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But Seriously Folks: The All-Star Game Friday, July 1, 2011

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140 characters simply isn’t enough to contain my animosity for the All-Star game selection, which begins in earnest on Sunday.  Our votes have been cast, and the starting lineup will be announced then.  But at what cost?

Please note that if the All-Star game was truly the popularity contest it once was, I wouldn’t be complaining about any of this.  But in the words of Bud Selig himself, “it matters” now.  And home team advantage in the World Series is nothing to sneeze at.  In the 8 years since it’s “mattered,” the home team (5 of 8 times) has come out on top.

Where’s my beef? It has to do with modern stuffing of the ballot boxes.  This happens to a small degree in the National League, but the clear offenders have to be the persistent Yankees and Red Sox at the top of the ballot every year in the AL.  The winners have yet to be announced of course, but at last count, 7 of 9 starting positions for the American League were Red Sox or Yankees, with a potential of 8 of 9 a clear possiblity thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury knocking on the door for the final outfielder position.

The only non-YankSox player that clearly has a shot is the phenomenal Jose Bautista, but one has to wonder whether a sweep would be possible had he not found a recent penchant for the long ball and Carl Crawford’s supporters had pushed him higher in the voting.

In 1957, The Reds stuffed the ballot box and Commissioner Ford Frick had to step in and name a couple other players so they wouldn’t take over the AL roster.  Nobody big… just Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. And remember that this was back before the All-Star game “mattered.”

The way things have lined up recently, it’s time for Selig to get off his ass and take a stand. Clearly, this is nothing but a popularity contest, but there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s just an exhibition game.  Why we all have to deal with this nonsense because of Selig’s gaffe in 2002 is beyond me.  You want to continue this tradition?  Kill the home field advantage.  Lean on the amazingly popular home run derby, and let it be a straight out popularity contest.  Elect as many Yankees and Red Sox as you want, but don’t pretend that this game “matters.”

The Griffey Thing Friday, November 20, 2009

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Photo courtesy of AP/Lenny Ignelzi

I’m a Griffey fan.  I’ll admit that.  So feel free to take bias against this post on that point.  But I’m not an idiot.  I get what folks are saying about re-signing him in 2010.  And while I won’t deny that those comments have merit, I do have to defend the decision for a few different reasons.

The $$$ Factor:

Griffey’s 2010 contract may not have the same attendance-laden incentives of last year’s, but you can’t deny it’s a factor.  For the same reason our team will never let Ichiro go, we’ve re-signed Griffey.  He puts butts in the seats, so to speak.  He gets people talking about Seattle.  As much as I used to convince myself that Seattle had a real sports scene when compared to the rest of the country, my adolescence is now at an end.  The NBA abandoned us for just that reason.  We’re not LA.  We’re not NY.  We’re not anywhere in between.  So any story that keeps us on the front page of ESPN.com is a good story.  Controversy keeps us alive.  A couple stars on a team of AAA-level offensive statistics managed to keep us afloat.

So for those of you who deny that money was a factor here, you’re either wrong or naive.  I’m certain that Ichiro’s Japanese concern nets Nintendo his 18 million annually, and I’m even more certain that a first-round hall of fame player in Griffey can net a measly 3 here in the states.  Money talks.

The “Clubhouse” Factor:

This is the argument you’re hearing from all the local rags.  This is the argument you’re hearing from our coach and our GM.  This is the “you can’t measure everything in baseball with box scores” piece that really ticks off all the national writers.  Does it have merit?  Maybe.

Let’s face it.  We don’t know all that Griffey did last year.  Certainly we can take a look at statistics.  And those should account for a good majority of what matters in baseball.  Stats count.  But that doesn’t mean that nothing else does.  I’m not buying into this argument completely, because most of those writers are right.  It’s a stupid point.  But to dismiss it entirely is just as stupid.  If you don’t think that certain clubs do research beyond statistics, you aren’t paying attention.

Granted, paying 3 million dollars to a player who is literally a designated tickler is a bit much.  But there is no doubt in my mind that he played a big part in bringing and keeping this squad together all season long.  Wakamatsu’s success is because Griffey and Sweeney bought into what he was doing from the beginning.  And leadership by example wasn’t enough.  Ibanez and Ichiro led by example in 2008, and what good did that do us?  Griffey took the clubhouse by storm.  But is even that enough of a reason to keep him around?  Probably not.  Is that enough of a reason to fill a roster spot where a young player could be learning the game from the bench?  Probably not.  But there was an even better reason to keep Griffey than just to see Ichiro smile more…

The “Thrill of the Grass” Factor:

The Yankees recently won the World Series.  It was a fantastic run.  They were a dominant team that made very few mistakes and capitalized on almost all of their opponents’.  I am not even remotely a Yankees fan, but I have to respect how disciplined they were in the playoffs.  They were one of the most professional squads in baseball history.

