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Remarkable Rainiers

Tacoma Rainiers
It feels good to write about a winning team. Last night, the Rainiers beat the Memphis Redbirds to earn the Pacific Coast League title. It is the team's first outright PCL championship since 1969, though they shared titles twice between now and then (1978 and 2001). Hands down, this is the most accomplished Tacoma team since it has been affiliated with the Mariners.

The way that Tacoma won this title makes it even more exciting. They faced significant adversity, especially late in the season. Darren Brown was their manager until Don Wakamatsu's firing, so they had to adjust to a leadership change in the middle of a pennant race. Then, thanks to Cheney Stadium renovations, they didn't have a home for the whole playoffs. First round home games were played in Safeco Field, which was probably cool for the players, but crowds were very sparse. Then, Tacoma literally hit the road for the championship series. They were the designated "home" team in Memphis for games one and two, as the PCL decided the entire series would be played in Memphis.

The players that Tacoma won with give hope for the future too. The rotation featured Blake Beavan and Mauricio Robles, both prospects quite young for AAA. The four-run rally in the 11th inning last night started with a Dustin Ackley walk, and culminated with a two-run single by Justin Smoak. Josh Lueke nailed down the championship in the bottom of the frame. Tacoma won the title with youngsters leading the charge.

I think the title Tacoma just won is significant for the development of the M's future. All of the young players mentioned in the above paragraph were promoted from AA into the thick of the AAA pennant chase. They adjusted to stiffer competition under urgency to win. What they lacked in experience they made up for with talent. The Major Leagues are a different animal, but the confidence that comes from transitioning to a tougher league in the middle of a championship run is meaningful. What Tacoma's young nucleus just accomplished speaks to a winning mentality, and more than that, good, old-fashioned talent.

Championships always feel great, but Tacoma's feels especially good. To date, it is the greatest accomplishment in the pro careers for most (if not all) the guys on the team. However, for the young core, I doubt it will stand as their greatest achievement.