Not those guys. But there are Ms in the postseason this year. Seriously. Once a Mariner, always a Mariner.
Sixteen — enough for a questionable starting rotation, a damn fine bullpen, and a full contingent in the field — went into the playoffs last week on seven different teams. Plus a couple honorable mentions:
Gotta start with Ron Fairly, whose 14-year color commentary career with the M’s broadcast team got him the nickname Ron Fairly Obvious as he bleated wisdom like “When ya strike out — nothing happens!”
But the Fairly truism that haunted the Yankees in Game Two of the division series was “Y’know, Dave… the best thing about a five-run lead? The grand slam can’t beat ya.” And you know Niehaus had to grind that out in his head for a minute.
Dave was too nice to ask Ron, “Hey genius, don’t you think, if you build up a five-run lead, then you let three guys get on base, then you give up a home run… You’re not done freaking choking?”
Which is what happened last Friday. With the Bronx Bombers up 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Indians load the bases. Ron’s voice soothed the memories of this Yank fan. No way, don’t worry, the salami can’t beat us. But Niehaus was right, at least if that’s what Dave was thinking about choking, and sure enough, Francisco Lindor belts the dinger, now it’s 8-7, Jay Bruce ties it in the eighth, the game goes to extra innings, and ex-Mariner Austin Jackson walks to lead off the thirteenth (walking the leadoff man was another Fairly Obvious favorite), steals second, and scores the walkoff run on a Yan Gomes RBI single. Sadly for Jackson, this was not his last game-ending turn of this series. See below.
But enough about Ron Fairly. Check out these guys
Doug Fister, Red Sox — The well-traveled Fister (nine seasons, five teams) went 5-9 as a starter for the Sox, then, in his tenth career postseason appearance, gave up three runs in just 1.1 innings pitched. The Sox came back and won that one, but lost the series, and Fister sits at home watching the Astros.
Taijuan Walker, Diamondbacks — That Jean the Hittin’ Machinetrade was going to propel the Ms into the playoffs, remember? Yep. It propelled former Mariners Walker and Ketel Marte right in there with the D-Backs. After throwing .500 in 28 starts for Arizona, Taijuan made his first career postseason appearance only to see the Dodgers bat around on him in the first inning. He gave up four runs and took the loss.
Michael Pineda, Yankees — on the DL, again, the Diabolical One nevertheless collects his $7.4 million salary on the 40-man roster. There are those who believe the whole damn world order was thrown off when this dominating fireballer went to the Yankees for Jesus “Ice Cream Man” Montero. Makes a ton of sense.
Tyler Olson, Indians — Yeah, who? The Spokane native made his major league debut with the Mariners in 2015, wandered around between Seattle, New York, LA, and Kansas City for a year and a half before being picked up off waivers by the Indians in the middle of 2016. In 2017’s regular season, and the following is not a typo, Tyler appeared in 30 games for the Tribe, recording a 0.00 ERA in 20 innings pitched. And in the playoffs he continued with another three appearances, allowing just one hit and not a single earned run. Bummer his team fell to the Yanks. Well, bummer for him. Not for the Yanks or for all that is good in the world.
Mike Montgomery, Cubs — at this writing, the 2016 Playin in the Dirt Ex-Mariner of the Year has just one postseason appearance in 2017, giving up two runs in just two thirds of an inning for a monstrous 27.00 ERA. But he’s still in the hunt for the next round as the Cubs play the deciding NLDS game with the Nationals later today. And that’s more than you can say for…
…Carson Smith, Red Sox — and that’s a bummer for him. Carson posted a 0.96 ERA in eleven appearances with the Sox since coming over from Seattle with Roenis Elias for Jonathan Aro and Wade Miley. Jeez, Jerry Dipoto, how’d that all work out for ya… naaah we’re not getting into that now. Carson kept it up in the series against the Astros, pitching twice without giving up a run.
Roenis Elias, Red Sox (40-man roster) — he was there if they needed him, after rehabbing in the minors all year and making just one big league appearance, in September. This guy is a hell of a story.
Brandon Morrow, Dodgers — this one starts to just make you want to bang your head against the wall. The former first round draft choice (2006) was traded to the Jays for Brandon Freaking League, for god sake. He was released by the Jays, then by the Padres, and picked up as a free agent in January of this year. He proceeded to pitch in 45 games for the Dodgers, going 6-0, with a 2.02 ERA. He’s already made three postseason appearances, giving up just one run.
Fernando Rodney, Diamondbacks — that hat, man. Really? OK so the hat and the arrow shooting thing and what not were awesome when he led the league for the Ms with 48 saves in 51 opportunities. But that’s the thing with closers, all the hype and swagger and machismo gets damn old real quick when you save sixteen the next season but blow six. So he went to the Cubs, Padres, and Marlins in a year and a half, settling in for a full season with the D-Backs and netting 39 saves. At age 40, he’s still out there, staying ahead of his Ross Eversoles moment. But man. That hat.
Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks — ahh the prophecy of Seattle sports radio. “Ketel Marte is not going to get you to the playoffs,” they spouted in 2015. Well, yeah. That was true. He got Arizona to the playoffs, even without Jean the Hittin’ Machine.
Chris Taylor, Dodgers — alert reader “Eric of Spokane” insists Taylor will be the the ex-Mariner of the Year. Which only proves Playin’ in the Dirt has a reader. That said… the former weak-hitting Mariner is leading off for the Dodgers in the postseason, still basking in the afterglow from a year and a half ago as his first major league home run was a grand slam. And he’s picked up some power this year, drilling 21 with 72 RBI in 2017.
Adam Lind, Nationals — OK, so this guy is, like, Mister Excitement. He appeared in 126 games for the Mariners, alternating at first base with Dae-ho Lee, and batted .239 before getting released. So the Nationals grab him as a free agent and he bats .303, with another 2-for-2 off the bench in the playoffs. Apparently lightning has struck. A year too late for the Mariners.
Chris Ianetta, Diamondbacks — a .231 career hitter, he went 20 points below that last year with the Ms. this year he hit 20 points above that for Arizona. He appeared in 89 games as a reserve catcher. It’s stuff like this that makes a fan wonder, watching the glorious untouchable hitting coach Edgar Martinez at the dugout railing… what’s he thinking? What’s he doing wrong? And how long are they going to keep letting him do it?
Leonys Martin, Cubs — Leo brings his laughter, his defense, his speed, and his .154 average to the world champions. And he scored the winning run in NLDS game three, as a pinch runner.
Abraham Almonte, Indians (40-man) — someone, probably Rick Rizzs who calls everything “the ___est ______ in baseball,” called Abe “the fastest man in baseball” when he debuted in 2013. Which would be cool if he could hit. But give him credit, five seasons, three teams, hanging in.
Austin Jackson, Indians — last seen waiting at the station watching strike three go by from Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth to end the game, the series, the season for the Indians. Two strikes two outs, everything riding on that ball coming at him, and he was stuck waiting. Think he’ll dream of that one for a while? His Indians choked away a two-game lead as the Yankees swept the next three. But no matter what you think of the Indians, or how much you love the Yankees, man… there is humanity in baseball, and you gotta pity Austin Jackson.
Michael Brantley, Indians — had a damn good season with the Tribe, but he’s not the Mariner. That was his old man, Mickey, whose four years in the majors were all spent with Seattle.
Postscript on Fairly, and if you’re still reading this it’s much appreciated, here’s a real-life glimpse of life in the majors in the 1960s “Golden Era” some of us lucky ones grew up loving. This story was pulled from a Mariners blog post the day in 2006 when Ron announced his retirement from the booth:
In 1965, on the last day of the season, with the Dodgers having clinched the pennant the night before, manager Walter Alston let [radio announcer Vin] Scully manage, over the radio, from the booth. A very hung over Ron Fairly drew a walk (“He didn’t trot to first base. He didn’t really walk to first base. He sloshed to first base”), and Scully thought it would be fun to have Fairly, slow-footed in the best of times, steal.
“For those of you in the ballpark with transistor radios listening,” Scully said, “watch Fairly’s face when he looks over to third and gets the steal sign.” After a double take for the ages by Fairly and a foul ball by the hitter, Scully had Fairly go again, and he made it, thanks to the catcher dropping the ball. At that, Scully retired from managing: “All right, Walter,” he said, “I got you this far. Now you’re on your own.”
We have this thing about sport being the savior. A mom swears it, no doubt, gymnastics kept her little girl from the wrong crowd. Football on the world’s dusty streets and ratty schoolyards keeps millions of kids out of trouble. And a 99-mph fastball steered Hideki Irabu clear of a violent end in the Japanese mafia.
Or so he believed. Hideki Irabu believed baseball saved his life.
Hideki Irabu is dead.
He came to the Yankees in 1997 as an international sensation. Freed from a Chiba Lotte team that lawyered up hard to keep him, he might have been wise to stay home.
But he was all-in. Hideki Irabu stormed the Big Apple, threw a pitch to Rudy Giuliani at City Hall, and struck out nine Tigers in his first outing.
The world needs men and women who go all-in. We’d be living and dying in caves if not for passion and drive, for Lombardi’s exhortation of “sacrifice, self denial, love, loyalty, fearlessness, humility, pursuit of excellence and perfectly disciplined will.” In business or war, religion or science, success comes to those that give a damn and give all of themselves with nothing held back.
