Mount Rushmore: Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Women You Jerked Off To When You Were 14?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Christina Applegate, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Jennifer Aniston, and Madonna, but that’s neither here nor there.

Today, I’m going a little bit outside the box – maybe just right next to the box – and I’m gonna talk about some of the local sports announcers.

The Greats …

Maybe every major city with a bunch of bigtime sports teams feels this way, but I think Seattle has been particularly blessed to have some of the best play-by-play guys in the history of the business.  Obviously, because they worked in Seattle, they get overshadowed by more nationally renown guys like Vin Scully, Marv Albert, Harry Caray, Chick Hearn, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, and so on and so forth.  But, I would argue that some of the guys I’ve got on my Mount Rushmore are equally as talented as those hall of famers, and would’ve flourished on a national stage had they gotten the opportunity.

At the top of the heap, I don’t think there’s any question about it:  Dave Niehaus.

He worked for the California Angels from 1969-1976 with Dick Enberg, before the Seattle Mariners poached him for their inaugural season in 1977.  He headed up Mariners broadcasts through the 2010 season before his untimely death that offseason.

Dave was the absolute greatest.  Oftentimes, he was the main reason to even tune in to a Mariners broadcast!  The way he painted a picture over the radio enlightened as it entertained.  If you’re even a casual fan of the M’s, you’re aware of his iconic calls and catchphrases; he’s second to none.  And, deservedly, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  Ultimately, he called over 5,000 Mariners games, and each one was a delight for his involvement if nothing else.

Next on the Mountain, we’ve got Kevin Calabro.

While Dave is the best, KC is probably my personal favorite.  He voiced the Supersonics broadcasts from 1987 through their demise in 2008.

I think KC’s greatest attribute is that he could always match the action on the court, which for many of those Sonics teams in the early-to-mid 90s, was as action-packed as you could get!  The games themselves were exciting, but KC’s calls brought them to another level.  You were nothing if not entertained every time you turned on the game.  When the Sonics were on a national station like TNT or NBC, I’d frequently listen to the radio broadcast because who was going to top the duo of Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson (who, not for nothing, make up the greatest play-by-play/color commentator team in the history of sports broadcasting)?

Third on my list is actually the whole reason for wanting to write this blog post:  Bob Rondeau.

We got some bittersweet news this year, that the Washington Huskies are going to lose Mr. Rondeau to retirement.  Obviously, he’s been with the school for 37 years, broadcasting both football and men’s basketball games as long as I’ve been a fan, so he deserves to go out on his terms and enjoy his life, but we’re all going to lose a true titan of the industry, and someone who could’ve EASILY gone another 10-15 years or more if he so desired.

As I’ve gotten older, and as I generally take things like this for granted, I haven’t had a chance to listen to games on the radio as much as I used to.  But, whenever I do, I find myself not really missing the fact that I’m not watching it on television.  As a fan, I don’t think there’s a higher compliment you can pay a play-by-play man than to say I feel a tremendous comfort level whenever I listen to Rondeau call a game.  For me, he’s probably my most trusted personality in sports journalism.  Yes, he’s employed by the Huskies, but he’s also going to tell you how it is, even if it’s not in the most flattering light for the program.  And it’s never in a way that makes you feel like he’s bashing the school or the players; it’s more like someone who expects better and wants better, but when something goes wrong, he’s just a disappointed parent or something.  I dunno, it’s hard to explain.  Obviously, there’s no greater phrase to the human ear than when Rondeau says deeply and richly into the microphone:  “Touchdown Washington!”

Finally, I know I’m going to catch some Hell for the final choice in my local sports announcer Mount Rushmore, but I should remind you that it’s MY mountain and not yours.  Anyway, I’m going with Steve Raible.

Here’s the deal, I’m no spring chicken, but I’m also too young to remember the likes of the Sonics’ Bob Blackburn or the Seahawks’ Pete Gross.  Obviously, if you ask someone who got to listen to those guys, I’m sure they’d put them in here over a couple of my choices, but what can you do?  I don’t have that attachment.

For me, this final spot came down to Steve Raible and Rick Rizzs, and indeed it was a tough call.  Unlike a lot of Mariners fans/haters out there, I very much enjoy what Rizzs brings to the table.  Is he a Mariners homer?  You betcha!  But, you know what?  He’s also, like, the world’s nicest guy, so it’s not like he’s some phony over there shilling for a paycheck.  He’s just a genuine, happy individual, and I can’t think of a better match for him than to work for the Mariners, a team so frustrating and loathesome at times it’s too much to stomach.  Rizzs helps the medicine go down, and I’ll be honest, he’s been remarkable in the wake of Dave’s passing in 2010.  If we didn’t have Rizzs to soften that transition – aka, if we went straight from Niehaus to Sims with no buffer or alternative – I don’t know where I’d be as a fan right now.

Anyway, getting back to Raible, he was an original Seahawks player, drafted in the 2nd round in 1976, and played 6 seasons for the team.  He joined the broadcast team with the aforementioned Pete Gross in 1982 and has been a local institution ever since (also as a news anchor for KIRO 7).  Raible’s stock has obviously risen heavily since he took over play-by-play duties, as the fortunes of the Seahawks themselves have skyrocketed.  It’s always a joy to go back and listen to his highlight calls after a game, as he brings tons of energy and enthusiasm to the game.  His pairing with Warren Moon is the best broadcast pairing we’ve got going in the Seattle market right now.

So, that’s it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Throw out your Mount Rushmores and your rankings in the comments.

My Griffey Hall Of Fame Weekend Experience, Day 2

I stayed up through the whole game, everyone!  Keep your chins up!

Allow me to re-introduce myself ...

Allow me to re-introduce myself …

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, Day 1 kinda got away from me a little bit.  It took me a while to get going on Day 2, but I eventually ventured out of my apartment, grabbed a couple coffees and some scratch tickets, and even worked in a shower before I sweated myself through the second game of the weekend.

I threw $190 into scratch tickets and walked away with $30 when all was said and done, but it’s not all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for Steven A. Taylor.  There’s also copious amounts of line waiting!  We left South Lake Union around a quarter to 3, Ubering our way to 1st & Edgar Martinez Way to the sight of yet another fuckload of people waiting in lines to grab Day 2’s prize:  a mini Griffey HOF plaque.  We, no joke, got in the same line for the Left Field Entrance, at about the same distance as I was for Day 1.  And lo and behold, we got our plaques.

Bee-you-tiful ...

Bee-you-tiful …

We opted to stay in the stadium, as opposed to making our usual trek to Sluggers, because the 24 Retirement Ceremony was starting at 5:30, and we sure as shit didn’t want to miss it.  Since we were starving, food was our #1 priority.  I made the mistake of ordering a Mariner Dog (ate two bites and threw the rest away) and some Club Level “garlic” fries.  You tell me, is this abomination an appropriate order of garlic fries?

Horse. Shit.

Horse. Shit.

That’s either garlic powder, or parmesan cheese, but there’s NO FUCKING GARLIC on that shit!  Safeco, I expect better.

Once I got rid of that shit, I ended up walking a million miles to get a mediocre slice of pepperoni pizza and a cup of chocolate soft serve ice cream, before turning my attention to the $6 Tecates they sell at the Hit It Here Cafe.  Beer:  you can’t fuck up beer.

Let your freak flag fly ...

