Category Archives: Mariners

2009: This is our year

The city of Seattle is 2-0 in 2009. After wins by the Washington men’s and women’s basketball teams yesterday, our city is undefeated for the first time in what seems like forever. Now I know how the good people of Narnia felt when their endless winter finally came to an end, the snow melted and flowers bloomed, the white witch was destroyed, and peace and goodness was restored to their land of righteousness. This year, 2009, is the end of our long winter. This is the Chronicles of Seattle.

How can we not feel good about 2009? Now that 2008 is behind us, things can only get better. The Worst Year Ever is history and our future is as bright as the gleam in Steve Sarkisian’s eyes at his inaugural University of Washington press conference. We have a new regime on the diamond in GM Jack Zduriencik and field manager Don Wakamatsu. We have a new pro football coach in Jim Mora, Jr., set to rebuild a franchise coming off one of their worst seasons in recent history. We have the aforementioned Sarkisian ready to guide the gridiron Dawgs to their first bowl game in seven years. We have a brand spanking new Major League Soccer team, complete with a rabid fan base and one of the greatest ownership groups in sports. And for now, we have basketball and a team, at 10-3, halfway to an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since Brandon Roy took to the court in purple-and-gold.

In truth, the magic number of wins that will almost surely guarantee a major-conference program an at-large bid to the NCAA Tourney is 21. The Husky men are currently 10-3, meaning they need to win 11 of their remaining 17 conference games in order to reserve their ticket to the dance. An 11-6 record the rest of the way in a Pac-10 full of surprising teams (the lowly Oregon State Beavers knocked off the thought-to-be-powerful USC Trojans yesterday…the crowd then chanted “Just Like Football!”) will be no easy task, but this Husky ballclub looks up to the challenge. In a hostile environment at Washington State, with a monkey on their back in the form of a seven-game losing streak to their cross-state rival, the Dawgs trounced the Cougars to set an early tone for the season. There will be no messing with this Husky ballclub.

This may all sound like blind optimism, but the truth of the matter is, no one can really be pessimistic after last year. We hit rock bottom. We were the Britney Spears of the sports world. Now we have to pick ourselves up and begin the climb back to the top. Britney knows what’s up. This is our year. I can feel it, and you should feel it too. Go out and buy that Mariners jersey you’ve been wanting. Go grab some purple drink and gulp it down. Reserve your playoff tickets early. This is the season we’ve all been waiting for, the year we return to glory, the time for us to break out our “Seattle” shirts, our “S” caps, our Husky gear, our Tatupu jerseys and wear them proudly. The Mariners are on the rise, the Seahawks will start fresh, the Sounders are here to stay, and the University of Washington is back! Everybody welcome 2009, the year Seattle returns to glory!

Christmas Break

First, a bit of good news for all you Mariners fans out there: catcher Jamie Burke has been re-signed by the team! Burke signed a minor-league contract not one week after being released by the club. He’ll be given an opportunity to compete for the backup catcher spot in Spring Training, meaning there’s a real possibility that Kenji Johjima and his three-year contract extension may not be with the club come Opening Day. Interesting scenario to be played out there.

Anyways, this is mostly to serve as an announcement that SSN will be taking a two-day layoff for Christmas Eve and Christmas to celebrate with family. I apologize to all of you who will be looking for something to read over the next couple days, but we don’t have any Jews (Hannukah), orthodox Canadians (Boxing Day), or Kwaanzaanians on staff. Sorry. Feel free to check out past articles you may have missed, or visit a few of our partner websites in the “Links” section on the bottom left-hand side of the page. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday and check back on Friday for updates. Merry Christmas!

In your face, Seattle: Jamie Moyer is kicking ass

Remember back in 1998 when the Mariners traded an aging Randy Johnson because he had a bad back and was getting too old to be a productive pitcher? Ten years and four Cy Young awards later, the team still has yet to acknowledge they made an immensely huge mistake with the Big Unit. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from making the same mistake again just two years ago, this time with the aging Jamie Moyer.

