Fixing Figgins

Chone Figgins
As I sat down to write this post, my mind was made up. It was time to finally write a post about why Chone Figgins needs to go away. He looks terrible at the plate. His offensive numbers are anemic. It already feels like there isn't a good spot for him in the batting order, and there really won't be a good place once Dustin Ackley is called up and establishes himself.

Quick aside: Ackley is struggling a bit in AAA right now, so he might be a bit farther off than I especially am willing to admit. Perhaps Ackley is a non-factor when it comes to Figgins this year.

Regardless of Dustin, it's painful to watch Chone. As a fan, watching him the past year and a month, I have the sense that this simply isn't working.

Maybe Figgins needs a change of scenery to be good again. The Mariners could hand over the hot corner to Matt Mangini or Matt Tuiasosopo and see what happens. This is a season about developing in-house talent anyway. Finding a trade partner might be difficult, but I still think someone would take a chance on Chone for a bargain bin price.

I thought the numbers would back up my view. After looking them up, I don't know what to think.

Playoff Expansion

It's been a busy week in the commissioner's office. One day, Selig is commandeering control of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The next, he lets us all know that the MLB playoffs will probably expand next year.

I wanted to write a full post just about the Dodgers, but this week at work was too long. I've wanted to dig into their ownership disaster for a while, and I still might. For now, I'll just say that it is stunning to take a step back and think about. The Dodgers, a name brand in the Los Angeles market, are struggling to make ends meet. Why? Because their owners are that greedy, and that interested in screwing the other over in their ugly divorce hearings.

Part of me wonders how MLB owners did not notice what the McCourts were like when the sale was approved in the first place, but ultimately I don't blame the other owners. It is hard to imagine anyone being as self-absorbed and classless as the McCourts have got while an entire franchise and fanbase suffers. There is a certain amount of good faith that any deal, relationship, or partnership needs to run on, and the McCourts abused every ounce of it.

For now, on to rosier business. Let's talk about playoffs (<- check that link for a classic chuckle). It looks like baseball will add two more wild card berths next year, bringing the total number of playoff participants up to 10 in a 30-team league. It compares favorably with the NFL, where 12 of 32 teams make the post-season.

Cheney Stadium Grand Reopening

I was at the Rainiers home opener tonight, and had a darn good time. Tacoma lost 6-5, but it was a good game, and in many ways a proper way to kick things off in the renovated Cheney. I will be attending may Rainiers games this year, so Rainier recaps might be a bit of a running theme for 2011. If you'd like more Rainiers coverage, let me know after reading this entry with a comment at the end. Here we go:

Punches In The Face

Ichiro
After a pretty ugly sweep at the hands of the Indians, it seemed appropriate to reference one of the best quotes Ichiro has graced us with.

It was a rough weekend, no doubt about it. The series was great until the first pitch was thrown, very literally. The pre-game festivities for the home opener were fantastic. I was lucky enough to be there, and the Niehaus memorial/celebration met the high standards that the Mariners have set for themselves. Marilyn Niehaus was the perfect choice to throw the first pitch, and it was an excellent touch to bring the whole family on the field. Renaming a block on first avenue "Dave Niehaus Way" is amazing, and I try not to use that word lightly. Safeco Field's home plate entrance now sits at the intersection of Edgar Martinez Drive and Dave Niehaus Way. That is so unbelievably cool.

The short awards ceremony to hand out the hardware from last year was sensational too. The team deftly kept Ichiro out on the field after he got his Gold Glove to recognize him with something for becoming the franchise's all-time hits leader. The organization got him a nicely framed photo, but it was all about who delivered it - Edgar Martinez, the man he passed. Edgar is my favorite Mariner of all time, so of course I was excited to see him unexpectedly come out of the dugout. However, the best part was seeing Ichiro and 'Gar shake hands, pose for some pictures, and in general symbolize the best the M's have had to offer for the past 20 seasons. That alone was worth the price of admission...

...which is good, because the Mariners didn't do much after the games started to warrant a portion of a paycheck. Here are some fun numbers from the series:

MLB Influence Rankings

Sometimes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. I hope the one below is as well. Click here for a full explanation of this infographic. Click "continue reading" for some things I found interesting in the picture. Click the picture to open it in a separate window:

2011 Jackson Generals

The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx are no longer. The M's haven't switched AA franchises, but the D-Jaxx are now the Generals. As much as I loved the double-x, there is something about the new name that I really like. It feels traditional and baseball-ey, doesn't it? To me it does, at least.

I will be checking on the Generals often, because the roster is loaded with prospects that interest me. Here we go:

2011 High Desert Mavericks

All the minor league rosters have been out for a day, but I decided a Costco run was more important than digging into the High Desert Mavs yesterday. Sorry if you disagree. But, as a bonus, you now have TWO whole blog posts to entertain you on the first M's off day of the season. Well, you'll have two once the AA Jackson post is up after this one.

