Tag Archives: Mariners

Junior should be everyone’s hero

And then there was one. Amidst all the failed tests, all the name-dropping reports, and all the emotional press conferences of the past few years, only one truly phenomenal baseball player has managed to stay clean throughout it all: Ken Griffey, Jr.

Junior is the last man standing when it comes to baseball’s steroid era. The last cardboard hero who kids of the ’90’s cling to in search of a meaningful figure from their now-corrupt youth. Mark McGwire has been axed, Roger Clemens embarrassed, Rafael Palmeiro brought to his knees, Barry Bonds indicted, Alex Rodriguez humbled. Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Sammy Sosa, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and the list goes on. We can only speculate about blown-up, larger-than-life figures who have yet to be formally cited: Bret Boone, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and hundreds more. No one is presumed innocent anymore. Everyone is guilty. And yet…

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Notes: GM weighs in on Ichiro, “Dubs” new UW mascot, and more

Mariners: Ichiro pitching? Not in Jack Zduriencik’s world. The Mariners general manager quickly put an end to any rumor of Ichiro on the mound, briefly stating yesterday that Ichiro “isn’t going to pitch.” Period.

Zduriencik issued his statement in response to a 56-pitch bullpen session that the Mariner outfielder and leadoff man tossed over the weekend. The showcase took place in Japan, with Ichiro in preparation for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Continue reading Notes: GM weighs in on Ichiro, “Dubs” new UW mascot, and more

Ichiro prepared to pitch in ’09

No joke. As we speak, Ichiro is preparing to pitch for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Japan news outlet Nikkan Sports (requires a translator to view) was the first to confirm that Ichiro threw a 56-pitch bullpen session over the weekend, hitting the low-90’s on the radar gun, and even mixing in a forkball to keep prospective hitters off balance (that’s a photo of his session to the left…gonna have to lose the shades if he ever wants to make something of that pitching career).

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Personality, not steroids, will haunt A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids and I don’t care. Whether he used steroids or not, Alex Rodriguez is still one of the least likable baseball players of our generation and, even with his admission, I couldn’t care about him any less than I already do.

The former Mariner was accused of using banned substances during 2003 in a Sports Illustrated article that was released over the weekend. Earlier this morning, Rodriguez sat down with ESPN’s Peter Gammons and acknowledged that the allegations were true, going so far as to admit steroid use during 2001 and 2002, as well.

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The Top 11: Christnukkazaa gifts that Seattle sports fans want, #6-2

6. Mariners grab bag of distractions. Do you like Nintendo DS? How about hat tricks? Are you a fan of electronic video board hydro racing? What are your feelings on large, furry, loveable moose? Are you interested in creating an entire 40-man roster of bobblehead dolls?

If you’re easily entertained, suffer from attention deficit disorder, or generally don’t care much about winning, then the Mariners grab bag of distractions is the ultimate gift for you!

The Seattle Mariners organization is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to draw your attention away from the product on the field and towards just about anything else. If you have one or more of your senses intact, the Mariners have something other than baseball that will appeal to you. Take a break from that Carlos Silva meltdown and enjoy some garlic fries. Not big on Willie Bloomquist groundouts? Wander over to our in-stadium team store. Regret bringing your hyperactive kids to the game? Let them try out our jungle gym.

You can eat, shop, and play just about anywhere for an affordable price. But why sell yourself short? The Mariners want you to use that $45 ticket as your personal pass to overpriced alcohol, an expensive fast food dinner, annoying Mickey Mouse theatrics, and a 100-loss season. You gotta love these guys!

5. Richie Sexson air purifier. Richie knows a thing or two about fanning, and now that he is currently unemployed, he’s taken his expertise to the world of air purifiers. Sexson’s top of the line purifier, the Richie218 (named after his final 2008 batting average with Seattle), is unique in that it both sucks and blows. In order to fully purify the air around you, the Richie218 will first clear the room of any dust particles by sucking unclean air into its reserve holding tank. The Richie218 really sucks! Amazingly, the Richie218 will then purify that air, recycle it, and blow it back into the room, creating a fresh, clean environment. The Richie218 really blows!

Not unlike a space heater or air conditioner, the Richie218 can blow both hot and cold air. Just ask the Seattle Mariners! They’ve watched Richie blow hot air for years in their clubhouse!