Let your freak flag fly …

The ceremony was fantastic.  The Mariners know how to do one thing well, and that’s throw a party for their greats.  The usual suspects showed up, from Alvin Davis, to Dan Wilson, to Jay Buhner, to Jamie Moyer, to Edgar Martinez wearing a backwards cap, to Dave Niehaus’ widow; while a bunch of shockers popped in, like Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, Gary Payton, Spencer Haywood, Rickey Henderson, and others.  Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Kobe Bryant, and even Jeff Gordon had jumbotron salutes.  It was truly a star-studded affair.

The Great One ...

The Great One …

We even got a Griffey speech with almost no blubbering!  It was everything you could ever want from a ceremony!

Retire them numbers ...

Retire them numbers …

Then, the game happened, and I don’t even know anymore.  Like the previous night, Mike Trout hit a 3-run homer in the first to put the Mariners at a huge disadvantage.  Unlike the previous night, the Mariners were unable to respond with more than a single run in the bottom half of the inning.  But, in spite of Taijuan Walker’s mediocre return from the DL (4 innings, 6 runs), the Mariners continued to chip away!  1 run in the first, another in the third (Guillermo Heredia’s first ever homer), 2 runs in the fifth (Guti homer, to pull him within a triple of the cycle), and 4 runs in the seventh (a Leonys Martin sac fly, and a MONSTER 3-run homer from the hero of the night, Shawn O’Malley).

It was truly a magical night.  Shawn O’Malley even followed up his game-winning homer with a diving stab the next inning to take a hit away from them, resulting in chanting from the sellout crowd.  Was I JUST complaining of O’Malley’s defense earlier this week?  I don’t recall that!  Surely t’was some other blogger!  Was I among those leading the chants for the rest of the evening?  No hypocrite guy, but MAYBE!

Big ups to the bullpen tonight, for picking up where Taijuan failed to leave off.  Cody Martin went 2.2, Drew Storen got the last out in the 7th (and the win).  Wilhelmsen came in to dominate the 8th, and Edwin Diaz got the game sealing double play to close out the 9th.  Bing, bang, boom, Mariners defeat Angels 8-6, and we all went home delirious.

Day 3 happens later today, and I, for one, can’t wait.

Let your body move to the music ...

Let your body move to the music …

My Griffey Hall Of Fame Weekend Experience, Day 1

Friday, around 3pm, I ducked out of work and walked to the Westlake station, rode the light rail, got out at the Stadium exit, survived that circular ramp, and was faced with my greatest dilemma:  which line would I stand in?

Under normal circumstances, bobbleheads are hot ticket items.  The first 20,000 gets this little creature that looks nothing like its intended likeness, of a player whose career will take a huge shit next year before he’s traded for peanuts on the dollar!  Better get to Safeco early, folks!  But, these are obviously not normal circumstances.  These are Griffey Days!  Three days celebrating the man, the myth, the legend!  The single greatest, most talented, most popular Mariner in franchise history!  The guy who saved baseball in Seattle!  He was just inducted into the baseball hall of fame, and now we’re throwing him a ceremony and retiring his number throughout the organization – only the second such retired number, with the first belonging to Jackie Robinson, who died before the Seattle Mariners were even a thing.

So, yeah, THIS bobblehead:  kind of a big deal.

I surveyed the clusterfuck that was Royal Brougham Way, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of where the lines ended.  Which one was for the Centerfield Entrance?  Which one was for The ‘Pen?  Which one went into the Left Field Entrance?  I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA!  So, fuck it.  Fuck all of those lines, I walked over to Dave Niehaus Way, with the intent of getting into the line for the Home Plate Entrance.  However, there were even multiple lines HERE as well!  One facing south, one facing north.  So, I got in the north-facing line, which ended up filling into the Left Field Entrance anyway.  I was standing there for probably an hour – or half of an episode of Never Not Funny – before we started moving.  I swear they were letting us in early, because the regular, non-‘Pen entrances weren’t supposed to open until 5:10.  Either way, I wasn’t complaining.  I entered with my three tickets, picked up three bobbleheads, and walked right back out of that stadium.

The Kid ...

The Kid …

My friends – to whom the other two bobbleheads belonged – were running late, so we ended up meeting at Sluggers for pre-game tallboys and mini corn dogs.  The Banquet Beer was flowing like wine, let me tell you!  Going to Sluggers is something of a tradition for us and Mariners games, but what was absolutely perfect about going there on Griffey Bobblehead Day is that when we finally walked over to get into Safeco, everyone was already inside!  So, we actually made it inside, fresh beers in hand, for first pitch.  A Griffey Bobblehead Day Miracle!

On the jumbotron: Griffey's Curtain Call ...

On the jumbotron: Griffey’s Curtain Call …

As for the game itself, that has to be one of the strangest I’ve ever seen in person.  King Felix was on the mound, appropriately enough, given the occasion, but he was very un-King like in that first inning.  There was a first-pitch double, then a walk, followed by a Mike Trout 3-run home run; or, as it’s commonly known:  a fucking dumpster fire.  Starts just don’t get much worse than that.  And, considering the King hasn’t really been his usual immaculate self this season, you had to wonder if this was the beginning of a VERY short, VERY rocky outing for our ace, against one of the worst teams in the league.

To his credit, he settled down in a big way, shutting down the next 9 batters in a row, and 12 of the next 13 before giving up a solo homer in the top of the fifth.  But, by that point, the Mariners had things firmly in hand.

What’s the best response your offense can give you, when your ace gives up three runs in the top of the first inning?  How about DOUBLING those runs in the bottom of the inning!  It was unreal.  Tim Lincecum got the start, and the UW alumnus seemed like just the type of pitcher who would make our offense shit its collective pants.  Instead, he let the first four batters of the game single, before getting Seager to fly out.  From there, an RBI single and an RBI fly-out tied the game, before Zunino finished the job with a 3-run bomb to left field.

And that was that.  It was 6-3 Mariners after one inning, then it was 6-4, then the game ended.  To say Felix settled down is really an understatement, because he ended up going 8 innings, while throwing only 100 pitches, before giving way to Edwin Diaz for the three-strikeout save.  I may or may not have been awake in my seat in the later innings; it’s tough to say.  Are any of us REALLY awake?  Is all of this the dream of some autistic kid, and maybe I didn’t pass out at the game?  Furthermore, if you pass out at the game, and an usher doesn’t kick you out, were you even passed out at all?  Or maybe just resting your eyes?

I DON’T KNOW!  These are the kinds of unanswerable questions one asks himself on a hungover Saturday morning while writing a blog post.  Two more days to go …

Dave Sims Is Kinda The Worst

I should point out that I don’t know the man personally, so let’s just get that out of the way.  He could be a cool dude, or he could be a total prick, I would have no idea.  I’m sure, as a human being, he’s fine.  Seems to get along with people, seems to have some stories of conversations he’s had with various people in the sports world.  You probably don’t get to do what he does for a living by being a complete asshole.

So, this is strictly a critique of Dave Sims, Broadcaster.  And, more specifically:  Dave Sims, Broadcaster of Mariners Games on Root Sports.