But, in my opinion, they weren’t a lot of fun.  I have to admit that I saw A-Rod smiling more this season (and especially this post-season), and there was definitely some team chemistry that hasn’t existed on the island in at least a decade.  In fact, this was probably the most happy-go-lucky Yankees club I’ve ever seen.  But they were so dominant all season long, that I missed some of that underdog excitement that I enjoy when watching a baseball team.  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I understand how vastly different it is to root for a team like the Yankees.  They are held to a higher standard than most sports teams on this entire planet, and their tradition of winning spurs expectations that we in Seattle have never had to deal with.

But I’ll tell you something: I didn’t see anyone get tickled till they almost peed their pants.  I didn’t see walk-off celebrations that had players chasing eachother through the outfield.  I didn’t see any players drenched in ice cream as they gave a post-game interview.  I didn’t see the most reserved athlete in the sport raise his hands in exuberance after a minor victory during a playoff run that was mathematically out of reach.  I didn’t see a future hall-of-famer lifted on to other players’ shoulders and paraded triumphantly around a field after a third place finish in what many feel is a washed up division.  I didn’t see a team that enjoyed every chance just to be out on the field together as a team.  I didn’t see the dugout rails lined up with players when a loss was assured, just to root on a younger player in a meaningless at bat.  I didn’t see passion and frustration by an ace for every pitch that wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t see a nobody win a ballgame with a homerun in the bottom of the last inning.  I didn’t see a team where every rookie was as important as every veteran.  And I didn’t see a team that was so grateful just to be on the field that they enjoyed every single moment the thrill of that grass gave them.

I’ll tell you one other thing, too.  2009 was a team effort every second.  Griffey didn’t do it on his own.  But re-signing him in 2010 is a commitment to something bigger than statistics and wins.  It’s a commitment to the game the way it was meant to be played.  And anyone who says that Griffey doesn’t make the grass greener at Safeco is full of it.

Stottlemyre Gets the Boot Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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Well, it’s semi-official.  It hasn’t actually been announced by Zduriencik yet, but it’s moved beyond blog rumors to ESPN.com and the official MLB web site: Stottlemyre’s out.

That’s right.  Despite the Mariners’ impressive performance last year, the “legend” has been cut loose.  Maybe all that talk years ago that Mel had inherited some of the best players in baseball and that was the reason for his impressive 10 years with the Yankees is true after all.  I don’t know about other Mariner fans, but I’m certainly sad to see him go.  Let’s take a look at how our pitching fared under his tenure.

Just to focus on the major statistics, we finished 25th in ERA (4.73), an amazing 28th in Shutouts (4), 5th in hits (1544), 7th in runs (811), 5th in walks (626), 23rd in k’s (1016) and 27th in WHIP (1.51).  And I won’t even bring up the fact that not a single one of our starters won 10 games, because that’s as much a factor of our lousy hitting as it is our pitching.

What really bugged me this year was the fact that all spring Stottlemyre preached aggressive pitching and it never came to fruit.  For all you who sat and watched a few games this year, did you ever see a trouble situation that didn’t come as a direct result of pitching around a good hitter?  Did you see our pitchers go inside more often than they normally do?  Did they keep the ball down to take advantage of what is a pretty good infield defensively?  Yeah, not even Silva, the so-called groundball specialist, managed to do that under Mel’s tutelage.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love the local love story.  A guy from Sammamish, a lake that one of my best friends lives on, coming home to the team that started his coaching career is a beautiful picture.  And maybe with another year under his belt, he could have turned things around.  Let’s hope he can return to his roving instructor roots, because I think we can all agree that the pitchers with the most success were the new ones, yes?  Much of the hope for next season is on the backs of names like Morrow, Rowland-Smith, Dickey and the like.  And we have Mel to thank for that.