Again, citing lack of youth as the primary motive for Moyer’s departure, the M’s shipped the beloved soft-tossing southpaw off to Philadelphia for two minor leaguers who will never see the inside of Safeco Field (unless they pay their way like the rest of us). That faux pas coincided with the downward spiral of the Seattle organization, and was underscored by the continued success had by Moyer in the city of Brotherly Love.

Now, two years later, Moyer is a world champion and benefactor of a two-year, $13 million contract extension that will keep him employed until his 48th birthday. How’s that for old? Since he’s left Seattle, the Ageless Wonder has compiled a 35-21 record with a 4.33 ERA over 74 starts. If we take a look at just the past two seasons (excluding the final two months of the ’06 season when Moyer first became a Philly), Moyer has put together a 30-19 record with a 4.36 ERA. By comparison, the best Mariners starting pitcher over that time span (Felix Hernandez) had a 23-18 record with a 3.68 ERA over the course of just 61 starts. There was no Mariner starting pitcher who posted numbers comparable to those of Hernandez between 2007 and 2008, meaning Moyer, on paper at least, would have been the clear-cut number two pitcher on the Seattle roster the past two years.

It’s quite possible that the Mariners have just committed another Moyer-Johnson by letting Raul Ibanez sign with those very same Phillies. If Ibanez can defy age and continue to put up big numbers for a championship team, the M’s may very well witness their organizational errors haunt them for a third time. Johnson, then Moyer, now Ibanez. Three old guys who could help the Mariners win a few games right now. In your face, Seattle.

The Top 11: Most awesome Seattle sports jerseys fans can buy, #6-2

The first five jerseys in our rankings can be found here. Here are numbers 6-2. Number one will appear in tomorrow’s updates. Enjoy.

6. Shawn Kemp, Sonics forest green-brick red reversible, 1995-1997, #40. I want to be very specific here: this is the reversible jersey we’re talking about, not the standard one-sided Champion edition. Champion unveiled reversible jerseys in 1996 with road colors on one side and home colors on the other. If you were in elementary or middle school during this time, chances are you were really, really excited about the prospect of getting two jerseys for the price of one.

The Kemp reversible jersey was the item to have if you were a young Sonics fan. Gary Payton was still considered the Robin to Kemp’s Batman at the time, and the ratio of Kemp-to-Payton replica jerseys was at least 3-to-1, if not more. Sporting a Kemp reversible to school pretty much made you the coolest kid in class for about a week.

After just a couple years, Champion abandoned the reversible jersey idea, making these gems all the more rare. The best place to get your hands on one of these items today is probably a college student’s garage sale. I couldn’t even find a picture online.

5. Jim Bouton, Pilots powder blue-and-yellow, 1969, #56. How many authors can say they have their own baseball jersey? For Bouton, renowned scribe of Ball Four and former Major League pitcher, the likelihood of people remembering him as a Seattle Pilot isn’t nearly as good as people remembering his revolutionary memoir. Bouton didn’t even take the mound for the Pilots for the entirety of their one season of existence; he was traded at midseason to the Houston Astros. And in his short stint with the short-lived Seattle ballclub, Bouton filled the role of an R.A. Dickey, spending time in the minors, coming out of the bullpen, and making spot starts when necessary.

Bouton, however, focused the majority of the controversial Ball Four on his 1969 encounter with Seattle, making him a memorable figure in the city’s sports lore. I guess that gave the jersey gods good enough reason to put Bouton’s namesake on a Pilots jersey and sell it for $200. Currently, you can find this jersey online on a number of reputable websites.

4. Mouhamed Sene, Sonics green-and-gold, 2006-2008, #18. Honestly, how many of you knew Sene wore jersey number 18 when he was here? They don’t put digits on the back of warm-up jerseys or street clothes unfortunately, so how often did we really get to see Sene donning 18? I’ll admit that I had no idea until I saw this picture. Sene was the benefactor of the first-round pick rule regarding jerseys, meaning because he was the unfortunate first-round selection of the Sonics in 2006 (the year Brandon Roy was drafted, keep in mind), he got to have his jersey replicated and sold in retail stores around Seattle. The only store I ever saw his jersey in was “Just Sports” at both the Northgate and Alderwood Malls, which I’m guessing is where this picture was taken.