On the radio, I actually don’t mind his work.  I’ve heard him call Sunday Night Football on the radio and he’s actually pretty good.  I’ve heard him give interviews on the radio and found him engaging and forthright.  Whereas on Root Sports, he’s an employee of the Seattle Mariners, and as such has to give a Glass Half Full spin on any analysis he’s giving; but on the radio (usually in the off-season), he’s more free to speak his mind and tell it (roughly) like it is.  Surprisingly, it’s refreshing to hear Dave Sims give an interview away from the Seattle Mariners Cocoon of Sunshine.

But, on those Root Sports broadcast … ye gods!

I tend to have a real problem when it comes to sports talking heads.  Game broadcasters, talk radio hosts, television analysts:  once I get it in my head that someone sucks, or is annoying, or just a dumb piece of shit who constantly spouts misinformation like it’s fact, unwittingly belaboring a point based on nonsense … I can’t bring myself to listen to them without wanting to physically hurt someone or something around me.

It’s not a large list of broadcasters, but it’s definitely growing:

  • Skip Bayless
  • Stephen A. Smith
  • Tim McCarver
  • Mel Kiper
  • Dick Fain
  • Trent Dilfer (about half the time)
  • Dave Sims

You’ll never find me watching First Take.  Until he retired from the Fox broadcast, you’d never find me watching them cover a baseball game with McCarver in the booth.  I can sit through the NFL draft, but any other time of year where ESPN features Mel Kiper or Trent Dilfer, I’m turning the channel.  I’ve already gone over the whole problem with local sports radio ad nauseum.  But, there’s a problem when it comes to the Mariners’ Root Sports broadcasts:  you can’t just mute them and play the radio coverage because they don’t sync up.

So, I’m forced to sit through three hours of Dave Sims whenever I manage to sit down and watch a full Mariners broadcast.  It’s brutal.  He laughs uncontrollably over the dumbest shit.  He talks over Mike Blowers (who is a consummate pro and a pleasure to have on the broadcast team).  He has no ability whatsoever to let a scene breathe, instead opting to fill as much time as possible with inane chatter, as if society itself would crumble if we’re deprived of hearing Dave Sims’ voice for longer than three seconds.  If the offense is struggling (which is always), it sounds as if Dave Sims couldn’t be more uninterested in what’s going on.  He’s constantly losing his mind over fly ball outs, as if he’s either been fooled into thinking they’re home runs, or he’s trying to fool the viewer into thinking they’re home runs to generate false excitement (either way makes him equally terrible).  And this year more than any other, he’s been forgetting names, calling people by the wrong names, and giving us calls like this, which are total embarrassments to the organization.  I listened to that call live and heard what he was blathering about prior to the home run … and it STILL doesn’t make any sense when you know all the context!

What really brings it home isn’t his need for perfect pronunciation of obscure Latino names, or the fact that he was tasked with effectively replacing a legend in Dave Niehaus, or his dumb hats that they’re trying to make a thing with annual Safeco give-aways.  It was a 4-game series down in Texas, I believe.  Back in April.  For whatever reason, Dave Sims was gone for those games, so they had Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith filling in for him.  And they were EASILY the four best Mariners broadcasts I’ve heard in the last 8 years, since Dave Sims came to town in 2007.

I’m a huge fan of Rizzs; in my eyes, he can do no wrong.  If there was a Nice Guy Award, he’d be the reigning winner for the last 30-some-odd years probably.  I never really understood why he was phased out of the television side of things in the first place, but I have to admit that it’s a treat to have him on the radio.  I have a hard time engaging with radio broadcasts of any sporting event, so 100/100 times I will watch the thing on TV if I have the option.  But, with Mariners games, whenever I get the chance, I’ll find myself just listening to the game on the radio.  Cut out the headache.

Aaron Goldsmith is a recent hire of the Mariners, who took over as the full-time partner of Rick Rizzs on the radio in 2013.  He’s pretty good on the radio, and has a nice rapport with Rizzs, but he was TRULY a revelation when he was doing those two games with Mike Blowers down in Texas.

I’m sure Sims and Blowers have a fine working relationship.  I’m sure, when they’re on the road, they probably have meals together, maybe go out for the occasional beer.  I’m sure they’re able to swap stories and attend barbecues at one another’s homes every now and again.  I can’t remember what they were like when they first started broadcasting together, but I do know that Blowers was relatively new to the profession, and I’m sure he’s done a lot of growing since then.  I’d even wager he’s learned a lot by working with Dave Sims all these years.  Blowers definitely strikes me as more comfortable on the air than he was at first, able to laugh and joke around more as well.  As a pairing, they’re fine.  I can’t point to any real glaring holes in their professional repartee.

But, I’ll tell you what, Blowers and Goldsmith?  For whatever reason, they worked together like peanut butter and jelly.  Peas and carrots.  Hamburgers and French Fries (LAY OFF ME, I’M STARVING!!!).  The point is, they seemed to fit so naturally together, I actually found myself enjoying what turned out to be mostly losing baseball games.  Goldsmith had some good behind-the-scenes stories to tell.  He asked interesting questions of Mike Blowers, who in turn gave interesting answers and insights we don’t normally get when he’s doing a game with Sims.  Maybe it was just the fact that Blowers was working with someone new (Blowers was also particularly elegant in his commentary when he did a dual-simulcast with the Colorado Rockies announcers back in Spring Training that was broadcast on Root Sports), but to me, it felt like the wave of the future.  Aaron Goldsmith and Mike Blowers should be the full time television announcers of Seattle Mariners games, and they should be given that charge sooner rather than later.

The biggest gripe I have with Dave Sims is the biggest gripe I have with flamboyant NBA referees and hard-ass MLB umpires:  he makes every game all about himself.  It’s The Dave Sims Show! … featuring the Seattle Mariners (and Mike Blowers sometimes).  Good announcers – like good refs and umps – allow you to lose yourself in the action, forgetting they’re even a part of the game.  Bad announcers keep pounding you over the head with their presence, because in their vanity they can’t help but scream out:  I EXIST!  PAY ATTENTION TO ME!

When Goldsmith and Blowers were at the helm, I was able to lose myself in the games they announced.  With Dave Sims, I can only sit there and long for commercial breaks.  The annoying EQC ads for upcoming has-beens in concert and the non-stop AT&T sleeping baby bullshit.  THAT is better than Dave Sims, which really says it all.

Ichiro Was Traded To The New York Yankees

Ichiro has:

  • 2,533 hits
  • 1,176 runs
  • a .322 batting average
  • a .366 on-base percentage
  • a .418 slugging percentage
  • a .784 OPS
  • 8,483 plate appearances
  • 295 doubles
  • 79 triples
  • 99 home runs
  • 633 RBI
  • 438 stolen bases in 535 attempts
  • 513 walks against 792 strikeouts
  • 3,283 total bases

in 1,844 games in the Major Leagues over 12 seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

Ichiro has:

  • won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2001
  • been to 10 All Star Games (2001-2010)
  • won 10 Gold Glove Awards (2001-2010)
  • won 3 Silver Slugger Awards (2001, 2007, & 2009)
  • 10 seasons with 200+ hits (2001-2010)
  • the all-time single-season hits record with 262 in 2004
  • won the AL batting average title twice (2001 – .350 & 2004 – .372)
  • finished 2nd in AL batting average twice (2007 – .351 & 2009 – .352)
  • won the AL Most Valuable Player award in 2001

Ichiro has the Mariners franchise record in:

  • hits with 2,533 (2nd place:  Edgar Martinez with 2,247)
  • triples with 79 (2nd place:  Harold Reynolds with 48)
  • batting average with .322 (2nd place:  Edgar Martinez with .312)
  • stolen bases with 438 (2nd place:  Julio Cruz with 290)
  • intentional bases on balls with 172 (tied with Ken Griffey Jr.)
  • single-season batting average with .372 in 2004 (2nd place:  Alex Rodriguez with .358 in 1996)
  • single-season hits with 262 in 2004 (2nd place:  Ichiro with 242 in 2001; 3rd place:  Ichiro with 238 in 2007; 4th place:  Ichiro with 225 in 2009; 5th place:  Ichiro with 224 in 2006; 6th place:  Alex Rodriguez with 215 in 1996)
  • single-season triples with 12 in 2005 (2nd place:  Harold Reynolds with 11 in 1988)
  • single-season intentional bases on balls with 27 in 2002 (2nd place:  Ken Griffey Jr. with 25 in 1993)
  • single-season stolen base percentage with 95.75% in 2006 (45 of 47)

And yet, with all that history, with being the face of the franchise as well as the best player ON this franchise for so many years, it’s unfortunate that so many Mariners fans can only focus on the fact that Ichiro has:

  • been a part of 1 playoff team, in 2001
  • been a part of two 100-loss teams, in 2008 & 2010
  • been a part of three other 90+ loss teams, in 2004, 2005, & 2011

Or, you know, some other bullshit about him being selfish.  About him not being a good teammate.  About him only focusing on his own numbers.

You know what?  Show me a player who focuses on his own numbers and I’ll show you every single Major League Baseball player since the dawn of time.  At least he had numbers worth focusing on!  But, more importantly, all of that is hearsay, primarily from disgruntled former-Mariners who have no reason to be objective when it comes to the team that no longer employs them.

It’s not Ichiro’s fault that this organization stinks and has stunk for the bulk of his Major League career!  Ichiro didn’t draft bust after bust after bust.  Ichiro didn’t trade prospects who went on to become All Stars for duds not long for this roster.  Ichiro didn’t sign free agents for exorbitant amounts of money and Ichiro wasn’t at fault for them coming to Seattle and sucking supreme and royal dick!

Ichiro did his job, he did it well for 10 straight years, he is GOING to be a Hall of Famer (and only the third to go in as a Mariner after Dave Niehaus and Ken Griffey Jr.), so I would hope the fans of Seattle could show a little fucking class and a little fucking dignity to a legend who played his final game as a Seattle Mariner on July 22, 2012, in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-4 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.

Truth be told, Ichiro is probably the BEST teammate this team ever could have had!  He saw an organization on the rebuild, he saw his place would no longer be as a starter beyond this season, he saw a team that could ill-afford to bring him back beyond this season, and he didn’t want to be a distraction, so he asked the team for a trade.  Honestly, it’s sad to see him leave; I wish I had one more game with him in a Mariners uniform to properly soak it all in.  But, I guess more than anything, I’m relieved.  I’m relieved that he’s finally getting a chance to win a title.  And, frankly, I’m relieved that he won’t be coming back.

I think it is important to honor the man as he’s leaving as the icon he was for this organization.  Ichiro deserves nothing but our respect and admiration for what he has accomplished as a Mariner.  But, let’s be honest here, this organization doesn’t handle aging superstars well.  See:  the 2004 season where they tried to keep a team FULL of aging veterans together for one more go-around, with disasterous results.  See also:  Griffey Jr., Ken + 2010 contract extension.  With the Mariners, if you’re a fan favorite, you’ve got a job for life.  Baseball isn’t supposed to be like the Supreme Court.  At some point, you’ve got to know when to fold ’em, and the Mariners keep going all-in with Queen-high.

But, just because this is the tail-end of Ichiro’s career doesn’t mean it’s fair to rag on him as he walks out the door.  Anyone who considers himself a Mariners fan needs to recognize all the accomplishments Ichiro achieved for this team.  They need to pay proper respect.  And if they can’t bring themselves to do that, then they need to shut the fuck up because they sound fucking idiotic.

Running Diary of My First Mariners No-Hitter (Replay)

Because I wasn’t around a TV when it was broadcast live.  Also, with apologies to Bill Simmons (or whoever invented this format of Internet writing).

11pm – Just pulled into Tacoma.  I left Seattle pretty much RIGHT after the game ended.  I’ve been up since 6am, I’m on a hella diet right now, so I’m bound to be a little punchy.  Efforts were futile to get my dad or brother up in time to DVR the replay, so here I am.  Efforts were also futile to watch the TV in our apartment’s gym because the cable was broken.

11:03 – Great.  Dan Patrick Show is on.  This is awful.

11:07 – Insta-Slim T-Shirt commercial is on.  Yeah, I like to get my Insta-Slim T’s in XXXL so I can wear ’em loose.

11:12 – Flipping around now.  Joe Mande is doing stand up on Comedy Central.  I know this is supposed to be funny, but for the life of me I wish Aziz Ansari’s special was on right now.

11:15 – So, I was watching some old episodes of Parks & Rec on my computer at home after leaving the gym earlier this evening.  After each episode, I’d go online to check the M’s score because, seriously, I’m not going to follow the M’s and the Dodgers all that closely when Millwood is pitching.  Anyway, in the middle of the 4th inning, I see there are no runs scored and no hits for the Dodgers.  I nod my head approvingly and watch another episode (or two, I can’t remember at this point).  I check back in the middle of the sixth and see we’re 9 outs away.  I say aloud to absolutely no one, “Really?  Are we REALLY doing this tonight?”  Then, I turn on my radio and slog through the final three innings of what turned out to be an exciting yet constant stream of pitching changes.

11:20 – Seriously, Joe Mande … hilarious?

11:27 – What is John Waters doing on Bill Maher?  He figuratively has nothing to say!

11:30 – Crap, it looks like Dan Patrick is going into overtime … M’s replay is supposed to start now!  And, for Christ’s sake, he’s interviewing E from Entourage … you are God damned killing me.

11:33 – And now they’re making me wait even longer because some fucking horse has a bum wheel … this sucks shit.  Cut Dan Patrick off and let’s do this bitch!

11:36 – Ahh, Garfunkel & Oates, bring me back to laughter while I wait!

11:39 – Can someone explain to me why they replay the Dan Patrick Show at 11pm at night?  Can someone also explain why they televise the Dan Patrick Show to begin with?  I don’t know who is actually at fault, but I blame those insipid morons Mike & Mike on ESPN.

11:42 – See, once I realized everyone at home was asleep, my second idea was to have them DVR the M’s replay tomorrow.  Because SURELY the M’s game would be replayed … such an historic event … checking TVGuide.com … oh, sorry.  Root Sports is too busy showing Paid Programming and fishing shows.  Fucking A …

11:48 – FINALLY!

11:49 – Good start for Kevin Millwood.  Strikeout to lead off the game.  Dee Gordon, I have a feeling you can eat my ass cheese …

11:51 – Millwood’s face looks fucking WEIRD with that goatee.

11:52 – That’s a catch for Mike Carp.  Even the laziest of fly balls look like a challenge for Carp.  Who puts this defense behind a pitcher and expects a no-no?

11:53 – Kawasaki gobbles up the grounder at short for the final out in the first.  Let’s get ready for a lot of futile bats tonight!  Only … three more hours to go!

11:54 – Twitter still going strong.  Local media absolutely giddy.