The enter High Desert roster can be found here. Below are some players of particular interest to me:

2011 Tacoma Rainiers

The opening day roster for the Tacoma Rainiers has been released, so they are up next in my minor league affiliate previews. As the AAA affiliate, they get some coverage from others. So, before providing my own spin, here is what Rainiers announcer Mike Curto had to say about the roster, and here's what Larry Stone had to say (along with Cheney pics).

Without further ado, my two cents:

2011 Clinton Lumberkings

Minor league rosters should be coming out over the next few days, and my hope is to preview each M's affiliate by the end of the week. Announced today was the lowest of the full-season teams, the Clinton Lumberkings. Their full roster can be found here, but I've picked out players that particularly interest me:

Ichiro Gets His Hits

Ichiro
I haven't written enough on this blog about Ichiro. I think that says more about me than him. I'm not trying to be a counter-cultural blog here, but I am trying to give fresh thoughts and perspectives. Ichiro is rather robustly covered, and so he doesn't cross my mind very often as a writing topic.

Ichiro just knocked off my favorite player ever, Edgar Martinez, from the top of the M's career hit list. Even as a die-hard Edgar fan, I'm anything but bitter. Ichiro is known for his hit totals much, much more than Edgar ever was. There is no doubt that Ichiro deserves the honor he reached tonight, and I hope nobody catches him anytime soon.

Well, nobody with the exception of Dustin Ackley. It's okay with me if he gets 3,000 career hits.

Back to Ichiro though. Another reason I don't write much about him is because I don't know what to say. He is magnificent, but it is hard to describe exactly what makes him him.

Opening Day 2011

Don't expect recaps of every game on this blog, or many games at all for that matter. I recommend recaps on Lookout Landing if you want that sort of coverage.

This is opening day though, and what a delightful opener it was. It deserves a few thoughts:

  • Something feels very "2011 Mariners" about having the first run of the season scored on a bases loaded walk. I can't explain why it felt that way, but it did. Anyone else get that same feeling? I think it helped that Jack Cust seemed genuinely pumped up about drawing the walk, with his little bat flip and fist pump. Really, after last season, I am okay with this team celebrating every run it scores.
  • King Felix didn't dominate, but I would argue that we saw as complete of a performance as we will ever see out of him. I know I sound like some announcer desperately trying to be profound, but stick with me. When Felix dominates, he is untouchable. However, tonight we saw him have a rough first inning, then rebound, then battle, then seem to conserve pitches by inducing weak contact, and then blow away the A's with his nasty stuff in the ninth inning. I do not think it is a coincidence that two of his five strikeouts were the final two hitters he faced. Felix showed perseverance, craftiness, and then his pure talent. Frankly, he doesn't need all that when he's at his best. That's why I'd argue this is as complete of a look at Felix as we'll get.
  • Honestly, I thought Trevor Cahill had better stuff than Felix tonight. Cahill's two-seemer was unreal. Its lateral movement had the Mariners frozen all night. However, it was a double-edged sword. While it allowed Cahill to rack up strikeouts, it also moved out of the strike zone a bunch. Both the walks and Ks upped his pitch count in a hurry. To the M's credit (I guess), they were content to sit around and watch a ton of Cahill's pitches.
  • Between Cahill and the A's defense, I didn't see anything out of the M's offense tonight that gives me hope or despair. They sat around and watched Cahill for most of the first half of the game, and then allowed the A's to juggle the baseball around the diamond in the latter half. But hey, runs are runs, and every single one of them should be celebrated like a newborn child after what we saw last year.
  • Michael Pineda got a fair amount of face time in the broadcast, because he seemed to be seated next to Felix much of the game. I'm not sure how much I believe in development through osmosis, but I know I want Pineda sitting next to Felix. I hope he thinks the only way he gets to stick in the majors is if he pitches just like Felix.
  • By all accounts, Eric Wedge is the most intense manager the M's have had since Lou Piniella. It seemed like the Mariners were a little more animated than I was used to. This could be because it was opening day, it could simply be a fluke, or it could be something bigger. It is something to watch. Intensity isn't exactly a quantifiable thing, but if Wedge brings it, I think we can expect few errors, clean baserunning, longer at-bats, and a little bit of passion. At least tonight, I saw all of that.
  • I have conflicting feelings about hit-and-runs. As a strategy, I hate it. I pretty much hate anything that takes pitch selection away from a hitter, especially since hitting and running also demands such a precise type of hit. However, the fan in me loves it when a hit-and-run is successful. It is poetry on grass. There is something so elegantly conniving about it. Aside from Felix's ninth inning, the highlight of the game for me was the successful hit and run executed by Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan.
Really, almost everything looks beautiful to me on opening day. It is always a great day, especially when the Mariners win. As naive as it is of me, I always find myself believing that every team starts out with the same chance to do something special when they all line up 0-0 on the season.