save though, and that is the idea.
Of course, as usual kids also get to run around the bases. College kids don’t during College Night. I doubt they want to anyway, they would rather mingle in the singles area, hoping to comingle after the game.
Nor do seniors get to go around the bases on Senior Day. It would be nice though if we could have wheel chair races around the bases.
Season ticket holders also get $10 credit for concessions or merchandise for each game they attend. But if you are not a kid, nor a season ticket holder, do not fret, there are still discounts at the team store for everybody. I am guessing it is on merchandise they are trying to get rid of, like Michael Morse jerseys, and other out of date items.
And there will be special experiences. You could win a chance to meet Edgar Martinez at his restaurant in left field, Edgars Cantina, or free wine tasting with chef Ethan Stowell. If you don’t win either of those, you can get seat upgrades.
The big night will be the 27th against Oakland. It is college night, team poster night, fireworks night, and a big give away. Some lucky fan, probably a kid, will win a Ford C-May Hybrid. I am sure, as in years past, there will be those winning autographed balls, jerseys, bats, rosin bags, anything, maybe a date with the Moose.
The downside to a fun month is that if you win nothing and the Mariners lose the game, you really come away empty handed. And that has been my experience. I win nothing, the Mariners lose, and I feel like the world is a tuxedo and I am a pair of brown shoes.
Sometimes fun is changing the channel. Go Hawks!
If I have the months right for the Sinatra song, it is “Riding high in April, shot down in May.”
The Mariners were not riding high in April, not with a 12-17 record, but they definitely could be “shot down in May,” as they spend most of the month on the road, with one stretch being particularly brutal.
The Mariners have five of May’s thirty-one days off. They spend 17 games on the road, with only 9 home games. Two thirds of the month they will be out of town, but since fewer and fewer baseball fans are going to Safeco, not many will know they are gone, nor miss them anyway. If they have a bad road month, June may have even more empty seats.
The Mariners must have ticked off someone in the MLB executive offices. Consider this: Friday the 3rd though Sunday they are in Toronto, they take Monday off, play in Pittsburgh two days, fly back to Seattle for three games with Oakland, then fly back to New York for three, before going to Cleveland for three, then Anaheim at Los Angeles in Disneyland-or whatever they call themselves-for two.
The second game in Pittsburgh is a day game on the 8th, Seattle will fly home, then five days later fly back to the East Coast. And this is in the middle of a stretch where they play 14 of 17 on the road with two trips east. That is brutal. My guess is that all the players will be getting a few days off here and there.
When they come back from that awful stretch, they have three home games with the Texas Rangers. Thanks Mr. Schedule maker.
Every team can make some complaint about their schedule, but Seattle, being close to the North Pole, just a few sled runs from Santa’s workshop, always end up flying more miles than ant team in baseball. But to make two east coast trips with in five days of each other is cruel. It is a schedule made by a bully, someone with a grudge against Seattle. And here I thought David Stern was the only one.
Build it and they will come. That line, now an iconic phrase, came from the classic “Field of Dreams.” Mariner fans had a dream and it revolved around a field. So the Mariners built Safeco Field, a ballpark built from the ashes of the Kingdome, which imploded following the magic run in 1995 that saw the M’s battle Cleveland for the American league title.
Of course, build it and they will come does not mean they will stay. In the Mariners case, ‘they’ stayed for a period of time, but one thing happened that saw the fans dwindle to meager numbers. After a 116 win season in 2001, Mariner fans filled Safeco in 2002 to the tune of 40,000 + per game. Ten years later attendance is down to 20,000+ per game. The Mariners have lost half their game attendance. Consider that if any business lost half their customers, the people in charge would be fired. Not so the Mariners; Chuck Armstrong and Harold Lincoln still run the show.
The one thing that happened was that the team on the field was bad, they lost, and then lost some more, and looked bad doing it. Fans love winners and will not pay money for mediocrity. It should be noted that ‘build it and they will come’ need not have anything to do with building a stadium, but building a winning team.
Does the Mariner brain trust care if fans fill the park or not? Consider the Mariners have a new television deal on the horizon where big bucks are looming. At least that is what is being reported. Teams today can not rely on people at the ballpark for money. Outside income keeps teams afloat. TV deals; apparel-all those jerseys and caps; trinkets and souvenirs; it is marketing and merchandising. It is selling the brand. But the brand must be good.
So the brain trust still want fans at the park. It looks good on TV and more importantly, a full stadium means much more money. And a stronger brand.
Are the fans who migrated away from the Mariners fair weather fans? Of course. But build a winning team and they will come. And Chuck and Howard can smile all the way to the bank. Mariner fans won’t mind those smiles because winning chases away nightmares, and dreams sweeten a day at the park. Then Mariner fans can be as happy as Seahawk fans. Now that is a brand.