11:55 – Nathan Eovaldi.  That will be the first and last time I ever write that name on this website.  For you trivia buffs, he’s the starter who went against the third M’s no-no.

11:56 – Boy have people been killing Ichiro lately.  And by “people” I mean talk radio people.  It’s funny how they like to tear down our biggest superstars because they don’t go on the radio every other week giving them interviews.  Same deal with Shaun Alexander and Ken Griffey Jr.  You’ll notice they LOVED Hasselbeck until his last day, even though he wore down just like every other athlete eventually does.  Apparently, if you don’t constantly kiss ass, and you start to struggle at the end of a Hall of Fame career, you get the bum’s rush out the door.

12:04 – Can’t help but think about how much I would prefer to be listening to this game with Dave Niehaus on the call …

12:07 – Dan Wilson in the booth!  I thought the M’s reserved all their most exciting games for when Bone sat in.

12:08 – Fly out to Ichiro.  Can’t tell if Millwood looks good or if the Dodgers look bad.  At the very least, Millwood doesn’t look bad.

12:08 – Really Abreu?  Bunting?  Did you forget what size your jersey is?  Gotta be pushing 3 bills at this point …

12:09 – And a weak grounder to 3rd for Abreu.  I can’t believe he’s still playing.  And is still effective?  Damn.  .817 OPS.  Doesn’t that lead the M’s right now?  I’m too tired to go check.

12:10 – Memo to Mariners executives:  I have yet to meet a single M’s fan who likes the teal jerseys.  Just something to think about.

12:11 – Fly out to deep center.  6 up and 6 down.

12:12 – Root Sports broadcasts have the worst commercials.  Banner Bank and Emerald Queen Casino concerts back-to-back is my Holocaust.

12:17 – M’s went down easily in the 2nd.  This Dodgers pitcher looks NASTY

12:19 – Edgar throwing the first pitch … why wasn’t I at this game?

12:20 – First out in the third hit right at Carp.  That’s the way I like it; the less Carp has to move the better.

12:21 – Jesus, it’s like these Dodgers hitters have somewhere else to be!  Strikeout on a ridiculously out-of-the-zone pitch.

12:22 – Tony Gwynn Jr. looks nothing like his father.  Doesn’t hit much like him either.  Nice catch by Montero in foul territory.

12:25 – Holy Hell does Mike Carp have a lot of weird tattoos on his right arm.

12:33 – Totally called the A-Rod answer on the Trivia Question for who hit the most doubles in a single season by the Mariners.  Edgar was the obvious choice.  Olerud was a moron’s choice.  Ibanez was the only one throwing me for a moment.  But, yeah, A-Rod’s 1996 season was ridiculous.

12:35 – I’m now that kind of tired where you can’t bring yourself to blink lest you risk passing out … six more innings to go.

12:39 – Holy shit, Dee Gordon bunts down to Seager and he bare-hand throws to first.  Amazing.  Every no-no has at least one or two defensive plays that make you say, “Wow.”

12:41 – Strikeout swinging!  How does Millwood do it?

12:44 – Pop-out to Seager.  12 up & 12 down.

12:45 – 5-Hour Energy is full of SHIT!  Try drinking that when you’re pulling an all-nighter driving back to San Francisco from Coachella in the middle of the night and see if you don’t die in a fiery car crash!

12:48 – If I could, I would fast forward through all of these useless Mariners at-bats.  They’re about as entertaining as watching old people fuck.

12:51 – Saunders broken-bat single up the middle!  God damn is this guy on a tear!  Couldn’t happen to a more-deserving guy, in my book.  Saunders has taken a LOT of lumps in his Major League career to date.

12:55 – Jaso might be 0 for 2, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look like one of the more competent hitters on this team.  Love watching him at the plate.

12:59 – Very audible “FUCK!” out of Millwood after walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth.  Now comes Abreu.

12:59 – First pitch:  3-6-3 double play hit right at Smoak.

1:01 – Ooo, Hairston was on that fastball down the middle.  Fouled it straight back.  That one could have been trouble.  As it stands, he took a meatball down the pipe for strike three.  15 up and 15 down (thanks to the DP).

1:03 – All those D-Bags in the beer garden not paying attention to what would be a no-hitter.  How does it feel?  If I were there, I would’ve appreciated the SHIT out of this game!

1:06 – Why would you EVER start out going back before coming in on an Ichiro line drive hit right at you in Center Field?  Isn’t that something you just assume is in front of you, no questions asked?  Tsk tsk, Tony Gwynn Jr.

1:07 – Nice little squeaker of a base hit through the hole between third & short for Ackley.  Runners on first & second.

1:08 – Seager hot shot up the middle, but they played him perfectly.  Scoring threat over.  It’s still hard for me not to put quotes around “threat”, but the M’s offense not being totally worthless anymore is still somewhat of a new phenomenon.

1:10 – Class Action lawyers are the scum of all scum.  Join us in this lawsuit where millions of dollars will change hands!  And, here are a few pennies for your trouble …

1:12 – Shallow fly to center.  Millwood still going strong.

1:13 – Swing and a miss!  Not for nothing, but I’m still trying to figure out where Millwood injured himself.  He’s down to his final batter here …

1:14 – He adjusted his cup just now … or does he feel a pull?  OK, that sounded dirtier than I intended.

1:15 – Wow, that curve was SICK!  Strike three for Gwynn.  I see a hint of a limp as he’s walking off the field.  Maybe that curve did it.

1:16 – This weird cowboy guy hawking 5-Hour Energy is creepy to say the least.  He deserves to die and I hope he burns in hell, to say the most.

1:21 – 8 innings of 2-hit ball for Danny Hultzen tonight.  I love those Building To The Future updates … always makes me happy.

1:22 – Doesn’t seem like we’ve done much of anything in these 5+ innings on offense, but their pitcher is already nearing 100 pitches.  Go figure.

1:25 – End of 6th.  FINALLY, things are going to get interesting.  The next three innings should take approximately 57 hours to finish.

1:26 – If no company can pay to be on Angie’s List, then how does she make money for these crappy commercials?  It can’t all be online ad revenue, it just fucking can’t Angie, you whore!

1:27 – Kevin Millwood walks off the field after standing out on the mound for a second.  Spoiler Alert:  minor groin injury.  On the radio, they were convinced it was a blister on his throwing hand.

1:29 – In comes Furbush.  Pitcher #2 … and more commercials.  Great.

1:33 – No more bunting for Dee Gordon.  First pitch by Furbush is a flyout to Center.

1:34 – What’s with this team and crappy beards?  Say it ain’t so, Furbush!

1:35 – Chopper to Furbush, terrible throw to first base.  Should’ve had him out.  E-1 sends the runner to second base with one out.

1:37 – Strikeout!  Furbush!  In spite of his error, he looks like he could go the rest of this game without giving up a hit.  But, Wedge wants to play Mr. Manager, so in comes Stephen Pryor.  Two outs.

1:38 – Well … manager.  We just say manager.

1:43 – Strikeout!  Heater!  Wild Thing!  You Make My Heart Sing!

1:44 – My first time watching Stephen Pryor pitch and I spend half the at-bat looking up Arrested Development clips … priorities!

1:45 – New pitcher for the Dodgers.  I will not name him because I don’t want to add another useless tag to this post.

1:46 – Strained Right Groin.  Word just came down.

