Seattle Mariners postsMonday April 02, 2018
M's Game: Warming Up in the Hit It Here Cafe
Jeff and I were sitting in the Hit It Here Cafe in the 7th inning of yesterday's M's game when Dee Gordon launched a rocket right at us.
It was the M's third game of the season, the rubber match with Cleveland, and my first time in the Hit It Here Cafe. My normal seats are better (300 level behind homeplate) but it was 44 degrees at gametime, and while we were well-covered (four layers, stocking cap, gloves), it was still, you know, 44 fucking degrees at gametime. Why not warm up?
We didn't much, but the M's did. Down 2-0 when we arrived, the M's strung together three doubles in the 5th to tie it—the last, I suppose, less double than “double.” It was a grounder to first that ticked up and over Yonder Alonso's glove and into right field. Hardly an error but I would‘ve scored it one. The official scorekeeper decided no and that’s how Kyle Seager got his first hit of the season. He's now 1-10. There was also some oddity with Mitch Haniger and our third base coach. He was on first when Seager hit his double, and was halfway to home when he slammed on the brakes and retreated. Would he have been nailed at the plate? I don't know. But the revision looked more dangerous than the original plan. That third base coach, by the way, is the infamous Scott Brosius of the infamous ‘98-’00 Yanks. How did that happen? Why is he with us? Why wasn't I consulted?
Anyway, Haniger braked, and our sub-DH for Nellie Cruz, Daniel Vogelbach, who looks like the greatest softball player in the world but doubtful for the bigs, struck out (he went 0-4), and that's where we were when Dee led off the 7th with his rocket shot. I thought, “Wow, that‘s hit. That’s a homer. From Dee Gordon? Does he hit many?” He doesn‘t. Before that swing he had 11 in his career. There are TVs in the cafe, too, and when I watched the replay, I flashed on Ken Griffey Jr., particularly the bat drop after the swing. Apparently I wasn’t the only one:
🤔🤔🤔— Mariners (@Mariners) April 1, 2018
He *was* working out with Junior, we heard. pic.twitter.com/bORFmleZmx
So Dee has more homers than stolen bases for the season. Odds on that happening?
Cano then singled (he's hitting .600), and Haniger (hitting .625) added a homer to left, and suddenly we were up 5-2. Turns out we needed it. In the 8th, Edwin Encarnacion, who'd homered earlier, added a two-run no-doubter to make it 5-4. But our Edwin (Diaz) shut out the lights in the 9th with three swinging strikeouts on 17 pitches, and we took 2 of 3 from the defending AL Central champs. Not bad.
Some worries. Seager had an off year last year and he's starting out slow. Our new first baseman, Ryon Healy, is 0 for the season. Paxton had trouble keeping them in the park Saturday. But Felix looked good opening night, Mike Leake performed well yesterday, and Haniger looks like the real deal. I'm more optimistic than I was a week ago.
If There Were a Hall of Fame for Class...
Here's Edgar Martinez after he found out he received 70% of the Hall of Fame vote (22 votes, or 5%, shy) from the Baseball Writers Association of America today, in this, his ninth year on the ballot (it's 10 and done; then it goes to the Veterans committee):
An hour later:
Could it be otherwise? The man the Seattle Mariners kept in the minors two or three years too long; the man they thought would be a sub at best; the Mariner who was forever overlooked by the nationa media—of course he has to wait until the last year to (fingers crossed, fingers crossed) be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
That said, it's been a remarkable turnaround. In 2015 he was still at 27% of the vote. That's when inductee Randy Johnson said if he had a vote he'd vote for Edgar. Other pitchers piled on—the best pitchers of the era: Both Pedro (whom Edgar couldn't hit) and Mariano (whom he could: .579 career) called Edgar the toughest hitter they ever faced. And the following year, Edgar's numbers leapt to 43%; then, last year, 58%. Now this.
Next year, I'm guessing it'll be lined down the left field line for a base hit.
FURTHER READING: No One in the Wings: The Underappreciated Career of Edgar Martinez
'Mariano Rivera Could Not Get Him Out': #EdgarHOF
My man Joey Poz makes the case (for about the 20th time) for Edgar Martinez for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's fun. Read the whole thing. Some highlights:
Mariano Rivera could not get him out. I don't think an amazing career like Edgar Martinez's could be summed up by just seven words, but those seven words tell a pretty good story. ...
Martinez faced Rivera 14 times [from 1995 to 2001]. Yes, it's true that half of those plate appearances were in 1995, when Rivera was a struggling starter still trying to find himself. Still, Martinez faced the great Rivera 14 times over a six-year period — and he reached base 13 times, hitting .769.
After 2000, when Rivera was ascendant and Martinez began to decline, Rivera got Martinez out a few times, but he knew this was only because Martinez was no longer himself. Still, Rivera never forgot. In '04, when Martinez was 41 and at the end, Rivera faced him in a tied game with the winning run on second base. Rivera walked him without hesitation. “I still don't know how to get him out,” Rivera admitted.
The last time the two men faced each other, Martinez rapped a single.
Thing is, just about every pitcher Martinez faced in his prime will list him as their toughest out. Pedro Martinez said he was the toughest hitter he ever faced, and Pedro was one of the few pitchers who actually had success against him. Randy Johnson said Martinez was the best hitter he ever saw. David Cone, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, all of them say the same thing; it seems like every good pitcher of the 1990s put Martinez in a different class. Other hitters did, too. Alex Rodriguez called him the best hitter he ever played with. Jeter said he was the one guy he would watch in the cage.
That realization — that Martinez was in a different class — seems like it will push him over the top in Hall of Fame voting.