It’s the same in sports.
In the long pull, with all that single-minded focus, the best ones think things through. They have a backup plan. And Hideki Irabu had no backup plan.
When his rookie year ended with a seven-plus ERA, he was lost. Inexplicable lapses plopped dark turds among the brilliant outings of the next two seasons. He was panned without mercy on Seinfeld. And when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner called him a fat pussy toad (“rhymes with fussy,” we were reminded without end by a pitiless press), Hideki Irabu was already fading from sublime to punchline.
Sometimes even the smartest among us don’t know the jagged edge we walk, the frailty of our safety net. We hop in a boat and toss the lifejacket on the floorboard, just in case. And when the shit hits the fan, the last thing we ever see is that lifejacket floating beyond our grasp as we slip beneath the waves. We make a plan, sort of, but we die anyway.
The most devoted and talented of us, with the pedal on the floor, never think of lifejackets. They shuck off all else to get the victory, the championship, the scholarship, the time standard, the draft pick. When there’s no sense of perspective, no grasp that an unlucky break will derail the whole thing, it’s a ticking time bomb in a young life.
A teenage swimmer gets wrapped around her coach’s finger because he’s the only strong male who’s ever given a crap about her. A high school quarterback buries his childhood abuse in the weight room and on the field. A huge mixed-race boy grows up bullied in Japan and takes his frustration all the way to New York City.
They throw themselves into their one-track ascent. They ignore the rotting bodies along the path, afraid to look down in case they see something of themselves in the stories of tragedy by the wayside. Inevitably something — an abusive coach, a snapping ligament, a mental breakdown — yanks the magic carpet away. And they’re in free fall, crashing on the rocks below.
In an iconic scene, 23-year-old Anamafi Moala’s life was snuffed out over San Francisco Bay when the 1989 earthquake jerked the concrete away beneath her. One moment her road stretched straight and true home. The next, Anamafi died suspended over the bay.
What of that huge mixed-race boy from Japan? The one whose unblinking vision had a Hall of Fame career in the crosshairs when his road was jerked away beneath him?
He wandered home to play two seasons with Hanshin in the Japan Central league. At age 40 he was back in the U.S., hanging on in his own Ross Eversoles moment, going 5-3 in ten starts with the Long Beach Armada.
Oh yeah. Blue skies on a spring day and the season begins with the Yankees on the road, set to pound the home team… but Logan Morrison grinds out three RBIs for the hosts, Brad Miller goes 2 for 5 with a run scored, Danny Farquhar looks sharp in relief… and Tampa Bay wins?
On the other side of the country, just like old times, 40-year-old Fernando Rodney comes on in the ninth inning, gives up the go-ahead run, but watches from the bench and picks up the win as the… D-Backs walk off?
It started with Milo, and it wasn’t a good week for Milo. Milo Yiannopoulos nailed a pedophilia news hat trick. The media juggernaut who calls Donald Trump “Daddy,”adored by fans at Breitbart, pulled a fabulous 1-2-3 punch as he screwed the pooch, martyred himself, and ended up even richer.
Exactly half the forty-man Spring Training roster has never dirtied their cleats in a Mariner big-league uniform. Here’s a list of every guy looking to make his future with your Seattle Mariners this year. Even some of our twenty returnees will have you (and their teammates) scratching your head going, “wait, who?” Continue reading “Springtime Mariners nametags”
Just decided to dink around a little bit here. My man Chuck Wendig, a supreme writer and blogger and e-mentor, does a Flash Fiction Challenge every Friday. I rarely take part. This week was intriguing, though. Pick a three-word title from a list of his readers’ suggestions. My suggestion didn’t make his list, which didn’t piss me off. I chose the closest one to it. And I included my title in the text. Your challenge is to find it. Good luck.
There is such blindness that goes along with sexual abuse, and that’s one of a million enabling factors. So this thousand-word essay attacks just one of those blind spots. Trust me, it’s fiction. But it addresses a theme that’s rife in both Diamonds and Dirtand the upcoming sequel Tenth Inning.
For those books, I still need a publisher. But for now, here’s that essay…
Not today, Satan
Son of a bitch. Another mob. These people are relentless. They need pitchforks, torches, buckets of tar. I’ll be your metaphorical Frankenstein again today, day after day. Someday you’ll go away.
They weren’t the first thing we saw. The first thing was a grocery cart, packed with stuff. And a figure hunched alone on a stool, wrapped in layers. And the cardboard sign that turns so many people away.
“Would you give me $5 or a blanket?” is all it said. But the images swirled, angry faces, righteous people. How often has every one of us claimed there shouldn’t be any begging, there’s plenty of help available, dammit there’s free food everywhere you look and what sucker would give these beggars any money when they just buy booze or go off to the casino.