Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From Arlington to Griffey 

It was a beautiful day for baseball - much cooler and more pleasant than usual Texas July. I had learned from past hellish experiences behind M's dugout and bought tickets just behind the Rangers dugout where you sit in the shade all day. These season tickets came with entry into the "Cuervo Club" where you can get a bottle of Sam Adams for $4.50 (as opposed to $6 for Miller Lite in the ballpark) and really mediocre food in air conditioned room behind home plate. For an extra $100 you can rent a leather recliner (with A/C coming out of the seat) for the night. On some days in Texas, that would be a bargain, but not on this beautiful evening.

So, after a 3+ hour drive from Austin, with my beautiful wife by my side, I was ready to watch the M's win two over the hapless Rangers. I was hoping to see a Beltre home run, and Ichiro stolen base, a Feierabend pickoff move, and two Putz saves.

Only the pickoff move happened, and I was in the restroom when it did. The Mariners went out and did absolutely nothing. No life. No energy. No smiles. They looked like the Mariners of 2005 out there, playing out the string. Not a team with playoff aspirations.

And the Rangers are so bad, that they still coulda pulled out one or both games without deserving either. Heck I almost laughed myself silly when a phantom foul-tip allowed Raul a second chance and he used it to give the M's a 2-run lead in the nightcap. But the M's immediately came out and stomped out the good times by walking the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning and giving the two gift runs right back.

The expletives I vented on the late night drive home are not fit for this blog. And now during the morning after, the anger with the M's performance has mostly faded and the embarassment of rooting for the M's has almost gone.

Y'all could turn off the TV. Heck, the blogosphere seems as numb about this sweep as the M's did. I had to sit in a stadium with 20,000 of the most ignorant fans in history, looking at the "storied" franchise that is the Texas Rangers. 3 AL West titles to show for 47 years of ineptitude. Johnny Oates is one of three retired Rangers numbers. Rusty Greer has a banner! Jim Sundberg is in Rangers Hall of Fame. My previous foray to Ameriquest Field Rangers Ballpark in Arlington next to Six Flags halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth on Tom Landry Drive was for the fabled Jim Sundberg bobblehead night. You don't know joy until you see the look in your kids eyes when you hand him a Jim Sundberg bobblehead.

This doubleheader should've been a gift two wins. Rheinacker and Loe? Thank you. We should have won by a combined 23-7. But when two first inning rallies led to a total of one unearned run, the team packed it up.

The baserunning blunders were symptomatic.

In game two, in the fifth inning we get runners on first and second with no one out. And Yuni gets picked off second by the catcher??!!?! Laying the blame on Yuni for the pickoff is not really fair. Willie Ballgame already failed to lay down a bunt on strike one and was up there bunting again. The pitcher throws one down the heart of the plate, so Yuni assumed it would be bunted. Willie B takes strike 2 and Yuni is left hanging out to dry.

You know the team is not trying its hardest when Willie Bloomquist starts both games in a double header. This left the team without the thing it needed most in game two. A decent pinch runner. The M's sent out Yuni, Ellison and Willie Bloomquist as the bottom of the lineup. They got three straight hits to lead off an inning from this trio and managed a single run thanks to a seemingly rejuvenated Jose Vidro.

Jason Ellison particularly bothered me in this game and the 9th inning debacle in game 2 was icing on the cake. After the Yuni pickoff, Ellison gets a single. Ichiro than comes through with a clutch strikeout. Two outs, tie game, 3-2 count and Ellison on first. Instead of running hard on the pitch, he barely jogs three steps watching the hitter all the way. An inning later, Michael Young in a similar situation is running full speed on a couple of consecutive 3-2 pitches, showing Ellison how baseball is supposed to be played.

At that point, Ellison became persona non-grata to me, and should be the man released when Adam Jones is called up (TODAY PLEASE?!??!). He is a lousy pinch-runner when we don't have Bloomquist as evidenced by the nightcap blunder. And if he can't at least hustle nonstop when given an opportunity, then I have no use for him.