4. David Stern adult diapers. We all reach a point where even the best of us lose control of our bowels. David Stern, NBA commissioner, realizes this and wants to help. Stern should know. He’s been full of crap for years!

It’s no secret why David Stern always has such a weird look on his face, no matter what he’s doing. Stern lives by the motto “when you gotta go, you gotta go.” Press conference, NBA Draft, public appearance, it doesn’t matter. When David Stern needs to use the bathroom, he need not look any further than his pants.

People often ask, “How has Stern kept that pep in his step for over two decades?” The answer has been a secret until now. The David Stern line of adult diapers comes with an inherent cooling system designed by NASA that turns human waste into minty fresh relief. Why the crazy Stern mood swings? One minute constipation, the next minute flatulation, then perspiration, and finally celebration. Amazing!

3. Oklahoma City Thunder trash can. Okay, full disclosure, there are only two things on this entire list that are actual attainable items. The ’09 Sonics calendar, believe it or not, is one, and this wonderful item is the other. What better place to put your trash than in the Oklahoma City Thunder garbage can?

I suggest you save this can for only the worst messes made around your home. Let’s say the dog craps on the rug and you need to clean it up. No better place for the waste than your OKC can. Maybe your newborn goes through fifteen diapers a day. Feel free to use your Thunder can as the designated diaper zone. No matter the waste you have to toss, the Thunder trash can can handle it all.

2. Warren Moonshine. “Hall of Famer Warren Moon here for Warren Moonshine, a homemade liquor by me, Hall of Famer Warren Moon. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, hey Warren, now why would I want some fly-by-night alcohol when I could go down to the liquor store and pick up some of that name-brand stuff right now? Well friends, I don’t think I need to tell you again but I’m going to anyways….I’m Hall of Famer Warren Moon, and this is some Hall of Fame caliber moonshine we’re talking about here! Sure, I brew this in the back of my SUV, while driving, but don’t be fooled: this is some high-quality fire water. How do you think I won Rose Bowl MVP, Grey Cup MVP, and Pro Bowl MVP before getting to the Hall of Fame? That’s right, Warren Moonshine, by me, Hall of Famer Warren Moon.”

The Top 11: Seattle draft busts of the past 25 years, #11-7

There have been plenty of draft busts in Seattle sports history, which is why we had to limit our findings to the past 25 years. Whether it was the Sonics, Seahawks, or Mariners making the selection, our local scouting departments seemingly had a knack for unearthing untalented players. By the way, do you know how hard it was to find images of some of these players? Especially live-action images, near impossible. Anyways, here’s our list of the Top 11 people you can’t help but shake your head at. Enjoy.

11. The Trifecta (Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene). Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, I must be the Sonics front office staff on draft night. 2004: Robert Swift. 2005: Johan Petro. 2006: Mouhamed Sene. What do these three names have in common? Let’s see:

  • All three are former Seattle Sonics first-round draft picks.
  • All three are centers.
  • All three are over 7′ tall.
  • All three spend more time on the bench than they do playing.
  • All three are now Oklahoma City’s curse of a problem, and yet we’d take them back in a heartbeat.

Let’s start at the beginning with Robert Swift, class of 2004. Right away there were problems with Swift. I remember watching the ’04 Draft and hearing Swift’s name announced by David Stern, then immediately thinking, Who? Swift wasn’t present at the venue, so there was no visual of the guy the Sonics had selected. Quick cut to the studio analysis. Usually you have the consensus “great pick/really fills a need” garbage from the overpaid talking heads, but this one was a stretch even for the eternal optimists. I remember someone labeling him a “project,” which in draft-speak is a nice way of saying “you’re doomed.” And they were right, Swifty was one hell of a project.

To top it off, Swift is a non-European white guy, which is a horrible, horrible sign. Try to think of five really good non-European white guys in the NBA right now……..it’s difficult, I know, but keep trying………Steve Nash, yes……Brad Miller, but that’s a stretch………Mike Dunleavy, Jr., also a stretch……..ok, so the consensus is you can’t fill out an All-Star roster with non-European white guys, which basically begs the question why draft one in the first place unless he’s the next Larry Bird? Oh wait, hold on a second. Apparently the next Larry Bird was already drafted, and has yet to pan out so far in his third season. Goes by the name of Adam Morrison. Whoops, never mind then, I guess even the next Larry Bird isn’t a draftable non-European white guy. Moving on.

