Can the Mariners Become Relevant?

The Mariner Moose, mascot of the Seattle Mariners.

The Seattle Mariner‘s 2nd half to the 2013 Major League Baseball season commences this evening and the hope of the team becoming relevant still exists. And since my hope and prayer at the start of the season was that this long time cellar dweller would remain relevant until the time that the Seahawk season got underway, I remain hopeful.

Prior to this week’s MLB All-Star break the Mariner’s had their first 3-game series sweep of the season against the Los Angeles Angels, and had gone 8-5 over the previous 13 games against some tough competition including Boston, Texas, and Cincinnati; all playoff contending teams. What makes this short stretch of winning noteworthy is that it coincides directly with the recent call-ups of promising rookies, and improved performance from other young players. With the expected return of some valuable veteran pieces of the team in the next 1-3 weeks, and a much more favorable schedule than was the start of the season, Seattle has realistic hopes of a .500 season or as mentioned earlier…staying relevant before the NFL season completely wipes them from the consciousness of every Puget Sound sports fan.

Seattle Mariners

Seattle currently starts 3 pure rookies in the regular every-day lineup; all of whom have joined the team in the past 6 weeks. Nick Franklin first, followed by Mike Zunino, and finally Brad Miller have all made the team better in spite of their inexperience. It matters not if these three are or become All-Stars or perform up to the high expectations each one possesses. At least not at this point. What matter’s is they perform better than who preceded them in their positions and they make the team better. That they are doing…not that it was a high bar to leap.

Franklin took the place of Dustin Ackley at 2nd base. His solid defense has been comparable to Ackley, which surprises some. Not surprising is how Franklin’s bat has become a tremendous boost compared to the increasingly ineffective Ackley. Franklin, currently hitting .268, with 6 HRs and a .788 OPS (On base-plus-Slugging percentage), is a huge leap from where Ackley sat (.205, 1, .522 currently)  when he was sent to Triple A Tacoma to learn how to hit again in late May. Whether Franklin can continue is unknown. But he can almost assuredly do better than what his predecessor performed over the past 1 1/2 years.

Zunino is much the same. His numbers of .230 Avg., 1 HRs, and .575 OPS are not lighting the world on fire, but, again, they represent a significant improvement over what was being posted by the team of catchers who preceded him Jesus Montero, Kelley Shoppach, and Jesus Sucre. And the is no contest when assessing last year’s top draft pick versus Montero, Shoppach, and Sucre’s defense. He is a pleasure to watch behind the plate. He blocks balls in the dirt, moves to stop wild pitches, and is such a threat to throw out base stealers Seattle is already seeing a measurable decline in stolen bases and attempted steals.

Brad Miller has been with the team the least amount of time. But we’ve been calling for him or Carlos Truinfel or Franklin to replace the no-stick Brendan Ryan since this time last year. Ryan’s defense is outstanding. But his complete and utter lack of any kind of offensive is not a liability this team can stand when so many others in their line-up have proven nearly as inept. Miller has done well in the 16 games he has played and over the next year is expected to improve, as are Franklin and Zunino.

Franklin like Zunino is a former first round draft choice. Miller is a 2nd round pick. Second year player Kyle Seager is the teams most dependable offensive force and was a 3rd round pick. Ackley, who now mans Center Field and is displaying modest improvement at the plate is also a former 1st round draft pick, as is 1st baseman Justin Smoak; though Smoak was a Texas Ranger’s draft choice. All of these guys are young. All were high draft picks. And at least for a short period recently are performing up to or close to their expectations.

Right Fielder Michael Saunders is another young guy who has raised his batting average 15-points over the past 10 games and seems to have finally found the stroke that made last year so successful for him. While still only averaging .225, his on-base-percentage of .303, base-stealing capabilities and above-average defense make him at-least serviceable. And like we wrote, he’s on an upswing. We’ll see.

I’ve not even mentioned the solid performances of Kendry Morales and Raul Ibanez all season, or of Smoak in the past 2 months. All three, along with Seager, have OPS of .800 or higher. The team can also count on the return to productivity of OF Michael Morse soon. When healthy he is a stud. Franklin Gutierrez is still expected to contribute. He could return by August.

The team’s bullpen could get a needed boost from the return to health of Steven Pryor, who just began a rehab assignment. Felix Hernandez and Isashi Iwakuma were All Stars. Joe Saunders has been mostly solid as the third starter; though he has had a couple of big blooper blowouts. But what team’s #3 pitcher hasn’t. And after a horrible start to the season Aaron Harang is proving to be a pretty good #4 starter. Again, a blooper here and there isn’t welcome but is also not uncommon for a team’s 4th starter. It’s the #5 starting position that remains a concern. Jeremy Bonderman was let go and rookie Erasimo Ramirez was shelled his first time out. I am not confident in Ramirez. Though the Mariners are. So we’ll see.

We’ll see? That sums up the rest of the Mariner’s season. I’m not a complete dreamer. I don’t expect them to be playoff contenders. But I do think they can get back to a .500 season and wet our appetite for the 2014 season. And at bare minimum, they should have relevancy in the minds of diehards like me until the presumed Super Bowl season of the Seattle Seahawks gets under-way. I like being optimistic. It beats the alternative.