Ichiro epitomized the M's flailings all night long. With several opportunities to be clutch - runners in scoring position and less than two outs, Ichiro whiffed. No putting the ball in play to score the run. No sacrifice fly. No suicide squeeze even. Just whiffed against the likes of John Rheinecker and Cameron Loe. Yuck.

So, just gut reactions to the game, but i do the following.

- Release Jason Ellison, call up Adam Jones and give him the right field job.
- Platoon Jose Guillen and Raul Ibanez in LF
- Platoon Jose Vidro and Ben Broussard at DH
- Quit worrying about Richie Sexson - he will be fine. Dude is stroking the ball. I might move him down to 6th/7th for awhile because the platoons above should be productive.
- Never start Willie B again so that he will always be around as a pinch runner. This is a job he excells at and his flexibility allows us to liberally PH whatever platoon mates are not in starting lineup.
- Find another middle infielder and alternate him with Lopez and Yuni in hopes of lighting some kind of fire under their buts.
- Waive Chris Reitsma to find said middle infielder. His existence is only confusing the coaching staff and making them think he should be used.
- Make Ryan Feirabend your LOOGY. He has the added bonus of being able to pick off any base runner.
- Stretch Brandon Morrow out further, and give him the #5 job, moving HoRam to long relief. Morrow pitched three strong innings after a shaky start, and looks like he could help us as a starter.

And most importantly, if at all possible, acquire Ken Griffey Jr. This team needs an energy infusion in the worst way, and he would do it. If it means no room left for Broussard and Ibanez, and that Guillen becomes DH, so be it. Ichiro is too low key, Beltre too spastic, and Richie slumping too hard to be the emotional leader on the field. We need a sparkplug in the lineup every day, and Ken Griffey would bring a constant energy and enthusiasm.

And just imagine the crowds at Safeco.

Okay, that cheered me up for now. But if not Griffey, than bring in something to stir this pot of talent. The team needs fire to cook up this collection of fine ingredients into something tasty.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lets Play Two! 

Yes the M's are slumping and have now lost three straight games, each of which threatens to be more disappointing to the last.

But the Angels are on the skids too, so we remain just two games back in the AL West.

And best of all, I've got tickets to see the M's play a real life genuine not day-night doubleheader! From the 3rd row behind the Rangers dugout no less!

So I'm leaving work early and road tripping to Arlington for the 4pm start time which I would never dream of doing in any other Texas July, but this year, the high should only be 92-94, instead of 107.

The Ballpark in Arlington, or whatever its called now, has a lot more character than the old Arlington Stadium, but its still unbearably hot in the summer. For that reason, kudos to the Rangers for not attempting to torture its fans with a 1pm start time and making this into a day-night affair. Instead of a day game with 10,000 fans, the Rangers may have their last chance of 2007 to sell out their stadium to a non-Yankees/Red Sox crowd by providing actual value.

And while you are sitting in the beautiful Seattle summer, think of us Mariner fans who will be sweating hard within Ranger Nation, cheering on your Mariners to a sweep!

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Nice Welcome Home 

I come home from a three-day weekend visiting Boston for the first time (but skipping the $250 scalped Fenway tickets unfortunately) and at 3 in the morning turn on my XM radio and hear the fantastic news.

The Mariners won their eighth straight AND Mike Hargrove has quit.

My wife can attest to the happy dance I did in the empty airport parking lot that woke her back up.

Mike Hargrove did a few good things, and I wish him well in retirement.

But I'm really looking forward to a Groverless future for the Mariners. I look for the team to continue its winning ways, and maybe we'll see a little more bench usage and an opening for Adam Jones and maybe Jose Vidro will find his way to the bench where he belongs.

Maybe not, but for today at least, there is fresh hope that the M's will be managed with less bunting more use of our depth and rest for our regulars. The M's have won eight straight and are playing fantastic baseball, and have room still to get even better. Baseball is fun to watch and follow. Any games the M's are close in you feel they can win.

Life is good. Enjoy!

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