So here comes the 2005 draft and the prospect of improving from a year ago. Stuck with the 27th overall pick after the Sonics’ one playoff season in the past decade, the team drafts French center Johan Petro. There are about a million things wrong with drafting French center Johan Petro, but why go into it? Let’s just move on to 2006 (although it should be noted that of the three big men, Petro has shown the most promise thus far).

Mouhamed Saer Sene. If you are (or were, I guess, at this point) a Sonics fan and hear this name, chances are you cringe. Sene was the epitome of a mistake the moment he was selected and everyone knew it. At least you could pin the “project” label on Swift and Petro. Sene wasn’t a “project,” he was “raw.” “Raw” is the draft equivalent of “this guy isn’t American, isn’t European, and isn’t Yao Ming, so what the hell is he?” “Raw” means that you, the player, aren’t even on anyone’s draft board. The Sonics made this raw pick because, in layman’s terms, another team baited them into it. They claimed they “had to” pick Sene because they couldn’t afford to let him drop to an opponent lower in the draft, who supposedly would have selected Sene and used him against the Sonics in some way…I guess.

So here we were with the 7-footer from Senegal, a young Dikembe Mutombo, soon-to-be-fired experts said. Sene’s biggest claim to fame was a 7’8″ wingspan which allowed him to touch the rim standing flat-footed. Interestingly enough, he carried that flat-footed approach into games which made him quite useless on either end of the floor. Naturally, he blocked a few shots here and there, but so did Shawn Bradley and Georghe Muresan back in the day. Long story short, in his two years on the job in Seattle, Sene just didn’t play, and when he did it was for the minor league Idaho Stampede of the NBDL and not the Sonics.

Time for a side note. When Sene was selected, did anyone else immediately think of the movie “The Air Up There?” Because I did, and I could picture Kevin Bacon going to Africa to find Sene and bring him to America to play for a team here, just like in the movie. And not only that, but dominating alongside Sene on a dirt basketball court after having his lower abdomen sliced open in a tribal ritual to indoctrinate him into the group. Maybe it’s just me.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about The Trifecta anymore. Now they languish on the bench of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

10. Ryan Christianson. Realizing the clock was ticking on catcher Dan Wilson, the Mariners used their 1999 first-round draft pick on a high school catcher by the name of Ryan Christianson. The #11 overall pick in a draft that produced the likes of Josh Beckett and Josh Hamilton, among many others, Christianson was labeled the catcher of the future for the big club and set on the fast track to the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, Christianson’s fast track wasn’t very fast at all, and he derailed almost immediately, spending three years in Single-A ball at the outset of his career.

By 2005, Christianson was in his second stint with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, on the cusp of making the big show, when he tested positive for steroids. That effectively ended his Mariners career and Christianson was released prior to the end of the season.

Christianson was last spotted as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate in 2007.

9. Sherell Ford. Where the heck is Sherell Ford? Honestly. Does anyone know? If you know, please tell me, because I’ve been Googling Ford for an hour and he’s disappeared off the face of the earth. I can at least break down what we do know about Sherell Ford, international man of mystery.

Ford, out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was the 26th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. At that point in the draft, there aren’t hugely outrageous expectations placed on players. You just kind of hope for the best and assume you’ll get a two- or three-year rookie contract out of whomever you select. In Ford’s case, 28 games was all the Sonics got, good for 90 total points, most coming in garbage time.

A 6’7″ swingman expected to fill a void at the shooting guard/small forward positions, Ford essentially just filled a void on the payroll. He didn’t even last on the bench after a season, and beyond that rookie year, Ford never played in the NBA again.

According to his Wikipedia page, Ford was last spotted in 2006 when a Chicago ABA franchise invited him to take part in a tryout for their expansion team. The franchise has since folded. No word on whether Ford made the team or not.