Ms Get 2B Dee Gordon for CF
2B or not 2B? Apparently not, as yesterday Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto acquired second baseman (and perennial NL stolen-base leader) Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins, with plans to move him to center field. Sure, why not? He'll cover ground anyway, and he's got a glove. What did we give up? I'll let ESPN's David Schoenfield talk:
Jerry Dipoto has said he wanted to acquire a center fielder for the Mariners ... so he acquired Dee Gordon from the Marlins. ... He's signed for three more seasons plus an option so he could be a long-term solution there. They did give up Nick Neidert, their top pitching prospect. He's not a flamethrower, but immediately becomes one of the Marlins' top prospects as well and Derek Jeter has dealt away his first major chunk of salary.
Man, I hate helping effin' Jeter.
Gordon will turn 30 in April, which generally isn't a good age for a speedster ... until we remember (because surely we remember) that Lou Brock set the single-season stolen base record in 1974 at age 34/35.
Gordon can also hit: He's got a .293 career average. What he doesn't do is walk (.329 career OBP) or hit for power (.367 career slugging). He's got 11 HRs in his career, 40 triples and only 90 doubles. That last is shocking. His best doubles season is 24: twice. I imagine we'll place him at the top of the lineup. But if he slumps at Safeco, as players have been known to do, we're in trouble.
That said, his WAR last season was 3.1, which is equal to Jean Segura's. And it'll be nice to have some speed on the basepaths. Here's a highlight reel from a few years ago:
M's Game: a Jammin' Anthem, an Inauspicious Win
Play of the game: Rookie sensation Ben Gamel hits a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer to put the M's on top.
Every March, a group of us get together to divvy up the season tickets for section 327, row 9, seats 13 and 14, to watch the Seattle Mariners play baseball at Safeco Field. That meeting, with jokes, cynicism, and baseball trivia flying, is often the best part of the season. The rest of it, after all, is the Mariners. Plus our section isn't exactly full of diehards. I don't think I've seen the same face more than twice. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the 327 seats have been scooped up by the secondary market, StubHub or something, because too often we wind up sitting next to fans of the opposing team. Last night included.
From the start, it didn't look auspicious. For one, I hadn't really sought out anyone to go with. The only one I asked specifically was my friend Jeff, last minute, but he was a “Nah,” so instead I posted the following on my Facebook page:
Anyone interested in going to the Ms game with me tonight? 7 PM start. Forecast calls for high 60s, overcast, and with potential smoke from central Washington wildfires. The team has lost three in a row and is mostly out of the wildcard race, so we're fairly sure to extend our postseasonless streak to 16 years—best in the Majors. We're rooting just for pride now. On the plus side, you'll be w/me and my sunny personality. IM if interested. EOE.
Oh, and we're two games under .500.
Starting pitcher will be longtime fan favorite Mike Leake, whom we acquired eight days ago from St. Louis.
A career in sales doesn't await. No takers. Until Patricia was talking to Jeff's wife, Sullivan, and she said she'd go. Why not? So off we went, past the construction sites and homeless, through the wafts of ocassional marijuana smoke and the more pervasive wildfire variety, and down to Safeco. Sullivan turned out to be a great baseball game companion. I never had to worry about a lull in the conversation and I got to feel smart explaining how a slugging percentage is calculated.
Outside the park, I bought a Grand Salami with Ben Gamel on the cover. My friend Tim is production designer/art director for the magazine, and earlier he and me and some friends had wondered over cover lines. “Gamel's Got Game”? “Gamel's a Gamer”? “Hey Yankees: Thanks for Ben Gamel”? The publisher wound up going with the simpler “Ben Gamel: Rookie Sensation,” although, to be frank, Gamel hadn't been of late. Before the midseason All-Star break, he hit .323 with an .828 OPS; post break, it was .214 with a .586 OPS.
The game began inauspiciously: Single, double, single. We're down 2-0, nobody out, Justin Upton on first and Albert Pujols at the plate. “This guy,” I told Sullivan, “used to be the best hitter in baseball, and now he's one of the worst.” “Why is he still playing?” Sullivan wondered. As I was about to explain his rep, and his long-term deal, and the fact that even last year he was good, and there was hope he would still be, you know, Albert Pujols, he hit a grounder to third. Over to second and back to first for an easy double play. Albert was chugging barely halfway up the first-base line by the time it was complete.
“He also has the all-time record for grounding into double plays,” I added. “Set it this year. Broke Cal Ripken's mark.”
That DP turned out to be huge. In the top of the 5th, with two outs, the Angels' first baseman C.J. Cron hit a single, and I noticed it was only their fourth hit of the night. Meaning it was their first hit since the first three guys. After his initial yips, as Sullivan called them, Leake had settled down considerably.
By this point we were also ahead, 4-2, on a two-out, three-run homer by Ben Gamel, our cover guy, in the 2nd; and a two-out, bases-loaded single by Mitch Haniger in the 3rd. That proved to be enough. Angels added a run in the 6th when Pujols hit a two-out single (a deep single) to plate Justin Upton. Pujols again started the 9th with a deep single to left. All of his deep singles looked like doubles to me, but then you'd see him chugging along the basepaths and knew he couldn't make it to second. (How he has 14 doubles on the season, I don't know.) In the 9th, he was replaced, of course, for a pinch runner, who stole second, but Edwin Diaz closed it out for us. A sudden win for my last scheduled game of the season.
These are the M's pitchers I've seen start for us this year:
- Ariel Miranda (2)
- Yovani Gallardo (2)
- Andrew Moore (2)
- Dillon Overton
- Sam Gaviglio
- Marco Gonzales
- Mike Leake
It's amazing they went 6-4 when I was there.
A highlight of the night for me was the National Anthem, performed by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam in rockin' Jimi Hendrix/electric guitar fashion, which apparently he does semi-regularly. Seattle may not have any pennants above the right-field bleachers but we got that.