They were down to their last at-bats, the Mariners, and a game they desperately needed to win was quickly slipping from their grasp. Their divisional foes, the hated Texas Rangers, had built a lead in the top half of the seventh inning and managed to protect it through two frames since.
Now, the Rangers turned to their closer, a lanky right-hander by the name of Jeff Russell. The 34-year-old Russell had enjoyed his best years with Texas, even leading the American League in saves in 1989, his fifth year with the club. He had bounced around over the past three seasons, however, embarking on an odyssey that had taken him from Oakland, to Boston, to Cleveland, and finally back to Arlington. All the while he continued racking up saves, and it was this very situation, pitching in defense of a two-run Rangers lead, that Russell had grown accustomed to enjoying.
His first assignment would be to retire a pinch hitter, the speedy, switch-hitting Alex Diaz.
Diaz was in the midst of what would ultimately become his finest big league season. He would finish the year with career highs in a number of categories, including games played. And his 18 stolen bases would triple his next-best seasonal output hereafter. For now, though, Diaz was merely focused on reaching base by any means necessary.
The Mariners had squandered eight innings worth of opportunities, as well as a quality start by Felix Hernandez, and now scuffled into the ninth deadlocked in a 0-0 tie against the rival Los Angeles Angels.
The second half of Dustin Ackley’s 2014 season has borne one of the more remarkable individual turnarounds in recent memory. Ackley, who spent the previous two-and-a-half years playing miserable baseball, emerged exactly two months ago finally looking like the No. 2 overall draft selection the Mariners made him in 2009.
In and of themselves, Ackley’s stats tell a compelling story. In the first half of 2014, the 26-year-old posted a middling .225/.282/.335/.617 slash line, with just four home runs and 29 RBI. Coming out of the All-Star Break, those numbers seemingly transformed overnight.
Since July 18th, Ackley’s numbers are more Stefan Urquelle than Steve Urkel. Along with an eye-opening .287/.322/.489/.811 slash line, the Mariners’ starting left fielder has cracked seven dingers and driven in 33 runs. Those statistics are worthy of individual callouts, so bear with me for a moment.
In 1992, Disney released its very first hockey-themed film, The Mighty Ducks. Though they didn’t know it at the time, the studio’s $10 million project would become a hit, grossing over $50 million in box office revenue in the fall of that year. For kids of the ’90s, Mighty Ducks emerged as a seminal favorite, a timeless classic, however cheesy, that an entire generation would gravitate towards well into adulthood.
Beyond striking a chord with its target audience, the movie had a lasting impact in other ways, as well. It rejuvenated the career of its star, Emilio Estevez; made a star out of one of its young supporting actors, Joshua Jackson; and even inspired an NHL franchise of the same nickname. The success of The Mighty Ducks prompted Disney to release a pair of sequels over the course of the next four years, unveiling D2: The Mighty Ducks and D3: The Mighty Ducks (really creative names, guys) in 1994 and 1996, respectively.
While D2 capitalized on the triumph of its prequel ($45 million box office gross), D3 was not nearly as fortunate, resulting in just $23 million in box office sales for the studio that birthed Mickey Mouse. Besides overloading the market with Duck fever in such a short amount of time, Disney appeared to cobble together D3 hastily, producing a film that elicited the same clichés and predictable outcomes as its predecessors.
Along the way, D3 acknowledged that its audience, just like its young actors, was quickly growing into adolescence. This inspired (or forced) writers to present a whole new set of non-hockey issues for viewers to try and relate to. Luis looking up cheerleaders’ skirts! Charlie falling in love with someone other than his coach, his mom, or the old guys from the skate shop! A political uprising over an offensive team nickname! It all became a bit much to cram into one whimsical sports picture, and yet cram those writers did.
As a result of Disney’s efforts to squeeze every last ounce of Ducks hype out of its surprising franchise, D3 floundered as the worst installment of the entire trilogy. Some might even argue that it emerged as one of the worst sports movies ever, but the third installment of the Major League series would beg to differ.