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Advice to My Black Son if He’s Being Followed

Since it continues to be asked in the past week in news interviews and during protests I thought I would share the advice I would give my son if he finds himself being followed while walking home from the store, like Trayvon Martin did.

GO HOME!

 

…or to the home of the nearest friend or relative. And to any parent who would advise their teen to turn and confront the follower I would say you are telling your kid to put themselves in potential danger versus doing what they were doing before detecting a follower.

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Is Trayvon Martin Rodney King?

APRIL 29, 1992- THE L.A. South Central Riots begin following a jury’s acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers for Assault and Excessive Force against Rodney King. The background to the story read as follows in Wikipedia:

On March 3, 1991, Rodney King and two passengers were driving west on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) through the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) attempted to initiate a traffic stop. A high-speed pursuit ensued with speeds estimated at up to 115 mph first over freeways and then through residential neighborhoods. When King came to a stop, CHP Officer Timothy Singer and his wife, CHP Officer Melanie Singer, ordered the occupants under arrest.[5]

After two passengers were placed in the patrol car, five white Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano) attempted to subdue King, who came out of the car last. In a departure from the usual procedure, which is to tackle and cuff a suspect[citation needed], King was tasered, kicked in the head, beaten with PR-24 batons for over one minute, then tackled and cuffed.

The video of the beating can be seen here in an ABC News report from the time:

Fifty-three people were killed in the riots that followed the jury’s verdict. The riots were spurred on by outrage in the black community over the exclusively white jury’s verdict. They were the worst riots in the United States since the 1960s, and worst in terms of death toll since the New York riots of 1863 (as depicted in Martin Scorsese film The Gangs of New York).

I’m afraid it might happen again.

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

The murder trial of George Zimmerman is the most racially polarizing event in this country since that time. We don’t know what the jury’s verdict will be at the time of this writing; but even the most liberal news sources have reported nightly for the past three weeks that the Prosecution’s case is not going well. From what I’ve seen, that’s an understatement. The prosecution’s very own witnesses have testified that the 17 year old victim was on top of Zimmerman beating him in what they termed a “MMA style ground and pound”. A forensic expert testified that the gunshot wounds and powder on Martin’s clothes were consistent with Zimmerman’s claim that he shot the young man in self defense, and that Martin was on top of him leaning forward. Not a single witness has testified seeing Zimmerman initiate the fight between the two. And a police officer said that in interviewing Trayvon Martin’s father, the father acknowledged that the voice screaming for help in the background of 9-1-1 audio tapes was not his son. Numerous witnesses testified that the voice was that of George Zimmerman. In fairness, Martin’s brother and mother both testified that the voice was that of Trayvon. But what else would you expect them to say? And I’m sure the jury will see it this same way.

In spite of this seemingly overwhelming evidence which should exonerate Zimmerman, Black America wants a conviction. The people I’ve spoken with and those I’ve read about and seen on TV see Zimmerman as the aggressor since he got out of his car and followed the teen who was walking home in the rain, in the dark, in a neighborhood in which he was merely visiting, carrying only a soda and some Skittles candy. In part because of the repeated televised pictures of a very young (maybe 10 year old) Trayvon Martin in March 2012 they see the victim as an innocent young child who died because of racial profiling. They don’t see the 6-foot tall 17-year-old who was staying at his Aunt’s home because he had been suspended from school. Or the one who’s phone’s text messages seem to indicate that he had been in repeated fights and was looking to buy a gun. Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford

Let me be clear: None of what we’ve just written is reason enough for this boy to die. His death is tragic. But according to the evidence it was justified, at least in the mind of George Zimmerman. And legally speaking, that’s all that matters. Zimmerman felt this larger “man” who was beating him and smashing his head into concrete was threatening his life. Zimmerman even claims that upon seeing his gun in his waist band Martin said, “You’re going to die tonight!” and tried reaching for it. And there is zero testimony or evidence to refute this claim.

But thanks to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton,  and apparently according to new news reports, President Obama’s Justice Department the public was whipped into a frenzy over this case. Remember, the Sanford, Florida police chose not to arrest Zimmerman, and Prosecutors failed to charge him, choosing to believe his story and the evidence that supported it. This isn’t the first time Sharpton, in particular, whipped black people in this country into a frenzy over a perceived injustice done to a young black person by whites.

Tawana Brawley at a press conference in 1987. ...

Tawana Brawley at a press conference in 1987. Standing next to her is Al Sharpton.

Remember Tawana Brawley? In 1987 Sharpton was the primary civil agitator when the 15 year old Brawley falsely accused 6 New York City white men of rape.

My fears this time may be unwarranted. I hope they are. But at the risk of the hateful retribution I may receive, I say this appears to be another instance of false claims of black victimization. Racism exists and its insidious. Those with hateful thoughts and actions directed at black people need to be punished when their thoughts and actions create victims. But it’s also a damned shame there is no punishment for those who have made careers and wealth out of crying wolf, lying, exaggerating and fomenting a sense in the black community that they are held back by the evil white race that wants nothing more than to stalk their children and kill them.

racismPeace! Please.

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Hateful comments are not.