8. Rick Mirer. You would think Mirer would be higher up on this list, but he’s here at #8 for two reasons: 1) the Seahawks actually managed to get four semi-productive seasons out of him and 2) when they finally gave up on Mirer, they managed to get a first-round pick in return for him, which is pretty amazing in and of itself. Mirer did try his hardest to become the very best bust he could be though, there’s no denying that.

The second overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, right after Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Mirer was supposed to be a franchise savior for whichever team ended up with his services. Hyped as the next Joe Montana, Mirer more closely resembled Hannah Montana during his tenure with the club. The only thing he possessed similar to that of Joe Montana’s was a strong arm…which he used to deposit balls into the hands of cornerbacks and safeties. In his four years in Seattle, Mirer amassed 56 interceptions to just 41 touchdown passes.

Luckily for the Hawks, the 1997 Chicago Bears were a passer-desperate team willing to do anything for a starting quarterback, which Mirer technically was. Packaged with a fourth-round pick, Mirer was on his way to Chicago with a first-rounder coming West to Seattle. With their two 1997 first-round picks, the Hawks selected cornerback Shawn Springs and left tackle Walter Jones, making Mirer a pretty valuable bargaining chip.

Mirer remained on NFL rosters until 2005, when he unofficially retired. He hasn’t played since.

7. Patrick Lennon. In evaluating Major League draft prospects, scouts will always tell you to avoid guys who have “slow” skills. Slow skills are those which don’t lend themselves to athleticism, per se, but are rather baseball-specific skills that tend to decline rapidly once a player ages or makes the leap to the next level of competition. Examples of slow skills are proficient power but low contact ability; lack of speed on the basepaths; and the inability to play the middle positions on the field (shortstop, second base, center field). Patrick Lennon was a slow-skilled player. And yet somehow, the Mariners found it in their hearts to draft him eighth overall in the 1986 June amateur draft.

It should be noted that Lennon didn’t appear in a Major League uniform until 1991, five years after he was drafted. That he even appeared in a big-league clubhouse is pretty remarkable considering the fact that he just wasn’t any good at baseball. In the nine games Lennon was a part of in ’91, five came as the DH, which is a ridiculously bad omen for a young player. He recorded one hit, a double, in eight at-bats that season, posting a .125 batting average.

In 1992, Lennon spent the majority of the year in Triple-A before earning another late-season call-up. He appeared in one game, recording two at-bats and going hitless. Unfortunately for trickLe (I like to call him trickLe, it’s a hybrid of Patrick and Lennon, it’s like A-Rod, and is used to exemplify how out of control the hybrid nickname has become), that was the last time he’d ever appear in uniform as a Seattle Mariner. As soon as the season was over the M’s released their one-time first-round selection and he was quickly signed by the expansion Colorado Rockies. Interestingly enough, Lennon was released by the Rockies before the team ever played a game and he wouldn’t appear in the Majors again until 1996 with Kansas City.

Lennon managed to appear in 81 more big-league games in his post-Mariner career before hanging it up at the age of 31 following the 1999 season.

The Top 11: Seattle sports heroes, #1

Our first ten Seattle sports heroes, counting down from 11, are as follows: 11, 1995 Mariners supporting cast; 10, Ichiro Suzuki; 9, Brandon Roy; 8, Mike Holmgren; 7, Lenny Wilkens; 6, Steve Largent; 5, Lou Piniella; 4, Don James; 3, Gary Payton; 2, Edgar Martinez. Numbers 11-7 can be found here, while numbers 6-2 can be found here. And now, our number one Seattle sports hero.

1. Ken Griffey, Jr. There is no debate. Ken Griffey, Jr. is Seattle’s biggest superstar. He saved baseball in this city, and arguably put Seattle on the national map with his highlight reel catches, 1997 MVP season, and picturesque swing. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam may have represented Seattle all across the world, but Griffey was the city’s biggest rock star since Jimi Hendrix.

Griffey emerged on Seattle’s radar as a name in 1987. He was the first overall pick in Major League Baseball’s June amateur draft that year, and was poised to become the face of a franchise if everything went according to plan. Mariners owner George Argyros had wanted to use the #1 pick on Cal-State Fullerton pitcher Mike Harkey, but was overruled by his scouting team, who labeled Griffey a can’t-miss prospect with five-tool abilities. Junior was the prototype. He had the prototype build (6’3″, 195 pounds), prototype bloodlines (dad Senior was a Cincinnati Reds outfielder at the time), and the prototype attitude (generally well-liked, but with a dash of cockiness that tended to breed greatness).