If you happened to own a Sene jersey, I’d like to hear from you, because I can’t imagine any self-respecting Sonics fan laying down money for the uni of the worst draft pick ever. As of a few months ago, you could still buy these jerseys on sale at the local Just Sports locations around the Puget Sound.

3. Washington Huskies basketball, purple-and-gold, 2003-2006, #3. Technically, as is the case with all college jerseys, #3 is only licensed to the University of Washington and doesn’t actually represent any one player. But in reality, we all know that #3 belongs to one man and one man only: Brandon Roy.

After January 22, 2009, no Husky basketball player will ever wear number three again, as B-Roy will be on hand for the retiring of his jersey. Meaning any UW replica jersey with #3 on it will automatically become a relic.

If you happen to own one of the original #3 jerseys made by Nike, consider yourself lucky. A decade from now, Brandon Roy fans around the world will be clamoring for that hard-to-find garment. If you don’t own a #3 jersey, you may still be able to get your hands on one at an affordable price. Local J.C. Penney stores at Bellevue Square Mall, Northgate Mall, Alderwood Mall, and Southcenter Mall still have the occasional Roy jersey in stock, and usually at 25% off or more. So if you don’t have a B-Roy jersey make sure you get one now. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t love Brandon Roy?

2. Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners home white-royal-yellow, 1989-1992, #24. If you’re in your mid-20’s like I am, chances are this is the M’s logo you grew up cherishing as a kid. From 1987 until 1992, the Mariners sported the yellow “S” on their caps with the royal blue “MARINERS” across the chest. For four seasons, Junior was a part of this short-lived uni trend, making his throwback M’s jersey one of the most sought after in today’s market.

Seizing a golden opportunity, jersey manufacturer Mitchell and Ness reproduced an authentic-looking version of Griffey’s rookie uniform a few years back, which they’ve since sold out of. The Griffey jerseys retailed anywhere between $175 and $300, depending on where you looked, and if you’re able to still find one today, chances are you’ll pay much more than that. By comparison, the jersey Griffey wore as a Mariner from 1993 to 1999 can be had for as little as $50.

There’s no doubt about it. This is one of the greatest jerseys in Seattle history. Only one other uniform can compete with Griffey’s, and we’ll reveal it tomorrow as our number one most awesome Seattle sports jersey.

Kenji Johjima robs 37-year-old man of income, job

Catcher Jamie Burke (pictured left) was not offered a 2009 contract by the Seattle Mariners and it’s an injustice. Burke, the 37-year-old who has spent the majority of his career in the minor leagues, became a victim of the Mariners poor organizational management when he was cut loose today, possibly headed for retirement. The veteran backstop did everything for the M’s in his two years with the team, including pitching in a game last season and mentoring younger players. A logjam of catchers, brought about by the horrible decision-making of the Bill Bavasi era, forced Burke out of a job and I won’t hesitate to point the finger of blame at Kenji Johjima.

Not that this is entirely Kenji Johjima’s fault. Johjima was rewarded with a three-year contract extension last Spring for no reason whatsoever. There isn’t even any speculation as to why Johjima was rewarded for a lack of effort, the move has simply been chalked up as one of the worst contractual decisions in history. The 32-year-old Johjima regressed miserably from 2007 to 2008 and with a glut of young receivers climbing their way up the organizational ladder, should have been allowed to make his way into free agency during the ’08-’09 offseason. Instead, Joh was given a three-year extension worth $24-million which essentially rewarded him for being one of the worst catchers in baseball.

The presence of Johjima over the next three seasons will be a detriment to this ballclub. He may be a very nice man, but last season the pitching staff complained about a breakdown in communication with Kenji and by season’s end, the three-year veteran was backing up Jeff Clement. Clement should take hold of the starting job this season and force Johjima into a role all too familiar to Seattle sports fans: overpaid backup. Which is why Burke, of all people, has been the one most hurt by Johjima’s lack of performance. Johjima will earn his paycheck no matter if he plays or not. The idiots that gave him his extension have already been fired for their mistakes. Burke, the innocent bystander in all this, has been canned despite the fact that he outplayed Johjima last season, was a favorable clubhouse presence, and was deemed the best defensive catcher on the ballclub.

