Baseball’s problem isn’t sagging ratings, or diminished offense, or performance enhancing drugs, or excessive salaries, or lack of respect for sabermetrics, or new supposedly sissy rules like instant replay or plate collision bans or quick hooks for pitchers who throw at batters.
Baseball’s problem is that you go to a game and, more than ever before in history, the fan experience is boring as all mother fuck.
Baseball has always been a quiet game with occasional moments of excitement and terror, like tournament poker with bats and baseballs. But you need only go back to the early 90‘s to see footage of playoff games with a crowd on the edge of their seats and cheering for every pitch from the get go.
Last night, the Mariners threw down a blackout Night Court promotion for Felix Hernandez’s start against their fellow playoff contending rivals the Oakland A’s. The Mariners managed to sell out the stadium for the first time since this year’s home opener and we had high anticipation for a jacked up and electric crowd.
Instead we got an occasionally excited but Safeco-typical anemic crowd, many of which didn’t even bother donning the 35,000 black Night Court shirts given out at the gates. Read more…
Ray Rice was for years one of my favorite famous people in sports, let alone one of my favorite players. He was, dating back to his Rutgers college days, a standup guy with a great public attitude and a work ethic and performance to match.
Then we found out he beat up his fiancee in a New Jersey casino elevator, and that changed immediately. You could see the dust from my fandom floating in the air after how fast my allegiances to Ray Rice disappeared.
See, because while I’m not so sure about how the rest of the nation sees domestic violence, me finding out a person I look up to just beat down their S.O. is for me a pretty quick dealbreaker. And never mind difficulty with sentiment. If I can walk away from everyone and everything I’ve ever known to come live in a place like Seattle (as I did 10 years ago), I should have no trouble reconciling a sudden and decisive end to my fandom for anyone or anything over a sordid discovery.
In fact, growing up in Vegas taught me that underneath the public facades that so many put up there is in many cases a giant self serving asshole who will step on whoever they need to and give zero fucks about what they’re doing wrong or who they’re hurting. And that’s just the random tourists: Both my folks as well as several friends worked in prominent Vegas Strip casinos and have met hundreds of celebrities from both sports and entertainment. While many were great people, many were total dickheads, some beyond the scope of reason and sanity (and no, I’m not naming names, but some of the bad ones include some of my childhood favorites and some of yours). I think merely by growing up in Vegas I had given up the notion of public figures being heroes by adulthood.
So it makes a little less sense to me than it does to others that we have any responsibility to protect Ray Rice from prosecution and other punishment to the fullest extent of the law. At the same time, I realize why the public and the NFL and the relevant governments are having a harder time with what should otherwise be a Judge Dredd style slam dunk decision. People for years looked up to Ray Rice as not just a football star, but one of the shining beacons of everything that was right about football, a great character guy and an example to the rest of us… before this. Read more…
Well, the David Price sweepstakes is finally over, and the Mariners did not end up with the Rays’ ace left-hander. They were, however, involved in the deal that saw David Price get moved, as a part of a three-way deal that sends Price to the Tigers, and center fielder Austin Jackson to Seattle from Detroit. Tampa Bay will receive LHP Drew Smyly and SS Willy Adames from Detroit as well as IF Nick Franklin from Seattle.
I was reluctant to start writing this post, because I really thought there was a good chance someone else had to be in the deal. But, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs pointed out, Price is worth a little less in prospects than his talent level suggests, considering he will be owed in the neighborhood of $20 million next season.After taking a closer look, though, this isn’t a bad haul for David Price.
Franklin has had a massive strikeout problem during his time in the major leagues, but that hasn’t really been the case in the minors. He has just 464 major league plate appearances, and is still just 23-years-old. He has plenty of time to develop into a league-average or better hitter, and that’s a valuable commodity at second base. Smyly is just 25-years old, and has three more years of team control after 2014. Smyly is about a 2.0 WAR starter now, with plenty of room for growth. Adames I know nothing about, but people like him, so hey, cool! It’s not that bad of a haul for a guy, in Price, that has never had a 5+ WAR season who is only under contract through 2015.
But you didn’t come here to read about those guys. You want to know what all the hubbub is about this Austin Jackson guy. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
When Brad Miller was in the middle of his absurdly long slump, I was looking for anything that indicated that change might be right around the corner. I found myself getting encouraged by hard line-outs on 3-2 pitches, or even any deep count that didn’t end in a strikeout. Any moment could be the moment he remembered that he was supposed to be pretty decent at hitting a baseball, and then do so for an extended period of time.
The final time I thought “this might be the turning point” came on May 27. Miller went 0-2 with two walks in that game. that performance raised his awful .473 OPS to a nearly-equally awful .476. I just didn’t want to believe that Miller could possibly be as bad as he had been to that point. This was a guy who had destroyed every level of the minors, was an above-average hitter while playing decent shortstop in the minors, and most importantly, a guy whose name differs from my own by just two letters. He just had to be good.
Justin Smoak has now amassed 2,183 career plate appearances. That’s kind of a lot. So at this point, we should have an idea of what Justin Smoak is as a hitter. At 27-years-old, Smoak is entering his athletic prime and the years that a hitter generally peaks. Things started decently for Smoak in 2014, and it looked like he might finally become something other than a black hole in the lineup. After a not-horrible 2013 in which Smoak hit .238/.334/.412, it would have been easy to see Smoak’s solid start–he was hitting .246/.307/.442 as recently as May 12th–as a sign that he was taking the next step. Sure, the walks weren’t there yet, but that was the one aspect of Smoak’s offensive game that he has always been pretty good at. It would make sense that he’d begin to start taking more walks, which he has done: In the 88 plate appearances since his solid start, Smoak has taken 10 walks in 88 plate appearances, an 11.4% rate. The problem, unfortunately, is everything else.
The Mariners have been treading water the past couple weeks, largely because of surprisingly decent pitching. The club’s problem, for what is probably the seventy-eighth consecutive season, is the offense. The Mariners have a .234/.299/.365 batting line right now, which gives them the third lowest OPS in baseball. Remove the black holes of Brad Miller and what Abraham Almonte did before being sent to Tacoma, and they’re still hitting just .246/.308/.382 against the American League average of .253/.322/.395. Even after removing their two worst bats this year, the Mariners have still been a slightly below average offensive team. Lots of voices are calling for the Mariners to sign Kendrys Morales to help with their offensive woes, but I think the boost the Mariners are looking for could come from Tacoma’s non-prospect, on-base machine, Ty Kelly.
If you watched last night’s Mariner game, a 3-2 loss to the Oakland A’s in 12 innings, you likely noticed that home plate umpire Sean Barber was really, really bad. This was his first major league game behind the dish calling balls and strikes–he is a replacement umpire filling in for Tim McClelland, who is going to miss the 2014 season with a back injury. So, like it or not, Barber is probably here to stay, at least for the 2014 season. Still, if this is a “tweener” AAA/MLB umpire, I’d hate to see the guys that aren’t on the short list to get major league work.