Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In Larry Stone's Sunday tribute to King Felix he dropped this little fact, "Only former teammate Aaron Harang among active pitchers, with 337, has made more career starts than Hernandez’s 288 without appearing in the postseason" This fact struck me for a couple of reasons. First, it confirms what many Mariners fans have been whining about for years. The Mariners ineptitude has been wasting the greatness that is Felix Hernandez. More surprisingly though was that Aaron Harang has managed to miss the playoffs all 14 years of this career.

Harang isn't a bad player. In fact he has been a good player during most of his career. During his eight year run with the Reds he routinely posted strikeout numbers that grouped him with the league leaders. He kept his ERA respectably middling, at 4.24 for his career. These aren't Felix Hernandez stats, but they are solid. Additionally, Harang has played for the A's, Padres, Mets, Dodgers, and Mariners in his career. With that many teams you would think somebody would sneak in. Yet some how he has managed to miss the playoffs every year.

I wonder if Reds' fans mope about wasting the prime of his career. Do they wish they could have made the playoffs at least once for him? Do they even remember he was on their team? Probably not. He did stick around for a long time, but his stats weren't good enough to develop a following in most cities. Also most Cincinnati fans probably didn't even know he had such a record. Cincinnati is a town with a strong baseball tradition, but that doesn't mean they know minutia like this.

If Reds' fans don't bemoan the injustice of Harang's playoff drought, probably only his mom does. Up until now at least. Going forward, I hope that Aaron Harang makes the post season with the Braves this year. He has a good chance. The Braves are a good team and sitting in second place in the NL East. Plus if he breaks the curse that means there is hope for Felix.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The US Men's National Teams 2014 World Cup Performance

Team USA had a fun, but disappointing run at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Some people are casting the tournament as a success because the Men's team made it out of the group of death (Germany, Portugal, and Ghana). The argument is that the USA went up against some of the big boys of the soccer world and lived to tell about it. I don’t view it this way.

The team showed stout defense and a never say die attitude against some of the toughest opponents in the world. The played exciting matches and got US fans hearts pumping. They definitely raised the country's collective soccer passion a few notches. The Portugal game alone probably caused enough American hairs to be pulled out to keep Bosely Hair Transplant in business for another 50 years. However, the excitement level caused by a single game or tournament is not what Americans should be judging  soccer success on.  We have grown past that. We should be competing for championships, not settling for the participation trophy.  Tying for ninth (if you don’t consider Goals For and Goals Against) isn't good enough for a rich and sports crazy country with 316 million people. Tying for ninth is a disappointment.

Our team should have performed better at the World Cup. Against Ghana we were sloppy and beaten in every aspect of the game but the scoreboard (I know, the only one that really counts). Against Portugal we played at a world class level only to make too many stupid amateur mistakes at the very end of the game and finish with a draw. Against Belgium we failed to put together any semblance of an offensive attacked and if not for Tim Howard's other worldly performance in goal would have gotten massacred. Our team needs to be better.

I know others are claiming the strikers were the biggest problems, but I think the biggest area for improvement is the offensive midfield. Before the tournament began, Michael Bradley was argued to be the best player on the men's squad by several soccer minds. During the tournament he struggled to control the ball, he struggled to distribute to the right man at the right time, and he played like crap. Bradley may be the excellent world class player the sport's experts claimed, but he certainly didn't look it during the tournament. I don't want to pile on anyone players to much, especially in a sport that is as much of a team game as soccer, but Bradley's lack of success was the biggest reason for our team's struggles and eventual ousting.

Despite the failure in 2014, there is obvious reason to be optimistic for the USA's future (and this is why so many people see Brazil as a success). Although this lack of individual success during the 2014 World Cup was bad, Bradley is only 26. He should have at least one more World Cup in him. A player of his purported greatness shouldn't fail twice. Additionally, the USMNT has  several very young and very good players, such as Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin, that we got to see just glimpses of during this tournament. Both should be even better in 2018. Finally, the popularity of soccer in this country is continuing to grow. The MLS is finding success at attracting and importantly developing better and better players. So, despite the disappointment of 2014, don't give up on the USMNT, just get ready for the next run, which looks to be even better.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cole Gillespie: Don't Get Excited



If you are anything like me you tuned out on the Mariners for most of April and the beginning of May. The eight game losing streak looked too much like seasons past and it just wasn't worth watching. It wasn’t until that streak ended and the M’s started winning again that you jumped back on the wagon. So, you probably missed when the M’s added Cole Gillespie to their roster in an attempt to help their moribund offense.

Additionally, you probably didn’t pay much attention to 2010 and 2011 Diamondback teams. They were a bad National League West team, without many marquee players. We already had our own bad American League West team, without many marquee players, so why would you watch the D-backs? You probably wouldn't. However, much to my disappointment, it turns out that Cole Gillespie played briefly for those Diamondback teams.  

