ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd pointed out this week that commissioner Bud Selig has done a lot more for this game than he gets credit for. Aside from replay, expanded playoffs, and the ousting of steroid users, Selig has helped smaller market teams build competitive programs. This week, Rob Manfred was elected to take over Selig’s position next year and will hopefully continue to protect the competitive atmosphere in baseball. And for evidence of Selig’s success with this, look no further than the 2014 Marlins.
It took the entirety of 2013 for Miami to reach the 62-win mark. A baseball fan can do the math and understand that equates to 100 losses, and, save the Astros, the butt of all jokes. A year later the Marlins have won their 62nd game in mid-August and sit at .500, still in the National League playoff mix.
In fact, the standings are tight across all of Major League Baseball as we enter the home stretch on what has been the most competitive season of recent history. The Baltimore Orioles are in control of their division and are poised to make a deep playoff run for the first time in quite a while. The Kansas City Royals lead the AL Central and look to just make the postseason for the first time since 1985. In the NL, the Milwaukee Brewers lead a division that has been owned by St. Louis for the last decade plus. All in all, 19 of the league’s 30 clubs have realistic playoff aspirations.
But Miami faces one of the toughest challenges in the National League. Currently 3.5 games out of the second wild card spot, the Marlins have an easy week before they face a serious uphill climb. After today’s off day, Miami plays two against Texas and then travels to Denver for a three-game set against the Rockies. But next week they play in Anaheim and Atlanta, not easy places to win these days, and travel to first-place Milwaukee in the second week of September. Before the regular season ends on September 28th, the Marlins play the Braves six times and the Nationals eight.
The Nationals are currently six games up in the NL East, and will host the Marlins for a four game series at the end of September. The set includes a doubleheader on Friday the 27th that is a result of a rained-out May matchup, thus fulfilling Paul Fritchner’s prophecy of an improved Nationals team:
“I gotta say it was a pretty swift move by the Nats last night to postpone this game to later in the season when we got our lineup back.”
Three and a half games will not be easy to overcome for the Marlins, and they will certainly need to take advantage of Texas and Colorado this week if they want any shot down the stretch. But All-Star Henderson Alvarez is back in the rotation and Giancarlo Stanton is heating up, giving the Fish as good a chance as ever to make a run.
Speaking of Stanton, he has a bit of a history in Denver. In just 39 at-bats there over the past three years, he has hit 7 home runs and is slugging .974. One of those homers was a 494-foot behemoth that landed where no baseball should land in that park. The Marlins begin a three-game series in Denver on Friday. If he stays true to his tendencies at all, Stanton will add to his league-leading home run and RBI totals, both of which have placed him at the forefront of the NL MVP discussion.
But Joe Frisaro wrote today that there is much more to Miami’s outfield than Stanton. He cites the statistic WAR (wins above replacement) to argue that Miami boasts the second-best outfield in all of baseball. With Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the number of wins above replacement by Miami’s oufielders stands at 10.7, second only to Tampa Bay’s of 11. And WAR might not even account for the strength of Stanton’s and Ozuna’s arms when, unless nullified by by a flawed new rule, can literally take away wins from opponents.
Adeiny Hechavarria takes opportunities away from opponents on a daily basis. Making spectacular plays at short, he is putting on a serious campaign for the Gold Glove. No Marlin shortstop has ever won a Gold Glove, and no Marlin period has ever won the league MVP Award. If Stanton keeps his numbers up for the next month an a half, there is no reason he should not take home that hardware. And if that does happen, it will expose a gaping hole in the MLB system: Stanton was not voted into the All-Star Game. The league’s best player was not voted to start in a game that decides home field advantage in the World Series–for the sole reason that he plays for an unpopular team. Think about it.
Along with rule 7.13, new commissioner Rob Manfred should address the All-Star selection process when he takes over his new job in January. But apart from these, Manfred is being handed over a league that is as exciting to follow as it has ever been. The final weeks of the 2014 season have much in store for us, and Miami has a more-than-reasonable chance to be an integral part of that excitement.
It was an electric atmosphere (literally) last night at Safeco Field as Canadian baseball fans showed up in masses to root on their Blue Jays. Fans cheered when lightning struck near the park, and chants of “USA” broke out soon afterward by, presumably, the Seattle fans.
Originally posted on Metro News:
SEATTLE, Wash. — They were out in force, walking the streets of Seattle, clad in blue and white, with the last names like Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie on the back.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in the Pacific Northwest and will have a strong contingent of fans from north of the border in the Emerald City, which is about a three-hour drive south of Vancouver, for an important three-game series with the Mariners, beginning Monday.