By 1989, Junior was the starting center fielder on a young Seattle team. He had been hand-picked by first-year manager Jim Lefebvre to replace up-and-coming Mickey Brantley, who would ultimately have his career derailed by Junior’s emergence (no fault of Junior’s). Griffey spent some time on the disabled list that year, but still put together a decent rookie season, hitting 16 home runs and batting .264. He lost out on the American League Rookie of the Year award to Baltimore Orioles closer Gregg Olson (which, if you’re keeping track at home, makes for three obscure players that are answers to trivia questions involving Griffey: Harkey, Brantley, and now Olson).

Griffey really took off in 1990 and would never look back. He was a bona fide talent and the nation took notice. By 1994 he had had his own candy bar, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, done voice work for The Simpsons, acted in a major motion picture (Little Big League), guest starred on a network TV show (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and produced a video game (Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for Super Nintendo).

Even with all the accolades, Griffey outdid himself in 1995. The ’95 season began in somber fashion for Junior, who broke his wrist on a Spider Man-like leaping catch against the Kingdome’s right-center field wall. In the ensuing moments, Junior captured a spectrum of emotions from fans: amazement at the attempt, jubiliation at the catch, worry at the aftermath, sadness at his depature, fear at the prospect of being without his presence in the future. Despite a three-month absence spent on the disabled list, Griffey continued to dictate the Mariners season. While he watched from the sidelines, the team remained barely in playoff contention, hovering around .500 for the twelve weeks Griffey was out.

When Junior returned in August, the team was desperate for a spark to get them back on the winning track. Junior provided just that. Down the stretch he would quickly return to form, helping lead the ballclub to the playoffs for the first time in their history. One of the great images of the ’95 season is of Junior, arms raised, fingers pointed the heavens, immediately after hitting a game-winning home run, the first of his career. I can tell you that the game was played on a Sunday afternoon. The Mariners wore their alternative teal jerseys on Sundays that year, and here was Griffey all tealed out.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the Griffey-Seattle relationship occurred later that season, in the ’95 American League Division Series against the Yankees. Junior, barrelling around third base in the 11th inning of the deciding Game 5, would score on Edgar Martinez’s infamous double to essentially save the Mariners franchise from leaving Seattle. The image is considered holy to a true Mariners fan. Griffey, sliding feet-first, left hand outstretched to graze home plate. Yankee catcher Jim Leyritz positioned in front of the dish, awaiting a throw that won’t arrive on time. In the background, pure happiness. Numerous figures frozen in mid-air, leaping with unrestrained jubilation. Bob Wolcott, the Mariners 21-year-old starting pitcher, displaying a vertical leap that would get NBA scouts’ attention. An amazing photograph, and one that has been reproduced a thousand times over in Mariners lore.

In the aftermath of that winning run, a second photo would emerge to capture the spirit of the moment. Griffey, immediately tackled out of sheer joy seconds after crossing home plate, pops out of the bottom of a dogpile grinning like a kid on Christmas morning as teammates celebrate above him.

Ken Griffey, Jr. would remain in Seattle through the 1999 season. He won an American League MVP award in 1997, and amassed numbers as a Mariner that had him on pace to become one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. Upon a fateful trade to Cincinnati, however, Griffey’s career was sidetracked by injuries and he would never again be the same player he was in the Emerald City. His return to Seattle in 2007 resulted in multiple standing ovations, a tribute video that brought grown men to tears, and a home run for the opposition that had 45,000 fans cheering for him once again.

Ken Griffey, Jr. played a game in such a way that it moved people to take action. He brought fans to a once-empty ballpark and got them to watch him and his teammates. He made a state government take action and ensure that their baseball team would never leave the only city it had called home. He helped fund a new baseball stadium, simply by hitting home runs, catching fly balls, and flashing a geniune smile every now and then. He elicited emotion in fans and created it himself. Griffey may not ever fully realize exactly what he means to this city, but there’s no denying that when it comes to heroes, he may not have a cape or be able to fly, but Ken Griffey, Jr. is our Superman.