Unlike, James Jones and others, Gillespie is not a young player from the Mariners with a potentially bright and promising future. Instead he is a 30 year journeyman minor leaguer who is probably not going to get much better than what he is today. Most guys are done developing at that point in their career. Basically Gillespie is exactly what we are seeing. How deflating to learn that this guy is basically a fifth outfielder at best.

All of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t root for Gillespie or enjoy his successes. It just means don’t get big expectations or grow too attached to him. He probably isn’t going to turn into a perennial All-star. In fact he probably won’t even be on the team come 2015. Anything he adds to the 2014 version of the team is great. If he helps us win a few games, with his ability to be a baseball players, I will consider it a success. I just don't expect anything

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Derek Jeter Never Played for the Mariners

This may come as a surprise to some people, but shortstop Derek Jeter never played a single inning of his career for the Seattle Mariners. In fact he has only ever played for one team in his career, The New York Yankees. Despite this simple statistic, the Seattle Mariners (along with most of the rest of Major League Baseball) have decided they should spend time and money honoring this man's illustrious playing career. They went so far as to give him a seat from the Kingdome because he played his first major league game there. They have also decided to give him the second base used during this weeks Mariners vs Yankees series. All of this begs the question, why?

Why are the Seattle Mariners, a team that Jeter never once suited up for, going so far to honor this man? The Mariners don't have much to thank Jeter for. They don't owe him anything for all their success because they haven't really had any during Jeter's career (1554-1570 for a .497 win %). During his career Jeter batted .283/.345/.417 against the M's. That is not great, but it is not bad either and definitely not bad enough to have significantly helped the M's win. What it boils down to, like most things in professional sports, is cash.

Derek Jeter is a big name and he plays for one of the most beloved and loathed teams in the world. In fact he has basically been synonymous with the Yankees for the last 15 years. People love to watch Jeter and his Yankees. Attendance at Safeco field spikes when the Bronx Bombers are in town. When attendance spikes, ticket sales spike, and with them profits. People want to see the legends. On top of that, most of these people, much to the chagrin of this hometown fan, are Yankees fans, paying to see their team in person. These fans buy hats and jerseys, which makes the Mariners yet more money.

I supposed I should be glad about all this because anecdotally, if the Mariners make money they are more likely to spend more on good players (hopefully good players, but this post isn't about the talent evaluation skills of the M's so let's leave it at that) which will help my team win. And I would rather have the team spending money on good players then not spending money on good players.  However, I don't feel happy about it. Instead, I feel a sort of weird awkwardness combined with jealousy. 

There is just something not right about seeing another team's great honored so emphatically. Like mentioned before, the Mariners didn't mess around. They made it known that the Yankees shortstop was great and should be honored. They pulled out all the stops. The only thing missing was Ken Griffey Jr parachuting out of a 777, painted in Yankees livery with a big old #2 on it, and personally delivering the keys to Safeco Field to the shortstop. It feels like your parents throwing a party to celebrate your neighbors excellent report card because yours was full of D's. Why do we have to make such a big deal about it? People are going to play to see the Yankees play in Seattle even if every Mariners great doesn't show up to high five the Yankee captain. I wish we could just say good job on the jumbo-tron, give him a round of applause, and move on.



References: Baseball-Reference.com

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

All is Right with the World

Puget Sound are NBA fans, I have great news. We are safe again, for at least one more year. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from contention for an NBA title. This year the heroes are The San Antonio Spurs, who finished off the ne'er-do-well Thunder 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals. Tim Duncan proved once again that he is truly a defender of righteousness. Alongside him Boris Diaw proved that he still plays in the NBA. The Spurs have brought balance to the force and prevented the unspeakable from happening. Let us all raise a glass to the Spurs and celebrate their noble effort.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why James Jones Matters

If you are a Mariners fan, anything like me, you probably lost confidence in the word prospect. After seeing countless Mariners minor leaguers hailed as the next big thing, only to fail in the majors, you've given up hope. You probably roll your eyes and make some sarcastic comment about how they will just fail anyways. Prospect are something for those other clubs, like the ones in Tampa or Oakland. Here in Seattle we rely on mediocre veteran role players for our 70 wins a year.

Well if you are like me, you need to open your eyes to Mariners rookie outfielder James Jones. He is currently batting .286/.351/.400. He came out of the gate like a bat outta hell and he has slowed down since then. Even so he has provided something we haven't seen in Seattle in a while. A confident, fun to watch rookie who is actually having success. Instead of looking scared or over-matched at the plate or in the field, Jones looks like he belongs. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but if Jones can keep it up even a little (say .275/.330/.400) he might be able to restore at least some of my faith in prospects.

So, let's not judge him early or look for weakness. Let's just settle in and enjoy the ride. Be thankful that the baseball gods are giving us at least a few months to watch a young player succeed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oops

Well shit, that went poorly. In soccer, it can't get much more embarrassing than a 0-5 ass whooping. The Sounders just got plain demolished. I guess I couldn't have picked a more inopportune time to write a blog post about the Sounders resilience and never say die attitude. They sure made me look silly.