Announced attendance for Game 1 of the series was 41,168. It was a lively crowd, too.
They all saw the Mariners open the series with an 11-1 victory, thanks to a seven-run sixth inning that chased Toronto starter Drew Hutchison from the game.
Mariners’ slugger Robinson Cano started the inning off with a solo home run to left field, giving Seattle a two-run lead. He came up later in the inning and lit up…
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I find every series between the Marlins and Nationals intriguing. I’ve followed the Marlins longer than any other team, yet I’ve seen the Nationals play more than any other. The division rivals play about 18 games head-to-head each season and have provided some of the most entertaining baseball I’ve ever watched. From tense pitching duels between studded young arms to slugfests between All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, and even fist fights on the field, there is always a story to follow even when one of the teams dwells in the league’s cellar.
Both Miami and Washington have top-notch pitching staffs. When the Jordan Zimmermanns and Henderson Alvarezes pitch to their potential, these matchups often float into the late innings with very little–or no–scoring. In fact, last September Zimmermann shut out the Fish in under two and a half hours. But don’t be surprised to see the Marlins tag Strasburg for six runs in two innings, or the Nationals chase a Miami starter after just three innings. However, even when starters turn in quality outings, the bullpens of these two clubs rarely allow the contests to cool off after six or seven innings.
Back in May, I attended a game at Nationals Park in which the starters only allowed four of the night’s 13 runs. The Marlins scored four in extra innings to win. In April, the Nats and Marlins combined for 17 runs in DC with the Nats scoring their final four in the eighth inning to seal the game.
It’s late July and the Nationals are in Miami for a three game series in which the Marlins season virtually hangs. After last night’s thrilling victory, the Fish sit just a game under .500 and 6 back of the Nationals for first place in the East. They’re also 4.5 out of a National League Wild Card spot. While they’re not in great standing, their playoff chances look much brighter than they did two weeks ago. After dropping six straight after the All Star break, the Fish went on to take three of four in Atlanta, sweep three from Houston, and win the first against Washington at home. That’s seven wins in eight games. The trade deadline looms, and the Marlins may be in a position to buy after all.
In the seventh inning last night, the Marlins were down 6-0 to the Nationals. I would have guessed at that point that they’d be putting some players on the trade block today. But there’s nothing more dangerous than a young team with nothing to lose, on a hot streak, and facing a bullpen with a less-than-perfect record. The Fish struck for three runs against the Nats’ bullpen in the seventh and eighth, but were still down a few going into the last of the ninth. Here goes:
Unintimidated by Rafael Soriano, Casey McGehee led off the final inning with a walk, and Garrett Jones doubled him to third. Marcell Ozuna blooped a single into right field to score a run and put runners on the corners with no outs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (best name in sports) drilled a sac fly to right making it 6-5 with one out and a runner still on first. Washington was not in a bad position with their closer on the hill and up by one, but Soriano threw a wild pitch to Adeiny Hechavarria to allow the tying run to move into scoring position. It really wouldn’t matter in the long run because Hechavarria, making my life as a writer incredibly difficult, shot a triple into the right-center gap, tying the game while moving himself 90 feet from a win. Jerry Blevins took over for Soriano, and as much as I love the University of Dayton and its baseball-playing alumni, I’ve loved the Marlins for longer. Blevins struck out Christian Yelich to move the Nationals an out away from escaping to extra innings. As Jeff Baker strutted to the plate, I remembered how much I didn’t love his alma mater of Gar Field High School, but then I remembered how I threw a complete game 14-4 win against them this high school season and didn’t mind rooting for him. He drilled the first pitch he saw off the left field wall and the Marlins walked off with an
improbable nearly impossible, come-from-behind, Miami-Washington-style, crazy win. I’m metaphorically out of breath.
The point is, if Miami can win this series, they find themselves in a favorable position at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Nationals are locked in a tight race with the Braves and are trying to maintain their lead, which currently stands at just a half game. Atlanta is a team against whom Washington has struggled greatly, so it’s important the Nats get as many wins against other divisional opponents as possible. But the Marlins, obviously, are not in a position to roll over easily.
Is 2014 Miami’s season? As of right now, I doubt it. Even if the Marlins do find a way to sneak into the playoffs, it’s there that experience triumphs. And I’ll take St. Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and (heck) even Washington in October over Miami, a franchise that has not made the postseason since their 2003 World Series win. And the vast majority of Miami’s roster has never played in the postseason. Therefore, it’s not worth it for the Marlins to sell their entire minor league system to buy a few blockbuster players for a shot at a championship. But if they trade a prospect for a guy who will up their chances at making the postseason and at least excite this franchise for a future run, I’m all in.