1:47 – Strikeout for Carp.  One out in the seventh.  Will anyone EVER score?

1:48 – Kawasaki kinda looks like Ichiro’s kid brother who is only on the team because Ichiro’s mom made him drag him along.  Also, strike three Kawasaki.

1:50 – With two strikes on him, Ichiro shatters his bat, dribbles the ball to second, and beats the throw.  Two outs, so what?!

1:51 – I could get lost in Ackley’s eyes.  OK, now I’m getting punchy …

1:52 – I could get lost in Ackley’s crappy beard, but that’s neither here nor there.

1:53 – It’s hard to steal off of a left-handed pitcher, but there went Ichiro!  Great success!

1:54 – Big walk by Ackley.  Didn’t look like he was going to be able to do much of anything with this guy.

1:57 – Seager!  Just over the glove of the short stop!  1-0!  See, this is why Ichiro bats first and not third.  Infield single, stolen base, scores on Seager’s RBI.  All you fuckheads who wanted Ichiro batting 9th in the lineup can eat a bag of dicks.  Although, to be fair, had he been batting 9th in this game, maybe we still score anyway.  Who’s to say?

1:58 – Another pitching change.  Ye gods.

2:01 – End of 7th.  Two more innings.  I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Can I power nap during these commercial breaks?

2:02 – Why do people on diabetes commercials look like some of the most fit people in the world?  Where are your 400 pound Walmart patrons and their bags upon empty bags of Cheez Doodles?

2:05 – Something tells me Mr. Manager shouldn’t have had Pryor go back out there for the 8th inning.  He’s still a little green, Mr. M.  That’s asking a little much at this point in his career.

2:06 – Back to back walks for Pryor.  Mr. Manager sees the folly of his ways.  Lucas Luetge enters, no outs.

2:11 – Sac bunt to first base.  Runners on 2nd & 3rd, one out.  And, Mr. Manager is back out of the dugout.  Here comes thwarted closer turned set-up man Brandon League, in the biggest appearance of his life.

2:16 – Shallow line drive to Figgins in left (having taken over for Carp this inning).  He catches it, heaves towards home (and falls down in the process), and the runner at third holds!  Wow!

2:19 – Strike three swinging on a nasty split!  Three outs to go!  What a gutty, gutty performance by League right there!  Is it possible to rebuild a guy’s trade value as a set-up man?  Looks like we’re going to find out.

2:23 – At this point in the live radio broadcast, I was debating whether I wanted to drive all the way down to Tacoma, or hope that a member of my family would save me with the DVR.  I told myself that I would HAVE to come down here if the Mariners actually did it.  You can’t risk not seeing history.  Highlights or .gifs on the Internet just won’t cut it!

2:27 – Twitter was all over the story of the near no-no down in Tacoma by Erasmo Ramirez.  They have yet to mention it on the TV broadcast.  Could have been quite a night had Ramirez held onto it.  Of note:  he might be the guy called back up if Millwood goes on the DL with this groin strain.

2:29 – Jaso, was that hit REALLY necessary?  I’m trying to get some sleep here!

2:30 – Atta boy, Figgins!  The one time I applaud your first-pitch swinging ground out pulled to the first baseman!

2:32 – Tom Wilhelmsen, our new closer.  Brendan Ryan, defensive replacement at short stop.

2:33 – Grounder to short!  Dee Gordon blazing up the line!  Bang-bang play!  Out at first!  Umps aren’t taking away any more no-hitters on questionable calls.  You gotta earn your hits.

2:34 – Even the Super-Mo camera can’t definitively show whether he was out or safe!

2:35 – Line out to short stop!  Brendan Ryan getting a workout!

2:36 – Ackley to Smoak!  No hitter!  Very odd celebration on the field!  I can’t stop using exclamation points!

2:37 – 10th combined no hitter in MLB history.  6 pitchers.  1 catcher, Jesus Montero, one of the youngest catchers all time to catch a no-no.

2:38 – Kevin Millwood – 6 IP, Charlie Furbush – .2 IP, Stephen Pryor – .1 IP, Lucas Luetge – .1 IP, Brandon League – .2 IP, Tom Wilhelmsen – 1 IP.

2:39 – No hits, 3 walks, 114 pitches.  Against the best team in baseball right now.  Incredible.  Seattle Mariners over the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0.

2:41 – 6 pitchers, 11 position players.  17 of our 25 guys.  17 of our 21 available players (not counting the other starting pitchers).  The only guys who didn’t get in this game were Miguel Olivo, Alex Liddi, Shawn Kelley, and Hisashi Iwakuma (obv.).

2:45 – OK, that’s it.  Time to proofread this bitch and go to sleep.

All-Time Mariners Greats, Part I – The Hitters

Did you know there was a Mariners Hall of Fame?  I mean, I know I did, but I just wonder how well-known it is among Mariners fans.  It’s not exactly the Seahawks Ring of Honor or anything.  At least with the Ring of Honor you know you’re getting your number retired; the only number retired on the Mariners is 42 (for a guy who never played an inning in an M’s uniform).  Although, I guarantee that’s a symbolic gesture as the M’s are waiting for Ken Griffey Jr. to become eligible so he can be the first true Mariner to have his number retired (which, if you believe this Wikipedia entry, means we have to wait for Griffey to make the Major League Hall of Fame, which should be sometime in 2015).

Anyway, the Mariners Hall of Fame exists, and it has four members currently:  Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez.  That is, until this week, when Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson both cracked the prestigious honor.  It makes sense that they would go in together.  Not just because one was a pitcher who so often threw at the other, a catcher, but because apart they are both kind of iffy.  Yeah, everyone knows Dan Wilson belongs in the Mariners Hall of Fame; he was without question the greatest catcher we’ve ever had.  But, it’s not like he was some masher at the plate who tore up the record books.  He had a very pedestrian bat to go along with some crazy-good blocking skills and a decent arm to throw out baserunners.  If it weren’t for stupid Pudge, Dan Wilson would’ve been the guy racking up the Gold Gloves.  Nevertheless, Dan Wilson is a less-than-sexy pick.  People love Dan Wilson, but people don’t love Dan Wilson they way they love Bone or Gar or Junior.  They just lump him in with them, mostly because he was here for so long and he played with those guys.

Randy’s a little different, though.  While he was absolutely dominant from the point where he finally figured it all out (around the 1993 season) through the point where we foolishly traded him because we thought his back would eventually give out (at the 1998 trade deadline), Randy wasn’t exactly a lifelong Mariner.  Plus, he went on to have his most successful seasons after his tenure with Seattle.  To induct Randy by himself would seem like nothing more than a pisspoor gesture to get on his good side before he’s eventually inducted into the REAL Hall of Fame (with the hope being that he’d choose to wear a Mariner hat as he went in).

Together, though, you take two guys who are certainly DESERVING and make it more about the combo than it is about the individuals.  I think that’s smart.  With them, and with Griffey in a few years, we’ll finally have something here.  A nice cadre of players to look back on fondly (instead of just the generic ’95 team or ’01 team, etc.).

Anyway, I got to thinking about this today and it made me wonder:  what would the All-Time Mariner Team look like?  A lot of it is a slam dunk, to be quite honest, but there is still room for debate.