After a recent viewing of D3, I took some time to outline everything wrong with the film from start to finish. Adult Me is not nearly as impressionable as Kid Me, you see, and in looking back at a movie I knew was trash even at age 12, I’ve only become more incensed by such a disastrous conclusion to an otherwise great sequence of motion pictures.
Beware: The following list contains numerous spoilers. If you haven’t seen D3 and feel compelled to watch it, it’s currently available for instant viewing on Netflix.
1. The most plausible story line in the entire movie involves Gordon Bombay becoming a high-ranking director of personnel for the Junior Goodwill Games.
Sunday was not a great day for Seattle sports fans. Both the Seahawks and Mariners fell to their respective opponents, doing so in a span of ten minutes around 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time. For those paying witness to either contest, the results were soul-crushing.
The Seahawks, of course, never lose. They hadn’t fallen short of victory since a late-season slip-up at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals some eight months and twenty-five days ago, a loss remembered as a mere speed bump along the Super Bowl autobahn. That the Hawks had neglected to triumph just three times during the 2013 campaign certainly didn’t help, either. A fan base perennially exposed to defeat for decades prior had come to anticipate winning based on the dominating successes of a few quality years. Withering under the 90-plus-degree heat of San Diego’s late-summer sun was certainly unacceptable. Until it became a reality. And then it was nothing short of mind-blowing.
Before the shock of a Seahawks loss could truly set in, let alone wear off, the Mariners went down swinging, literally, as Michael Saunders struck out in the ninth inning, capping off a 4-0 undressing by the visiting Oakland A’s. The outcome marked consecutive defeats for the M’s, sending true-to-the-blue fanatics into full-blown panic mode. In the throes of the franchise’s first legitimate playoff run in more than a decade, one loss was heartbreaking, but two in a row? And just minutes after the football team lost, too? Sharp objects required hiding.
For the past couple weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge has emerged as a positive, impactful way to raise both awareness and money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or ALS), the neurodegenerative condition often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
As the Challenge has progressed, everyone from ex-presidents, to star athletes, to D-list celebs, to normies like you and I have engaged in pouring buckets of ice cold water on ourselves while a video camera records the absurdity. With each splash, more cash has been raised for the ALS Association than seemingly ever before, with millions more dollars raised for ALS research throughout the duration of the Ice Bucket Challenge than at comparable intervals in the past.
But as the videos have become more and more prevalent, a teeming mass of self-righteous serial loathers has begun to bubble its way to the forefront of the movement. For every handful of clips promoting awareness of a deadly, debilitating disease, there may be one or two carefully worded articles condemning the foolishness of pouring buckets of chilled liquid on one’s head. The critics have their reasons for feeling the way they do, citing self-promotion, the squandering of perfectly good water, and the belief that performing such an embarrassing feat on camera does not directly equate to cash for a cause that desperately deserves your money. The critics, however, are assholes.
Poor Tony Randazzo. All he wanted to do was show up to Detroit’s Comerica Park, umpire a few baseball games, and go back to his sexless marriage. Instead, Lloyd Motherf’in McClendon got in the way. Damn you, Lloyd.
The weekend was not kind to the 15-year veteran of Major League Baseball’s officiating crew, who was tested not once but twice by the Mariners skipper.
First, McClendon had the gall to defend his ace pitcher, Felix Hernandez, on Saturday night, inquiring about Randazzo’s peculiar strike zone, which closely resembled the size and shape of Kim Kardashian’s posterior.
Then — and this is where it gets really egregious — McClendon brazenly waved his hand from the confines of the team’s first base dugout after Randazzo botched a call on a check swing by a Tigers batter during Sunday’s contest. For both his offenses, Seattle’s manager was booted from consecutive games.
The last time I produced a hand-made sign for a Mariners game was October 8th, 1995, Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series, versus the New York Yankees. I was 10 years old, going on 11, and the intensity of the moment upon us all but demanded block lettering delivered by the likes of Mr. Sketch and Crayola.
Scribed in multicolored print upon yellow poster paper, my entire family worked to craft a giant banner reading “M’S REFUSE TO LOSE.” Unfurled, the message spread a few feet in length and was visible across the vast, grey expanse of the otherwise beautiful Kingdome.