And it’s fitting that Miami make these decisions while playing a team with whom they’ve had arguably the most exciting history, save Steve Bartman and the Cubs. But who knows? Maybe the Marlins will see the Nationals in October.
Safeco Field is the farthest north of all Major League ballparks. That was one of the more interesting things I learned on the tour I took July 6th. I was set to see a pair of games between the Mariners and the Twins at my new second favorite park.
Traveling to baseball stadiums nationwide has made me look forward to going to Nationals Park a lot less. Washington’s main advantage for baseball fans like me is that it is not crowded during batting practice and has a lot of outfield seating. If that weren’t the case, I’d hardly ever go to Nationals games. Safeco Field opens 2.5 hours before game time, like Nats Park and many other stadiums, but only the left field and center field areas are accessible until 2 hours prior. Safeco Field also does not have any lower-level outfield seating on the left side, meaning that home runs are hard to come by over there. The bullpens take up all the field-level space.
Safeco’s main pre-game draw is “The Bullpen” in center field. It’s a plaza of overpriced bars and restaurants with a party deck to view the game. They hold happy hour when the gates open with half-priced beers. Inevitably, people show up early for this. The party deck is great because it’s a flat, open space for chasing baseballs–the most field-like surface that a stadium can provide. However, it’s far from home plate and gets crowded quickly because of the aforementioned beer deals.
The first game was on Monday, July 7th. Joe and I got to the stadium at the desired time and proceeded to the party deck. I hung out at the back so that I could be more mobile and not get caught up with the crowd along the wall. A few minutes in, the move paid off when a right-handed Mariner launched a deep home run toward us. I moved over and up and used every bit of my long left arm to make the catch above a nicely-dressed woman with a beer in one hand, shading herself with the other. She reacted as though I had saved her life. Pro tip: If you show up to a baseball game more than an hour beforehand, bring a glove or stay away from the field.
That catch was my only one for the day. I traveled over to right field where the seating is a little more conventional, but the sun was absolutely brutal (even worse than it was at Turner Field back in April). Any ball hit in the air I could track for about a second and then it completely disappeared in the glare. Had the roof been closed or the sky stereotypically overcast, I might have had a shot at a few more long balls, but that just wasn’t happening. The last thing I needed was 108 stitches in my head.
I honestly don’t even know where our seats were for this game. I think they were somewhere in right field, but it wasn’t crowded and right field was in the sun so I didn’t even bother going over there. Joe and I plopped down in section 119 along the first base line. In fact, it was almost directly up from first base, a little on the outfield side. Nicest. Usher. Ever. He never once checked a ticket, asked us to move, or questioned us in any manner. My parents, meanwhile, arrived much later than we did and decided to sit in the left field corner. They said the usher in their section was incredibly strict and was throwing people out of the 95% empty section in the seventh inning and later. But for some reason he never asked my parents for their tickets so they stayed put. I think that was section 139 so another pro tip: don’t sit there.
Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders both hit solo home runs and Hisashi Iwakuma threw seven shutout innings as Fernando Rodney notched the save for the Mariners’ 2-0 victory. But the highlight for me was the fact that Seattle wore their teal jerseys, which are undoubtedly the coolest uniforms in baseball. Objections? Too bad.
Nothing terribly exciting happened the following day. Joe and I bought scalp tickets outside the field for $15 each. They were in the third deck of the infield and, you guessed it, we never sat there.
I again hung out on the party deck for the first half hour or so, and only one ball ended up reaching the people there. For whatever reason I wasn’t paying attention when it was hit, so I wasn’t even close to it. I moved over to right field where the sun was even worse than it had been the previous day. I was mostly in the wrong places at the wrong times and I didn’t catch anything.
Finally, Minnesota’s Kendrys Morales hit a long home run that was well over my head. Luckily, I was the closest person to it, and when it landed it hit a seat back and skipped right to me. I barehanded it and felt satisfied. Ever since my glove and I lost a gruesome battle to a bouncing baseball in San Diego two years back, I barehand every ball I can.
My dad joined us at this game and bought his own scalp ticket for cheap. All three of us got a picture with the Mariner Moose before the game and then proceeded to section 119. Same usher, thank goodness! While the Mariners warmed up before the game I went down to the first row for some pictures and was pleasantly surprised when Brad Miller threw me his baseball as he jogged back to the dugout. In case you missed it, Brad Miller is my favorite Mariner. Actually, he’s my favorite non-Marlin.