To kick things off, here is your starting nine:

DH – Edgar Martinez
1B – Alvin Davis
2B – Bret Boone
3B – Adrian Beltre
SS – Alex Rodriguez
LF – Ichiro
CF – Ken Griffey Jr.
RF – Jay Buhner
C – Dan Wilson

To be honest with you, the starting nine was easier than I thought it was going to be.  The most obvious choices were Edgar, Davis, Wilson, Griffey, Ichiro, and Buhner.  The only question would be:  who takes over in left, as both Bone & Ichiro are right fielders?  Obviously, I’m not going to be a stickler here and force some undeserving left fielder from the M’s past into my All Time lineup; that would be ridiculous.  There’s one great center fielder and two great right fielders, so that’s my outfield.  Since Ichiro has already endured a position change before in his Major League career (playing centerfield for Mike Hargrove), I tabbed him to take over in left.  Besides, with Bone’s legs, it’s best to just keep him and his rocket arm in right.  For the record, it would be interesting to see who had the better arm – Bone or Ichiro – in their respective primes.

The biggest point of contention would probably be second base.  I’m sure the old-time Mariners fans would say, “Where’s Harold Reynolds?”  I’ll tell you where he is!  Not on my team, that’s where!  Harold Reynolds SUCKED!  Just because you were with the Mariners for practically your entire career doesn’t automatically warrant you making the All Time Best Team.  In Bret Boone’s four highly-productive seasons between 2001 and 2004, he was one of the best – if not THE best – second baseman in the game.  His 2001 season ALONE would get him on my team.  I’m not looking for a long period of mediocrity, I’m looking for the best players who performed like superstars in a Mariners uniform.  Hence, Ka-Boone!

Third base was a struggle only because there haven’t been that many great Mariners third basemen over the years.  Adrian Beltre kinda seems like a cop-out because he was with us so recently … until you look at the dump heap that has manned the hot corner over the years.  Edgar played there, but you’d hardly consider him a fielder.  Jim Presley and Bill Stein were both pretty worthless.  Mike Blowers is only remembered fondly because he was on that ’95 team (he actually wasn’t all that great a player when you look at his career).  Russ Davis put up some solid numbers at the plate, but he was also Mr. Stone Hands in the field (highlighed by his 32 errors in 1998) even though he participated in one of the most memorable Mariners commercials ever, not starring Edgar Martinez.  So, really, that only leaves Adrian Beltre, who history will show was not NEARLY as bad as a lot of fans think he was.  Plus, his defense was second-to-none, so there you go.

A lot of people loathe A-Rod, but there’s just no denying that he was our greatest short stop ever, even if he only played here for five full seasons (and a small portion of two others).  He’s 4th on the M’s all time Home Runs list, 6th for RBI, 9th in doubles, 5th in stolen bases, and number one in OPS among Mariners who have had more than 100 games played.  I could go on and on.  His 1996 season was one of the greatest individual seasons I’ve ever seen (and the fact that he didn’t win the MVP is reason enough to firebomb any baseball writer’s house who didn’t vote for him that year).

Now that the starting nine is settled, here is what my batting lineup would look like:

  1. Ichiro (L)
  2. Boone (R)
  3. Griffey (L)
  4. Edgar (R)
  5. A-Rod (R)
  6. Buhner (R)
  7. Beltre (R)
  8. Davis (L)
  9. Wilson (R)

I like Ichiro in the leadoff spot, obviously, as he’s really the only leadoff hitter in the bunch.  I like Boone hitting second because he was always good at fouling off pitches and getting on base.  Griffey and Edgar get to keep their traditional spots.  That pushes A-Rod to 5th and Bone to 6th.  I’ve got Davis 8th just to break up the monotony of righties in there.

For my team, I’ve got a 5-man bench.  Backup catcher was next-to-impossible to figure out.  In the end, I settled on Kenji Johjima’s bat over some other longstanding, offensively-challenged individuals.  For my reserve outfielder, I went with Mike Cameron, because I figure he had close to Griffey’s range, he could play all three positions, and he could knock a dinger or two when need be.  My backup infielder is Omar Vizquel, because you’ve gotta have a great glove to backup short stop just in case; and no one’s better than Little O.  For my utility player, I went with Mark McLemore, because he could just about play every position on the field, and he was surprisingly effective at the plate.  For my final bench spot, I decided that I needed a left-handed power bat.  You know, in case I wanted to pinch hit for Beltre or Wilson or something late in the game.  This proved to be rather disappointing, because I pretty much just went with the next-highest home run total who wasn’t already on the team.  That turned out to be Raul Ibanez, who I suppose could – besides being a reserve left fielder when Ichiro needs a break NEVER – play a little first base and be an emergency catcher.  Anyway, did you know that Raul is 7th on the Mariners’ all time home runs list?  How sad is that?  Did you know that 7th amounts to 127 home runs?  How sad is THAT?

So, there it is.  There’s my bench:

C – Kenji Johjima
OF – Mike Cameron
INF – Omar Vizquel
Util – Mark McLemore
OF/PH – Raul Ibanez

Tomorrow, I’ll get into the pitchers.  Spoiler alert:  the bullpen is ridiculously difficult to figure out.

Worst Opening Day For Mariners In 35 Years

We’ve had 35 Home Openers in Mariners history, and if you add it all up, we’ve been fairly successful.  As a franchise, we started out 10-3 in Home Openers before going 5-5 over the next decade to close out the Kingdome’s Home Opener Record at 15-8.  In Safeco (not counting the mid-season Home Opener which was blown by Kaz Sasaki), we’re only 6-6, bringing our overall Home Opener Record to 21-14.  Still respectable, but I have a feeling most teams have winning records for their Home Openers.

12-3, a 9-run differential.  No other Home Opener shapes up.  Back in 1987, the Mariners lost to the Twins 8-1 for a 7-run differential.  Back in 1990, the Mariners lost to the A’s 15-7 (an 8-run differential and the most runs given up by a Mariners team in their Home Opener; a feat we somehow didn’t have shattered last night).  As a point of reference, the 1987 Twins won the World Series that year; and the 1990 A’s lost in the World Series to Lou Piniella and the Cincinnati Reds.

So, if history holds serve, either the 2011 Indians will win it all this year, or they will lose in the World Series to our future Hall of Fame manager.  Either way, go to Vegas and put your money on the Tribe; you’ll still get good odds, I guarantee it.

Until last night, I had never been to a Home Opener.  My record in Home Openers is 0-1.  Next year, I’m going to Night 2.

I’ll try to set the scene for you:  the weather was absolutely sparkling yesterday.  The sun was out, there was a nice crisp breeze blowing ever so slightly; it was a perfect night for baseball in April.  I got off work and went straight to Sodo for a Louisiana Red Hot with grilled onions and a Sprite.  Next on my agenda:  I wanted to buy a Mariners hat.  Classic navy blue with the S and the Mariners star on the front, size 8.  Then, it was over to Pyramid where it was jumping with M’s fans; I promptly left when I saw the line for the beer garden was nearly as long as the line to get into the stadium.

They were handing out “Go Mariners!” signs outside Safeco, so I picked one of them up.  They were also giving away magnetic Mariners calendars inside Safeco as well as a green Mariners Opening day bandana.  Met up with a couple of friends and we headed over to our seats.  Section 115, row 15 on the first base side in Right Field.  Bought a beer, a souvenir soda, and a couple more Sodo Dogs before settling in with my scorecard and my glove.