There is really no resolving this situation without calling for Kenji Johjima’s job. I’ll admit I was excited to see Joh come to Seattle back in 2006 when we had a catcher-desperate ballclub that benefited from his services. But now this has gotten out of hand. If nothing else, Johjima should give half his annual salary to Burke, who will exit the Major Leagues having not earned a fraction of the amount that Johjima will take home this year alone. Personally, I’m all for releasing Johjima and letting him walk with the rest of his money, rather than letting him bring down this baseball team and take a roster spot away from a deserving replacement. The cost-effective Burke would have been a cheaper, more fan-friendly option and who doesn’t cherish the thought of seeing the former Oregon State kicker on the mound in extra innings again, firing away with his 80-MPH heater?

Johjima needs to go, and the Mariners need to bring back the veteran backstop who can spell Jeff Clement and give this team a reliable option on Sundays. The Bring Back Burke coalition begins here.

When is Franklin Gutierrez bobblehead night?

So yeah, Franklin Gutierrez is the Mariners new center fielder, and if you’re like me your biggest concern is spelling “Gutierrez” correctly. It’s not that Franklin’s a bad player, he’s just not nearly as good as everyone thought he would be. He’s toiled on the Cleveland Indians roster for parts of the past four seasons, and it’s never a good thing to have the word “toiled” associated with your name. No one ever said Michael Jordan “toiled” on the basketball court. Denzel Washington never “toiled” acting roles. Ron Jeremy didn’t “toil” the southern reaches of thousands upon thousands of women with daddy issues who had to become pornstars in order to validate their self-worth. And yet here we have Franklin Gutierrez, newly appointed center fielder for your Seattle Mariners, and a serial toiler.

At one time, Gutierrez was considered a “prospect.” He had “five-tool talent” and lots of “upside.” For the uninitiated, these are all baseball terms meaning he was really, really good for his age, and could very likely end up being the next Barry Bonds. Of course, in the baseball world the experts usually stop using terms like these when you eclipse 25 years old or generally prove useless at the Major League level. Gutierrez hasn’t proven himself a total failure at the big-league level, but he is about to turn 26 and in baseball years that’s kind of old. Definitely too old to still be considered a prospect, and usually about the point where what you see is what you get.

If all these stereotypes hold true, then Gutierrez can be counted on to hit about .260, with 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and 15 stolen bases or so. Not Hall of Fame numbers. Don’t tell this to Jack Zduriencik, however. The Mariners GM visualizes Frankie G. as his everyday center fielder, a potential All-Star, and a middle-of-the-order threat. I don’t know. The scenario I’ve outlined is probably slightly below best-case scenario and should be considered reasonable at this point. Zduriencik, though, likely sees this as the worst-case scenario, which is likely bad news for M’s fans.

It’s not that I’m against trading J.J. Putz. In fact, I was really all for it. Closers are overrated and have little use on a rebuilding ballclub. Despite that fact, Putz is a top-shelf closer who should have commanded more than a 26-year-old fringe player with possible untapped talent, plus a bunch of unknowns. We can only hope that Zduriencik did his homework and unrooted some high-caliber potential that the Indians and Mets overlooked. But until then, we need to hold off on buying that Franklin Gutierrez personalized jersey and temper our optimism. This could be great. This could be a failure. Only time will tell.

Ibanez signs with Phillies

It’s the end of an era in Seattle, as Raul Ibanez just reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies to be their starting left fielder for the next three years. The deal is believed to be worth $30-million over that term, which is much more than the M’s were willing to commit to the 36-year-old.

No matter your feelings about Ibanez, there’s no denying that he had become one of the most consistent producers for some bad Mariners teams over the past few seasons. But with the club entering a full rebuilding stage, and Ibanez set to turn 37 in June, it just didn’t make sense for either party to commit to one another for the near future.

Ibanez will be missed in Seattle and we can only hope that he finds success in Philly.