This game was the virtual opposite of the previous day’s. Sam Fuld hit a solo homer for the Twins and they tacked on another run later and won 2-0. Four runs over two games is not spectacular. Safeco Field, however, is. So I think I’ll get over the lack of offense.
From the first base/right field side fans can see the Seattle skyline, including neighboring Century Link Field, over the left field bleachers and “Safeco Field” sign. This makes section 119 optimal for anyone watching a Mariners game. Actually, funny story regarding that: A lot of stadiums do a “seat upgrade” promotion where they surprise some fans in the upper deck and award them seats down close to the field. Well at this game, the people who were surprised had tickets in a section close to the ones for which we had tickets, and then they were “upgraded” to section 119, just a few rows in front of us. Final pro tip: don’t wait for stadium staff to come tell you you have a seat upgrade. Carpe diem!
So I said Safeco Field was my new second favorite ballpark. This year, I’ve visited Fenway Park and Safeco Field (first timers), along with Nationals Park and the spring training stadiums. But the new parks mean I have to update my rankings. Here goes:
1) PETCO Park: As I said back in 2012, San Diego did everything right with this place. The edge over Seattle is because PETCO lies in the “Gaslamp” district of San Diego. It’s very accessible and walkable, a little easier to get to than Seattle.
2) Safeco Field: Seattle did everything right as well. But its neighborhood is in transition.
3) Oriole Park: It’s been a while since I’ve visited Baltimore for a game, so I need to go back to better place it on the list. But it’s as good as any in the majors.
4) Fenway Park: It’s tough to compare a century-old gem to the shiny new jewels that are my top five parks, but I’m trying. Fenway’s downside is the crammed seating. However, I upgraded in this game as well. All things considered, it’s hard to top the Fenway “experience.”
5) Minute Maid Park: Not a lot of people like this Park as much as I do. Houston made a retractable roof park feel cozy and ballpark-ish. The fans were friendly and passionate when I went, and there are enough quirks in its design to make it interesting.
6) Marlins Park: I really wish the Marlins had made their walls closer to the plate and less green. I wish they hadn’t spent two million dollars on the eyesore that lies in center field, and I wish the outfield seating were more fan friendly. But it’s Miami and they’re not known for baseball.
7) Nationals Park: I used to really like Nats Park, but then I attended too many games there. There’s nothing notable or spectacular about the park and the neighborhood is similar to that in which Safeco lies. It gets really hot during the summer, and on top of it all, the ushers are irritable.
8) Dodger Stadium: Dodger Stadium is a great venue to watch a baseball game…on TV. The concourses are narrow and crowded, and one has to climb a hill to enter any seating section above field level. I went to a day game and it was really warm.
9) Turner Field: The Braves. Need I say more? Sure. The Chop House music. The Kiss Cam. Evan Gattis. Craig Kimbrel. The 50/50 lottery they hold every game.
10) RFK Stadium: It’s not supposed to be a baseball stadium so I don’t think it’ll mind being last on my list.
Vancouver, British Columbia was the next stop on my family’s Pacific Northwest road trip after the stay in Seattle. And even while this segment included baseball, I was more thrilled to visit filming locations from the popular USA Network show Psych. Running from 2006 to 2013, Psych was a crime comedy that chronicled a fake psychic detective and his Watson-esque sidekick as the pair solved crimes with the Santa Barbara police department. However, only aerial images on the show were actually filmed in Santa Barbara as the rest of the filming took place in Canada. The following slideshow has pictures of the locations that I took juxtaposed with shots from actual episodes of Psych.
Fun story: The Vancouver Canadians are the short season class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, and I did not even know the team existed until I mentioned my travel plans to a friend shortly before I left. As it turns out, the Canadians’ first baseman is Ryan McBroom, a resident of Fredericksburg, VA. In fact, he attended the same middle school that all my brothers and I did. I knew he was drafted by Toronto, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn he was playing in Vancouver. McBroom won Player of the Week honors for the Northwest League for the week June 23-29. He was presented the award after the game I attended. Vancouver unfortunately lost the game to the Everett Aquasox (gotta love the minor league team names), but it was cool to be there nonetheless. Another point of interest: the stadium accepts American currency, and I imagine the Rogers Centre in Toronto does as well.
My dad took Joe and me back to Safeco Field for game 2 of the series against the Twins in our last full day in Seattle. We bought $15 scalp tickets off the street and sat again in section 119 along the first base line. I never imagined seat upgrading would be so easy here considering the Mariners’ success this season, but we were never questioned about our tickets.