Ticket Prices Compared!! Sunday, August 17, 2008

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I’ve been thinking a lot about ticket prices with the M’s packing it in this year (worst season attendance in Safeco history so far) and I wonder just how much of that is due to the exorbitant ticket prices as opposed to the lousy performance…

So, to tally things out, let’s compare our prices for say… my favorite spot a few rows behind (not too close)the dugout on the third base side to the rest of the MLB and see how things square up. Now, to narrow this down, especially with price differentials for certain games and days of the week, I’m not including so-called “premium-priced” games (which were almost always Red Sox or Yankees) and I usually catch a game on a Sunday, so I’m only taking that day’s ticket prices here. Also, these will be “day of game” prices, not season ticket or pre-purchased tickets. Imagine that I arrive, find an available seat and buy it at the gate for whatever each team charges. Here goes, from highest to lowest:

New York Yankees – $380

Los Angeles Dodgers – $130

Boston Red Sox – $90

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – $85

San Francisco Giants – $85

Chicago Cubs – $80

Washington Nationals – $75

Seattle Mariners – $65

Toronto Blue Jays – $65

Atlanta Braves – $60

Arizona Diamondbacks – $60

Texas Rangers – $60

Cleveland Indians – $55

Baltimore Orioles – $55

San Diego Padres – $55

Chicago White Sox – $55

Houston Astros – $50

Oakland Athletics – $50

Philadelphia Phillies – $50

Minnesota Twins – $50

Milwaukee Brewers – $45

Florida Marlins – $43

Tampa Bay Rays – $42

Cincinnatti Reds – $42

Detroit Tigers – $42 (And kudos to the Tigers for the simplest ticket prices)

Kansas City Royals – $37

Pittsburgh Pirates – $27

St. Louis Cardinals – Seats Not Available For Single Game Purchase

New York Mets – Seats Not Available For Single Game Purchase

Colorado Rockies – (Too lazy to figure it out… The site lists $47-$100 without laying out the differences)

Interesting, no?

And now, to get a vague (and I mean VAGUE) idea of which place has the best deal, let’s arrange the teams by last season’s win record!

Boston Red Sox – $90 (96-66), Won Division, Won ALCS, Won Championship

Cleveland Indians – $55 (96-66) Won Division

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – $85 (94-68), Won Division

New York Yankees – $380 (94-68), Won Wild Card

Arizona Diamondbacks – $60 (90-72) Won Division

Colorado Rockies – (Too lazy to figure it out… The site lists $47-$100 without laying out the differences) (90-73), Won Wild Card, Won NLCS

San Diego Padres – $55 (89-74)

Philadelphia Phillies – $50 (89-73) Won Division

Seattle Mariners – $65 (88-74)

Detroit Tigers – $42 (And kudos to the Tigers for the simplest ticket prices) (88-74)

New York Mets – Seats Not Available For Single Game Purchase (88-74)

Chicago Cubs – $80 (85-77), Won Division

Atlanta Braves – $60 (84-78)

Toronto Blue Jays – $65 (83-79)

Milwaukee Brewers – $45 (83-79)

Los Angeles Dodgers – $130 (82-80)

Minnesota Twins – $50 (79-83)

St. Louis Cardinals – Seats Not Available For Single Game Purchase (78-84)

Oakland Athletics – $50 (76-86)

Texas Rangers – $60 (75-87)

Washington Nationals – $75 (73-89)

Houston Astros – $50 (73-89)

Chicago White Sox – $55 (72-90)

Cincinnatti Reds – $42 (72-90)

San Francisco Giants – $85 (71-91)

Florida Marlins – $43 (71-91)

Baltimore Orioles – $55 (69-93)

Kansas City Royals – $37 (69-93)

Pittsburgh Pirates – $27 (68-94)

Tampa Bay Rays – $42 (66-96)

Do different parks offer better amenities than other parks? Yes, of course. Will you find me complaining about prices at Safeco anyway? Yup. But for all those Mariner fans out there who keep complaining and complaining about our team and keep insisting that good fans would stay away from the park to cause ticket prices to drop, I have only one thing to say. You’re a bunch of idiots. You can see on this chart a vague representation of how better teams usually charge more and lousy teams usually charge less, but you’re mixing up cause and effect. Ticket prices are only slightly affected by results. It’s more a matter of how big a fan base is. Need some examples? Check out Baltimore and D.C. (And that’s with them competing AGAINST each other in the same market!) Don’t kid yourself that Washington D.C. and Maryland are hotbeds for upper-class baseball fans. Have you ever been to our nation’s capitol? Not quite Wall Street elite…

And you’re really forgetting about how amazing it is to watch a game at Safeco. You think this is a lousy team? It’s lousy, but it’s only been truly lousy for ONE season. Get over yourself. Suffer through the bad times. You want bad teams? You want pathetic? There was celebrating in the streets in ’91 when the M’s finally broke .500! No, I’m not kidding. I remember it!

And now I’m finished ranting. If anything, I’ve created a chart of how much it would cost to sit in the same seats in 30 different stadiums. Woohoo!