We hung the banner from the facade of the Dome’s third tier, along the first base side of the 300 level. My family sat many rows behind the banner itself, but as the game transpired I shifted my eyes from AstroTurf to DiamondVision, constantly checking the stadium’s big screen for a glimpse of our artistic achievement.
What follows is a Twitter exchange between one Jason Churchill, radio sidekick on 1090 The Fan’s Steve Sandmeyer Show, and some poor guy named Troy Grant, who dares to ask Churchill a question. The conversation quickly devolves from a very peaceful Q-and-A to something resembling a scene out of The Breakfast Club. Before you can say “Dick Vernon,” Churchill goes rage monster on his haplessly unprepared victim. (Though it should be noted that Grant handles all of this like a seasoned pro.)
Before you read ahead, take two things to heart while perusing the dialogue.
*The following is an update from a previous post analyzing every trade of the Jack Zduriencik era in Seattle. Analysis on every transaction has been updated to reflect the passage of time, while an additional 13 trades have been added to the list.
On October 22, 2008, the Seattle Mariners named Jack Zduriencik their newest General Manager. Assuming control of an organization that had been decimated by the foibles of its previous GM, Bill Bavasi, Zduriencik faced a daunting task in rebuilding the Mariners from the ground up.
Just 50 days after landing his new gig, Zduriencik made the first trade of his Mariners tenure. The deal was a blockbuster and would continue to have an impact on the ballclub five-and-a-half years later, where we find ourselves today.
Since that first trade in December of 2008, Zduriencik has proceeded to make 54 more trades for a total of 55 over five-plus seasons. The following is an analysis of all 55 of those transactions.
Trades are listed chronologically, from earliest to most recent. Players acquired in BOLD are current members of the Mariners organization. Grades associated with each trade are entirely subjective and reflective of the author’s opinion.
Trade No. 1: December 11, 2008
Teams involved: New York Mets, Cleveland Indians
I know, I’m right there with you. The Mariners needed a middle-of-the-orderish bat, certainly, but after the team failed to ink Morales to a free agent deal after last season, no one suspected the 31-year-old designated hitter would suit up in a Seattle uniform in 2014.
Alas, Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners front office stick to what they know best. Aside from reacquiring Chone Figgins in some form or fashion, obtaining Morales from the Minnesota Twins is about as surprising a move as the organization could have made. With a plethora of other names being discussed as potential targets for the M’s, the switch-hitting Morales was seemingly overlooked all along.
Regardless of any additional trades the M’s make, this one deal alone will produce a bevy of repercussions that have short- and long-term impacts on the future of the club. Here’s a quick look at how Morales’s arrival will affect the team and its personnel.
Back in 2011 you were a nomad, a football fan with allegiances to no team, no players, no logo, no jerseys, nothing. Occasionally, you spent your Sundays watching games with friends, only arriving to cheer on the men in uniform who peppered the fantasy roster you sort of paid attention to. There was Marques Coleman, your wide receiver, and Marian Foster, your running back. You always knew to root against the quarterback of the Cowboys, who shared a name with that restaurant chain, and to show at least a little partiality towards the local club, the Seahawks, since that’s what your buddies did.
But those Seahawks, they weren’t great. They stumbled to a 7-9 finish that year and failed to make the playoffs. Why be a Seahawks fan, you thought, when it was clear the team was no good?
The success of your 2014 Seattle Mariners has blown more than a few minds in recent weeks. The Twitter mesosphere, for one, has devolved into a cesspool of inane trade rumors (Nick Franklin in exchange for Superman, Jesus Christ, and your finest bottle of Veuve Clicquot) and constant bickering even in light of victory (We’re winning, but we’re not winning well enough…), which essentially means fans are excited about this ballclub once again.
That’s good news for everyone who considers him or herself a fanatic of the Mariners. The bulk of the past decade has been spent enjoying the equivalent of a two-month baseball season encompassing April and May. By June, the team’s prolific early-season failures usually allow apathy to creep in and spoil an entire summer’s worth of contests at Safeco Field. Whether or not this year is the year remains to be seen, but for now the M’s are at least maintaining a firm grip on the region’s interest.