The highlights of the night: 1)Brad Miller threw me a ball before the game, so naturally I was way more excited than a 17-year-old should be about getting a free baseball. 2) We got a picture with the Mariner Moose so my mom would be satisfied she had something to scrapbook. 3) Only two runs were scored for the second straight night and the Twins won 2-0. 4) And I’m likely the only one who cares, but the Twins’ first run came on a solo shot by Sam Fuld who drilled a liner over the right-cente field fence, just out of Michael Saunders’ reach. The previous night, Saunders had hit a homer to right-center field just out of Fuld’s reach. Payback? And finally 5) It was Bark in the Park night. I added one token canine picture.
I never thought I’d say this, but the Mariners and Twins should have taken scoring lessons from Germany’s soccer team. For the first time in my life I enjoyed watching futbol-ers score more than a baseball team…or TWO teams combined over TWO games.
I attended the Mariners-Twins game Monday night at Safeco Field with my family. Much to my delight, the M’s wore their slick teal jerseys–the best uniform in baseball. I’ll write a full post later, but the highlights are: 1) I caught a batting practice home run in center field–my only catch of the day. 2) The Mariners hit 2 homers and won 2-0. 3)Brad Miller is in the high socks and stirrups in the following pictures.
These are just some of the pictures, there may be more later on. Click on a picture to enlarge it and a scroll through them in a slide show.
On Sunday we took an awesome tour of Safeco Field. We got to hang out in the dugouts and actually step foot on the field. Safeco is right next to the Seattle Seahawks’ Century Link Field, so you’ll see that in a few of these pictures.
I’m seeing a game Monday night when the Mariners take on the Twins. And I plan to attend Tuesday night as well. Many more pictures and stories to come.
Earlier this year I was at a Nationals game with three friends when the in-stadium entertainment host walked down our section and sat right in front of us. I told him we’d be more than happy to be on camera, but he motioned toward my head and said “not with that hat.” I was wearing my teal and blue Seattle Mariners hat. He wasn’t going to interview us anyway, but I got a lot of flack from my companions for preventing us from being on the jumbotron. What does that have to do with anything? Next week, I’ll be attending two games at Safeco Field, so it’s time I explain why I like to wear a Mariners hat and why I root for the team.
Foremost, most of my baseball friends know that I was NOT happy when the Marlins switched their color scheme from teal and black to orange and whatever-the-heck-else. The all-teal hats the Fish debuted in 1993 were a little too gaudy, so I was happy with Florida’s final color combination though I do wish teal were a bit more prominent in their pinstripe uniforms. Naturally, I felt drawn towards Seattle after Miami’s makeover just because of the Mariners’ classy colors.
Back in 2012, I posted about my favorite hats in baseball and asked fans to vote for their favorite. Much to my delight, the navy blue and teal hat of Seattle won the vote. Regardless of whether it won, I was planning to buy the hat because it’s my favorite in baseball, but the vote gave me an extra reason.
In addition, Safeco Field is gorgeous. It’s a retractable roof stadium with the classic ballpark colors. I thought Marlins Park was going to look like Safeco Field when I first saw the plans, but Miami went off the deep end with lime green walls and home run configurations–you know what I mean. Once I actually see a game in Seattle, I’ll have more specifics to back up the assertion of Safeco’s excellence. Further, Seattle seems to be a more culturally-classy city than Miami, famous for its library and fish market rather than its beaches and clubs.
One more plus for the Mariners: Logan Morrison, a former Marlin. And while LoMo is injury-prone, and less productive than his ostentatious nature might suggest, he will always be a Marlin to me and I’ll always root for him. The Mariners also have my favorite non-Marlin in baseball–Brad Miller. Miller is a 6’2″, 200 pound white guy that wears high socks. Basically, if I batted left handed and could play shortstop I would BE Brad Miller. Or if he were a right-handed outfielder. And since his last name is Miller, it makes things even better.
If you can’t tell, the professional is on the left:
If I were never a Marlins fan and had to pick a favorite team today, it’d be Seattle for all these reasons. But I doubt the Marlins will ever annoy me enough to drive me away from Fish Fandom. However, Seattle is much more likely this season to make a playoff run than is Miami. So come October, I hope to see the Mariners in the World Series.
David Mendell wrote an article in the Washington Post in May about the effects travel baseball teams have on community and little league baseball teams. Paul and I talked with local little league veterans, John and Maria Lagana, about what they have noticed in youth baseball in the Virginia/DC area.
The Washington Post article mentioned is HERE.