At 6:30, the festivities started.  First, they announced the entire Cleveland Indians team, including equipment managers.  Then, it was our turn.  Fireworks!  Explosions!  The red carpets rolled out for every Mariner announced!  They presented Gold Gloves to Franklin Gutierrez (not in attendance as he’s still working to make it back to the big club in Arizona) and Ichiro.  They also gave Ichiro a ceremonial plaque since he recently became the Mariners’ all-time hits leader.  This got the biggest ovation of the night as the previous Mariners’ all-time hits leader walked out of the dugout to present it to him.  Oh Edgar, how we miss you so!  Finally, Felix got his Cy Young award and we were almost ready for the first pitch.

But first, one more tribute to Dave Niehaus.  Dave Niehaus Way – the ceremonial street named after him along 1st Ave next to the stadium – as well as having the broadcast booth named after him.  Of course, there’s still the Dave “My Oh My” patches the players are wearing (as well as the statue that’s going to be build sometime in the near future).  Then, local white rapper McLemore Macklemore came out to perform his Dave Niehaus song; he was about as good as you’d think a local white rapper would be.  Finally, Marilyn Niehaus – widow of Dave – threw the ceremonial first pitch to Felix who was catching.

Then, around 7:20pm, it was Game On.

Jason Vargas took the hill and promptly gave up a solo homer to Asdrubal Cabrera, former Seattle Mariner (a prospect traded to the Indians under Bill Bavasi for a handful of magic beans).  The second inning went 1-2-3 thanks to a double play, and the third inning went almost as easily.

The Mariners were down only 1-0 when the dancing morons showed up after the 3rd inning.  You know who I’m talking about:  they’re local favorites who always get the biggest cheers because they’re uncoordinated white people dancing with rakes.  The fucking groundscrew dancers, how I hate them so!  They did their thing, then the 4th inning happened.

Five straight hits, punctuated by a double from Austin Kearns.  Then, a sacrifice fly knocked in another run before one final single knocked Vargas from the game.  By that point, he’d given up 5 runs in the inning, then Tom Wilhelmsen entered and gave up 1 more for Vargas and another 4 more for himself.  14 Indians went to the plate, 10 runs scored – it thoroughly made me question why I ever decide to keep score at baseball games; my scorecard couldn’t look more abysmal.

Wilhelmsen gave up another unearned run in the 5th inning to close his book.  We were down 12-0 at the time, with the fans streaming for the exits.

I’ll say this about Wilhelmsen:  either he was nervous AGAIN – this time being his first in front of the home crowd – or he just isn’t ready for the Major Leagues.  My guess is, he will be in Tacoma before the month’s out.  Maybe even before the weekend’s out.

As for Vargas, this just looked like a bad day.  I couldn’t tell what the Indians were hitting – if they were good pitches down and away, or meatballs up and over the plate – but I’m generally not too worried about our Number 2 starter.  I think he’ll turn it around as early as his next start.

Aaron Laffey went the next 2 innings, giving up only a hit and a walk (seemingly cementing his status as our bullpen lefty); that brought us to the end of the 7th inning.

The time when me and my friends decided to leave.  We were down 12-1.  They could’ve given us 27 more innings and we probably wouldn’t have scored the 12 runs it would’ve taken to win that game.  Apparently Lueke and Wright shut the Indians down over the final 2 innings, and apparently we scored a couple of runs in the bottom of the 9th to make it less dreadful, but really, who cares?

This was an onslaught.  This was NOT the way we needed to start our season at home.  How are the Mariners going to hold onto the casual fans they have left if they’re throwing out duds like this?

This was CERTAINLY not the way to honor Dave’s memory.  What a joke.  My prediction of 65 wins is looking more like unrealistic positive thinking than a lowball guess made by the jaded.

Once again, Chone Figgins went hitless in 5 at bats, lowering his average to .100.  Once again, we were totally incompetent with runners in scoring position (1 for 8), but what did THAT matter?  If we don’t have picture-perfect pitching from our starters, we don’t have a chance in Hell of winning ANY games this year.  Our offense couldn’t overcome a measly 2-run deficit, much less a 12-run deficit!

I just don’t know what to say anymore.  We’re going to lose 100 games again, Jackie Z will be shitcanned, and we’re going to start this whole fucking process all over again.  Luckily for the Mariners, the world is going to end in 2012, so all the losing in the world doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, does it?

We’ll All Miss You Dave Niehaus

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  Dave Niehaus passed away at the age of 75, and if anyone deserved to live twice as long, it was Dave.

When he was ready, he was going to tell us that, “This will be my last season.”  That way, we as Mariner fans, as baseball fans, could take the time at some point in the season to appreciate the man, the legend, the voice.  And when he signed off for the last time, there would be tears, but we’d know Dave would still be around.  Kicking up a ruckus in retirement, showing up every once in a while in the broadcast booth to say hi to the legions who loved him all around the Pacific Northwest.  We’d see him at major Mariner milestones and other special occasions.  He should’ve had a few years of that at least!  Then, quietly, he would pass, and we’d get to reflect all over again the man, the legend, the voice.

But life doesn’t work that way, so he passed yesterday.

It’s weird, thinking about coping with loss of a man who you didn’t know personally.  I mean, we can all imagine who he was, his kindness, his warmth, his sincerity, his electricity.  He’s the grandfather who loved baseball that we so desperately needed in this region.  If you’re a fan, he’s been in your life probably more than some close relatives.  And in a profession like broadcasting, where you’re acceptable just by not being annoying, Dave Niehaus was truly beloved; a master of his craft.

This one hit me harder than I expected.  You wouldn’t expect the loss of a play-by-play man to engender such remorse, but then again this wasn’t just any play-by-play man.  He WAS the Mariners.  To fans, he WAS baseball.  I don’t know if I’d be a fan of either the Mariners or baseball if I didn’t have Dave there, simultaneously teaching me the game while also transferring his passion onto me.  Sure, the players were involved in some pretty memorable moments, but if you really think about it, what do you remember?  Maybe you remember the pictures on the sports page, maybe you can even close your eyes and see the players rounding the bases.  But I certainly know what you HEAR.  One man’s voice, in an instant, flipping from quiet and brusk to loud and agitated.  A split second before you even knew what was going on on the field, you knew something exciting JUST happened, because Dave got excited.  And when Dave got excited, that’s when YOU got excited.  Together, you’d be screaming and jumping up and down as the unthinkable just happened – he in the broadcast booth and you from your couch.

This is an incredible loss.  I’m just happy he got to experience his ever-so-worthy Hall of Fame induction while he was still with us.  They don’t make ’em like him anymore.  What we’re left with are cookie-cutter carbon copies, each with a defect more glaring than the last.  Dave derived from the Golden Age of Baseball.  The Golden Age of Radio.  He knew when to speak and when to let the game breathe.  He knew exactly what to say to describe something we couldn’t see.  He was a fan first and a radio professional second, and that’s what we’ll always love about Dave.  That’s something you don’t see anymore.  Nowadays, all you get are Professional Voicemen, nomads wandering from city to city, without a vested interest in anything except not making a mistake on air.  You don’t get roots, you don’t get ties.  As soon as there’s a better opportunity, you get the Professional Voiceman Walking, to be replaced by another.

Never forget, Mariners fans, that we’ve already got a Hall of Famer in Cooperstown.  His name is Dave Niehaus and he’s the best the Mariners have ever had.