The debates that have ensued over how this ragtag group of misfits (or something like that) can vault themselves into the postseason centers around a small handful of talking points, none more bandied about than the lineup’s need for a right-handed power bat.
The season-long disappointments of de facto designated hitter Corey Hart have put a spotlight on the middle of the batting order, a place not unlike the soft, fleshy underskin of one’s genital area, more commonly referred to as the “taint.” Hart, when healthy, has been Lord of the Taint, as evidenced by his unimpressive .203 batting average and .618 OPS. Time is running short for the 32-year-old to prove he belongs on a big league roster. In the interim, fans and pundits alike scour the internet for possible replacements.
The list of available right-handed bats is not pretty. You can blame the advent of the second Wildcard spot for the slim pickings, as any team with a .500 or better record remains in playoff contention. Of course, the second Wildcard spot in the American League currently belongs to the Mariners, so in some sense the second Wildcard giveth and the second Wildcard taketh away.
The following list of potential trade targets is culled from the active rosters of MLB teams with sub-.500 records, those that are generally considered to be out of postseason contention. This list only includes batters who can hit from the right side of the plate, but not does not include every right-handed or switch-hitting batter available. Rather, we’ve attempted to narrow it down to those right-handed hitters who meet at least some of the following criteria: proven major league hitter, “power” hitter (the term semi-loosely defined), tradeable commodity (the team that owns the player’s rights would have to be willing to trade the property), desirable commodity (the Mariners would have to be willing to acquire the property).
Without further ado, shield your eyes and allow us to introduce you to the men who could become your newest Seattle Mariners (listed alphabetically).
Name: Marlon Byrd
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Salary: $8 million
As reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, it seems your Seattle Mariners are in hot pursuit of acquiring starting pitching on the trade market. This news has raised a few eyebrows around the Pacific Northwest, as it’s plainly evident that the team’s offense (ranked dead last in OPS in the American League) is in much greater need of a pick-me-up than the rotation (ranked first in Starting Pitcher WHIP in the American League). But before chastising the ballclub for favoring areas of strength over areas of weakness, let’s try to make some sense of what the M’s might be trying to achieve here.
For starters (pun intended), in spite of having assembled a rotation among the best in baseball, Mariners starting pitchers are staring down the barrel of a regression in the season’s second half. Without getting into too much detail surrounding the advanced metrics, fifth starter Chris Young has outperformed his career numbers, while de facto third starter Roenis Elias has logged more mileage on his left arm thus far than at any other point in his professional career. When it comes to Young, even a slight regression should be tolerable – his 1.17 WHIP currently ranks 10th among AL starting pitchers. But with Elias, there should be slightly more cause for concern.
Wanking motion: the act of clasping one’s thumb against the forefinger in a semi-closed fist, raising the fist in the air, and moving it up and down to simulate masturbation. Usually performed as a metaphor for dismissive nonchalance towards an unrelated event of little importance.
There are any number of reasons to dislike The Seattle Times.
Maybe you loathe the fact that their editorial board seemingly fornicates with people who vehemently oppose the thought of the Sonics returning to Seattle.
Maybe you’re less than enthralled with their prep sports coverage, since the deadbeat high school coach who once tutored your child submitted a half-assed misspelling of your family’s weird surname to the paper, thus causing a misprint alongside your kid’s six-point , two-rebound stat line in the Class 1B state consolation game a few years ago.
If you’ve watched enough Mariners baseball this year, you’ve likely seen it. It starts with a base hit, then segues into a ritualistic celebration of sorts. An M’s hitter will stand perched atop the bag after a single, double, or triple, look towards the dugout, raise each semi-closed fist above his noggin, then move those fists side to side as his teammates sheltered along the baseline respond. But what does it all mean?
The move itself is one I like to call the “Double-Sack Dance.” It has origins in pornography (where all good things find their beginning), but has been popularized in mainstream movies, as well – most notably a scene in Superbad, among other works of fine film:
As you can see above, Jonah Hill might very well be to blame for bringing a variation of the Double-Sack Dance to the public spectrum.